“Loose grips sink picks”—it took me at least three seasons of climbing ice to realize the key to a good swing of my axe into the ice sculptures I like to ascend was to loosen up and let it fly. It’s about the flick of the wrist, a surge of momentum at that last moment as spiky steal strikes frozen water. The expert whose knowledge we readily absorbed those first few years advised us to go back to Oklahoma and throw darts until our wrists were accustomed to the snap. We did just that, and it worked.
The other day I was standing in the East Fork of the Cimarron River carefully flicking my Adams at edges and pools and realized that casting a Tenkara line is exactly the same wrist action as sinking an ice pick. Sure there is slightly more nuance–it is rare that I need to lasso anything with an axe, there’s less spiral action in a swing. I can more or less put my fly where I want to on the water. Perhaps thanks to throwing those silly darts at our garage wall, casting feels completely natural and efficient. Who knew I could go fishing to train for ice climbing?
As I cast, I contemplated other ways my ice passion and Tenkara obsession overlapped. Both involve spending time in proximity to cold water, in one case mostly frozen, so perhaps time spent tying on a new fly on a damp, cold river bank will have trained my hands for those warm days on ice when the melt water drips and soaks my gloves. The mental tenacity of pursuing a trout resembles the zone I enter to climb ice—focused on the task but ever mindful of the beauty around me. Ice climbing is a team joined by a line, but so is Tenkara fishing, except the fish doesn’t quite realize it. I could continue to force similarities but the burning question my husband, and ice partner, proposes is this—can I combine Tenkara and ice climbing into a whole new genre? I am skeptical, but my wrist is prepared for the challenge.