Monday, March 23, 2015

Tenkara, here I come...

So I did it.  I took the leap.  I bought a Tenkara Rod.

It was an easy jump really. Tenkara has proven itself to be less of a fad than originally anticipated (by many) and is taking root in the fly fishing world.   For those of you who read this but maybe aren't familiar with all things fishing...Tenkara is ultra light, reel-less fly fishing.  There is of course much more to it, but that is the simple definition.

I'll admit, at one time (maybe not so long ago) I figured Tenkara to be a bit of an oddball offshoot. Raise your hand if you too thought it was ultra purists taking the cane pole idea and making it trendy. In my mind, it was hipsters, wearing skinny jeans and loafers, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and wandering the waterfront running paths acting like they were fishing, but were really just trying to "out cool" each other.

Laugh if you must, but I live in the Madison (WI) area and downtown, this is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

But as time wore on, more and more of the fly fishing blogs started to pick up on the idea.  Still...I wasn't sold even though the simplicity of Tenkara kept my interest piqued.  More and more articles about Tenkara popped up, and more and more people were apparently giving it a go and deciding that it is fun.  Anyone who reads Troutrageous knows that Michael Agneta is now a full blown Tenkara aficionado.   I've been a fan of T! for a few years and watched quietly from the sideline as he dove further and further into the world of Tenkara.  Via a conversation with Mr. Troutrageous about getting started in Tenkara...he even offered to send me one of his rods to "try out".  Thanks man! But read on and you'll be glad we didn't go that route.  :)
It all started this past February, when I went to the annual Badger Fly Fisher's Spring Opener in Madison.  It was their biggest venue ever and they had more vendors on hand than I had ever seen before.  Among those vendors was a local company called Badger Tenkara.  I spent quite a lot of time talking to one of the co founders of Badger Tenkara, Matt Sment.  He was patient, clearly full of passion for not only his rods, but teaching people about Tenkara fishing in general.  The more he explained, the more interested I became and while I did leave the show without a Tenkara Rod in hand, I knew it wouldn't be long before I had my own.  That day, I decided that I was not only going to try Tenkara, but Badger Tenkara would definitely be my rod of choice.

Somewhere in the mix, I also learned about an upcoming event called Midwest Tenkara Fest.  Now I was hooked (pun intended).  Tenkara fishing is finally sort of breaking through here in the driftless and it is time for me to be a part of it.  Plans are currently being worked out to attend the inaugural Midwest Tenkara Fest, if even for just one day.  

Midwest Tenkara Fest
So when the family budget finally found that opening to pick up a Bad Axe rod from Badger Tenkara, I jumped.  A look at my schedule and I realized that in a couple of days, my shift swing at work would offer a chance to do some fishing.  I also realized that it would be great to do that fishing on a Tenkara rod, but I didn't think I had enough time to order it online and have it delivered, so I took a long shot and called Badger Tenkara.  Within minutes of leaving him a voicemail, Matt Smet had called me back, understood my sense of urgency and was willing to meet me in Madison later in the evening to get a rod into my hands.

The rod made it home unscathed and I was a (very) happy little camper.  Then, the following morning, like the dumbass I can occasionally be...I promptly broke the last section of the rod while learning to set it up.  I can be moody anyway...but after this bonehead move, I was an ugly, ugly man for quite a while.  I did contact Matt right away, tucked my tail between my legs and explained that I needed to order a new tip section.

Matt's calm and understanding approach was WAY above and beyond what was necessary.  He immediately set to work trying to get a new tip section to me so that I could still fish it on my upcoming days off.  We set up a time later that day and he offered to meet me near where I work because I only had a small window of time between end of shift and meetings.  Again, this is a guy who did not have to be so helpful in the first place, but is so passionate about his product and fishing that he didn't even think twice about any of this.  Because in my world when things start to go wrong...they go horribly wrong, I had to call Matt (who was likely already en route to meet me) and cancel again.  This time, work was getting in the way.

I was starting to think that maybe God didn't want me to learn Tenkara.

Without blinking an eye, Matt said it wasn't a problem and launched the part via mail.  I didn't get to fish it on the days I had planned, but it certainly wasn't for lack of effort on Badger Tenkara's part.
The rod section arrived exactly when Matt said it would, and after another couple of days full of crazy scheduling, I finally put it together today.  I'm proud to say that my Bad Axe Rod is ready to rock!

As I was putting thoughts together for this post, I was thinking about how many times I have gone to the grocery store, department store, a restaurant, or wherever, and was treated by the employees like they HATED me for being there.  I was starting to believe that true customer service and satisfaction was dead.

