Well, on my recent trip to Denver I did not get to the Patagonia store as I had hoped to check out the new Patagonia “tenkara” kits. Was having too much fun with the grandkids. I have, however, given a bit of thought to the Patagonia system as described on their website, and I have to conclude that it’s not really tenkara.
If you distill tenkara to its essence, THE central principle or tenet of tenkara has to be the tenkara line. More than the collapsible rod (a wonderful thing, but I’m sure tenkara anglers of a hundred years ago did not have them), more than the one fly concept (just look at the great variety of flies, both dry and wet, used by Japanese tenkara anglers), it’s the thin, monofilament line that makes tenkara so perfectly adapted to the small mountain streams whence tenkara sprang. The ability to keep the line off the water, defeating the multiple, conflicting currents of a boulder-strewn high gradient stream and the way this line allows a variety of manipulations of the fly’s drift are what make tenkara so much more than just fishing without a reel.
When I contemplate the Patagonia system, with its floating line, need for a leader between line and tippet, what I see is a western fly fishing system without a reel. Sure, for a novice there’s no need to learn the intricacies of hauling, playing the fish on the reel, etc., but a day on Chicago creek with this system I think would prove very frustrating. It seems that this system offers the worst of both western and tenkara angling. Now, I haven’t cast the rods, and they may be very fine rods when paired with a traditional monofilament tenkara line.
This, I believe, is a classic case where, due to his enormous (and well-deserved) respect in outdoor pursuits and being owner of the company, no one felt comfortable challenging Yvon Chouinard’s concept of tenkara. Hopefully Patagonia will start offering a level line.
P.S. Forget the snap-C cast and DON’T throw your rod in the water.