Ryan Jordan


“There’s more to life than fly fishing.
In fact, real life offers, and demands, a lot more.
And that’s a good thing. Because fly fishing can get really boring.
Unless, well, you’re actually fly fishing.” – An anonymous truth


I love to fly fish.

The satisfaction I get out of casting a rod, or hearing the ripple of water around my waders, or watching a baetis mayfly struggle to get out of its shuck on a cold October day never goes away. And feeling adrenaline coursing through my veins when I know I have a twenty inch trout on the end of my line is something that’s hard to replicate. I like that feeling. A lot.

This brown trout is a little less than twenty inches, but provided fodder for a memorable moment for Chase and I on the Madison River near Varney Bridge.

Tenkara has renewed my passion for fly fishing because the lack of gear required to fish with pure Tenkara methods is almost comical in the context of the amount of fly fishing gear available for sale in the Orvis and Cabela’s catalogs. So, I suppose I like Tenkara because it’s a little bit on the fringe, but I think I like it more because it reflects a deeper simplicity that I’d like to achieve in other areas of life.

In other words, I’d like to bring a little bit of Tenkaranicity to my home, my garage, my office, and even my locker of backpacking gear. I spend way too much time dealing with things – shopping for them, buying them, maintaining them, counting them, storing them, cleaning them, moving them, garage sale-ing them, and then feeling guilty about not using them.

All this requires a lot of time.

And that cuts into my fishing time, which is not a good thing.

Not because I have to fish to be happy, because I don’t (but I’m happier when I’m fishing, go figure). And it’s not because I feel the need to catch monster trout (but when I do catch one, there’s no question that I’m on the lookout for #2…#3…etc.).

No, it’s not these things, but more.

This September, my dad came to visit me in Montana to fish for a few days. We were joined by my wife Stephanie, and son Chase. We didn’t catch a lot of fish this year, but we made a lot of memories, and at its core, I think this is what I enjoy most about fly fishing: the quietness of the outdoors that allows relationships to foster.

Here’s a list of my favorite moments from my September trip:

  1. Watching Chase take his first steps ever into the Firehole River with a Tenkara rod in hand, and the excitement of knowing that some of the toughest trout to catch in the world were rising all around him.
  2. Rowing my drift boat for my Dad while he fished from the bow, and being able to repay him for all the times he did it for me while growing up and fishing for steelhead in Washington State.
  3. Taking a  long walk with Stephanie up the banks of the Madison River because I left my rod on an island upstream, and being more acutely aware of bears because I had every intention of smoking them with pepper spray if they messed with her.
  4. Having Chase by my side to net a big brown that I caught (photo above), and then releasing it back into the river with grace and gentleness that reflected an awe of nature in him that I’m glad for.
  5. Feeling sorry for my landlubber labrador, who shakes in the boat because floating scares her, who jumps from the boat at inopportune moments because she’d rather swim or run along the bank, who not-so-delicately chases my flies as I cast them delicately to rising trout, and who breaks anchor and sends the boat downstream unattended when I tie her to it because she’d rather follow me while I fish.

The bottom line is that while I really do like to fish, I like fishing with people (and some dogs) a lot more. So it is with me and outdoor recreation in general. Sure, I like it well enough and enjoy using the gear, learning the techniques, and conquering nature, I like it more when I can share all those things.

Stephanie, Chase, and Maia in the Clackacraft on the Madison River near Lyons Bridge.

And I think at the core, this is the primary appeal to me for simplifying my life and thinning my possessions to manageable levels – being able to maximize opportunity for relationships, and minimize barriers to developing them.

To that end, then, Tenkaranicity is not so much about the gear, but about what less gear allows you to do, and be – less cluttered, and more focused on the important things.