Five years ago virtually no one had heard the word tenkara. Now, 5 years after we introduced the method outside of Japan it has become a part of the fly-fishing vocabulary. When I was working towards creating Tenkara USA, taking a huge leap of faith in introducing a very foreign concept here, I knew I could write many books and articles but if people didn’t get to experience tenkara on their own the method would never spread. So, I decided to invest my life savings, quit my job and start a company making tenkara rods, lines and flies. The method took hold and has been spreading quickly, because it makes sense, is fun and effective and its simplicity appeals to a large number of people.
Five years later the number of tenkara anglers has grown, and grown, and grown. It has been a dramatic movement with exponential numbers of anglers adopting the method. But, there has been a question we have been asked over and over again: “so, how many tenkara anglers are there.”
I still debate whether it is a number I want to share. But, I am curious, if you were to guess how many anglers there are in the US, how many would you say? I can tell you it is more than 1,000 but less than a million.
The biggest thing tenkara brings us is a different mindset, a different way of thinking about fly-fishing.
Tenkara tells us we don’t have to worry about bugs that are hatching. It tells us that if we decide to leave floatant and split-shot behind we can. And, it tells us fly fishing is not complicated and cluttered with equipment.
Tenkara can be more than just fishing, it is a paradigm shift in fly fishing.
It started off as a magazine but I’m tempted to say the end-result is much more like a book. This year I decided it was time to add value to the tenkara community by creating the Tenkara Magazine. The first print publication dedicated to tenkara in the world, the Tenkara Magazine™ is a beautiful collection of essays, interviews, how-to’s, and philosophical thoughts revolving around the tenkara lifestyle. The magazine is 112 pages long, printed in high-quality paper, with submissions from talented writers and photographers who have been practicing tenkara.
Get it here
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Beginnings: A Japanese Story by Paul Gaskell
Tenkara: Me and the Past by Gordon M. Wickstrom
Taking a Chance by Daniel Galhardo
Home by Dinner by Graham Moran
Arctic Grayling Ultralight Tenkara Backpacking in Utah’s High Country by Rob Worthing
A Gal Who Loves to Double-Haul by Aileen Lane
Q&A with Dr. Hisao Ishigaki and Masami Sakakibara by Adam Trahan
I Love the No-Tarin Club by Kiyoshi Ishihara
The Tenkara Summit by Daniel Galhardo
Tenkara and the Beginner by Tom Davis
Ten Techniques for Tenkara by Jason Klass
Finding the Perfect Tenkara Water by Steven B. Schweitzer
Forgiving Boulder Creek by Sasha Barajas
The Basics of Tenkara
The Guide School by Mark R. Cole
Tenkara Guide Network by Daniel Galhardo
Tenkara Brothers by John Vetterli
A Homecoming by Paul Vertrees
A Great Way to Catch Trout by Morgan Lyle
Tenkara Fly Tying: Sakasa Kebari by Chris Kuhlow
Tenkara Flies by Daniel Galhardo
People Who Fish by Tienlon Ho
Small Streams: There and Back Again by Anthony Naples
From the Heavens to the Peak District: A Short History of the
Rise of Tenkara in the UK by John Pearson
Under the Ruins of Nero’s Villa: Tenkara in Italy by Vito “Tsurikichi” Rubino
A Boy, A Bus, Tenkara! by TJ Ferreira
No Need to Choose by Allison Pluda
Uptown Tenkara: A Crappie Experience by Ron P. Swegman
Gyotaku from the Water, to the Paper, to the Plate by Kirby Wilson
Destinations by Adam Trahan, Paul Vertrees, Daniel Hoda, Rob Worthing, Judy W. Cole, and Guillaume Chavanne
The Colors of Tenkara by David Dirks
***The Tenkara Magazine is currently only available for shipping to the USA (or Canada and Australia if ordered with other items as shipping costs are prohibitive.) We are researching our options for overseas shipping and digital publication.
Our newest tenkara rods are now in! ***
RHODO – Triple-zoom 8’10”/ 9’9”/10’6” (270/297/320cm), with “Keep your Plug™” system (patent pending) – $215
SATO – Triple-zoom 10’8”/ 11’10”/12’9” (330-360-390cm), with “Keep your Plug™” system (patent pending) – $215
***Ship date: Friday, December 13th for North America orders; Friday, December 20th for European Union orders.
With several years of experience designing tenkara rods under our belt now, and with a lot of great customer feedback over these years, we have been able to develop two of the nicest tenkara rods we have designed to date. Whether you’re an experienced tenkara angler or just about to give tenkara a try, we wanted to give you the best possible tenkara rod anywhere.
