Living in Lyons, Colorado is a wonderful thing. Walking two blocks to the St. Vrain river to drop a fly in the water is certainly a privilege, and one I don’t take for granted. But the town stretch – like many easily accessible Front Range rivers in Colorado – sees a good deal of pressure, particularly in the summer months. Which means it’s time to head up into the local high country, the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Tenkara fishing to me is inextricably linked with moving through the mountain wilderness. It is so complimentary to hiking and scrambling around in the alpine, it’s almost silly. Here in the Indian Peaks there is an abundance of low volume, high gradient streams full of trout. And then there’s the high alpine lakes. The tenkara lake fishing is phenomenal, and the whole area is tailor-made for this simple method of fly-fishing.
Written by Brad Trumbo
Dust billowed as my buddy Derek and I traveled an old gravel road through western Augusta County, Virginia. An interesting feature of many streams draining the George Washington National Forest is the myriad small flood control reservoirs which sever wild brook trout streams, isolating populations to the extreme headwaters in many cases. The water behind one such reservoir was our destination.
Many of these reservoirs are well known and stocked with hatchery trout, our destination included. Yet, the volume of fishermen that frequent this reservoir scarcely acknowledges the disguised trailhead leading into one of Appalachia’s wild brook trout strongholds.
Parking under a canopy of sycamore and maple, a lush carpet of jewelweed and poison ivy greeted us, the trail barely noticeable through the greenery. Embarking on the short hike to the river, we immediately noticed brookies darting for cover as we tramped across a shallow riffle. “It’s gonna be a good day!” I remarked, smugly.
Hi I’m Jen, I help manage the social media for Tenkara USA. I usually hang back behind the scenes, but Daniel has asked me to come on here and give you guys an idea about what it’s like to tenkara in my neck of the woods, in Idaho, where I live. I will write a couple of posts for you this summer, but for now we’ll start with tenkara in the Sawtooth Mountains.
A few years ago we decided to sell our home in Colorado and relocated to rural southeast Idaho for a number of reasons, but mainly the fishing opportunities are what caught our eye. Not that Colorado doesn’t have great fisheries, but after living there for a couple of decades we were excited to explore new waters.
World class fishing is literally in every direction from us. The South Fork of the Snake River is our “home water” and flows south. Just north we have Harriman, Henry’s Fork and Yellowstone (and Montana). To our east the Tetons (and Wyoming), and to our west the Sawtooths. We had not explored central Idaho and done tenkara in the Sawtooth Range yet, so we set out to change that.
Since we were trying to keep the packing simple, I chose to only take my Tenkara USA Hane this time. At only 15″ closed and extending out to a length of 10′ 10″, it’s a great option for an all-around adventure rod.
Driving west into the center of Idaho doesn’t initially look very promising. First we had to get through the high desert and home of Idaho National Laboratory (nuclear facilities), so believe me when I say it’s pretty bleak. But as soon as we got to the foothills of the Sawtooths the landscape changed rather quickly from short desert sage shrubs and grasslands, to tall pines and flowing crystal water. You instantly know you’re in the right place, and it’s perfect tenkara water.
While the larger rivers in the foothills are muddy from runoff this time of the year, it’s the little creeks and streams that we were looking for. The higher you go, the smaller and clearer the water becomes. It’s also where the trout are spookiest, so we had to be clever and really watch our approach.
It was really helpful to have the white colored Hane in the open pockets, blending in with the backdrop of the sky instead of looking like a spooky shadow above the water. Our tenacious efforts were rewarded with a few smaller cutthroat gems from skinnier water and a some beefier beauties from the deeper pockets. It turns out the Hane was a terrific rod for tenkara in the Sawtooth mountains, especially as we focused on some of the smaller waters this time.
We only touched a small fraction of the water up there, but it was a great inaugural trip and we will definitely be returning for more. Plus, I didn’t catch a golden trout yet – I know they’re in there!
