Find Your Wild and Uncultivated Country



1) live or travel in wild or uncultivated country.
2) cut or push one’s way in a specified direction through dense vegetation.

About a week ago on Facebook I posted a short rant err … essay. And today I was thinking that I hadn’t made a Casting Around post for a while. So in and attempt to be “green” I’m going to reuse and repurpose some of those words – with a few changes to sharpen it all a bit.

Don’t Forget To Bushwhack

I had lost my fire for a while…. But now I’m back.  It’s true. I’m not sure why – but for a while I felt defeated – emotionally. It may sound silly – and I guess it is – I know, I know – somebody call the waaaambulance!. I have always marched to the beat of my own drummer. And sometimes, no… usually, it is a beat that most others do not hear.  Marching out of step is how I like it. It is not a conscious thing – I just don’t seem to be able to get in step. Never have. Usually I’m quite content to be on the fringe, with my headphones on bobbing my head to a funky rhythm that nobody else can hear. Well – I guess some folks can hear it – and I always appreciate that. But it is not usually a popular song. Every once in a while it can get lonely – but that’s the way I am – it’s okay by me.  But it does drain me from time to time. Or rather, from time to time I question my own drum beat – and once that begins I lose track of my path, stumble around, fall down, get bruised, get black and blue, and even get lost.


I feel very passionate about tenkara – and more specifically about the infinite variety of tenkara and even more specifically about individual tenkara colors. Some folks live in a black and white world – politically, artistically, emotionally, philosophically. And yes even when it comes to fishing – and fishing tenkara. Believe it or not people get into arguments about fishing. Silly  – I know.


Me – I live in a world that is full of color – every color imaginable, every shade, every hue. When I look at a problem – I usually don’t see an answer – I see many answers. Sometimes this is a problem in and of itself. It can be paralyzing to live in a world where every decision, every problem is so multifaceted. Sometimes I get stuck in a seemingly infinite loop of analysis – with each iteration spawning more and more bubble universes…

I have to admit that I envy folks that look at a situation and then pick the “right” path and just march forward. It may not be the only “right” path but it’s a path that works and things get accomplished.

So I reckon I was listening a lot. And hearing voices. I lost my self confidence – and became paralyzed by self doubt. A few particular personal interactions related to tenkara left me feeling very soured and mad and mean and little – no blame there except to blame myself. I know this is veering into the area of way too much information. But I’ve always tried to be honest here at Casting Around.

I think the trap of writing is ego. I strive to remain humble – but in order to write you need to have something to say – something that you feel is important enough to say. Which is pretty egotistical I reckon. If I get to feeling too humble and I can’t write or I write self pitying slag – get to feeling too full of myself and I may say stupid arrogant things…

So the ego and self doubt battle it out. The seesaw tips too far one way then too far the other.


I like to write things that tend to the philosophical side. I may not be qualified in any way to wax philosophical – but I like it. I enjoy metaphor and metonymy and subtext. Not everybody likes this. Not everybody likes to think about things that much. And often things like “just fish” get said on forum and Facebook threads that get too thinky and wordy (I may be guilty of saying “just fish” a time or two myself). And I am certainly guilty of being too thinky and wordy.

For better or worse I live in a world ruled by what Keats called negative capability. To reference the wikipedia page on that subject:

The term (negative capability) has been used by poets and philosophers to describe the ability of the individual to perceive, think, and operate beyond any presupposition of a predetermined capacity of the human being. It further captures the rejection of the constraints of any context, and the ability to experience phenomena free from epistemological bounds, as well as to assert one’s own will and individuality upon their activity. The term was first used by the Romantic poet John Keats to critique those who sought to categorize all experience and phenomena and turn them into a theory of knowledge.

To quote Keats:

…several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason

The important thing to take away from that is the idea of  “[being] capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” 


That’s me. I flourish in a world of uncertainty, doubt, mystery, magic and infinite possibility. I love the idea that there is no “one” answer.  I love the idea that their is no hierarchy of fishing styles or methods. And that each person finds their own magic in their own way.

For me there is no “best”. There is no “hierarchy”. It is not a vertical world. It is a horizontal world. The world of fishing and tenkara choices are aligned along a horizontal plane. We each find our place on that horizontal plane. There is no “best” way there are infinite “best ways”.


Here’s a few words for today. Don’t forget to bushwhack – leave the trail – leave the path and walk through the brush. Live and travel in that wild and uncultivated country.

You might rip your waders and twist an ankle and get lost – but you might find a little stream, full of brook trout that nobody fishes. And even better – you may find your own tenkara amidst that tangle of green briar, poison ivy, deadfalls, snake dens, rhododendron, willow and alder. And when you find that – nobody can take it away. Because it is all yours.