The Sato and Rhodo are very lightweight – in actual weight as well as feel – something people have been asking for. And, because sometimes you will want to get a couple of feet closer to the fish without spooking it; and sometimes you will want to stay away from the pesky trees above, we designed them with the innovative triple-zoom system which allow you to fish either rod at 3 different lengths. These rods also have two patent-pending features: a new and more durable system to lock in place the zoomable sections and the innovative “Keep your Plug™” system which allows you to store your tenkara rod plug in the rod while not in use.
Despite its beautiful flowers sometimes anglers find themselves losing flies to the overreaching branches of the rhododendron. We developed the Rhodo, a tenkara rod that can be fished short when things get tight, or longer when the stream opens up. Since we began Tenkara USA people have been asking for a sub-9ft tenkara rod. We felt that a short rod could come in handy in some cases but for the most part anglers would miss the advantage that comes from fishing with a long tenkara rod. So, for years we have been working on developing a rod that could be the best of both worlds: short when you need it, long when you want it!
The Sato rod is named after Mr. Ernest Satow, an avid mountaineer who was the first person to make a written record of tenkara. The Tenkara USA Sato is a compact and lightweight tenkara rod. At its shorter length it is perfect for tighter streams, and at its full length it will be ideal when the stream opens up again or when you find a bigger pool to cast your fly. The average length for a tenkara rod is 12ft long, we like to recommend rods that are closer to 13ft, yet many people are intimidated by such long lengths for rods intended for smaller streams. So, we felt a rod with the 3 most common lengths would be an easy choice: short to ease you into tenkara, long to give you a taste of the advantages presented by a long tenkara rod.
After hearing that no one has ever been able to keep their tenkara rod plug for longer than a year we decided we should find a solution for you to never lose your plug again. We designed the “Keep your plug”™* system (patent pending).
Although it is a very simple solution, Tenkara USA is the first to have designed and incorporated this into its tenkara rods. Next time you go fishing, remove the plug from the top end of your rod and insert it into the hole at the bottom of your rod.
Here’s a very neat poster illustrating some of the knots used in tenkara when tying the tapered lines to the rod and how they all go together. The art was created by Andy Steer and is also available for sale on his CafePress webstore as posters. Very neat use of the rod too.
In this video Daniel Galhardo, founder of Tenkara USA, shares six basic presentation techniques for tenkara. These techniques were taught to Daniel directly from the main tenkara anglers in Japan, namely: Dr. Hisao Ishigaki, Sakakibara Masami, Katsutoshi Amano and Yuzo Sebata. After learning and understanding the Japanese tenkara techniques, Daniel has synthesized the knowledge and developed them into a system of tenkara techniques listed below, which he uses when teaching clinics around the world.
1) Dead-drift: allow the fly to naturally drift with the current
2) Pausing: move the rod tip upstream from the fly to pause the fly in place for a couple of seconds in spots where fish are likely to be, such as in front of rocks.
3) Pause-and-Drift: Put the rod tip upstream from the tenkara fly to pause it for a second or two, then let it drift, pause it again, let it drift.
4) Pulsing: with a rhythmic motion move your fly up and down, making the tenkara fly pulse with life. The tenkara fly will open its hackle when you pull it, but close a bit when you relax it.
5) Pulling: this is a bit like using your fly as a streamer, where you will impart a lot of action. Part of the tenkara line must be in the water to serve as an anchor as you pull the tenkara fly across or upstream about 1 1/2ft at a time. It is particularly useful in faster or higher water conditions.
6) Plunging: This is a technique that may be combined with any of the previous 5 techniques and is used to help sink your fly without using any weight, using currents instead. Cast upstream from a place where the water drops, plunges or gets channeled between rock, as the fly hits the part where the water is more turbulent, let some of the line into the turbulence to take it down. If you’re doing it correctly and hitting a good spot, your line will seem to stop for a couple of seconds, then it may move in circles a bit, and then it will move downstream, typically fairly deep. The best way to learn this technique in particular is to go out and try fishing without weight and observe what currents do to your fly.
