Tenkara and the Search for a Smile Part 1

Mike and Marty Machtan
Photo Courtesy of  Linda Clem

 As anglers, no matter what method we use, be it bait slinging all the way to casting a fly with a Tenkara rod, we all get a smile on our faces when we feel the tug of a fish. We get to experience this feeling every time because we have the use of both hands and both arms.

So what happens when a person who was spending a large part of their free time fishing suffered from a debilitating stroke? And one of the effects of that stroke is that you lose all function on the right side of your body, which happens to be your dominant side? During the recovery that person still has a passion for fly fishing and have a very fishy river literally out the back door.

During the recovery process that person contemplates returning to fishing in some manner and their spouse is fighting to find ways to return you to the sport that you loved and still love. Luckily, the spouse also knows and contacts someone who might be able to help return you to fishing.

That is exactly what this series is about, and the main characters include my Uncle Mike, who suffered a major stroke in October 2012 . The stroke he suffered took the right side of his body out of commission making him unable to use his right arm and also made walking difficult thus has raised some concerns about his ability to get to the riverside. Mike's wife, Linda, is his advocate and personal fighter, and the person who contacted me with the idea of introducing Mike to Tenkara.

Linda and Mike live along a small beautiful river in Colorado. While visiting the area over a weekend, my wife Elizabeth and I went by the house and we got into a conversation about fishing using a Tenkara rod and whether it would be a feasible method for Mike to use. While we were having this conversation we could see Mike visibly perk up at the prospect of being able to fish using a Tenkara rod.

It was not long before we were outside in the driveway and I was demonstrating the basic Tenkara cast to Mike. While performing three or four casts and describing what I was doing, Mike watched and listened intently. Being right hand dominant myself, I had been casting this way and quickly came to remember his inability to use his right hand. I switched to my left hand without having to change up the setup of the rod and line, which by the way is a really cool feature of a Tenkara rod. After a few casts using my left hand it was time for Mike to try.

He took the rod in his left hand and reiterated my casting instructions and then "let him go to town" casting. Within the span of three to four casts on his own Mike had virtually mastered the basic overhand cast in his driveway. During the time Mike was casting I looked at Linda and saw a smile spread across her face along with a tear form in the corner of her eye.

Mike also got a big smile on his face and I asked what he thought of the Tenkara rod. Happily, I got a huge thumbs up from him and the biggest smile I had seen in a long time. And with that I knew without a doubt that we were on the right path to returning Mike to the world of fly fishing!!

Sadly, life got crazy for me and I was unable to fish with Mike the rest of the summer but that is going to change this year! We will be working to get Mike into some fish and a new level of freedom. My goals will not just include allowing Mike to be able to fish but also return him to some of the other aspects of like fly fishing if he desires.

Stay tuned as we continue on this journey with Mike and Linda, and your host TenkaraGrasshopper. By the end of this journey I promise that the Search for a Smile will come to a happy conclusion. Along the way we will ask for your prayers and any and all suggestions to continue Mike's return to fly fishing will be greatly appreciated.

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