(If you want to learn more about tenkara fishing in Idaho and tenkara in the Sawtooths, listen to Daniel’s podcast episode on tenkara fishing in Idaho with Chris Hunt.)
Tenkara USA had its origins in San Francisco, California. San Francisco is by no means a fly-fishing destination, but that’s where I lived when tenkara came to me. The best opportunities for tenkara were in the Sierra Nevada. Every opportunity I got, I would make the drive to different parts of the Sierras, exploring its diverse waters as I tested rods, made short films on tenkara and just all around had fun learning tenkara.
Margaret fishing tenkara, Sierra Nevada, California
Because it is such a huge area, Sierra tenkara fishing is unique and varied, and as such the ideal Sierra tenkara rod might vary depending on the focus of your fishing. You can find small waters choked up with trees along the foothills and in some nooks of the mountain range, but you can also find wide open waters with large boulders and few trees, big rivers with calm waters, and tiny meandering meadow streams. This post can not cover every situation possible, so we will paint the Sierra in broad strokes this time as we recommend tenkara rods to consider to fish in the Sierras. Down the road will narrow it down to more specific areas.
Our main recommendation if you’re in California or Nevada and regularly fish different parts of the Sierra Nevada would be our longer rods. This would especially include the Ito, our longest adjustable tenkara rod if you know you like fishing the bigger waters, or the Sato or Iwana, both great all-arounder tenkara rods that travel well from small waters to big, and targeting small to large fish of the Sierras.
Boulder in Colorado is our home, and we fish all the waters around here frequently. Thus this is a good place to start our, “Which tenkara rod to buy for my region?” series. In this case, “Which tenkara rod to buy for Colorado” focusing on the Boulder and Front Range areas.
Boulder sits right on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. To the West we have the mountains, to the East we have plains. Going North we can reach the larger rivers of Wyoming, and going into the mountains we can choose to fish small streams or large rivers. The diversity of waters around Boulder is one of the reasons we chose to move Tenkara USA here many years ago.
The variety of waters can also mean a variety of tenkara rods can be used successfully around here. But hopefully this will help you narrow down the ideal choice of tenkara rod to use here.
One of the most common questions we get is which tenkara rod to buy for use in “my” area?
We can give two types of answers: a generic “this tenkara rod is ideal for small streams”, “The Ito is ideal for fishing larger streams and rivers”, etc. Or, we can attempt to be more specific to the area where a tenkara angler will find himself. We have done a good job at the first type of answer. But, today, I will attempt to start giving more specific examples focusing on regions where tenkara anglers are going with their tenkara rods and recommending the tenkara gear they need.
This is essentially what we already do when we participate in fly-fishing shows around the country. We normally try to fish while we are visiting a new area, but when we don’t have experience in a particular region, we have local people helping us at our booth who are very good at giving the answers that really resonate with people. Bringing up the imagery of a specific stream a person is already dreaming of fishing makes the future experience real.
We don’t release new products very often, but when we do it is because we think they need to be out there. I hope you will enjoy the offerings below.
10th Anniversary Ebisu, $175
The classic Tenkara USA rod, Ebisu, improved and released as a limited 10th anniversary edition.
Water bottles, $8/$20
Commemorative bottles, two versions available: 17oz non-insulated bottle for $8, or a 42oz insulated bottle for $20.
Tenkara rods are very easy to use and are pretty strong. Some common problems with tenkara rods are very easy to avoid or deal with. In this video, John Geer from Tenkara USA’s customer service team, will walk you through some of the common problems seen on a tenkara rod, how to avoid problems while using your tenkara rod, and how to troubleshoot and fix any problems you may encounter with your tenkara rod.
And of course, if your tenkara rod has the Tenkara USA name on its label, you can always count on our customer support to take care of you, that’s our Tenkara Care™ guarantee.
To learn more about tenkara rods, or for help from our customer service team, visit www.tenkarausa.com or call 888.i.tenkara (888.483.6527)
I am a strong believer that companies shouldn’t release new products simply with the goal of loading people with something new. Too often a need for growth rather than customer interest is what drives product releases. But we were missing a product that I feel completes our lineup.