These techniques are the foundation of tenkara. The best way to learn them and improve on them is to go out and give them a try. There is no right or wrong in terms of how much you should move your fly, how long you should pause the tenkara fly, etc. However, in the video I do share a couple of tips that will prove useful, especially: when pulsing the fly avoid having a lot of erratic movement and focus on an easy rhythm that will allow fish to take the fly. When dead-drifting across or a bit downstream, try starting with your arm close to your body then extend it out and downstream to create a better drift.
Tenkara is simple fly fishing; these techniques for tenkara are most effective used a tenkara rod, but may also be tried with rod and reel. The tenkara techniques above, presented as they are here are a system of techniques copyrighted by Daniel Galhardo and Tenkara USA.
If you missed the first video in the series of tenkara foundations, here is the video on how to cast with tenkara:
The 80-20 rule is a powerful and nearly universal, which states that, for a large variety of events, 80% of the results will come from 20% of causes/inputs. It is also known as the Pareto-principle, after economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of the peas in his garden came from 20% of the pea pods.
The 80-20 rule has a wide range of applications. In business we can observe 80% of sales come from 20% of products (yes, nearly 80% of our rod sales come from the 12ft Iwana, one of five models we offered until a few days ago). In software, 80% of problems come from 20% of bugs, and so on. Now, what about fly-fishing? More specifically can tenkara show us that 80% of our results will come from 20% of our effort, 20% of the spots we fish, 20% our equipment, or 20% of our flies? What are your thoughts?
Can 20% of the spots you hit produce 80% of the fish you catch in a day? Sometimes it sure seems like it, like this weekend when I fished 20 or so pockets, catching most of my fish in 4 or 5 of those productive spots. But, in other streams it seems like every pocket holds a fish, so who knows whether this one applies or not. But, I’m fairly certain if you were to weight them, 80% of the weight of all your fish would be a result of 20% of them.
If 20% of the equipment you carry is necessary for 80% of the results while fishing, is it worth carrying or buying that extra 80% of equipment (think reel, multiple lines or leaders, strike indicators, split shot, etc), for a possible 20% of cases? I personally am content with 80% of results if I’m able to leave that 80% extra burden behind.
Do 20% of your flies catch 80% of your fish? I carry 4 tenkara fly variations with me, but on any given day I keep one fly on for the biggest portion of the day, so I’m pretty sure I catch at least 80% of my fish on 1/4 of my flies (sure, 25% of them). Now, I know for a fact that if I only used 1 fly pattern, as Mr. Amano does, I would actually catch 100% of my fish on 1 fly and probably beat the Pareto-rule.
I wish I had the discipline to keep a journal and see if the 80-20 rule can be put to the test, but I don’t. However, I have a hunch the observations above are true. I would love to hear your experiences now that you have the 80-20 rule in mind.
by John Geer
Pulsing flies has become one of my favorite techniques to use with a tenkara rod, but the idea of imparting motion to flies was very strange to me after having the importance of a dead drift pounded into me for so long. Luckily, I was able to watch Daniel and Dr. Ishigaki catch many fish using this technique and made it a point to add it to my own bag of tricks. Here are some points I’ve learned that I hope will help you:
Distance – This concerns the distance of your hands and rod tip from your body. Try not to over reach or you’ll have no cushion when a fish takes the fly which can cause break offs. This is true anytime you’re fishing tenkara, but becomes more important with the aggressive takes that pulsing sometimes brings on. Don’t work the fly too close to you or you’ll find it hard to set the hook and control the fly. Find the sweet spot for the line and rod you’re fishing.
Rhythm – Trout almost always feed in a rhythm, just watch them rise sometime. Flies pulsed in a rhythmic fashion may not entice more strikes, but will lead to more solid hook ups. Slow usually works best for me, but on any given day the rhythm can change.
Angle – I usually like to cast down and slightly across when I pulse flies. Some very good anglers like to work more downstream. Casting flies upstream and pulsing them back to you can make hook sets difficult. Find your own sweet spot on angle, but remember that sometimes you’ll just have to work with what the situation offers.
Grip – A lot of the time, you’ll want to lay a small amount of your casting line on the water during the rest between pulses. You may not need to do this if you’re fishing a large and/or heavy fly, but it will help you keep from over working the standard size sakasa flies many of us fish. You’ll learn to adjust the grip you use with the rhythm and angle you’re fishing, along with the current speed.
