What’s Your Code?

What’s Your Code?
by Dave Blackhurst

Lately, while I have been on the river I have been reflecting on why tenkara has been so refreshing to me. I know we all like to get out and land a few fish, but why has this style changed fly fishing forever for me?

I work as the art director for a local magazine and recently we did a photo shoot with two local fishermen about different styles of fishing. While I was taking photos of the fly fisherman, I asked him if he had ever heard of tenkara. He mentioned he had and went on to tell me that he owned a tenkara rod but it was just not his thing. However, he asked me a few more tenkara questions, which gave me the chance to share the reasons I put my reels on the shelf.

I went into detail about the style of tenkara that I have adopted (sometimes I feel like a politician on the stump). I let him know the basics about a fixed line, no weight or indicator on the line, perfect drifts and the same fly pattern used year round. When I share the simplified tenkara approach, it initially sounds appealing to fly fishermen tired of carrying gear and loading up for the river. However, as the conversation continues, I realize that for some the gear enhances the experience. I let my friend know that for the smaller streams and rivers I prefer, tenkara works great.

I gave him a few kebari, said goodbye and he went on his way. His approach to our conversation reminded me of where I was several years ago. I wanted a quicker and simpler method to fish mountain streams in Utah. I loved the lighter fly rods and was simplifying my fly box but I felt I could not simplify any more. Magically tenkara came into view. This was the ticket for me. It was everything I wanted.

Tenkara is not magic, but it can be magical if you let it.

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What I have learned after being a snooty, stuck-up fly fisherman — loaded with gear — for more than 20 years is that fishing is fishing. Fish don’t know how they are caught. There are as many ways to catch a fish as there are fish to catch. My respect for all fishing styles has increased. Many friends of mine think tenkara is cool, but don’t consider it fly fishing.

Wherever tenkara fits in the fishing world, I like it.

And my conversion does not mean it’s as simple as a hook and a stick. Recently I read a great article by Jason Klass on tenkaratalk.com that mentioned the general rule in tenkara of 12-12-12 (don’t get these confused with the code numbers from the TV show LOST 4 8 15 16 23 42), 12-foot rod, 12 feet of line and a size 12 kebari.

This is a great rule of thumb but I wanted to figure out what my secret tenkara code would be.

Two years ago I adopted the practice of fishing only one fly. I tinkered on the vise for a few months, trying different sizes, but still lacked the confidence to commit. Eventually, I realized that when my confidence was lacking on the river, I would always pull out a pheasant tail bead head for trout. I took this into consideration and began tying a size 12 pheasant tail with a reverse kebari hackle. I eventually simplified it even more with a size 14 hook, brown thread, green flash and one Hungarian partridge hackle.

Magically (and with a lot of hard work), my one fly appeared.

Next was my line. Many mountain streams in Utah are small. Sometimes I can step over them. The trout are beautiful but the foliage is frustrating. The 12-foot line and rod just would not work in these places. I needed to dial in my tiny creek tenkara code.

I picked up a Rhodo rod from Daniel Galhardo at Tenkara USA. This zoom rod would fish as small as 8 feet and keep me just under the branches. I had my small creek code now — 8-8-14.

Now I just had one final challenge. Find the code for medium-sized rivers that need a bit more line. The whole point of tenkara is to use the longest rod you can get away with. I absolutely love my Sato rod from Tenkara USA. The zoom ability is great for different lengths but at its longest reach (almost 13 feet) I get all I need. Add 13 feet of line and I’m there. Now I had the final piece to my tenkara puzzle. 13-13-14.

These are my setups. I wish I only had one code but two isn’t bad. They work for 90 percent of fishing situations I face in Utah. Figuring out a code does not take long, but it means more time on the river — don’t worry, your spouse will understand … maybe.

Fishing truly is about confidence. Find your code and be confident.

Now grab your tenkara rod and get figuring your code.
Simple right?

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This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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

Landlocked Salmon on Tenkara Rods

Landlocked Salmon on Tenkara Rods
By Bart Lombardo

Landlocked salmon have always been one of my favorite fish to pursue with a fly rod, so it seemed natural to discover if they can be reliably taken on tenkara rods. Landlocked salmon are a freshwater version of the sea run Atlantic Salmon, living in large freshwater lakes instead of the Atlantic Ocean. In the United States, landlocked salmon were originally found in four lake systems in Maine, as well as the Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain drainage. The Lake Ontario population went extinct over a hundred years ago, but the original range of the landlocked salmon has since been extended to over 175 lakes and 44 rivers in Maine alone. Native populations can also be found in Canada, Scandinavia, and eastern Russia. They have also been introduced to far away places such as New Zealand and Argentina.

