Japanese fishing method inspires a business

A big one that did not get away

Karin Fischer first female owner of a fly fishing business in Colorado

by Libby James

Izaak Walton, fishing guru and author of The Compleat Angler, described fly fishing as “the contemplative man’s recreation.” That was centuries ago, yet until quite recently, with very few exceptions, fly fishing remained the exclusive domain of men. There was even an air of machismo about it.

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But no longer. Karin Fischer, first female owner of a fly fishing business in Colorado, says that in the last few years more and more women have caught the fly fishing bug. A little over a decade ago, she learned traditional fly fishing methods from her husband at the time.

It wasn’t love at first sight, she admitted. “Learning the traditional method of fly fishing can be complicated, costly and time-consuming.” Back then she was a busy mother with a career as a special needs early childhood educator and had limited time and energy to perfect her fly fishing skills.

Then one day, while searching for a Christmas gift for her husband, Fischer learned about a different method of fly fishing called Tenkara. Developed long ago in Japan specifically for its simplicity and suitability for fishing in high mountain streams, it caught her interest. The rod was lighter and telescoped into a manageable length for carrying through rough terrain. Set up was quick and easy. There was no reel. A rod, a line and bait, anything from a traditional fly to a worm, was all that was needed.

Fischer’s discovery opened a path for her that has led to travel around the world to share the Tenkara method in fishing meccas from the Maldives to Patagonia and Alaska. Promoting the method has become her passion. Her company, Zen Tenkara, based in Fort Collins, carries Tenkara rods, lines, flies, bait boxes and other fishing accessories. “Tenkara has been called “fishing for dummies,” Fischer says with a laugh, “but it is nothing like that.”

She has caught everything from an 18-pound carp to a shark with a Tenkara rod and has fished in fresh and salt water, in streams and in the ocean with it. She doesn’t mind that she’s sometimes called the Tenkara Queen.

Fischer continued teaching, occasionally taking time off to travel and promote her fly fishing business until last year when she made the decision to quit teaching and focus fulltime on her business and on promoting the Tenkara fishing method.

Her small grass roots company offers products online, and at all JAX Outdoor Gear stores and St. Pete’s Fly Shop in Fort Collins. Fly fishing shops in Boulder, Aspen, Estes Park and Denver and locations across the country in Wyoming, North Carolina, Hawaii, New York and Oregon also carry her wares.

She explains that landing a fish using a line minus a reel is a skill that requires some practice. “The process is uncomplicated, relaxing, pure, elegant and beautiful,” Fischer says. “And you never have to fish in an ugly place.”

She likes to make the point that hers is a fly fishing business geared to both men and women. “The industry is changing. It’s great to be a part of that and to have a role in making Tenkara a respected and accepted fly fishing method for everyone.” Fischer said.

At times friends have questioned the wisdom of her decision to leave teaching and devote herself to her fishing business, but she does not look back. My son gave me a Superman bracelet,” she says. “How can I lose?”