Taking the first letter of all of these spells out DRAG, which helped me remember this while doing the video. I hope it helps you solve some problems on your next fishing trip, and I hope that trip comes soon.
[Daniel’s notes: the concept of pulsing or manipulating tenkara flies is very simple, yet the tips above will help you improve hook-up rates. The main “mistakes” I see when teaching folks how to pulse their tenkara flies are that they just erratically move their tenkara rod with no rhythm, and as a result miss a lot of fish. Also, fishing too close or too far from their bodies, which translates into lack of control. John did a terrific job at summarizing them in the video and points above].
by TJ Ferreira
Last week I posted a message on my facebook page that I was feeling a little down because it had been almost a month since I last fished. You know those honey-do’s that get in the way or other committments you know should get done before you go out and play. Even as adults we are being told what to do but instead of by our parents, by this thing we call “responsibilities”.
After posting this facebook message I sat back and actually thought about this feeling of being down and come to realize, I should actually be so thankful for a stupendous 2013 tenkara season I have had. 2013 has hands-down been the best tenkara season to date for this little tenkara dude from Northern California.
It is a little too early to close down my 2013 season today and reflect back on how good it has been (since I have a couple months left to go) but in all reality, my season does somewhat come to an end mid November when my local streams and creeks close down for the season. I thought I just needed to remind myself what a whirlwind year it has been and that I will get out at least one more planned trip this year, one with my older brother come closing day mid November, on my home waters.
Reflecting back a little, 4 things stand out.
I fished way more than any other year. From my short 1 to 1.5 hour quickie trips I often do all year after work to the few large trips I took that were all about tenkara. Seems for a while up until this last month, I fished weekly, and always seemed to be getting my line wet. My local creek and nearby Bear River treat me well for those quick 45 minute to maybe 2 hour jaunts that help keep my fulfilled.
I caught way more fish in 2013 than any other year. New species notched off my bucket list. Excited to catch brook trout I have been salivating after since I started tenkara years ago. Experienced my 1st Mountain Meadow tenkara and that may be the highlight so far of 2013. Traveling to places like Virginia for the Tenkara Summit 2013 allowed me to catch more fish that I ever imagined.
I fished in many new places that years ago I thought would never be possible. Not only did I get to fish in Colorado, but was able to fish in Virginia, adding to my list of streams and rivers I have been able to fish. I even pushed myself to try new waters here in California so not only did I fish my normal small local creek and close by Bear River, I also tried new places. I had my own little tenkara adventures and they sure were fun.
I caught some of the largest fish in my life. My local pond treated me real good this year and along with a nice footlong bass, I caught a huge almost footlong bluegill, one I called a Pizza Pie. It was fat and like a brick, and blugill still astound me how strong of fighters they are. Mossy Creek in Virginia treated me to the largest brown trout to date and this was for sure a two hander for me.
As I now type this, there is a #5 to make mention of…. Fly Fishing Shows. 2013 is hands-down the most travelling I have ever done in my life and 90% of it was to play tenkara. Tenkara USA attended almost all of the Fly Fishing Shows and even attended a large ISE show in California. Although doing trade shows is a lot of work, it is also a great way to adventure to new places, meet many customers, and have a great time. I have made new friends along the way and I look forward to the 2014 trade show season that fast approaches.
Absense indeed makes the tenkara heart grow fonder. I do miss my other tenkara lads since the last time I saw them was at the Tenkara Summit 2013 in May. It has been over 5 months since I have been able to see Daniel, John, and Luke, and I do miss them a bit. Even though this is a business, these guys have become like family to me. I talk and message them daily but I do look foreward to the next time we get to play tenkara together.
So the next time you are feeling down and out, like you have had little tenkara time, sit back and enjoy what you have accomplished this last year. I bet if you did like I did, there are a few highlights that have made some lifelong memories you will cherish in the years to come.
As a fly angler my eyes quickly get drawn to two things: fish, and flies.
A couple of weeks ago I attended the Fresno County Fair. It had been years since I had been to a county fair, and with my parents visiting I thought it would be a fun thing to take them to one. It was huge, and quite fun really. The fair also had an art exhibit. A lot of the art there was actually really good. As I browsed the photographs and paintings my eye was drawn to one image in particular. As I got closer an instant smile appeared in my face. It was an image of life-like giant flies swinging in a playground. I went to grab my family to show them the image, and then noticed it had actually won 1st place at the fair. I received my print today, and already placed it right behind the fruit basket, figured it would get some laughs from guests.