It is unclear why these fish choose to live in fresh water. While certain populations seemed to have been trapped by changes in geography over the millennia, others appear to taken to living in freshwater voluntarily as is the case in the four lake systems in Maine. At one time all of these watersheds had access to the ocean before being restricted by dams. Landlocked Salmon will live one to four years in rivers before migrating into freshwater lakes. They return to rivers and streams to spawn in the fall, and they will often follow smelt, their primary forage, into rivers and streams in the spring. It is during these times that I chase landlocked Salmon with a fly rod.

In Maine, where I usually target landlocked salmon, they average 16-18 inches and weigh between 1.5 and 2 pounds. Fish over 20 inches are not uncommon. Combine the size of the fish with their propensity for going airborne when hooked they can be a real challenge to land using tenkara rods.

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If you decide to fish tenkara for landlocked salmon you need to consider your equipment carefully. Rod choices will have to lean in the direction of those that can handle larger fish. Many of the streams that harbor these fish can be quite large so a longer rod is advantageous. I have two rods in my current arsenal that are up to the task.

The Ito and the Amago, both by Tenkara USA, had no problem handling these hard fighting fish. The Amago is a rod that is designed for larger fish. At thirteen feet six inches in length, it is ideally suited for larger streams and small rivers. The Amago has a little more backbone than most tenkara rods, making it an ideal choice for landlocked salmon. The Ito, though not necessarily designed for big fish, proved to be up to the task as well. The Ito is a zoom rod meaning it can be fished at two different lengths, in this case, thirteen feet and fourteen feet, seven inches, making it perfect for larger water.

Of course, these two tenkara rods are not your only options. There are other makers here in the US and Japan that are offering rods that are capable of landing fish more than sixteen inches.

One rod that has been on my wish list for a while is the Tenkara Tanuki 425. Everything I have read about this set up indicates it should work well for these larger fish; it has the length and backbone to get the job done. Another that comes to mind is the Owyhee model by Tenkara Rod Company. I have not had an opportunity to fish it, but it is being marketed as a “big fish” rod. I’m sure there are other tenkara rods out there, that I am unaware of, that would also be up to the task.

The type of line to use depends on conditions, personal preference and the fishing method you are using. Either level lines or furled lines will work well. My personal preferences lean towards level lines because I can easily create the line length I need. In most conditions, I start with a line one and a half times the length of the rod. Under some conditions such as presenting a dry fly, a line length twice the length of the rod can be advantageous.

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When fishing nymphs with a tenkara rod, I will shorten the length of my system considerably. I may use a line and leader combination no longer than the rod itself. One of the advantages of tenkara rods is the extra reach allows for nymphing beyond that of a standard fly rod. In some cases “just because you can, does not mean you should.” On more than one occasion I have hung my flies on the bottom and have not been able to wade far enough out to collapse the rod and grab hold of the line top break off the flies. You should never attempt to break off flies by applying pressure with the rod. Doing this may result in a broken rod. By fishing a shorter line, you can avoid this problem.

Since casting distance can be somewhat limited by the fixed length of the rod and line, a stealthy approach is warranted. By wading carefully and reducing your silhouette as much as possible, you can easily get within casting distance. Fortunately, landlocked salmon are not as spooky as their trout cousins, but that does not mean you can march right up on them. What this does mean is long distance casts are not needed if you can make a stealthy approach.

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Fighting a landlocked salmon will put your skills to the test. This fish loves taking to the air, sometimes tail walking across the surface of the water. I find that dropping your rod tip in these situations usually spells disaster. While the technique may work with western tackle, you never want to point a tenkara rod at a fish. The flex of the rod is your friend when fighting a fish. The soft tip of a tenkara rod will usually absorb the impact of a leaping fish. Lowering your rod tip may result in the fish running and leaving you pointing your rod directly at the fish. The best you can hope for with a powerful fish like a landlocked salmon is a broken tippet. The worst-case scenarios can result in rod sections being pulled apart or a lillian being yanked off the tip of your rod.

