View Full Version : Tenkara

09-12-2011, 09:06 AM
I talked to a man over the weekend who was fishing with a Tenkara rod then my wife sent me an article from Garden and Gun about it as well. Now I am getting a little curious about it because it seems like a great way to fish in the park. Has anyone tried it?
I am attaching the link below to the article
http://gardenandgun.com/article/tenkara (http://gardenandgun.com/article/tenkara)

09-12-2011, 11:19 AM
Hi smccarter,

I've been fishing tenkara a little this last year and used an 11 ft. Iwana on Bradley's Fork and a few other creeks that size last spring. Here are a few things you should know when reading articles by tenkara folks:

1. Most people writing about tenkara are very fond of the style and do, from time to time, tend to exaggerate it's "powers" a bit. If I'd believed everything I read about it before purchasing my tenkara rod, I'd have been expecting the fish to hook themselves. Luckily, fishing - even tenkara - is more about technique and less about magical rods.

2. It is fun. Being connected to a fish with no reel (and no drag mechanism) is a blast, and you can almost overlook the pain-in-the-rear that is landing said fish. With a line as long as the rod, and a rod with a very soft tip, you'll need a net and even then often you'll have to "hand line" the fish in for the final netting. It's not a major issue, but it does deviate from the normal landing technique you use when fishing traditional western gear.

3. It is the perfect rod for streams like the 'Luftee and Bradley's Fork and the Little River. Until you're standing in a Little River pool and see a good fish rise upstream of you at 30 feet. While you could put the fly on his nose from where you're standing with traditional gear, fishing tenkara is going to require that you move from your position and get closer. If the fish is rising in smooth water, getting your body closer to him may put him down faster than a few errant casts with your conventional set up.

4. With no reel, you sometimes wonder what to do with your other hand. ;) lol

5. Although tenkara is as effective as a western rig, it's no "magic pill" and it won't make you a better angler. It's a fine tool and there is a long history behind it - but I can make every presentation that I can with a tenkara rod, with a conventional rod. The advantage of tenkara is two extra feet of rod (vs. a 9 ft western rod) when trying to place a fly in a back eddy on the other side of heavy current. Other than that one situation, it is possible to "fish tenkara" with your conventional rod. It's called "high sticking" and that part of it is nothing new.

6. Finally, there is something to be said for tenkara's ability to make small fish feel larger. Because of it's light weight and soft bend, even a small 10 inch trout feels like a decent fish. Larger bluegills will give you a fit and small 2 pound bass are almost too much to handle. There have been some bigger fish caught on the tenkara system, but for the most part it's a small fish rod. 5X-6X tippet is required to keep a big fish from breaking the tip of the rod, and that alone is going to limit the size fish you can normally land. There are always exceptions to the rule, though.

If you need more info on real-world experiences about tenkara you can try these articles:

For another opinion: http://www.eatmorebrooktrout.com/2011/08/international.html

For more in-depth reasons why it's not "magic": http://www.owljones.com/2011/05/18/the-tenkara-scam/

A great tenkara article and a series of them also on Tuesday's: http://www.troutrageous.com/2011/09/tenkara-tuesday-tenkara-for-western-fly.html

Hope this helps some. If you have other specific questions I can help you with, feel free to email me. owl@owljones.com

09-12-2011, 03:04 PM
I also wonder if it be like training wheels for a fly rod? I have a 5YO that I love to take fishing and I think this may be something to help he work up to fly fishing

Randy Ratliff
09-14-2011, 11:54 AM

09-14-2011, 12:55 PM
I know that the Tenkara rod is the latest & greatest thing I'm also sure it is a enjoyable way to fish.But to me it just seems like a rich mans cane pole. Tie a piece of string to a stick you have the same thing At a lot cheaper price. Dennis

09-16-2011, 12:51 PM
It does look like a cane pole, but it's not. It's much different. Simply put, it's a fly rod without the reel ( and the ability to cast 30 feet.) Trust me when I tell you that I've read many, many people's posts and blogs where they've gone out and bought a "crappie pole" or cane pole and tried it and they've come back with the conclusion that tenkara can't be "like that." ...and that's because it's not. ;) LOL

It's not magic, but it is fun - and yes - kids love it. It's fly fishing without the fuss.

