Tenkara Rod Company At Outdoor Retailer In Salt Lake City



Ancient Japanese fly fishing tradition

Co-Founder Of Tenkara Rod Company Discusses  Taking On Different Style Of Angling At Outdoor Retailer In Salt Lake City

Working The River With Friends. [Courtesy: Tanner Flake]

Tradition is important but catching fish while combining the two is a win-win. For Arizona-born, Idaho-bred fisherman Tanner ‘Tuna’ Flake, he found the zen of his fly fishing in tenkara rods, an ancient Japanese approach. He eventually launched with his co-founder the Tenkara Rod Company. Flake sat down with The Buzz at Outdoor Retailer to discuss the ease of catching fish and the mindset of this approach.

The Buzz: One thing that really grabbed me about the product was the style of fishing. I'm going to get into your background of fishing, but why tenkara? Can you talk about the definition of that and the allure of that?

Tanner Flake: The definition of tenkara, first of all, is something that started in Japan a long, long time ago. I think for the Japanese and really for everyone still today is it's just a really simple way of fly-fishing. You eliminate some of the product. So you eliminate the reel. And for someone that's new to fishing, that can make it a lot easier to learn how to cast. And then even if you've been fishing for 25 years or something like that, a tenkara rod is another rod or another arrow to add to the quiver. It's just another style, another fun way to fish.

The Buzz: Can you talk about your initial interest in fishing?

TF: I've had an interest in fishing ever since I was a little kid drowning worms in some of the little ponds and stuff in Arizona and then going up to the mountains and things like that and catching some fish up there. I grew up in Arizona. And then when I was about 20 years old, I decided to move to Idaho, to Driggs, with a buddy. He said, "Hey, let's just move up there and fly-fish." He'd been fly-fishing for about a year, and I moved up there just because I was like, "Yeah, I want to learn how to fly-fish."

The Buzz: Just like that?

TF: Yeah. I spent a whole summer up there. Worked at a golf course as a cart boy and helped people unload their cart or unload their clubs. And then I just fished like crazy all summer. And after that, I was hooked, and I stayed around the Driggs area for a couple more years and then bounced around Idaho for a little bit.

The Buzz: What's the Driggs area like?

TF: It's really great for fishing, for trout fishing. There's people that come from all over the nation to fish for trout out there. Some big rivers. Everything from the South Fork and the Henrys Fork, which are some pretty big rivers with a lot of water going through, all the way down to just tiny, little mountain streams and high mountain lakes. For me, fishing started with  a normal fly rod and reel and all that. And then - about seven or so years ago - I think it was even eight years ago - I saw a friend with a tenkara rod. And it was funny because we were actually out on the river in the boat. We were on the South Fork or the Snake, and we had just stopped on a riffle, and I had just fished the riffle with my rod and reel. And I think I was nymphing it at that time.

Catching A Fish With The Tenkara. [Courtesy: Tanner Flake]
A collapsed rod from Tenkara Rod Company. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]
Angling In The River. [Courtesy: Tanner Flake]

The Buzz: Now, explain nymphing for people who don’t know.

TF: Nymphing is just fishing-- little flies that are under water. Nymphs are aquatic insects that live in the rocks in the river, and nymphs are over 80% of a trout's diet. So  you just dead drift them. I think I had caught a couple fish in that particular spot. And then my friend came out with his tenkara rod, and he did a little different style of nymphing but using his  rod, he was just hooking up on fish left and right, and I was like, "What the heck did I do different? What was I doing wrong?" So I tried it and the next thing I know, I'm hooking up with a bunch of fish too. It was interesting  -- how he was able to see the fish eat a little bit better and get a really good presentation.

The Buzz: How did you guys just sort of do the prototypes?

TF: Drew, my co-founder, actually went to China and he talked to a good manufacturer out there, which is still the same manufacturer that we use today, which is nice because we have a really good relationship with those guys, and--

The Buzz: Were there specific little details that were important? 

TF: The little details were -- we made a lillian. The lillian is the little thing on the end of the rod where you attach the line to. We wanted to make that where it has a swivel tip. It just seems like it casts nice that way, and then it's harder to get tangled up. Now, everyone gets tangled in fly fishing, but that makes it a little easier. Another, one of the main things we wanted to do was, as a brand, we wanted to show people that tenkara fishing is not only fun, but we wanted to show people that it's not just restrictive to smaller streams and smaller fish. We wanted to show people that you can get out and fish some of the bigger water and you can go and chase after some bigger fish, too.

The Buzz: Can you give an example?

TF: For example, we went to Alaska a couple years ago and we really wanted to test our rods on some of the big rainbows there, because the rainbows in Alaska really pound-for-pound fight really hard, for trout. And then we're there and there's salmon all over in the river, we thought, "What the heck? Let's try it on a few salmon."

The Buzz: And they hit?

TF: Yeah. So we caught chum salmon and silver salmon  thatwere in the river at the time, and caught salmon up to 20lbs on the rods.

The Buzz: We’re here at Outdoor Retailer. Why is the outdoor lifestyle so important to maintain, especially in places like Idaho.

TF: Just as a little kid, I've always been drawn to the outdoors. Sometimes when life gets stressful I even tell my wife that, "You know, I just need an hour or something out in the woods." That's my happy place and that's where I'm able to relax and calm down. But the outdoors is critical. We can see, there's certain people that have gone before us to preserve certain areas. Roosevelt did a lot for preserving areas, and then a guy up in our area, up in Idaho, Frank Church and his wife, did a lot to preserve certain areas and create wilderness areas so that they wouldn't become developed, and things like that. They saw that there's these beautiful places that are completely wild and they wanted to preserve that. I think it's our responsibility too, to continue that and make sure that we have it for our kids or for the next generation to come, too.

Tim Wassberg

A graduate of New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Film/TV Production & Film Criticism, Tim has written for magazines such as Moviemaker, Moving Pictures, Conde Nast Traveler UK and Casino Player. He enjoys traveling and distinct craft beers among other things.

Kelly Campground

Make Sure To Stay At:

Kelly Campround, just 20 miles from Driggs, Idaho where Tanner fished is a BLM campground with 14 campsites for RVs or tents and 1 group campsite. Daily Rates begin at $20 Showers. No Bathrooms Available. Vault Toilets and Pets Welcome. Park is  open May to September.

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