With even pressure kept on landlocked salmon, they tire pretty quickly and can be brought to hand and netted. I do my best to discourage the fish from getting into heavy current and running downstream. If this happens your only option is to chase it. You may be tempted to use heavier tippet when fishing for landlocked salmon, but I don’t recommend it. When a big fish gets into fast water, and I can’t follow it, I would rather lose the fish to a broken tippet than put undue strain on my rod.

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One of my favorite ways to fish for landlocked salmon is throwing streamers at them. Landlocks readily take streamer patterns, as their primary forage include smelt and other baitfish. Fishing a streamer on a tenkara rod is not an ideal situation. Fortunately, landlocked salmon show a preference for feather wing streamers and sparsely tied bucktails. Unlike many streamer patterns, feather wing and bucktail style flies are quite light and are easily presented on a larger tenkara rod. The only difficulty I encountered is setting the hook properly. Lighter tippets and very flexible rod tips can make this challenging. Fortunately landlocks slam streamers so hard they usually hang themselves. I have also started tying some of the most effective landlocked streamer patterns as wet flies and have enjoyed success with them. These smaller patterns are very easy to cast. In addition to streamers and wet flies, swinging soft hackles can be an effective method for taking landlocked salmon. Fished as a single fly or in tandem, soft hackles can be fished upstream or down and across very effectively with a tenkara rod.

Once landlocked salmon return to moving water they take on the feeding habits of their youth and they will readily feed on insect life as well. Traditional nymph, wet and dry flies all work well. When fishing for landlocked salmon in the spring, the fish are in the rivers following the rainbow smelt migration. However, they will also key in on the Hendrickson and Caddis hatches that occur during this time of year. Reversed hackle tenkara flies tied to imitate these two insects can be deadly. Last spring I tied a “Hendrickson Kebari” which worked quite well. Even though it only has one season under its belt I think it will be a keeper. I fished the kebari pattern as a dropper behind a traditional Hendrickson dry fly, and the kebari outperformed the dry fly two to one.

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Emerging Hendrickson Kebari Recipe:
Hook – TMC 101 size 14
Tail: Crinkled Zelon color to match natural in this case a caddis tan
Body:  Brown pheasant tail fibers
Hackle:  Brown hen

Are landlocked salmon another species to pursue with Tenkara? Absolutely! Just be sure to choose a tenkara rod suited for them. If you have a river or stream nearby that holds landlocked salmon give them a try.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2016-17 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

Have You Ever Set a Hook in Mid-Air?

Have You Ever Set a Hook in Mid-Air?
By John Mosovsky

It was a week since I received my new Suntech Genryu Sawanobori 45 Keiryu rod so I was anxious to test it out.  I purchased the rod for its stiffness (54 penny), lightweight (2.8oz), and length.  At 14½ feet, it’s probably the longest rod that I can comfortably manage one-handed.  That’s an important feature since my intention is to use it for Czech nymphing on big water.  Big water where I live is the Lehigh River.  Unfortunately, water flow management on this tailwater is controlled by the antiquated Francis E. Walter Dam constructed in 1961.  The dam was built for flood risk management but recreation became a Congressionally-authorized purpose in 1988.  The Lehigh is a wonderful trout fishery that has overcome a dark history of industrial pollution.  It has the potential to be a blue ribbon trout river if design changes to the dam ever become a reality.  The Lehigh Coldwater Fishery Alliance and the Lehigh River Stocking Association are two organizations that work tirelessly at trying to make that happen.  But I digress!

On August 5th, the Lehigh River water temperature at my favorite spot was 71°F and the flow rate was 320 cfs (cubic feet per second).  A little on the warm and low side so I decided to Czech nymph a colder mountain stream called Mud Run in Hickory Run State Park.  It was running at 60°F.  The air temperature was cooler than normal, registering in the mid-seventies, and cloud cover was thick.  Weather-wise a pretty good fishing day for early August in Pennsylvania.  For the smaller mountain stream, I decided to use my softer TUSA Amago rod (31 penny/13½ feet) with a “short” 11-foot casting line/indicator sighter/tippet and multiple flies (#16 bead head pheasant tail dropper and a #14 bead head, lead wrapped George’s Killer point fly).

