Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Tenkara Subdivisions

Loadout edited-1The Tenkara Jam last month was loaded with good information and hands-on opportunities. One of the better presentations was by Rob Worthing of Tenkara Guides LLC. Rob’s presentation was a detailed exploration of handling big fish and is now a guest post on Casting Around. If you are interested learning a field tested way of handling big fish you will be hard pressed to find a better resource.

While Rob’s article is educational, helpful and very well illustrated (courtesy of Anthony Naples), what caught my attention was his insights into the Japanese tenkara world. He points out that there are three “subdivisions” of tenkara in Japan. Subdivisions is a good word as the distinctions are geographic:

we’ll refer to these subdivisions as headwater tenkaramountain stream tenkara, and mainstream tenkara. Rods intended for tight, small headwaters located deep in the mountains are relatively light and usually shorter. Rods intended for mountain stream tenkara are a bit sturdier. Rods intended for mainstream rivers, where casting tends to be more open, are frequently longer, and may be beefier still.”

This then becomes a great way to help tenkara anglers look at the spectrum of fixed line rods that are now available. For quick reference here in the Valley, I would equate these subdivisions to the following local waters; headwater = Rapidan or Skidmore Fork, mountain = Dry River or Mossy Creek and mainstream = South Fork of the Shenandoah.

Mossy Creek Fly Fishing. has rods that work in all these subdivisions and I plan to adopt Rob’s explanation as a way to help my clients and customers understand what rod to use where.



Our Public Lands (Part 2): Elections Matter

The reelection of President Obama combined with Democrats gaining seats in the both houses of Congress and a clear repudiation of the extreme views of the GOP provide those of us who treasure our public lands an important opportunity.

The community of sportsmen, outdoor enthusiasts and public land advocates have a chance to press for those things that will secure a legacy for public lands and to defeat the agenda of the remaining right wing zealots who may see the election as a reason to double down on their assault on public lands.

The opportunity lies in showing Congress that public lands are essential to our quality of life, a critical economic contributor and that the American people value them.

Carpe’ing the old Diem

To Carpe this particular Diem public land advocates must present a united front around a common agenda. With that agenda in hand they need to present a clear and compelling message that without our public lands a important part of the U.S. economy is placed in jeopardy and the American public will lose critical recreation, health and environmental infrastructure.

The good news is a lot of groundwork has been done. Coalitions, trade associations and non-governmental organizations have been tirelessly at work gathering and sharing economic and public opinion information, creating messages that give meaning to that data and identifying congressional champions to help transform that information into legislative action.

In addition, the Obama administration has shown its support for public lands. The America’s Great Outdoors initiative is a strategic conservation and recreation agenda and provides important information about public land success and the views of the American people.

Can these groups, with somewhat different agendas, find time to sit down and craft a common and more importantly an achievable agenda? Can they agree that the opportunity to achieve durable public policy is fleeting and that if we don’t speak with one voice then our chances of success is diminished? That remains to be seen.

Now is the time for the leaders of the coalitions, trade associations and NGOs to reach out to each other and commit to a common agenda, sharing resources and working together. If that happens then durable public lands policy can be achieved.

Stay tuned! In coming posts I will write about what the agenda might include and who the champions might be.

The Best Fly-Fishing Blog Roll

Blog rolls are like a fly box

Blog rolls are a treasure trove whether you are a seasoned blogger or just getting started. You can surf around from site to site and quickly find many informative and entertaining blogs. Our favorites usually wind up in a blog roll on our site.

On of the problems with blog rolls is their static nature. No more! thanks to The Outdooress you can find the most entertaining blog roll you will have have the pleasure to peruse! Check out Fly Fishing: The Confectioness!

Creative Lobbying – Don’t Tell Them, Take Them!

As a career choice, lobbyist was not at the top of my list when I graduated from college. I really had planned to do something in the outdoors with smoke jumper and fishing guide topping the list. But fate is what it is and I wound up spending the bulk of my adult life in DC as a hired gun plying my trade in the various Gucci gulches of the U.S. Capitol.

You don’t do something for more than 30 years without becoming something of a student of the game and over the years I have seen, heard or read a number of example of good and bad advocacy techniques.