I wanted to create an adventure rod. It would be strong to handle just about whatever was thrown at it in terms of fish; and it would be super portable but not compromise durability or feel. At last that rod is here.
If you are interested in a rod that will fit in your small carry-on when you travel, your daypack when you go for hikes, or your bike’s saddlebag, check out the Hane ($150). It is a great rod to tag along in all your adventures.
Tenkara USA Amago
There are few places more ecologically similar to tenkara’s birthplace than the Pacific Northwest. Cascading streams abounding with trout are annually invaded by anadromous trout, char, and salmon. The Amago is a tenkara rod that provides plenty of enjoyment while catching 10″+ trout but has the backbone needed for a chance encounter with a larger sea-run fish. However, if you want a dedicated rod to take on small salmon, big trout, or the occasional river Smallmouth Bass the Amago is my rod of choice.
The Rhodo story
By Daniel Galhardo
Ever since the release of the first 12-foot long tenkara rod in the US there have been requests for a 9-foot tenkara rod to be made. I get it, 9 feet is the length everyone is accustomed to when looking at using a rod and reel set up. That’s the length anyone will tell you should get if you’re just getting into fly-fishing. Plus, 12 feet is scary!
There was certainly a lot of work to educate the public that with tenkara longer is usually better. And that for the vast majority – but admittedly not all – places going to a rod under 10 feet in length would negate the advantages of using a long tenkara rod. It was not to say that a tenkara rod shouldn’t be shorter, but I certainly wanted to push people to go longer. A short tenkara rod has its places, but it shouldn’t be the default option.
I can guarantee that if our first tenkara rod was 9-feet in length or under, it would have been the best-selling rod we made for a long time, perhaps up to today. We would have also gotten more people to try tenkara in the first couple of years too if I had gone that route and offered something less intimidating in length. However, I feel that people would have completely missed out on the advantages of using a 11, 12 or even 14foot long rod.
By the end of 2009, the year I started Tenkara USA, I was offering 3 tenkara rods at tenkarausa.com (and a couple of variations of some of them). We had the Iwana, the Ayu and the Yamame. All 3 were named after Japanese fish (Iwana and Yamame being trout). At the time, the Ayu, at 13ft long, was the longest rod we had on offer. And, while that length scared people who were just taking up tenkara, I had fallen in love with the longer reach of the rod. But, I wanted a bit more reach, which would allow me to keep line off the water more easily for the best possible presentations.
So, I started to work on what I envisioned would be my favorite rod. It would be longer than the Ayu, I knew that. As I started playing with different prototypes, I realized that the longer the rod became, the more tip-heavy it would feel. At that point, I decided to start working with our factory on making a good adjustable rod, which would allow me to fish it at 13ft long, or go even longer when I wanted it.
It was April 2011 when I received the latest prototype of the rod I started working on about a year and half earlier. I was spending 2 months in a mountain village in Japan learning more about tenkara when the rod arrived in the mail. I was excited to see the package come in, after the pretty good previous prototype I was anxiously anticipating its arrival. The rod had a beautiful semi-matte blue and black finish. The factory paid good attention to all the details required and it just felt good in the hand. That day I was just hanging out at the Mazegawa Fishing Center, which is all of 200 yards away from the Maze river. I walked to the water and proceed to start casting with a few lines I had on hand.
It cast them beautifully.
At that section, the Maze river was very wide, about 90 feet across, but it was a mountain river with lots of pockets and features. I extended the Ito to its fullest length, 14ft 7inches. And, suddenly I was reaching waters I had not been able to reach until then. It was and felt beautiful! I collapsed the rod and drove further upstream, to where the stream closed in and became narrower. The rod performed beautifully there too. Its shorter (13ft) length was manageable in the tighter section but when the stream opened up here and there, I was able to fish it just the way I wanted it.