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My line to line connections were made with ligature knots and my flies were attached with nonslip mono loop knots.  Both knots are highly recommended by Art Scheck in his book Fly-Fish Better.

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George’s Killer

I was on the stream at 4:00pm and netted two Brookies and a Brownie before deciding to start the 45-minute hike back to my Jeep at 6:00pm.  It gets dark early in a canyon!  When I reached my Jeep I realized I still had a good 1½ hours of daylight left so I decided to drive to my favorite spot on the Lehigh.  I got on the river at 7:20pm, excited to try out my new Suntech rod.  Because of the waning daylight and to save time, I decided to use the 11-foot rig I had on the Amago rod.  I knew the line length was a little on the short side for the 14½ foot Suntech but the flies were still attached and I was pressed for time.

The water I targeted was a swift, deep run with multiple seams and hydraulic jumps leading into a large deep pool.  I started off easy, fishing the near side shallows of the pool working my way upstream along the near side shallows of the run.  The rod performed beautifully!  In no time at all, I landed a few smallmouth bass, a Sunny, a couple fallfish, and a nice rainbow trout.  I caught a few more bass and fallfish before I reached the head of the pool and the swiftest part of the run. A feeding fish in a seam on the far side of the run caught my attention, but it was going to be a stretch reaching over the run to make a presentation to him.  I was already in the middle of the river hanging on to my wading staff, but hey, I had a 14½ foot rod (with, unfortunately, a short 11-foot line).

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(I often catch more fish Czech nymphing seams on the far sides of runs compared to seams on the near sides of runs.  Fish lying in the far side seams have the run between them and us and don’t see or hear us as well.  Part of the beauty of Tenkara Czech nymphing is using long rods to reach overruns and target the far side seams.)

I got within one step of the run’s hydraulics, lob casted the flies upstream into the foaming whitewater and hoped that I hit the seam.  What happened next was a bit surreal.  It was like what athletes say about things slowing done when they are “in the zone”.

My line and flies began moving very slowly downstream in spite of the swift, rushing water surrounding them.  I had hit the seam!  A split second later (well before the flies were anywhere near the bottom) a big rainbow (18 inches?) jumped 3 feet out of the water facing upstream like a torpedo.  I immediately thought that the fish had taken one of my flies even though I never saw or felt any indication of a strike. ALL of my line came out of the water and hung in the air “downstream” of the fish (“downstream” is in quotes because my line wasn’t in the stream at all!).

I instinctively raised my rod to set the hook in mid-air and in doing so turned the fish’s head toward me.  When he splashed down on the far side of the run, he took off downriver.  I tried to keep the power curve in my rod and because of the swift water and short line, the fish was drawn to the surface in the middle (read swiftest) part of the run.  It did a couple flip-flops and somersaults and then broke off!  Gone!  The only way I could have possibly brought the fish to hand was to go for a swim – but it happened so fast, was too near dark, and the water was too swift and deep to entertain such an idea.

If I had been fishing with conventional fly fishing equipment, i.e. rod AND reel, I believe the drag on the reel would have vastly improved my chances of landing the fish.  But then, I probably wouldn’t have had the ability to target the fish’s lie in the first place.  I also believe that had I used the appropriate line length (14½ -16½ feet) for Czech nymphing with a 14½ foot Keiryu rod on big water, I could have turned the fish and ran with him.  I was disappointed but exhilarated; pleased with my choice of Keiryu rod but upset with myself for not using the appropriate line length.  All in all, it was another exciting day on the Lehigh.  Tenkara rocks and rules!

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Epilogue

When I teach Czech nymphing, I always tell my students to wait a couple seconds for the flies to sink after making a lob cast and before leading them to control depth and speed.  Not waiting long enough for the flies to reach the feeding zone is a mistake even the pros make.  George Daniel owns up to making this mistake in his book Dynamic Nymphing.  He also emphasizes “The key to allowing nymphs to quickly drop is not to create tension on the rig, but to maintain line and leader control so you can determine if a take occurs.”

