On Monday the 12th, the little Tenkara community many of us participate in was stirred up by a Kickstarter campaign to launch a new tenkara gear supplier, the Tenkara Rod Co. Always game for a good Kickstarter, I contributed to the campaign almost immediately after I saw its release on Facebook.
Well after an additional dose of social seeding courtesy of Jason at Tenkara Talk, and some good virality, this "project" got crowdfunded in less than 24 hours, which is really an impressive feat. As such, I thought it might be interesting to reach out to Drew Hollenback at Tenkara Rod Co., and find out a little more about the product, the people, and the motivation to get into the Tenkara business.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview Drew, I'm sure it's a really exciting time for you & your friends.
T!: Your Kickstarter campaign was fully funded in something like less than 24 hours (full disclaimer, I believe I was backer #7ish). How does it feel to have such a positive reaction to the campaign?
Drew: I am blown away by the amount of support we have received in the first few days of the project. We were hoping to raise enough to fund our first small order and weren’t sure what to expect. Tenkara is growing quickly and we hope to be a part of it.
T!: You seem to be the "face" behind the Kickstarter campaign, but you mention "we" a lot in the video. Who are the people behind Tenkara Rod Co.?
D: There are two of us that currently make up the team here at Tenkara Rod Co., myself and my business partner Shane Humphreys.
T!: At the time of this interview, you had already raised much more what you were originally looking for (now over $15,000) and still had over 30 days left for people to contribute…how are you going to invest that extra “startup” back in to your company?
D: The extra funds will be used to stock up on inventory, beef up our site, and hopefully be able to get a couple of new rod designs going. We would love to add some rods to the “quiver.” We also have some fun ideas that should be totally new to the tenkara market.
T!: Your initial offering consists of two different 12’ rods, the Teton with a 6:4 rating, and the Sawtooth with a 5:5 rating. Why did you decide on making those rods your entry into Tenkara and what will future customers find in each rod?
D: We decided that the 12’ 6:4 Teton would be a great all around rod. This length can be fished in those smaller streams that are a bit cumbersome but it can also go out on larger rivers. Casting on that size and action is pretty simple and hopefully people just learning about tenkara will be able to catch on. The 5:5 Sawtooth on the other hand is a little softer and a little more playful. The Sawtooth might take a little more time to figure out but after fishing some of the other 5:5 rods out there we decided we needed to start with these.
T!: I can’t help but notice the distinctive look to your rods. The colors are appealing to the eye and the graphics are very bold & clean. The same can be said about your logo. Who does the graphic design work and from where is the inspiration drawn?
D: All of the graphics and design were done by our team here in Idaho. We love simplistic beauty and that is what we strived for while designing the rods. We draw inspiration from the mountains and streams of Idaho. For example, the Sawtooth mountain range is extremely beautiful with a huge system of streams to fish. Needless to say, the Sawtooth fishes well there.
T!: It’s tough to talk about Tenkara in the United States without mentioning the imprint Daniel Galhardo & Tenkara USA have made over the past few years. I’m personally a big fan of his product line and have had pleasure of “talking Tenkara” with him on more than one occasion. Have you fished with any Tenkara rods from “domestic” companies like Tenkara USA? Have you fished with any Tenkara rods from Japanese makers? If so, what makes your rods different?
D: I have been able to fish a variety of rods including Tenkara USA and TFO. I have also been able to get my hands on a couple of Japanese rods (Daiwa Enshou and a Shimano rod). They are all great. We are trying to use the best materials available in our rods but while still maintaining an affordable price point.
T!: Like it or not, some people are rough with their Tenkara rods. As such, there are different levels of warranty support out there for broken segments (especially tips). I haven’t read any specifics on your warranty “program”…are there any you’d like to share?
D: We are still working on the full details of our warranty program, but we will most definitely have a lifetime warranty on damaged rods and will have the specifics on our site as soon after our Kickstarter is complete.
T!: What goals, either short term or long term does the Tenkara Rod Co. have? It may be a bit premature, but are there plans for additional products?
D: We just want people to get out and enjoy nature. Hopefully catch some fish as well. So we will see where that takes us. Tenkara is still relatively small here in the U.S. but anyone who has fished tenkara before knows how amazing it is and we expect to grow along with it.
T!: In the “About Us” section of your website, it is mentioned that you first saw Tenkara in Japan when you lived there a decade ago. What were you doing in Japan…and how did you stumble upon Tenkara?
D: I lived in Japan for about 6 years growing up. My father lived there when he was younger and wanted to take the family back because he loved it so much. He is also a big fisherman and so we would often go hiking and exploring rivers and streams. The thing that caught my eye about Tenkara was that no one had reels and they only used one hand. I remember asking my dad what Tenkara meant and he said “heaven sent.” That was my introduction to it. Disclaimer: My dad did not and still does not fish Tenkara. I am still trying to convert him but it is a process.
T!: What’s your fishing background? I know you’re based out of Idaho. Were you a fly fisherman before Tenkara? Brag a little bit, where do you like to fish and what do you like to catch?
D: I grew up around fishing. My grandpa is from Emmett, Idaho and he grew up fly fishing the Payette (probably back when there were a lot more fish). My dad has also always fished. But I am by no means an expert fisherman. For me it is a fun way to get out and enjoy nature. That is why I love Tenkara so much, it is simple and gives me the maximum amount of time actually enjoying fishing. When I would fly fish I would spend too much time worrying about the hatch or switching out flies, and to be honest even though I am an eagle scout I am terrible with knots. With Tenkara all I worry about is fishing. We end up fishing the Boise river a lot because it is right here in town. The south fork of the Boise and the Owyhee are also pretty close so we end up fishing there too and it can be great at times. But whenever I have the chance eastern Idaho or the Sawtooths is where I would choose to fish.
T!: Describe your personal Tenkara experience. Do you subscribe to the “one fly” theory? Do you favor furled lines or level lines? Do you believe in Bigfoot? OK, the last one has nothing to do with Tenkara, but is still important nonetheless…
D: I subscribe to the “one fly a day” theory. You will rarely see me change a fly during a fishing session. I also prefer a furled line and that is what we will be offering with the packages on our Kickstarter project. I spent a few years living in the Pacific Northwest so I absolutely believe in Sasquatch.
T!: Finally, I’ll leave this last question for you as an open forum. Is there anything else you’d like to say about your company, rods, or to any of the readers out there?
D: We are young fisherman trying to pour our personalities and experiences into this project and company. I am just really happy for the support we have received so far and we hope to continue growing, learning, and sharing our experiences with our supporters.
Thanks again Drew for providing my readers a peek behind the scenes of the Tenkara Rod Co. and a successful Kickstarter campaign. I wish you & Shane only the best in your future endeavors.
Are you a Western tenkara angler? Do you have a story, pictures, video, fly recipe, or simply a fishing report from one of your recent tenkara adventures? If so, Troutrageous! wants to hear from you for a future Tenkara Tuesday post! Feel free to send and email HERE, or check out this previous post for more information.