Matt Sment and Badger Tenkara have absolutely restored my faith that there are still people out there who not only want to sell a quality product, but back it up with superior service.  And really, in a sport with as great of a brotherhood as fly fishing has...I sure am glad to have people like Matt Sment out there supporting us, and will be Badger Tenkara's biggest fan and cheerleader. start figuring out where to fish this bad boy on its inaugural trip.  (after all of this...I feel I owe it to Badger Tenkara to make sure I do the rod justice...)

Til later,


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Crazy Is As Crazy Does ( installment of: Winter and its associated mental health issues)

Today is March 1st.

In less than one week, the 2015 Wisconsin Early Trout Season opens, and its about f#@*king time. Opening day is coming at a critical time.  Not a second too soon.  My mental health is starting to suffer, and this past February's never ending cold spells haven't helped matters at all.

I'll admit, aside from the cold snap that is currently vexing the upper midwest, this winter hasn't been terrible with regards to weather.  Maybe even a little bit on the low end for snow cover.  However, in terms of the cosmic tumblers all lining up to make life unnecessarily miserable; this off-season has been awful.

As I type, my wife's van sits in our garage...unmovable until I limp it over to the repair shop (where I am quickly earning the customer of the year award) later today for somewhere between $600 and $1000 worth of parts and labor.  Again.  This time, a new power steering rack is on the menu, and is just is just the latest in a string of ugly little surprises for the MacLoosh clan.

(Surely you'll understand as I find a plastic spoon to slit my wrists with...)

The sum total of financial set-backs, cold weather, never ending workplace drama, and a dangerous lack of fresh air leaves a fella with a severe case of cabin fever that sometimes manifests itself in weird, and possibly unhealthy ways.  Couple that with an always ready internet connection, and you end up watching a video like this and saying to yourself  "I wonder if I am related to this odd, wonderful, and talented dancing queen":

And then there is all that time spent playing Boom Beach.  A truly addicting game, whose tagline should be:  If I have to explain it to you, you wouldn't understand anyway.

Fortunately, the New Glarus Brewery seems to implicitly understand the mental health dangers associated with winter, and has an offering that is among the things that are helping to keep me as close to "balanced" as I get.

So in-between the manic mood swings, internet distractions and financial head scratching that accompany such joyous times, I have managed to ready all of the necessary gear for the upcoming fishing season.  Flies are tied, boxes full and organized, gear cleaned, reels lubed, and everything seems to be prepped. I think I am actually in pretty good shape.  Despite the shit sandwich I've been chewing on all winter, I feel like a tipping point might be coming. Things just HAVE to get better eventually...right?  Why shouldn't that happen during fishing season?

(Foolish optimism is sign of madness)

Usually at this time of year, I start thinking of getting some of the latest greatest new gear for the upcoming fishing season. But, due to the above...that leap I was thinking of taking into the world of Tenkara is just going to be put on hold.  Sorry Badger Tenkara, that BAD AXE rod and starter kit is just going to have to wait.  There is also a brand new Cabela's set to open next month, a scant 10 miles from my front door.  (...uh oh...) Both were a factor in all that drunken spending I had planned to do, but have been squashed by the car repairs.  Retail therapy just isn't in the cards.  For now.

Instead, I have turned inward, and employed a little redneck engineering to settle that new gear fix. With the help of Pinterest, YouTube, manic blog reading, and several other social media websites, along with scrounging spare parts from around the house (with an occasional trip to Hobby Lobby for things like a $2 roll of 1/4" elastic)...I have been busy in the Do It Yourself  category and I'm kinda proud of my efforts.

Here is a little peak at some of my "new" 2015 gear:

A re-purposed (and modified) "Bucket Boss" beats buying a $80 Umpqua Tailgater Every.Single.Time.
Bombproof PVC Rod case (approx $7) vs. store bought storage tubes.  Yes Please.
Tippet spool minders? Approx. $.25/ea to make.  Foggedaboutitt.
Tippet Caddy.  Sorry garage scraps will work just fine.
I have, of course, also done some stream scouting and have a list of places that I've added to my hit list.  Included among them are several streams that have been the beneficiaries of improvement. Added bonus:  At least one of those improved streams is very close to the MacLoosh World Headquarters.

To the winter of my discontent, I heartily say: Piss off.

To the start of a new fishing season, and hopefully getting past a slump...I enthusiastically say: GAME.FREAKING.ON.

Til Later,