In his opinion, this is the key to getting deep drifts with little weight.  I couldn’t agree more.  I was fishing #16 and #14 flies in very swift water when the big ’bow struck.  Granted they were bead heads and the point fly was wrapped with 0.010 lead wire, but that’s not much weight considering the conditions.  The relatively light casting line and tippet also helped.  The beauty of Tenkara!  In their Discover Tenkara tutorials, Paul Gaskell and John Pearson call the nymph sinking phase a kind of “induced take” movement that entices fish to strike.  Very true!  To capitalize on this phase, however, as George Daniel says, the nymphs must be allowed to sink without line tension but at the same time, the angler must maintain line control to detect a strike.  This is a very fine line (no pun intended) to maintain in swift, deep water.

After the ‘bow broke off, I was left standing with the pheasant tail dropper at the terminal end of the tippet.  There was no indication of any tippet having existed beyond the dropper.  When I got home and examined the broken line I could detect an extremely small “tag” coming out of the dropper ligature knot where the terminal portion of the tippet had broken off.  This told me a few things. The dropper ligature knot held, the fish struck the point fly, and the nonslip mono loop on the point fly held.  I can only assume that the line weakened when I tied the dropper knot because I failed to adequately moisten it.  Not a terrible mistake considering the rig held up to a dozen fish and a few snags.  The big one always gets away!

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This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

Tenkara Fishing in an Inflatable Craft

Tenkara Fishing in an Inflatable Craft
By Daniele Beaulieu

I am a river fly fisher, that means 95% of the time my feet are in a creek, stream, or river, but this Summer 2016 was awful as the temperature and humidity made the water super hot and very low. It was so bad that the rivers that I fished in were almost empty and the fish were not at the rendezvous, so I decided to take my float tube and my inflatable pontoon out and explore ponds in the Northeastern NY, more precisely, the Adirondacks, that big giant playground where you can have access to many ponds.

The thing about an inflatable craft is that there are a lot of pockets where you can put things, like your water, raincoat, something to eat and much, much more. They are also easy to transport; you don’t need to have a big truck or a carrier on top of your car.

I learned to love fishing that way.

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Tips to Fish in an Inflatable Craft:

You can fish the standard way, that means you cast where you want the line to go. Or, you can fish just by letting the line out in the water and paddle away allowing the line to troll behind you. (Don’t forget to put your rod at an angle if you are fishing for big fish, see article in Tenkara Angler Summer 2016).

Since you will have your oar in your hands in an inflatable pontoon you can fish by placing your rod end underneath one of your legs and the rod tip on the top of one of the inflatable keels.

Don’t forget to always keep tension in the line, that means if the fish is coming to you, step back by paddling away from the fish. Don’t let the fish go behind the float tube or pontoon!

Security Measures to Take While Fishing in an Inflatable Craft:

  • Remember that tenkara rods are an electrical hazard, so be careful if you are in the middle of the pond. If you don’t have time, just throw away your rod in the water, they float.
  • Always wear a life jacket!
  • Have a rope in case somebody has to tow you
  • Have a patch kit in case you develop a hole and you are far from home
  • Do not over inflate in warm weather because hot air expands. Check out your air pressure from time to time

The Float Tube:

Float Tube

  • They are small and lightweight so if you hike trails to reach a pond like many of them in the Adirondacks, it is the perfect choice
  • They are slower in bigger ponds; they should go in ponds about 20 acres maximum
  • You’re seated in the water, so beware of leeches if you are fishing in shorts

The Inflatable Pontoon:

Camo Pontoon

  • They are faster than the float tube
  • You can go in bigger ponds
  • You sit outside of the water so if you are going through a bunch of lily pads it will be easier
  • You can paddle in both directions so it will cause less fatigue
  • You can take them in rivers
  • They are heavy, bigger, and take longer to assemble.

Video Resources:

This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

Conversing in Japanese

Conversing in Japanese
by Isaac Tait

Perhaps you are planning a trip to Japan, or maybe you are just interested in the Japanese language to help you harvest information from the complex Japanese worldwide web. Whatever the reason Japanese is a fascinating, yet distinctly different from the English language to learn. With well over 2,000 characters in three different alphabets called Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji it is no small task to undertake.

While I am hardly an expert, I have put together a little of what I have learned here in Tenkara Angler. My goal for writing this article is two-fold. First, I would like to spark an interest in those, who prior to reading this, may have had little to no interest in the language and perhaps even the country of Japan. Secondly, my overall goal is to assist those with an already developed affinity for Japan and its language get off on the right foot.

