Saturday, May 26, 2012

20 Questions: Daniel Galhardo

Daniel Galhardo
Daniel Galhardo is a fly fishing pioneer, and while it may take the rest of the fly fishing world some time to come to grips with that notion, it is, nonetheless, true. In just a few short years, as the founder of Tenkara USA, he's managed to not only introduce tenkara fishing to North Americans beyond the fringe practitioners who for years played with the long rod as something of a novelty, but he's pushed tenkara on the masses so it's nearly become a mainstream endeavor.

You know when folks start debating the merits of the craft on message boards, across the blogosphere and even in the mainstream press, it has arrived and acquired enough legitimacy to warrant a discussion.

Full disclosure ... I love my tenkara rods. I value them as the very effective fly fishing tools they've proven to be in situations where they're appropriate, and I get a twisted kick out of trying to put them to use catching critters the Japanese long-rodders never imagined as they cast for small trout and char among the mountain streams of Honshu.

And I have Daniel to thank for that, for expanding my fly fishing horizons and giving me one more frontier to explore and get excited about.

I don't know Daniel terribly well, but I do know he's a full-immersion kind of guy. He spent months in Japan learning the tenkara craft before moving forward with a plan to introduce tenkara to the United States and beyond. He recognized right away the connection that exists between tenkara and the places it was created to fish, and made a point to donate one percent of his receipts to Trout Unlimited's Sportsmen's Conservation Project through the 1% for the Planet program. This arm of TU works to protect the backcountry from unwise and unnecessary development, and the backcountry is where those cold, clear mountain streams hold wild and native trout that tenkara was crafted to conquer.

Galhardo puts his money where his mouth is and understands that intact habitat translates quite literally in fly fishing opportunity. And that fly fishing opportunity represents economic opportunity for him each and every time a fly fisher picks up a tenkara rod and gives it a shot. His conservation ethic is as admirable as his business acumen.

I look forward to getting to know Daniel better in the future, and I got a headstart thanks to the questions below. I think you'll come to appreciate Daniel's passion for his business, and his passion for tenkara. On with the questions:

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 
Spending time in lush mountain forests by mountain streams. Foraging for food, fishing (tenkara, of course), and enjoying/being aware of the moment.

What is your greatest fear? 

Passing life by without enjoying it to the fullest extent and living it to its full potential. I love traveling and sometimes I feel like I should be doing more of it. I also greatly enjoy creating the business of Tenkara USA, and sometimes I feel that I’m threading water with it, or taking too much time to travel and could be doing more with it. It’s tough finding the balance between taking time off to live life outside of the business, and running a business that I truly love to its maximum potential.

Which historical figure do you most identify with? 
The idealist in me wants to identify most with Thoreau; his embrace of simple living, his ability to write his philosophies and his curiosity.

Which living person do you most admire? 
Yvon Chouindard
My grandfather, who has taught me so much, including a desire for simple living, for study, for a pure love of nature and so much more and who inspired me to want to be more without asking it of me. 

If someone whose name is familiar to most, then
Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. He has incredible insight and business acumen, and hasn’t been afraid of challenging convention or standing for what is right. His book, "Let My People Go Surfing" is one of the biggest inspirations behind Tenkara USA, specifically the philosophies he outlines in the book. And, his new book, The Responsible Company, a great roadmap for the future stages of my company. And, of course, he’s a huge fan of tenkara, and probably our biggest ambassador."
What is the trait you most deplore in others? 

What is your favorite journey?
There are a few actually. Spending two months in a fairly remote mountain village in Japan last year to fully learn tenkara and the Japanese mountain culture is the most recent, “concrete” journey so to speak. It was my journey “in search of tenkara."

Which living person do you most despise? 
Oh! The ones in the public eye are dropping off little by little; usually the ones that John Stewart (Daily Show) makes fun of. It would have been easier a couple of months ago. Maybe the “housewives” of those “Housewives of wherever” shows. My wife watches them sometimes, and they are the ugliest, ugliest (internally) humas I have ever seen. I can’t stand those shows.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? 
“Tenkara is the Japanese method of fly fishing that uses only a rod, line and fly.” And, “tenkara is the best method of fishing for mountain streams."

