Legalize It

No, not that it, we already did that in Washington.   So while I could legally get high if so inclined I can’t legally fish my tenkara rod on Rocky Ford.   I decided to take action and petition the state to change their Fly Fishing Only regulations to allow tenkara.   Last month I filled out the petition form and sent a letter to WDFW concerning this issue:

Joanna Eide, Rules Coordinator

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capital Way N
Olympia, WA  98501

Ms. Eide,

I am writing to request consideration for a change in the Fly Fishing Only regulations (WAC 220-56-210.)   I recently became aware that the Japanese form of fly fishing known as tenkara does not meet the legal description of fly fishing and  thus cannot be used on Fly Fishing Only waters in the state.   On inquiry I received the following response from Steve Caromile, Fisheries Biologist:

Mr. Harris;
Thanks for your question.  What constitutes allowable types of fishing gear, as well as where and when that gear can be used is recorded in one or more state laws.  To fish in “Fly fishing only waters” your gear to meet the definition of “fly fishing” as outlined by the appropriate state law  (WAC 220-56-210).  After reading the law, it appears that your assumption is correct, Tenkara does not meet the definition of fly fishing within the State of Washington.  In my view, that is mainly a violation of:
(b) Fishing line other than conventional fly line, except that other line may be used for backing and leader if it is attached to not less than 25 feet of conventional fly line
As you said in your e-mail, as well as my brief look at the Tenkara website, conventional fly line is not used and line length is only 10-13’ without the tippet.  That is in direct conflict with the law.  Another possible interpretation could be that complete lack of a reel would, in effect, make the gear a “fixed spool” by not allowing a fish to run for cover once hooked, stripping line in the process.  This would depend on the definition/interpretation of “fixed spool”. 

Section 1 (a) and (b) of the rule are the issue.   It is defined as:

WAC 220-56-210

Fly fishing.

(1) It is unlawful to fish in waters restricted to “fly fishing only” with the use of:

(a) A fixed spool reel.
(b) Fishing line other than conventional fly line, except that other line may be used for backing and leader if it is attached to not less than 25 feet of conventional fly line.
(c) Hooks that exceed 1/2 inch when measured from point to shank.
(d) Not more than two flies each with a barbless single hook.
(e) Bait.
(f) Weight attached to the leader or line.

Other than those two provisions tenkara would be acceptable as Fly Fishing.  With tenkara there is only one barbless fly which is usually #12-16 (c&d), no weight attached to the leader or line (f) and no bait(e).    Tenkara does not use any reel and a fixed line of usually 11-15’ though longer lines can be used.   All fly fishing traditionally used a fixed line and the founders of western fly fishing in England used the same system as tenkara before the reel was invented.   Section (b) even eliminates some forms of shooting lines popular with steelhead anglers since they use short 15-20’ heads of fly line only.

I am glad that tenkara is legal within the Selective Fisheries regulation since many of the waters I fish are under those rules but it would be nice if it was legal under the Fly Fishing Only regulations too since tenkara is fly fishing.

Tenkara is a fast growing segment of the fly fishing world as it offers a very minimalistic approach to the sport.  It actually makes fishing harder in many ways since you do not have the ability to cast a long line to reach fish further away than 25-30’.   It also produces less stress to the fish since the fish cannot make long runs, the fight to land a fish is limited to the short length of line.  Tenkara equipment is now available in Washington State at several local fly shops and through various web-sites.  TenkaraUSA, the largest tenkara dealer in the US, attends the Fly Fishing Show in Lynnwood each year to promote tenkara.

I’ve attached a post from the TenkaraTalk site that argues for tenkara being included in Fly Fishing Only waters and the comments posted by readers.   My site, also has several posts now on this issue.

Thank you,

Tim Harris
Northwest Tenkara

I sent the letter with the filled out petition form and the pages from the great blog post by Jason Klass on  Why Tenkara Should be Legal on “Flyfishing Only” Waters.  Well, today I got a letter back from the WDFW and my petition will be an item in the upcoming meeting of the WDFW Commission.

Dear Mr. Harris,

On December 26, 2013 the Fish and Wildlife Commisson received your petition requesting a rule change relating to Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 220-56-210 Fly fishing.   You are specifically requesting that tenkara fly fishing be allowed in the definition.

The Commission will formally consider your petition as one of our agenda items during a meeting by telephone conference call scheduled for Friday, February 14, 2014 beginning at 8:30 a.m.

The letter goes on to explain that there is no public input on the call and that it is only available to the commissioners.  There will be an audio recording made, however, which will be available at: after the meeting is complete.

So, now I wait and see what the outcome of that meeting is in mid-February.

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