And my favorite smokies tactic - it lets you get a drag free drift in those back-eddies that are on the other side of a raging run. Those browns that sit in the calm, slowly swirling water never see it coming. :)

One last thing - tenkara fishing is like regular fly fishing, in that you can "get into it" as much or as little as you like. Some folks swear by the Japanese method of fishing only one type of fly ( a sort of reversed soft-hackle) but my favorite fly on it is a #14 Adams dry.

If we make it to troutfest this year, I'll try to bring a couple of tenkara rods for you to try out. Thinking our new fishing news site might make a showing there this time.

09-19-2011, 05:39 PM
I have a 14' Wakata 6:4 Tenkara rod.
Depending on the line configuration I choose, I can do anything from French nymphing to delicately presenting a dry fly over 30 feet away and letting it drift while keeping the line off the water. Since it is telescopic, I can fish it as the full 14' down to about a 9' rod. Its slingshot casts are also quite impressive when in tight conditions.

I also have a 12' 5:5 rod that I tend to favor in brook trout streams. Using the 12' rod with a shorter line lets me get in spots that would be a challenge for a 7' western rod.

While the rods do bend quite a bit with about any size fish, I've been able to land some rainbows over 14" without much problem on a 7X. If anything, the extra rod length lets me play the fish out sooner with its ability to move the line in wider arches.

Both rods weigh less than 3 ounces each and collapse down to about 2' long making it an ideal backpacking solution. I sometimes take both if I believe the conditions will vary that much, and it also lets me have two different unique line configurations ready in moments.

It's certainly not a one size fits all solution, but then again, a 3 wt rod isn't the best option for tailwaters either. For under 100 bucks each for a complete rod, it's also pretty inexpensive to gather a few for your fishing quiver.

Bottom line, it's a great opportunity for making fly-fishing a simple combination of rod, line and lure. There's no need to worry about the weight of the line or length of a leader or drag on a reel. A basic furled line or level line of the length you prefer along with as much tippet as you deem necessary is all that is required to put your fly in action.

09-20-2011, 04:02 PM
I forgot one thing. " wind."

09-20-2011, 10:43 PM
I forgot one thing. " wind."

Wouldn't the solutions and problems be the same for a Tenkara as normal flyrod with wind? I just choose between a WF line or a fly that handles it better. I normally carry a WF line with me in case I need it for wind or a heavier fly.

I guess the difference would be that a Tenakara user can switch from a level line to a WF line in a couple of minutes without spools or reels.

10-07-2011, 12:13 PM
I'll pretty much echo Owl's remarks, but I will add a different perspective on #5 in his first post. I have no doubt that some people can present the fly the same way with western vs. tenkara rods, but that doesn't totally apply to me. I am able to get better drifts with tenkara in pocket water. This is because with such a light line you can pretty much keep the line out of any water. So far I have fished Palmer Creek, Snowbird (brookie section), Thunderhead prong, Kephart prong, Beech flats prong and in all cases I had no problem with an 11' foot Iwana. I realize those aren't exactly tight, but I can say that I am hung up less than I am with my 9' 4wt. Thought I admit this probably has more to do with a higher awareness of the rod and the fixed line keeps me from getting greedy.

Again, I think Owl hit it, but I wanted to chime in as a less experienced fisherman.

10-07-2011, 10:06 PM
i have been fishing Tenkara for more than 2 1/2 years and enjoy the rods. I have two a 13 1/2 ft and an 11 ft. Fishing nymphs with a Tenkara rod is a snap. Leisuring lift dead drift you can control the fly much better than with a western rod.

I will not give up my bamboo but I have fished the Tenkara on streams that you can step across. I have also fished the Madison in MT. About a month ago I was fishing the Tenkara below Hebgan dam and landed 15 trout fron 15 in's to 24 in's on a 5x tippet and I did not have to do a cross country marathon to land any of the fish.

As far as a rod for a beginner a Tenkara can not be beat. The fisher person can concentrate on fly presentation and not worry about his back cast or shooting lines.

Cost is what you want to put into it. It is difficult to buy a western rod, line and reel for about $130.00 where you can get a Tenkara for that price.

Wind can be a problem but really no more than with a western rod. To over come wind at times you can use a shorter and lighter line, just as you would with western rods. Lines are either furled or Florocarbon in different weights.

Here are a couple of sites.


10-08-2011, 01:52 PM
There was a Tenkara expert with Joanne Wulff a while back. A picture showed Ms. Wulff casting a Tenkara rod. Double haul??
Try this link: