I anticipated writing this post, part two of my Tenkara adventure, much later, but happily the rod and gear arrived much sooner than I expected. Furthermore, this past Sunday was truly a spectacular day to be outside fishing. I fully expected to have a great day no matter what. What I didn’t expect were all the lessons I was to learn that day.
Here is how my weekend events played out. I returned from work on Friday to find the Teton Rod package had arrived. Pretty amazing customer service at Tenkara Rod Company! As soon as I walked in the door I opened the slender and amazingly light weight cardboard tube and removed my new rod and gear. It weighed next to nothing and I was nervous for a moment that something was missing, but it was all there! I spent the next 20 minutes or so looking over everything and went to sleep that night probably dreaming of trout. (Can’t actually recall what I dreampt that night, but fish were on my mind for sure.)
Saturday morning I drove to my nearest outdoor store and bought my fishing license, a fishing net and few extra flies (the Tenkara Teton package came with 3) I ran a few more errands and did some research online looking for the best fishing within an hours drive. After much consideration I choose Stephens State Park in Hackettstown NJ.
I awoke early Sunday morning, packed up all the things I thought I needed for the day and hit the road. On my beautiful drive through Warren County, I decided that when arrived at the park I would fish first and then explore the trails on a run. I arrived without incident, got everything together and headed down the river to a picnic table. I was a bit uncertain on how to get started, so I went to Tenkara Rod Company’s website and checked out their YouTube instructional videos. After a few minutes of viewing I began assembling my Teton rod and all was good, until I realized I forgot something. I needed a tippet, which is basically a length of strong fishing line that attaches the fly to the main line on the rod. I was momentarily devastated! (This experience would later become classroom lesson 1 of the day)
My maiden Tenkara journey was over before it even started because I did not plan carefully enough. I assumed I had everything I needed before leaving my apartment. (We all know what happens when you assume!) After several minutes of grief I decided to salvage the day and go for a run. While running some thoughts occurred to me. I could swallow my pride, reveal my rookie status as a fisherman, and ask one of the many anglers on the river if they would trade some line for some extra apples I had. I didn’t want to look like the complete novice I was, but I also didn’t want to go home without trying the new rod. Further down the trail another thought occurred to me. There must be fishing line hung up in trees or bushes along the river that I could use for my tippet. My new plan A was to walk the river in search of discarded line and if no line found I would swallow pride and ask for help.
Sure enough after a short walk along the river, I found what I was looking for. I waded out into the water and removed some tangled line from an overhanging limb. I was back in business! I set up the rod in about 5 minutes and was on the water in less than 15. It took a few minutes to get the hang of things, but I learned pretty quickly how user-friendly this Tenkara setup was. I spotted a deep pool ahead of some fast water and decided to try my luck there.
About 10 minutes later, I felt a fish strike my fly and knew I had one. I caught a 4 inch sunfish and successfully set it free after expressing gratitude towards the tough little fish. Believe it or not, but safely releasing that little fish was a huge victory for me. (This experience becomes classroom lesson 2) After a few more casts I packed it in and went back to the car feeling happy and accomplished.
Classroom Lesson 1: On my drive home some thoughts began to surface and got me thinking. My experiences that afternoon were a lot like ones I had in the classroom. There are times when you think you have your lesson plans wired tight, so much so that nothing could go wrong. Until it does. All it takes is a minor, or major oversight and a lesson could crash and burn before you have time to blink! Have you ever got to class and started setting up for your awesome morning lesson, only to discover you forgot something vital at home, or you actually prepared the wrong lesson? I have and it’s a terrible experience!
In those instances you have a few choices. One, you can proceed with what you prepared and watch things disintegrate into chaos when the students discover your mistakes. Two, you can attempt to save face and give a writing assignment, watch a movie or give some other time filler type of experience. Or three, you can take a deep breath and figure out how to turn things around before your students arrive.
You can find the thread (or in my case the discarded fishing line) that will connect your lesson and get you back on track and your students learning (in my case fishing). Your other option is to realize you are not alone and that there are other teachers who will help you if you ask. (Just as I realized that there were other fisherman on the river who would likely lend a hand if I reached out for it) The takeaway for the classroom: Arrive early and prepared as possible. If something goes wrong you have time to assess the situation and your options. Remember you are creative, resourceful, have a team of teachers to reach out to, and that you will make it work!
Classroom Lesson 2: Confession, one of the reasons I never liked fishing was the fear of unhooking the fish. I always panicked when I managed to catch a fish because I knew I had to unhook it. As soon as I would touch the fish, I would freak out and seek the help of a brother or nearest friend. Fear can lead to irrational decisions and unwarranted surrender. This time I did not panic. I reminded myself to take in the beauty of the fish, the beauty of the river I was standing in and the warmth of the sun on my face. I breathed deeply and smiled at my good fortune to be alive at that moment in time with a fish I just caught. I talked to the fish and calmly removed the hook and set the fish free.
The takeaway for the classroom: Teaching can be full of panicked hooked fish moments, where fear can take over if unchecked. Students can sometimes do really scary things to each other, to themselves and sometimes to you. Acts of violence, displays of anger, and other emotional outbursts can cause panic in you, which can lead to chaos in the classroom and even tragedy if not managed properly. Remember to take time to breath and to smile at your good fortune of being in your unique situation, where you can benefit their young lives and do good in the world. Be calm and open your eyes to the situation at hand. Your inner calm is a powerful force that can help turn a stressful situation around and get things moving in the right direction. Your inner calm can also help prevent disruptive events before they even have a chance to escalate. Remember to breath and to smile!
My first experience with Tenkara fishing was really great! I look forward to many more days spent on the water getting closer to nature and finding more balance in my life. I hope you have learned something new in reading these Tenkara posts and that they help you find some work-life balance as well. If you end up giving Tenkara a try, please let me know. Tenkara Rod Company is a great place to get your journey going. Thanks for reading and for sharing.
Disclosure: I received the Teton Rod package mentioned in this post from Tenkara Rod Company after I expressed interest in writing about Tenkara fishing and their products. However, my high opinion of Tenkara Rod Company was already formed before receiving the rod package based on my research and their great customer reviews. After trying their product first hand and experiencing their exceptional customer service my regard has only grown.