I am a big believer not in teaching a man (or woman) to fish – but in teaching them how to teach themselves to fish. You can do that by listening – and then by doing what you want anyway. There is a lot of good advice – but… THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. That’s the real beauty of tenkara as I see it. The fact that the gear is limited and simple – makes teaching yourself a real possibility.

If kids in rural India, when left with a personal computer – and no instructions – and with the operating system in another language – can figure out how to use it and achieve a level of sufficiency on par with the average office worker – then you, we – can take a stick and some string and catch fish.

I’ve seen criticism leveled at the self-taught american tenkara anglers that want to share their knowledge – as if personal experience doesn’t count somehow and that hard won skill is not as valuable as skills learned from somebody else – this is bogus. Many of us have learned tenkara by doing it. We had to – there wasn’t any option back in the day really. There was no real english language resources and nobody to teach us.

I’m not claiming expert status or master status – never will. I am a work in progress (in tenkara as in all else).

Do I know everything about tenkara? No. Is my tenkara “real” or “traditional” or “Japanese”? Frankly I don’t know. Is it “best”? Yes – it is best for me. It is best for my needs and likes and desires.

I fish loads of little (tiny) brushy, really tough to fish Pennsylvania mountain streams. The fish are not educated – but they are spooky! The gradient isn’t usually that high, and the streams are often pretty low. Any pools that you find are usually glass smooth and placid. It is tough to sneak up on these fish.  The cover usually makes it impossible to cast in any traditional way. Forget the clock face. A clock does not fit under those trees and around those deadfalls and between those rhododendron thickets.


If I had to depend on some kind of orthodoxy or on what I found online – I couldn’t have gone fishing. There just wasn’t anybody talking about this kind of tenkara at the time – or at least I didn’t know about it. I had to just do it – just figure it out on my own. And quite frankly that gives me quite a bit of satisfaction.

But still, whenever I’m feeling too full of myself and my tenkara mastery I am defeated by a stream.

I guess I’m just saying that your own experience – is more valuable – or at least as valuable – as anything that you can read – or any video that you watch – or anything that you are told.

Am I saying to ignore all that came before you. No – absolutely not. Seek it out and learn from it too. But don’t devalue your own experience – and don’t let anybody else. Who knows, you may be the only person that has a particular bit of knowledge or skill – because you discovered it on your own.

So go out and bushwhack in the world of tenkara. Cut through the brush. Live and walk in an uncharted land. Make your one path and discover your own tenkara. Teach yourself to teach yourself.


7 Comments on Find Your Wild and Uncultivated Country

  1. Wonderful. Amen! I too follow the beat of this drum and bushwack as often as I can – both literally and metaphorically. I hope that I never would cause anyone to feel put down when I render my opinion. After all, it’s just me — no expert and no one special. I too just like to fish!

    • Tom – I hear you. I love to fish tenkara and have learned a thing or two along the way. I surely don’t know it all – I mean there really is no “all” to know. Once you feel like you know it all you may as well stop fishing… A huge part of the experience for me is the learning. I learn something every time I go out – or maybe I just “re-learn” something that I’d forgotten. I know my experience is mostly in certain types of streams – and I’ve gotten okay at catching fish there. I usually don’t get skunked (Oh I’ve just doomed myself with that statement!). I really like to think about regionality. I love the idea that you and I and some other person somewhere else will have different challenges and different solutions to some of the same challenges. Homogeneity is boring. I do hope folks always take what I say in the spirit of “this is what has worked for me” or “this is what I’ve figured out so far”. With the caveat that it may not be the best way – and certainly isn’t the only way. But I always like to think of anything that I write as a conversation – rather than some sort of declaration. Thanks for being a part of that conversation.

  2. Yes, Amen! I believe that sooner or later, anyone who chases trout with a fly, will eventually be drawn to bushwack. But when it’s all said and done, it’s just fishing. But, other than Scripture, nothing restores my soul more than finding a piece of water; “far from the maddening crowd”. And trout willing to take a fly.

    • Dave, for me it is “just fishing” and it isn’t. Ideally it is “just fishing” – the closer I get to getting on stream and “just fishing” the better. I mean you can write books about “why we fish” and people have. But I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t any one reason for me. Or even any finite number of reasons that I can name. I do like to think about it though. But like you say in the end there is that attraction and that contentment – whatever the reasons.

      • Anthony, I know what you mean when you say that ” it is just fishing and it isn’t”. I love fishing and just watching moving water. The life that goes on around it. “It restores my soul”.

  3. All I can add is keep up your excellent blog. So much good content. Really looking forward to the next podcast.

    • Thanks sir. The podcast is on the burner – just trying to find the time to finalize it. It can get tough with schedules. And then Jason and I have a two hr time difference which is a pain in the butt. But it will be soon. Any questions or suggestions for the podcast?

what say you?