I believe that every Tenkara angler should make a pilgrimage to Japan not just for the fishing but to immerse themselves in another culture. Too many of the problems currently facing the “west” today, I believe could be easily resolved with a little perspective, grace, and respect. Something that Japan, its people, and its culture can offer in spades.

So without further ado, let’s dive right in!

Asking Questions in Japanese:

In the English language if you come across a “WH” word it typically indicates that the sentence is a question (e.g. Why, Where, When, What, etc.).

In the Japanese language if a question is being asked the character “か” pronounced ka will be appended to the end of a sentence.

For example –

  • Daijobu desuka? (Are you okay?)
  • Anatano namae wa nandesuka? (What is your name?)

Please Note: desu often precedes the ka, but not always. When it is, the pronunciation is “des-ka” The U is silent.

 Toire wa doko desuka? “トイレはどこですか“. While this is the correct English way of asking the question “Where is the toilet” it is infrequently (almost never?) used in Japan. Instead, they will just say toire “トイレ”  pronounced “Toy-re” with a  question inflection.

Whole and complete sentences are not the norm in Japan, something that took my English speaking brain a while to wrap itself around. In that regard, it is a very efficient language.

Intro to Correct Pronunciation of Japanese words:

A common English mistake is to pronounce the Japanese with English consonants and vowel sounds as it is written.

For example –

Onigiri “おにぎり”. The well-loved rice ball food is very often mispronounced as – “O-ni-gear-ee”

The correct pronunciation is – “O-knee-gee-ree” (make sure to make the ree sound with a hard almost D sound too)

The city where I live 横須賀 (Yokosuka) is often mispronounced “yo-ko-sue-ka”. This is incorrect, it is pronounced “yo-kos-ka” Again the U is silent. The city Asakusa in Tokyo is pronounced “A-sock-sa” Noticing a pattern yet? 9 times out of 10 the U will be silent (especially when it comes at the end of a word) but not always.

I tend to pronounce the U silent first and if I get a blank stare I try adding in a subtle U sound.

Counting in Japanese:

In English, there are very few counters – one, first, single. While in the Japanese language there are hundreds of counters for everything from beer(s), people, paper, and even farts! Knowing all the counters is probably impossible, as some are fairly obscure and hardly used. If you use the wrong counter (something I do frequently) no one will understand what you’re asking. The most important counter to know is the tsu counter as it works pretty well for anything you might need to communicate an amount for.

Here are just a few of the counters that I use regularly.

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There is a counter for swimming fish, captured fish, deboned fish, fish cut into chunks, fish wrapped for sale in a supermarket, and fish cut into bite-sized pieces – to name just a few (and I won’t list them here, because it’s confusing I think).

Beware of useful phrases that many “helpful” sources will try and teach you. Japanese is not a romance language (meaning it is not based on Latin). Therefore, the language’s grammar and sentence structure is totally different from English. This makes the translation process often times very messy.

Keep your questions/remarks short, simple, and sweet – and you will be fine. Most of the time what you are asking or talking about is readily apparent in the context of the situation.

Scenario:

You are standing next to a river with your Tenkara rod and you ask another fisherman “つりチケットどこですか“ Tsu ri chiketto doko desu ka which when translated literally means “Fishing ticket where is?” However, it is understood to mean “Where can I buy a fishing ticket?” If you tried to ask the question in perfect English but translated into Japanese, you could say something like this:

Doko de tsuri no chiketto o kōnyū suru koto ga dekimasu But, after all that work they would almost certainly look at you with a blank stare, uncertain what the heck you were trying to ask.

The following list is a few helpful words that I use almost every day. These words make most daily interactions go pretty smoothly. Whether it be at the train station, the convenience store, or on the trail if you know these few words you’ll be able to get through many interactions with as little awkwardness as possible.

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Notes for use                                                     

  • If you accidentally bump into someone Sumimasen (excuse me) will often suffice. If they are in obvious pain, you bumped them pretty hard, or they are much older than you a Gomen’nasai (I am sorry) will go a long way. This is pretty common interaction, especially during the morning rush hour.
  • There is no need to preface Wakarimasen (I don’t understand) with a Gomen’nasai (I am sorry). While it sounds right in English it is a tad too formal for day to day Japanese. Prefacing the (Wakarimasen) (I don’t understand) with a Sumimasen (excuse me) is best.
  • Onegaishimasu (Please) is very formal/polite. I tend to use it when requesting the check after dining – O kai kei onegaishimasu (check please)

Kudasai (please) is more common for day to day interactions e.g. when they offer to bag your food at a convenience store.