One of the best lobbyists I know...

The other day I came across an excellent examples of creative lobbying in this post, How to Win Through Chit Chat on the Trucacabra blog. It chronicles the author’s very effective lobbying techniques. I won’t spoil his thunder but will tell you he has hit on one of the best ways to engage our elected officials on conservation issues.

I know Washington, DC can be an exciting place to visit and all the hoopla of fly-in days and receptions can be quite alluring. My experience tells me the place to effectively engage our elected officials in where we live, work and play. Don’t tell them how important woods, water, wetlands or fields are. Take them there!

The outdoor economy

Madison River in Yellowstone National Park

When it comes right down to it, it really is this simple: healthy habitat = recreational opportunity = economic activity.

Need more proof, read this is from the recently released America’s Great Outdoors progress report (click here to download the entire report).

“The great outdoors has fueled centuries of economic activity through recreation and natural resource management, and it continues to employ millions of people today. The Outdoor Industry Association reports that outdoor recreation in the United States—from hunting and fishing to hiking and camping—contributes an estimated $730 billion to the U.S. economy. The “recreation economy” supports nearly 6.5 million jobs. It generates $88 billion in annual state and national tax revenue and $289 billion annually in retail sales and services. From the largest parks to the smallest historic sites and memorials, National Park Service areas alone see over 280 million visitors. They generate $12 billion in visitor spending that supports nearly 250,000 jobs. As part of the leisure and hospitality sector, the fifth-largest employer in America, the recreation industry has proven resilient in tough times. It shed only three percent of its workforce from 2007 to 2010 and maintained non-exportable jobs tied to places where people live and recreate right here in the United States. Maintaining this industry hinges on an accessible and healthy America’s Great Outdoors.”

There is lot’s of good information in the AGO Progress report and it not only details the progress to date, it provides action items to be accomplished going forward. Hopefully many of the action steps will take place and the country can reap the economic and societal benefits of a strong outdoor economy.

Tenkara Summit

Last month I traveled to West Yellowstone, MT for the first Tenkara Summit. More than 100 hundred people showed up to hear presentations, talk tenkara and see an on-stream demonstration.

Here is part of the write up by Daniel Galhardo on the Tenkara USA blog:

Originally we had expected, optimistically, that about 70 people would show up. The conference room was setup to accomodate 100 people, but that was not enough. Over 100 people showed up yesterday. People came from 23 different states, and from 3 different countries specially for the Summit (well, they did come to fish in Montana…). I’d really like to thank all those who came and helped make this an extraordinary event; it was the best crowd ever. Thank you!

The Tenkara Summit had the presence of special guests Dr. Hisao Ishigaki, the leading authority on tenkara in Japan; Chris Stewart of tenkarabum.com; Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies who gave a very passionate presentation about tenkara in Montana and showed some great clips of large fishing being caught; Ryan Jordan of backpackinglight.com as well as ryanjordan.com; and Tom Sadler who spoke about the advantages of using tenkara as a guide and as a way to introduce new people to fly-fishing so they can continue conserving the environment in the future.

Dr. Hisao Ishigaki, "Tenkara King"

Dr. Ishigaki is known as the “Tenkara King” in Japan. His presentation was a wonderful insight into the world of tenkara. He is a warm and charming story teller lacing his presentation with witty anecdotes of his tenkara exploits.

Chris Stewart, Daniel Galhardo and Dr. Ishigaki, share a panel discussion.

Ryan Jordan of Backpacking Light

Craig Mathews talks Montana tenkara



It was a special honor to part of the summit and to learn from fellow tenkara enthusiasts!

One personal highlight was to have lunch with Craig Mathews and Yvon Chouinard. Those two were the reason I got started with tenkara so it was a special treat to spend time with them both at the summit.

Dr. Ishigaki showed his tenkara chops during an on-stream demonstration.

gearing up for some fishing


Watching Japan’s Tenkara King put a tenkara rod through it’s paces was fascinating. It was also reassuring to see that my on tenkara technique was not so bad.

Tenkara King does his thing

Double team tenkara