Originating in Japan, Tenkara-style fly fishing has existed for at least the past 200 years, but it may have been used far earlier. It is one of the most popular methods of angling among fresh-water mountain anglers in Japan. The style, similar in form to Western-style fly fishing, uses the weight of the line to cast flies into the water. But unlike Western fly fishing, there’s no reel involved with Tenkara fishing. Instead, the rod for this technique is far longer than typical fly-rods—anywhere from 11 to 15 feet long—and the line is about as long. In this way, the fisherman can cast at relatively close distances without using a reel.
The Tenkara Fishing Setup
A usually telescopic rod, each piece fits within the previous, down to about 20 inches, making this an optimal rod for traveling, backpacking and hiking the backcountry. At the end of the rod is a loop where you can use a simple cow hitch knot or perfection loop, or non-slip loop knot to connect the Tenkara line. This line tapers down, but you’ll also want to use tippet at the end to ensure the line is invisible and thin enough for the fly you’re using.
If you’re going to nymph with the Tenkara, you might consider using various-colored lines for certain depths to act as an indicator in murky, deep, or turbulent waters.
Like everything about this technique, the setup is simple and easy.
|Temple Fort Outfitters Soft Hackle Tenkara fly fishing rod.
The Tenkara Technique
Tenkara anglers employ a one-handed, wrist-based cast. It’s simple, it’s elegant and it works. Rather than messing with double-hauls or speys, or anything else that might complicate your cast, even if it’s getting further distance, the Tenkara style is ideal for getting in close, making the right cast and getting the fish. As far as location goes, you can really use this technique anywhere, but it works best for smaller creeks and streams, tributaries and areas where you can wade.
The Benefits to The Tenkara Technique
Most anglers who utilize Tenkara appreciate the simplicity and aesthetic pureness of the technique. There is less equipment, fewer complications and less worrying about intricate casting. This method is simpler. And, because it’s simpler, the presentation of the fly will improve as you become more familiar with Tenkara. Here’s a general rule: The further the cast, the worse the presentation. So when you’re limited to a close cast, the presentation will, more often than not, be better, which will land you more fish.
While Tenkara is a great technique to use on small streams and to catch smaller trout that are very cautious about rising, don’t think this technique can’t be used for bigger fish. The flex of the long rod allows you to fight trout that, normally, you’d think you’d need a reel for. All in all, this technique will work in most of the situations you face, and it’s a fantastic way to get anyone interested in fly fishing.