Ron Giesecke: My Discovery of Tenkara - The Lazy Apostate

Tenkara angler Ron Giesecke
If you were to interpret the rhetorical onslaught I suffered at the hands of my peers, one would think that I Googled “ways to eviscerate my street cred with nearly every fishing peer I have” and then clicked on the aggregate source. I’ve been mocked, harangued, hectored, hazed and ridiculed. I’ve had the very bedrock of my essential manhood brought before the Magistrate of All Things Masculine. And quite frankly, the fact that I drive a Prius doesn’t exactly scream for my acquittal, either. THAT was my wife’s idea.

Truth be told, Google was a factor. I was in a minimalist mood one night (which, in my case, also means too incomprehensibly lazy to wind hackle pliers) and Googled “minimalist nymphing techniques.”

That’s not to say the search engine is very good, because I somehow wound up tying three flies--18 inches apart--on dropper loops for this thing they call “Czech Nymphing.” Thirty-seconds later, I was standing at perdition’s precipice when my whole rig re-assimilated into a fluorocarbon Gordian knot. Must’ve looked like a literal about-face to the guy watching me from the bank. But then again, he was smoking marijuana, so everything was interesting to him.

Next night, I come across these guys--unabashed. Minimalist. Focused on actually fishing, as opposed to a twenty-minute wind-up for a three-second pitch. Something in there cried out for me. I simply need to do this, I said to myself. But then again, the guy with the Fahrvergnügen-sized bong under that bridge was muttering the same thing.

It’s odd, but something about watching other people close the loop on a Tenkara expedition was simply amazing. I’m not sure exactly what it was, and perhaps trying to disambiguate the symmetry of it all would be fruitless. All I know was, he’s casting a fixed line. That fish is within that fixed distance. Right there. Not sixty-five feet down river on the long-grab.

From that point, it was the simple--and relatively quick catch that made it nice. Sure, the fish are not as big as the Biblical Leviathan I hooked a month ago on my five-weight. But then again, I’m reminded that the symbiotic nature of why I got into this in the first place is as valid as that with the smaller fish. Plus, I’m not reeling a fish with a years-worth of Lactic Acid by letting him run into my backing. I don’t HAVE backing. I have my wits, some 5x tippet, and a whole lot more opportunities for casting.

And apparently a lot more opportunities for the Great Shunning. Walked into my local shop with my 7:3 Yamame Tenkara rod, and left feeling like I’d just announced I was opening a pedicure salon. One friend, in particular, rattled off fifty-six takedowns of my essential gravitas in just a few seconds. The cumulative laughter and (in all truth good-natured) annihilation I suffered DID--however--have me questioning whether or not I even wanted to pursue it beyond the conceptual calculus. I was kind of bummed out, actually.

First time out. Five casts in, and that would all change. Walked away from my clandestine and not-really-fished-that-much rendezvous point with myself, having caught two pretty serious fish (one was 16 inches). And both of these were in spots I had rarely ever seen a grab on Western fly approaches.

Here it is now, less than a year later, and I’m at the 2012 Fly Fishing Film Tour. I run into a guide friend of mine. A friend that I simply KNOW would have been the senior-gunner during that initial sociopolitical sortie I withstood that day in the shop. Only he was out guiding that day, and wasn’t part of the bloodletting. He was out doing manly things. I figured, this being the first time I saw him, that he’d have a knowing gaze and a backlog of rapid-fire witticisms. There was simply no way he wasn’t brought into the line of cognoscenti--forced to compartmentalize my Tenkara apostasy--even if my apostasy didn’t meant I left my first love of Western fly-rodding.

“Hey, heard you’re into Tenkara,” he said.

“I’ve heard of it,” conjuring a line from Pirates of the Caribbean, when Captain Jack Sparrow is backhandedly acknowledging the existence Black Pearl. And yes, I used the accent.

“I just got into it,” he said, making a primary dive to retrieve my now-agape-jaw from the floor.

“Have you told --------?” Using the name of the guy who drew first blood on my reputational jugular.

“Turns out, he’s not as averse to it as he seemed,” said my friend. “He promised me he’d let me take him out.”

“That’s amazing,” I said. “He seemed a bit petulant, if you ask me.”

“Nope,” he said. “Give him a call.”

“Good as done,” I said. I’d do one better.

The next day, I mailed him flowers instead. I heard they complement pedicures quite nicely.