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Tenkara with the "No Handed Bandit" Not using a reel has its advantages

Tenkara with the "No Handed Bandit"  Not using a reel has its advantages

Tenkara has opened the doors to fly-fishing for a lot of people, and it has proved to be a great conduit for plain old fun, no matter the ability of the user.  It is moments like this (and like these other trips) that make me very proud to promote a simple method of fly-fishing. And, it makes me very proud to know and work with the Tenkara Guides, Erik, John and Rob, as they pursue introducing more people with disabilities to fishing with a fly.  The video was shot and edited by Sam, “The No Handed Bandit”.

The Tenkara Guides (based in Salt Lake City, Utah) are really eliminating any limitations people with disabilities may have felt when it comes to fishing. They bring an interesting mix to the table as Rob is a doctor who focuses on rehabilitation therapy through recreational opportunities and John and Erik are great tenkara guides with extensive experience in engineering. All I can say is, “nicely done guydes!”

Here's what John Vetterli, from the, had to say about the trip:

The interesting thing is that none of the people on that trip were Military Veterans. Two of the clients had fished before their injuries and had simply not even considered fly fishing post injury. The rest had never fly fished or tried tenkara before. 

We are planning another trip in early October to test the prototype hand with Sam and the rest of the gang. There are going to be a lot of trips in the coming months as we refine the prototype and develop new tenkara methods for amputees. This is uncharted territory and we are being very methodical with the approach to this endeavor. Nothing is being rushed, the goal is to develop an complete tenkara fishing system. The prosthetic hand is the smallest part of this.

Imagine trying to figure out how to hand line a fish when you have no hands or only one hand. Those are the kind of skills we are developing. Casting techniques also vary depending on how much residual limb the person has. The client I worked with on that trip is missing an arm above the elbow and both legs above the knees. That requires a completely different skill set compared to an amputee like Sam who has elbows. It isn’t easy but these people are smart, determined, and dedicated to this project with us. Working alongside this amazing group of people, we will find the best and most efficient way to make all this work.

It is amazing to see the powerful connection of simple joy radiate from within these people because of something as simple as fishing. With such minimal gear and no reels, there is no reason that upper extremity amputees cannot be totally independent on the water. It is just going to take some time for us working with Hangar Prosthetics and the amputees to fully develop a core set of skills that we can then move out and share with the entire amputee community. This is just the beginning of something great that we are so fortunate to be an integral part of.

This was the happiest group of clients we have ever had. I have to honesty say this was THE best guide experience I have personally had. I could work with these people for the rest of my guiding career and per perfectly content.
I have come up with a quick way to describe this project: Tenkara With Purpose.

Stay tuned, over the next year or so there will be some truly inspiring things happening.

Photos by Stephen Speckman.