The Tenkara Angler team recently had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time at The Fly Fishing Show while it made its regional stop in Atlanta, Georgia (February 3-5). Tom led off, making the rounds on Friday, while Jason & Mike met up on Saturday to walk the aisles.
The venue, the Gas South Convention Center, was nicely laid out and had a lively turnout by both vendors and anglers. There was so much to see, it was easily a full day activity. As a group, we spent most of our collective time with the three tenkara vendors: DRAGONtail, Tenkara Tanuki, & Zen Tenkara.
DRAGONtail Tenkara (& Moonlit Fly Fishing)
Brent Auger and Brandon Moon had a full service booth set up that has anything and everything a fly angler could want. There was a rack of Moonlit conventional carbon fiber and fiberglass fly rods. That stand had prospective clients gathered around it all day long. Brandon was engaged in conversation over them every time we came around. You can tell that he has a great passion for explaining product features and capabilities and answering the visitors’ questions.
Of those products, Jason really liked the NIRVANA Vintage clicker reel in the 2/4 size. It was very well built with a solid feel to it. Mike was a big fan of the “punch” found in the pricepoint-friendly Umbra series of fly rods, testing out a few sizes over at the casting ponds. We couldn’t help but also notice they were getting a lot of love over their NIRVANA wooden net.
Over at the tenkara side of the booth, there was a full assortment of the DRAGONtail rods in a display rack. There were people standing near this one all day as well. It seems that Brent was floating through the booth engaging patrons and answering questions and sharing insights.
Tom was very interested in their new TalonMini pocket rod, as well as a longer zoom prototype tenatively named “IceWING zx390“. He was able to examine them in detail and had these thoughts…
“The TalonMini seems really nice. It feels like about an RFI of 4.5-5, but until I measure it I won’t know for sure. I also was impressed with their other prototype rod that is similar in lengths to the Mutant. Brent stated that unlike the Mutant, this prototype rod has fiberglass incorporated into the carbon fiber (similar to the Kaida) making it more robust. It’s a triple zoom, and feels like about an RFI of 3.5.”
When Jason & Mike arrived at 9:30 on Saturday morning Luong Tam was already on the casting pond doing a instructional session called “Fundamental Casts with a Tenkara Rod”. Additionally, later that day he did a classroom presentation titled “Euro-Nymphing with a Tenkara Rod” that Jason was able to attend. Luong entertained the audience nicely. He kept pointing out that unless you are a professional angler, it is categorized as a “recreational sport”. It resonated with the people in the room.
When we caught up with Luong to look at his colorful rods, there was a lot of newness to see. He encouraged all of us to try out his Barebones Nymphing rods and various flavors of Pocket Ninjas. It was Mike’s first time casting a Tanuki rod in quite a few years and was actually most impressed with the Tanuki Ninja 350. He found it light in hand and a pleasure to cast.
Jason took a few rods to the casting pools as well. The Tanuki Pocket Ninja (Outbound Adventurer 320) was the first that he got his hands on. “The action was very smooth, not a big surprise. The rod was casting the line with little effort. A precise clean delivery.”
He also got a chance to look over the craft artwork handles in the Tanuki lineup these days. Those are really unique and give the angler a bit of “personalization” that isn’t available in any other rod in the fixed line market. The “Mountain Stream Scenery” was bold and crisp. Jason like that artwork the best, and has always been a fan of the art craft that Anthony Naples produces.
Tom also talked to Luong about a few things that he detected in his rods. One of those things is that the blank on the Shinobi 395 Traditional LE is the same as the Riverworks ZX-4. Tom suspected this, as the measurable data is exactly the same. Both are wonderful rods.
Luong is such a character, it’s always fun to chat with him. Even better, he has elevated his rods to Japanese quality. Look for some video interview outtakes with Luong from Tenkara Angler in the future.
Oh, and an added bonus… we got to hang out with Amanda Hoffner, (Lady Tenkara Bum), for a little bit too! We talked her up at the Tanuki booth as well as while walking the floor. Amanda is awesome, with a cheerful personality and an unmatched enthusiasm for tenkara. It was a pleasure to spend time with her!
Karin Miller may have been the busiest of all tenkara vendors at the show on Saturday. When she wasn’t doing presentations – “Tenkara 101” & “Big Fish on Tenkara” – her booth was absolutely buzzing!
Tom was fortunate to get some time alone with Karin and remarked that he thought his time at the Zen Tenkara booth was the highlight of his visit. He & Karin talked a lot about their approaches to tenkara, similarities and differences, and of course got to play with a full line of rods.
Actually, we all got to cast a few of her rods at the casting pool using one of her proprietary lines. Tom was very impressed with the Taka. It’s an amazingly robust rod, but it threw the line with little effort. He also looked at the monster Kyojin II Spey Tenkara rod, one that would be perfect for steelhead, salmon or other large, power fish.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mike had a little fun with the sub 7-foot Hachi. While some people might think that Hachi resembles the River Peak Pop Star, the action is much different. Being a bit more stiff, the Hachi is more intuitive to cast and likely allows for much firmer hooksets, a positive attribute when fishing in tight quarters.
Jason got a chance to cast the Suzume at the 7.7′, 9.3′. 10.8′ lengths. This rod has an excellent feel in hand, it is light and has a sweet balance point that helps it feel like an extension of your arm while casting. Karin put on the 20 foot length of the Zen Fusion Line: Light and voilà! This was almost a magic setup. A long soft throw was laying out the line with ease. The subtleness of the line was apparent with each casual cast. Even at the shorter rod length of 7.7′, the tool handled the line length/weight with little effort. The fully extended rod is where the tool really shined in the “sweet zone”.
Other News & Notes
As far as other things to see, there was just so much it was almost overwhelming!
Mike got distracted by the Hardy & Snowbee booths, and wandered off to watch Bob Clouser‘s presentation on “Casting Weighted Flies and Line.” There were plenty of featured fly tyers, and while we didn’t notice any tying kebari, there were many patterns that would easily work on the end of a fixed line rod. Tim Flagler‘s session called “Flies for Swinging” was particularly excellent.
One item that tenkara anglers might find interesting is the Simms Flyweight Access wet wading shoe. It seemed solidly built and roomy, even for those with wider feet.
Several times through the day Jason found himself engaged in Tenkara 101 talks with people who were eye-balling the tenkara booths. Smiling and full of energy, he explained as much as he could about rod use, care, capability, casting styles, fly choices, tips & tactics and presented a string case for these fixed line rods for chasing fish. He was an excellent “unofficial” salesman for the various brands, as well as an ambassador for tenkara in general.
It is always nice walking back into the traveling exposition of The Fly Fishing Show. The collection of vendors there seem to cover such a wide range of products and services that everyone had several things to chew on all day long.
However, the thing the three of us like about trade shows is the opportunity to meet and talk with people. The gear candy is interesting, but secondary. And the Atlanta show did not disappoint. Spending quality time with Karin, Amanda, Brandon, Brent, and Luong was definitely worth the price of admission!
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