Tenkara.. My personal reasons below. I noticed you read one of Ian's books. See Ian and Charity's website and look for articles tagged tenkara. In April of this year they wrote,
Over the weekend we found that a tenkara rod at least doubled the fishable water as it allowed us to get excellent drifts in productive runs and pockets across wide, swift rapids.
I can't think of better praise. As you noted, Ian coaches staying dry; and he doubled his fishable water.
This Spring I started taking a tenkara fly rod while backpacking in colder weather to avoid hiking in the weight of my boots and waders. It has worked great from the bank. I wear sticky rubber sandals and Seal Socks in case I need to take a wet step or two, but I don't have the faith in sticky rubber that I do in felt and carbide so I didn't wade.
I use an 11.5' long tenkara rod, but if you want additional reach you could get a 13.5' rod and to have 27' of reach excluding tippet. These things roll cast wonderfully. A standard back to front cast was intuitive to me; all fundamental techniques are the same but no hauling. What I particularly enjoy is that a dead drift is much easier to accomplish compared to mending fly line. Think of being able to high stick with substantially more reach, and if anything rides on the water other than your tippet, it's only furled leader. I am horrible at mending; so this seems to be increasing the number of hits I have been getting.
Many early adopters and tenkara fanatics have sworn off what they call, "Western Fly Fishing" which in their context usually implies inferiority. I can't help but believe many of these people are/were schills; they constantly blogged about and littered message boards with praises for the one company that introduced tenkara rods in the US. Once other brands were on the market, these schills started "reviewing" other brands, criticizing trivial matters like uneven winding checks to justify the $100+ difference in price of their sponsor's product. Thankfully several mainstream brands, including Temple Fork now make a tenkara rod. Perhaps a fine fly shop in the Townsend area which already carries Temple Fork could consider adding these to their inventory?
If I had to permanently choose one type of setup, a 5# rod, reel, and line would unquestionably be my choice over a tenkara setup. Thankfully I don't have to make that choice. The tenkara is a new weapon in my collection of, way more than I need, fly rods.
- Matt -