Since you’re probably a bit like me, and flies (even house flies) may catch your attention, I figured this image and other artwork by Jan Flanigan may bring a smile to your face this weekend. If you don’t like flies you will also enjoy her artwork as not all flies are having fun…and one is actually Fly Fishing. Get it?
For the most part, most of my tenkara has been on the type of classic mountain stream the style of fishing evolved on. But, in my home state of Montana I also spend a lot of time on larger water than typically associated with tenkara as well as on stillwater. And I fish for both trout and warm water fish. In the last year, I’ve been truly surprised by the variety of fisheries that have impressed me as being tenkara-perfect outside of the trout world.
I suppose the biggest shock to me was finding out how much I enjoy fishing warm water ponds with my tenkara gear. Where I live, there is a nice community pond with a good population of smallmouth bass. It’s been a handy respite when local streams weren’t fishing well, or I didn’t want to drive to go fishing. I often carry my rod with me, even when just going for an evening walk around the lake. The compact size and weight of the the tackle makes it nearly unnoticeable until needed.
The highlight of this summers pond fishing was watching my girlfriend catch her first bass.
I also found some stream warm water fisheries that seemed perfect for tenkara. A visit home to see my parents in Missouri allowed me to revisit a stream I cut my fly fishing teeth on. This really wasn’t a fishing trip but a chance to spend some time with my folks. Again, the tenkara fishing kit was much easier to pack as an afterthought, but that made it no less effective once back in the Ozarks. I had hoped for some more smallmouth bass in a native setting for the species. A large group of spawning gar made that tough, but I did catch some nice sunfish. Someday I hope to go back when the smallmouth are biting, but I never mind catching pretty little sunnies.
Texas also showed me some very good warm water stream fishing. My New friend Russell Hustead showed me a stream in the middle of Arlington that, while far from being a wilderness experience, offered a welcome diversion from the city environment that makes a Montana trout bum a little uncomfortable. I was surprised to see how the same ability to hold line of the water that was such an asset in Montana mountain streams was also a huge benefit in a metro Texas sunfish stream; instead of beating conflicting currents it allowed me to hold the fly in pockets between the moss and weeds. The great line control also allowed me to use the pulse retrieve so effective on Gallatin trout on Texas bream and the light tackle matched the fish perfectly. Plus, the small warm water streamed just seemed “right” for tenkara.
I worked at the Fins & Feathers Fly Shop in Bozeman for several years. We were often asked what the best time to fish Montana was. Our standard answer was, “when you can”. Tenkara in mountain streams will always be my favorite, but I think the best place to fish tenkara is where you can. I’m looking forward to trying tenkara in more environments and not sure what will come next. I’d love to check out the Texas Hill Country, or spend some more time chasing Ozark warm water fish. I’d also enjoy spending some more time fishing farm ponds back in Illinois with some of my old fishing buddies. And maybe even figure out how to catch a flounder with my tenkara rod when I visit my folks in Mississippi….
The possibilities are endless, and tenkara-perfect can be wherever you find yourself.
This weekend we held the first Tenkara Tie-a-thon to help victims of the devastating Colorado flood. The recent floods have swept homes, displaced thousands of people and took a few lives right near the Tenkara USA headquarters (which, luckily, was mostly untouched). The Colorado community has been super welcoming to Tenkara USA. we are at home here, and we wanted to help in some way. We also wanted to engage the community for support. It’s one thing to send a check out, it’s another thing to send a check out and have hundreds of people sending their thoughts and moral support to those affected.
So, we proposed that for every fly the community tied and shared a picture of this weekend we would donate $1 to help flood victims. As we expected, the tenkara community showed their support en masse. According to our tally, 701 flies were tied and pictured this weekend (and 12 videos, for which we’re giving $5/ea., were made). That’s $761 going to flood victims this week on behalf of the tenkara community. The donation has been sent to United Way’s Foothills Flood Relief Fund. Thank you all who contributed for your show of support.
Corey Chrisman sent us this picture today saying:
“New Ink… In fact, my first tattoo. Tenkara is much more than a way of fishing… It is a complete mind set that is so difficult for some to see. Yet so easy to see if you just close your eyes!
Thank you Tenkara USA for putting the fun back into fly fishing!”
Rad tattoo Corey! We know you will enjoy tenkara for many more years.