What is your greatest regret?  
Settling down in a great city that is so far from good mountain streams! I live in Pacifica, just outside of San Francisco. My wife loves it here but I want to be nearer a stream. I’m writing this from the airport, on my way to Colorado with Margaret, and I’m hoping she will fall in love with it and we’ll move there tomorrow!

What or who is the greatest love of your life?  
Yuki... I couldn't find a picture of Margaret!
My wife Margaret, and our dog Yuki, the sweetest husky ever.

Which talent would you most like to have? 
I wish I could explore my artistic side more. I love photography and am decent at it. Love design, but am not good at designing things. But, most of all, I wish I could be a good writer and have the discipline to focus on it regularly. The book on tenkara is taking way, way longer than it should.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
Successfully introducing tenkara outside of Japan, and creating Tenkara USA to do it.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Would love to come back as a trout in a cold, super-far-off-the-beaten-path mountain stream, above falls and cliffs and gorges and canyons and miles from any road. It would be a tough life, but if someone were to ever catch me, it would be well-deserved.

What is your most treasured possession? 
Memories and mind. My grandfather always said, "knowledge is the only thing no one can ever take away from you," and so are memories.

Where would you like to live?  
Really hoping Margaret and I may move to Boulder, Colo. It has a great combination of a vibrant city that she may enjoy and is very close to lots of nature for me. I’d love to live in a more remote area, but this one is a more realistic compromise for both of us. I have to live with her!

Who are your favorite writers? 
Dave Hughes, Ed Engle, John Gierach, and Ralph and Lisa Cutter. All folks with superb writing skills, eons of angling experience, yet with a very open mind to learn a new method of fly-fishing. Just incredible human beings.

Who are your heroes? 
The folks protecting the environment for us! Volunteers and people working at non-profits for what really matters.

How would you like to die? 
Definitely doing something I love, like fishing, or perhaps trying to accomplish something, like climbing a peak. Hopefully without suffering.

What’s on your iPod? 
I have Pandora on all the time and learn some great new music through it. Takenobu, Horse Feathers and Jose Gonzales have been the stations I have selected most recently.

What would your profession be if you couldn’t do what you do now? 
I graduated with degrees in international business and finance, and worked in foreign exchange and international payments before creating Tenkara USA. Wasn’t crazy about a corporate life, but liked the subject and would probably be doing that right now. But, if the world goes totally nuts, and the financial markets collapse, I like to think I’d be a commercial trout angler and make tenkara nets on the side.

BONUS QUESTION: If there is a Heaven, and you go to Heaven, what would God say to you upon your arrival? 
"'From heaven?' No, tenkara means ‘from Earth.'"


  1. I had many preconceived notions about Daniel. Thanks for setting the record straight. Daniel, if Boulder is too eclectic, try Boulder County. Close enough to touch the mountains.

  2. Daniel is a good man, I admire his passion. Another great 20 questions too!

  3. Great interview! Got to give Daniel a ton of credit for what he's been able to accomplish with Tenkara in the U.S. And if nothing else, it's just another fun way to chase some fish (my disclosure...haven't fished a Tenkara rod yet, but looking forward to giving it a go), would be a lot of fun up in RMNP.


  4. Sean, you must give it a shot. It's very worthwhile, and, honestly, in many situations, it's more effective than traditional fly gear.

  5. Chris,
    Thank you so much for the opportunity. It was a lot of fun thinking about the questions.
    And, thank you everyone for the kind comments.
    Tenkara USA

  6. You bet, Daniel... Keep up the great work.

  7. Daniel,
    When you move to Colorado, you need to live in Estes Park. The RMNP is at your front door and every trout stream or high country lake you've ever dreamed about for Tenkara fly fishing is just a short drive or hike away from your front door.
    Thanks for your introduction to a new fly fishing passion for me.
    Bob Traver