Tenkara Conversations: Go Ishi

A few weeks ago I was preparing for a general tenkara presentation. I’ve done a few more specialized talks about tenkara but this was to be the first “What is Tenkara?” kind of presentation. In prep for that talk I asked some tenkara compatriots a question.

The question was: What two things do you know now that you wish you knew when you started tenkara?

The point of the exercise was really to suss out what tips or recommendations might most benefit beginning tenkara anglers. After doing something for a while it can be difficult to remember what it was like when just beginning – at least for me – and that’s why I figured I’d reach out to some others folks. And I got good answers that helped me to shape my presentation.

I really liked the answer that I got back from the tenkara angler Go Ishi – so I figured I’d share it here. Some of his advice has actually already benefitted me on a recent tenkara outing. 

Go Ishi: Two things I wish I’d known when I started fishing tenkara.

1) Sasoi (Manipulation / Luring action), 誘い
I started fishing in the mountain streams when I was about 8 years old, as the majority of Japan caught trout with bait back then. The conventional way of fishing with bait in Japan was and still is, “make it look natural”. Basically meant natural drift is what you need to do with your bait to catch a trout. It took many years after I started fishing tenkara for me to recognize, especially after fishing with many of the greats, that “Sasoi” (manipulation) is the essence of tenkara.
Learning to lure with my kebari not only made my tenkara more efficient, it certainly redefined the “joy” of fishing.

2Downstream presentation
Well again, conventional practice of mountain stream fishing in Japan was to fish upstream. So for many years I just fished upstream only. I learned that many of those who fished tenkara professionally knew that downstream presentation was “necessary” to catch fish under certain circumstances. I definitely would have caught more fish had I know this. There are days when I’d cast upstream all day long without much success, but as soon as I switched to downstream presentation, such as “reverse skating” (skating a fly on surface pulling it upstream), I’d see fish trout coming from all angles.

3) Bonus
When I first tried tenkara I was just a kid, and tying my own fly just seemed like too much of a task. When I committed myself to making my own kebari finally, is when I took the first step into understanding the meaning of a kebari. It was not made to imitate a specific insect, but I leaned I had to make them to fit my presentation techniques.

Go Ishi’s bio:
1977- Born in Japan
1985- Started Mountain Stream Fishing (Bait and Lure Fishing)
1987-Tried Tenkara (Not Successful)
1991- Left Japan to attend boarding school (Junior High) in California
1993- Enrolled in High School in Maine
1996- Northeastern University (Boston)

I went home to Japan for the summer almost each year, and fished in the mountains, but it was around this time, that I became a full-time tenkara angler.

2000- Moved to Washington State
2008- Returned to Japan to start business
2010- Met Masami Sakakibara, worked on his website in return for complete one-on-one lesson which lasted about 2 years.
2016 Working on projects to save Japan’s traditional bamboo fishing rod making culture.


6 thoughts on “Tenkara Conversations: Go Ishi

  1. Dave R says:

    Anthony, nicely done! I find it interesting that it took him years before he started fishing down stream. It would pretty much be a long boring walk back to the car if I didn’t fish wet flies, or soft hackles.

    • Anthony says:

      Dave – sorry for taking a while to get this comment posted – for some reason it was caught up in the spam filter!
      I’ll often do that too – hit some of the nice spots on the way back down with wet flies (or even streamers)

    • Anthony says:

      I know that I am constantly battling the urge to always dead drift. Dead drifting works of course – but I know from experience that more active fishing like sasoi – including downstream techniques can be killer. Still I have to re-learn that lesson constantly.

  2. Ken says:

    Good stuff Anthony. My most basic of recommendations for people just stating out: Whenever you move, before you cast, always look up. More time fishing, less time fiddling. If you are looking for less basic answers and more input, please let me know.

    • Anthony says:

      So true. Dealing with a long tenkara rod can be a nightmare when starting out – especially if you’re fishing in those small brushy and woodsy streams. I remember my first trip with a tenkara rod – it was a very small stream with lots of overhanging branches … a tough place to try tenkara for the first time. So yeah – that’s good advice for sure. Also good advice if you find yourself in an alien movie – look up 😉

Comments are closed.