Thread: Tenkara
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Old 09-12-2011, 11:19 AM
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Owl Owl is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: North Georgia
Posts: 286

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:

For more in-depth reasons why it's not "magic":

A great tenkara article and a series of them also on Tuesday's:

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