The Intricacies of the Japanese Language

One of the more confusing Japanese words that I hear all the time is So-so. My research has turned up that a lot of Japanese people when they say this word, believe that they are actually speaking in English. For example:

“How was work today?”

“So-so”

“How are you today?”

“So-so”

From this, you could deduce that the word So-so would mean more or less okay, undecided, or eh (with a shrug of indifference). Basically what it means in English (which is, incidentally, some Japanese speakers intent).

However, I have also heard the word So-so used in such a manner that it would imply that its meaning is It is! or That is correct.

For example:

“So, this is where we are going to camp tonight?”

“So-so”

“Is that an Iwana?”

“So-so”

Things get even more confusing as the Japanese for So-so would seem to be まあまあ. Obviously, this does not match the pronunciation (if pronounced as it is spelled it would be Maa Maa). To further add to my confusion when I search for the definition of まあまあ it takes me down a whole other path of meaning.

I have been living in Japan for 18 months and I’m still not sure what the word means, because depending on who I ask I get a different answer… So I don’t really say it very much.

During a pleasant day of skiing with one of my female Japanese co-workers, I came to discover another Japanese word: Ne. This word is used as an exclamation of agreement. However, it is a distinctly female word. I was told that if I used it too much when conversing in Japanese, that Japanese men would assume that I learned my Japanese from women (not that this is a negative thing but my friend seemed to imply that it was). I guess it is the valley girls equivalent of ‘like’…

When I first moved to Japan I intended to speak, read, and write very good Japanese by the end of my second year of living here. With that anniversary rapidly approaching it is with a little regret that I feel I am a long way off from this goal. Languages have never been my strong suit, and the Japanese language can be very confusing at times. Still, I have not lost my original infatuation with the language. I love to listen to native speakers and imagine what they are saying based on the context of the situation; their intonation and facial expressions is a lot of fun to absorb.

Slowly but surely with tenacity and grace, I hope to one day hold my own in day to day conversational Japanese. Until that day I will just bask in the cordiality and understanding of the Japanese people while I fumble for my iPhone.

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Authors Note: I have compiled a lot of helpful information, that didn’t fit here, on my site http://www.fallfishtenkara.com/information/learning-japanese/

Alternately, you can navigate to “Fallfish Tenkara” and click “Info” then scroll down to “Learning Japanese”.

I would be remiss if I did not give a hearty thank you to David Walker for his extensive assistance in compiling helpful resources at Tenkara Fisher, which I have utilized in creating this article. His extensive compilation of some very helpful information is a great resource for anglers, of any discipline, planning a trip to Japan or just for the further study of interested individuals. You can find a sampling of his useful information at the aforementioned link above.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

Paul Vertrees MWTF Notes & Articles

During Saturday’s Midwest Tenkara Fest presentations, Paul Vertrees made a special appearance via pre-recorded video to outline some lines and detail some nymph rigs that he felt would serve many of the tenkara anglers of the Driftless well.

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The video was well received, and Paul even gave Tenkara Angler magazine a quick little shout out, referencing one of the articles he had written for a prior issue.

As a follow-up, I figured I’d whip up a quick post with links to applicable articles in case anybody that attended wanted some additional information. The first two are by Paul:

The second two related articles are by Anthony Naples of Three Rivers Tenkara:

Oh, and should you be in Colorado and want to learn more from Paul first hand, he guides through Royal Gorge Anglers in Cañon City.

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Video: Landing Big Fish on Tenkara with Rob Worthing

At last weekend’s Tenkara Jam, we were able to grab some video footage of Rob Worthing’s (Tenkara Guides) presentation – specifically, the portion on how to land big fish with your tenkara rod.  Rob was gracious enough to allow the video to be published for public consumption, which Tenkara Angler is presenting today.

If you enjoyed this video, please visit www.tenkaraguides.com, where Rob and his partners Erik & John have been operating the first fixed-line fly fishing-only guide service in the Western Hemisphere since 2011.