Article by Mike Lutes
Tenkara has changed my life. For the better. In the decade plus since I stumbled across tenkara style fly fishing, I have derived countless hours of joy, relaxation and appreciation from the sport. I have relished entering a “flow state” while picking apart pocket water with my tenkara rig. I have met many other anglers from across the country who share my enthusiasm. But, perhaps as much as I have enjoyed tenkara fishing, I have enjoyed introducing others to our “niche within a niche” sport even more.
I first introduced my father-in-law, Bud, to tenkara in 2014. Bud grew up in the state of Oregon. His father, a veteran of World War II and survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, kept himself occupied with his plumbing business, so Bud took it upon himself to learn how to fish the mountain streams of his home state. He came to love casting dry flies to rising trout. My wife fondly recalls their camping trips to the mountains and claims that the eager trout of those high gradient streams have spoiled her for fishing elsewhere.
When the family moved to Northern Illinois in the late 80’s, Bud took a look around and decided that it was not the place for fly fishing. A couple of decades later, Bud found himself living in the fair state of Wisconsin with a son-in-law who was a bit fly fishing obsessed. Bud dusted off his old Fenwick glass rod with a click & pawl reel and showed me up nearly every time we went out.
Once I switched to fishing my tenkara rig on our outings, Bud decided he wanted to give it a go. I took him to our local bluegill pond, where, naturally, he cleaned up. I think I got him a Badger rod on his birthday that year and his Fenwick has largely been collecting dust since.
Bud turned 77 last year. He can still wade a stream with more agility than some anglers half his age. He clambers over logs and rocks to get to the choicest spots. I did convince him to use a trekking pole while wading this season. His enthusiasm is child-like and he delights in every catch, big or small. As fifty is fast approaching for me, I look to Bud for inspiration. I would be delighted to have another three or so decades of angling ahead. I’m reminded that choices I make now will largely determine how much I can continue to wade the waters I love in the years to come. And I hope I can do it with the joy and lack of pretension that Bud brings to our fishing adventures.
Mike Lutes is an avid tenkara angler, the former co-owner of Badger Tenkara, full time emergency physician and hack guitarist.
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