The rod became available shortly after, and it has been my go-to rod ever since. I know its long length can be intimidating and I sincerely wish more people would give it a try for it is a very special rod.
Since Tenkara USA was founded in 2009, we’ve heard a lot of different stories of rod breakage from our customers. Some of these are pretty obvious, some sneak up on you. It’s important to realize that all of these can cause damage that may not show up as a breakage at the time of the incident. The actual break may show up later while casting, making it appear that the rod can broke for no reason. Here I want to share some of the most common causes of tenkara rod breakages to serve as a heads up so that your fishing trips will be more trouble free.
1) Tip breaks on set up: When a rod tip breaks close to the lillian, it’s because of improper stress during setup/take down. To avoid this, be sure to keep the graphite of the rod tip buried inside the handle assembly and other sections when tightening down the line/lillian connection. It’s a good idea to keep your thumb firmly over the top of the handle assembly while doing this. This is by far the most common breakage for new tenkara anglers. Also, never try to tie the line to the lillian with the rod fully extended. It’s a recipe for disaster. You can watch this video on the proper setting up of a tenkara rod.
2) The rod broke when hit with a fly/weight: This one often shows up later, but the impact of a hook, beadhead, split shot, or just a heavy fly can damage the rod and weaken it at the point of impact. The fly/weight etc. doesn’t have to crack the segment, it just needs to weaken the scrim of the rod to make a breakage much more likely. This doesn’t mean you can’t fish a little weight with your tenkara rod, just be sure to keep your casting loops open and away from the rod (especially the more delicate tip sections).
3) Sections are stuck next to each other in the rod: Not exactly a breakage, but can still put a rod out of commision, and cause a breakage in the struggle to free the sections. This almost always the result of the rod being opened or closed out of sequence. Be sure when extended the rod to start by pulling the tip section out of the handle, and working progressively to the handle. Closing procedure is the reverse, start with the thickest section and work progressively until the lillian is in the handle. The process is the same with zoom rods, you’ll just have to move down to the staggered adjustable sections as open or close the rod.
4) The sections are stuck and won’t extend after I took the rod apart and put it back together: Again, this one isn’t exactly a breakage but can ruin a rod. Anytime a rod is taken apart, but sure that the sections are all going the correct way. If sections are reversed and forced together, they can become stuck to the point that they’re ruined and those sections will need to be replaced. Tenkara rod segments will usually have some sort of banding, and will always have a rough section at the bottom which can be used to orient the sections correctly.
5) Section snapped while closing the rod: This can be one of those incidents where earlier damage shows up as a breakage, but can also be the root cause. Be sure when closing the rod to put pressure straight down to collapse with as little side pressure as possible. Do not over-tighten the rod, just make sure the segments are snug while extending. Also, keep the hands close together while closing the sections. I like to rest my bottom hand inside of my top hand when closing stubborn sections. Keeping the rod clean will also help, as grit inside of the sections can cause them to be much more difficult to close. Sometimes use of the “rubberband ” method will help.
6) Rod broke when it hit an overhanging tree: This can happen to any of us. Just be sure to be aware of your situation when you cast, and especially when you set the hook on a fish. It’s also pretty easy to get the tip of the rod caught up in a tree while playing the fish, as it’s shape changes throughout the fight. Again, the best you can do is stay aware, and if possible move to an open spot to play and land the fish.
7) Rod broke on a snag: This may be the most common breakage for experienced tenkara anglers. The sudden immovable strain of a snag puts a strain on the rod that will break them, even if they’re only bent to a point that would be no problem with a steady building of force (like when playing a fish). It’s always best to get ahold of the casting line to pull a snag loose, looking away from the snag when pulling on the line to protect your eyes. If you can’t do that, close the rod as far as possible and point it directly at the snag to pull free, again turning your face away from the snag. This may cause the sections to be tighter than usual, but that’s usually less likely to cause a breakage than trying to force a snag loose by popping the rod.
8) The rod broke on a hook set: The same thing is going on here as the snag. It’s the sudden force that breaks the rod. In tenkara, a light quick hookset is all that is needed. It’s a quick motion, but if you’re activating your shoulder or back muscles, you’re probably using too much force. Think quick but light flick of the wrist, like a light backcast.
9) I stepped on the rod while landing a fish: We get this one a lot. It’s best to find a way to hold the rod while releasing the fish. I hold it in the crook of my neck. Dr. Ishigaki can keep hold of the rod in his hands with the tip pointing up while he releases a fish. Throwing it down makes it more likely to be stepped on by you or someone else trying to help, and can also damage the rod on rocks, etc. that will scratch and weaken the finish of the rod. It’s also a good way to get the rod more dirty, which can result in grit in the sections as discussed earlier.
10) The rod broke while walking through brush while closed: This one happens most to those who leave the line tied to the lillian while in transit. We’ve also heard of it happening while the rod is in a car with a bunch of other gear around. A snag can grab the line, then pull on it enough to get the tip of the rod outside of the handle assembly, where side pressure can snap the tip. If you’re going to transport the rod this way often, please consider using a universal rod cap that will help hold the tip down in the rod in the event of a snag. It’s also not a bad idea to have the rod in a sock to block the line from sags. If you spend enough time practicing your setup knots, you may find this method of transport is not as helpful.
11) The rod broke while playing a fish: This one is surprisingly rare. If you’re staying below the 7lbs of break strength we recommend with our rods, the tippet should break before the rod. A lot of these breakages are earlier damage showing up, but if it’s early in the life of the rod, it could be a defect. If you are hand-lining the fish (i.e. line is longer than rod) be aware that grabbing the line at the handle when the rod is sharply bent can cause breakages too.
12) The rod broke while landing a fish: The process of landing a fish can put a lot of strain on a rod, especially if you’re trying to steer it to the net without grabbing the casting line first. This is one reason we recommend grabbing the line and trapping it with the rod hand before netting/landing the fish. That act should take a lot of strain off of the tip sections of the rod. This is also a good habit to develop if you wish to explore fishing longer lines, where hand lining will be necessary.
13) The rod broke while casting: Unless you’re using WAY too much force, casting the rod should put very little pressure on the sections. Almost always a breakage that shows up on casting was caused by damage that happened earlier, usually one of the above issues. If the rod does have an actual manufacturing defect, it will more than likely show up very early in the life of the rod. That does not mean every breakage early in the life of the rod is caused by a defect, but actual defects do usually show up in the first trip or two.
Breakages will happen, and they’re nothing to be ashamed of. But, they’re also never fun and can spoil a trip if you don’t have a back up rod. We hope this list will help you avoid them and have a better time on the water.
You can also listen to our podcast episode on rod breakages:
If you do have a breakage with your Tenkara USA rod, we can ALWAYS help, even if the breakage is obviously not a manufacturing defect. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 888 483 6527 and we can help you with the repair process.
For more information, please visit our “Tenkara Care” page
The Tenkara USA Sato Story (a collective review)
Tenkara was already getting established in the US for a couple of years, and by then I had heard the question: “what rod length should I get?” a few thousand times. I would answer that a 12-foot long rod is like your standard length, but if you will be fishing tighter waters a rod about 11 feet in length may be nice, and if you plan to fish bigger and more open waters a rod of about 13 feet would come in handy. We offered at least one rod in each of those lengths, so the bases were covered. But, what if we could say, just get this one rod and it will cover the main lengths we recommend for tenkara.
That was the original idea behind the Sato. It would be an adjustable rod, and its range would be from roughly 11ft to 13ft in length. It would become the rod I wanted to have in my quiver at any given time. It would travel from headwaters to main branches of rivers without the need for multiple rods.
The funny thing is that was pointed out to me that customer often bought more than one rod to cover their bases, and the creation of this rod would mean customers would now buy one rod instead of two or three. But, I figured it would be one great rod.