Events Fixed-Line Fly Fishing Tenkara Trout & Char

2023 TenkaraCamp GSMNP Elkmont Recap

The 2023 TenkaraCamp was held at Elkmont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park right outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This gathering of fixed line anglers spread over the weekend of April 21-23, give or take a few days for some on either end.

2023 TenkaraCamp GSMNP Elkmont Recap - Tenkara Angler

TenkaraCamp is the latest evolution of tenkara gatherings that are the brainchild of Tenkara Angler’s own Jason Sparks. He’s been creating opporutnities for anglers to meet up for a decade now, dating all the way back to the original “Tenkara Jams” he organized through the Appalachian Tenkara Anglers Facebook group.

Less structured than prior iterations, this year’s TenkaraCamp merely named a date and location for people to assemble. There were no indoor classrooms, no formal foodservice, and no vendors selling wares. It was only a campground, a river, campers setting up their own tents, and a communal evening campfire. Simple, just like tenkara.

While the weekend was mostly a “choose your own adventure” format for the 40 or so attendees, there were some brief clinics held on Saturday morning for those interested in learning something new. A BIG thanks to the instructors – Jason, Amanda Hoffner, and Rob Worthing – for conducting those informative sessions!

This was Keith White‘s second TenkaraCamp. Hopping over the state line from North Carolina to attend, he shared these thoughts:

“Being a relative beginner it was really helpful being around a group of anglers with wide and varied experience with the sport who were eager and willing to share their knowledge either formally in a ‘classroom’ setting or simply chewing the fat around the campfire over a cup of coffee or a beer. I got to chat with other ‘newbies’ to compare notes as well as listen to, and watch, more seasoned proponents and pick their brains and even have a few ‘a-ha’ moments watching them work the beautiful streams of the GSMNP.”

Randy Arrowood traveled from Kentucky and echoed Keith’s sentiments, “The very best part of the weekend for me was the instruction. From an impromptu casting lesson with one of the best on the planet to help fix my cast, to the streamside clinics on Saturday, the amount of knowledge that is freely shared is incredible!”

John Stupka and wife Jennifer made the journey from Ohio and really enjoyed the social aspect of TenkaraCamp.

“The Smokies are a special place, for me. My connection to this country goes back to my Great Uncle, Arthur Stupka, who served as Chief Naturalist in The GSMNP. The diversity, and beauty of the area, along with miles of rivers and creeks full of trout, brings me back again and again. Attending TenkaraCamp makes it even better! I have met so many people through Appalachian Tenkara Anglers, and the opportunity to meet face to face at TenkaraCamp, and to fish together, and have those campfires together is just awesome. I enjoy learning from other tenkara anglers, as well as sharing my knowledge. This is the perfect place for it!”

Meeting fellow anglers seems to be a highlight for most. Much like tenkara in the west itself, many friendships start online, but truly blossom in the real world.

“It was great getting to put social media profiles and personalities together over a campfire. I felt accepted even though I’m still a newbie to the craft. Im looking forward to future meet ups,” added Victoria Smith.

To close, Mitch Albin had this complimentary, yet humorous take on his TenkaraCamp experience.

“I drove 463 miles to spend the weekend with people whom I’d only known online for the past year. And it. was. AWESOME! Walking up to the group campsite Friday evening, a fella with a big smile and an extended hand came right up and said ‘Hi, I’m Matt. Welcome!’ We probably all have a modified interpretation of tenkara or fixed-line fly fishing, so later that evening I asked Matt what tenkara meant to him: ‘Tenkara is what I need it to be.’ Prolific and to the point. I think his last name was Smolt, Sment, Smack, or something. Good dude, for an ex-Army guy.”

Now, will you get to meet “Matt Smolt” at next Spring’s TenkaraCamp? Only time will tell. No matter when or where it’s held, we’re confident in another wonderful community event!

Let us know about your TenkaraCamp experiences! If you have any ideas about this, or possibly for future years’ iterations, let us know in the comments below.

Do you have a story to tell? A photo to share? A fly recipe that’s too good to keep secret? If you would like to contribute content to Tenkara Angler, click HERE for more details.

Let's Discuss in the Comments:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: