May 20, 2016

Wandering Back To The Driftless - Part Two

After yesterday's preamble, it's time to get into the meat & potatoes (or perhaps brats & cheese) of my trip to Wisconsin, the 2016 Midwest Tenkara Fest.

The second annual Fest was (in my opinion) quite the success. It's rare when you can hold a fishing event/seminar in a modern, indoor setting that's literally a stone's throw away from a well-managed trout stream. Pretty sweet set up.

The event was hosted by Matt & Mike from Badger Tenkara and spanned two days. Saturday was the more robust schedule, while Sunday was an abbreviated session that allowed folks time to get out and take all of their new tenkara knowledge (& gear) to the area streams.

In this post, I'll highlight the vendors and presentations, in a mostly captioned, pictorial form.

Badger Tenkara
Presentations: "Tenkara 101" & "All Tenkara Is Local"

The Fest kicked off with some opening words from Mike & Matt.
They gave a quick overview of tenkara for the people that are new to the method...
...and then took to the stream for a rigging and casting demonstration!
Heck, Matt even caught a fish during his demo...
...if that won't sell tenkara rods on the spot, I don't know what will!
Badger also had a table displaying all of their rods, lines, and accessories.

Streamside Leaders

Mike & Kathie had a wide assortment of furled & floating tenkara lines for sale.
I picked up a floating furled line called the "Nano-Dragon" that I'm looking forward to getting wet.

And when I said wide assortment, I wasn't kidding...tenkara lines for miles!!!


Speaking of wide assortment, nobody had more gear on display than "TenkaraBum" Chris Stewart.
His tables were buzzing with activity all weekend...I had my eye on the two red Tenryu rods.

More rods...

...and even more.  Notice the difference in size between
the pocket minis in the foreground and the larger rods in the back

Zen Fly Fishing Gear
Presentation: "Pools, Pockets, & Edges"

Paul Vertrees made the trip from Colorado to show off Zen Tenkara's wares.
He also made a fantastic presentation on how to read and fish the best spots in a trout stream. 
I applied many of his pointers with success in the following days.

The new Crosscurrent chest pack was a big hit with attendees, I saw a lot of folks walking away from the table with a new pack in hand. Also got to wiggle their new 3-way zoom rod, the Suzume, one that looks very promising for people that like to fish headwaters.

Three Rivers Tenkara
Presentation: "Building Your Tenkara Tool Box: Techniques & Tips"

Anthony's presentation on developing your own personal tenkara style was quite entertaining.
I was hoping it would involve a ukelele or some free verse poetry, but I was let down in that regard.

Meanwhile, his Three Rivers Tenkara table was chock full of goodies.
Tenkara Times, Oni, & (new) Tanuki rods, as well as linocut prints, flies, and accessories.
The flies I purchased from him scored me quite a few trout later in the day.
You may also notice a reel on the table, not sure how that got past the front door...


Chris Zimmer had his full line of ultralight tenkara packs on display.
The slings seemed to be everyone's favorite, however, I left the show with a
roomy Tailwater pack that I've been obsessed with for quite a while.

I Dream of Flies

This was a new one to me, but what a pleasant surprise!
The artwork of Ken Jacobs, primarily watercolor of popular fly patterns, was phenomenal.

It kills me that these photos don't truly represent the vibrancy of Ken's work.
Absoultely stunning!

Dragontail Tenkara

Rick was behind the Dragontail Tenkara table on behalf of Brent & Brandon.
They were displaying the 3 Dragontail branded rods, as well as Moonlit lines and hooks.
A compact, but complete assortment of products.

In the times I passed by the booth, I couldn't help but notice a lot of questions being asked about the Hellbender's capabilities in landing the local warmwater fish.

Trout Buddy

Not so much to photograph here, as it was just a table of business cards and fliers. Trout Buddy is the local Driftless guide outfit of Mike Warren, who not only guides fly fishing, but tenkara as well. Mike offers outings for both novice and experienced anglers...I wish I knew of his services the first time I fished the Driftless!

Tenkara USA
Presentation: "The One Fly Philosophy & The Wide Variety of Kebari"

Mark Bolson did a wonderful job representing Tenkara USA.
Friendly and helpful, he not only brought people through the Tenkara USA rod and accessory line, but was happy to show them how to tie some winning fly patterns.

He later went from the bench to the stage and did a presentation on Japanese kebari, explaining the different patterns & "one fly" philosophy. I liked that he neither advocated nor condemned it, simply presented information that allowed the audience to create their own point of view.

Farmers Insurance

I know what you're thinking...what does this have to do with tenkara?
Well did you know that Farmers sells boat & RV insurance?
Maybe...but I bet you didn't know that Laura behind the table is a tenkara angler.
Now you do.

There were also two special video presentations made especially for the Fest from overseas.

Isaac from Fallfish Tenkara took us all on a wonderfully visual tour of Japan. He's actually since made the video public, so you can watch it below.

Additionally, Paul & John from Discover Tenkara put together a wonderful video of some of the footage they filmed from Japan that concentrates on advanced tenkara technique featuring "Tenkara Masters" such as Masami Sakakibara. My photo of their video didn't turn out great, so I'll spare you the blurry shot.

Last but not least, representatives from Project Healing Waters were in attendance. The Badger guys committed that proceeds from the Fest would go to Project Healing Waters, and a silent auction and bucket raffle was held to help stimulate donations.

I had heard that over $1000 was raised for Project Healing Waters over the course of the weekend. Not sure if that figure is confirmed, but regardless, by the turnout you could tell it was going to be a nice figure.

The silent auction featured these wonderful Japanese kebari displays tied by "Tenkara Gandalf" Zoan Kulinski.

Oh, and then tons of bucket raffle items...

I won this one!!!!
Big score!

There was even a bit of local news coverage on Sunday; the short video below will give you a little more feel for the event. Check out the handsome guy talking to Paul Vertrees at about 0:15.

It's a shame the video is titled "Dozens" as it makes it sound like a weak turnout. There had to be at least 100 people there on Saturday. The hall was packed with a constant flow of interested anglers flowing in and out of the venue. I guess it's technically not inaccurate, though.

So that was pretty much the event part of the Midwest Tenkara Fest in a nutshell. It was a highly fun gathering, one I'd recommend attending to anyone who had never been to the Driftless, or perhaps lives in the Midwest and is tenkara-curious. A giant thanks go to the Badger Tenkara guys (& gals), as well as all of the vendors and presenters; it was extremely well organized and a pleasure to attend.

Don't worry, I did go fishing too... but more on that part of the trip tomorrow...


  1. At least 8.33 dozen! Great turnout this year. I'm sure to many it's not a huge turnout, but for that venue and the area I'd call that a good turnout.

    Slowly seeing more people using Tenkara around here.

    1. 8.33 dozen, I like it!
      I thought the turnout was outstanding. Seemed to definitely be an increase over 2015, which only shows interest is continuing to grow.

  2. The Saturday morning hand count showed at least a quarter to a third of the attendees to be new to tenkara. A surprising and exciting increase from the first year.

  3. Looks like a mighty fine time was had by all.

  4. Nice write up! If I wasn't in Tennessee, I would have contemplated coming up for this event and seeing what this Tenkara is all about, and to fish the Driftless. I really enjoy events like this, because, you never know what new and exciting things people are doing. I can't believe there are sooo many rods! So many!! Good to hear you enjoyed yourself up there. Great job standing and talking in the New coverage.

  5. Outstanding report Mike.
    It looked a bit on the cool side outdoors, but a fever was going on at the indoor show.

    1. Michael
      What a Tenkara show, love the video; I have a feeling that the original Tenkara has had some improvement since it was first introduced some years ago. I notice you mention different brands of the Tenkara, are those just a spin off of the original Tenkara. Great post.