The following are questions we have received over the years and that were also covered in the Tenkara Cast (our podcast) episodes on Tenkara Q&A (part 1, focused on tenkara rods) and Tenkara Q&A (part 2, focused on other aspects of tenkara).
Is tenkara good for beginners?
YES! It’s great for beginners. So tenkara is this really simple method of fly fishing as we always talk about, involving rod, line and fly. A lot of people think that it resembles the good old cane pole fishing that people might have done as kids and a lot of, a big part of the reason that a lot of people might have grown up doing that is because there’s not a whole lot to it. So tenkara kinda takes that, the advantage of the simplicity of the cane pole, even though it does have to teach you how to fly cast ’cause you’re making the line move and that kind of thing.
But all around, very very good for beginners, for kids as well, so tenkara is a very good method of fishing for kids because it keeps things simple, there’s not a whole lot of things to mess up, if you will. And the casting itself doesn’t take long, you learn how to cast in a couple of minutes, it’s a little bit like picking up a pebble and throwing it. You kinda have a very similar motion, so there’s not a ton there. It’s a very intuitive way to fish. And then later, I’m gonna talk about rods, but the entire method of tenkara is really good for beginners. So I wanna address that right now. It’s not really about the rods, all the rods are good for beginners, but because the method itself is really good.
Is tenkara good for backpackers or for backpacking? And yes, absolutely. The first thing that’s gonna come to mind when people look at tenkara, in terms of thinking about backpacking is that the whole set up is very portable, very compact and there’s not a whole lot to it. You have a rod, line and fly, the rod’s telescoped down to 20 inches, and you have this little kit bag with you, so it’s not a whole lot of space that it’s gonna take up. You can build a whole kit, a whole tenkara kit, if you’re a minimal, a very strong minimalist for about six ounces of gear roughly.
And/or even potentially less, but six ounces I think is a good number to shoot for if you’re a super minimalist where you have the tenkara rod, about three ounces, you have a keeper with line and tip it and flies in it, that’s another probably three ounces. It may be a little nipper which is point something ounces, so very light weight. But my favorite thing when it comes to tenkara for backpacking is not so much the portability, as it is the speed of putting things together and that’s something that sometimes people don’t think about, but when you’re backpacking and you have the set up with you, if you have a conventional western fly rod, especially one that is set up for backpacking for trips, like a seven-piece rod for example, it takes quite a bit of time to line all the guides in a fly rod and then you have to not only line the guides up and put all the pieces together, you have to run the line through it and sometimes the line kind of comes back out, but you run the line through it and then you have to attach your fly ’cause it’s hard to kind of pass it on through the guides and so forth. So that takes a few minutes to get rigged up.
Whereas with tenkara, you literally girth hitch your line to the tip of the rod, you unspool it out of the spool, extend the rod and you can be fishing in about 40 seconds or so, that’s how long it takes me to extend the rod with a line, and from there on, you’re fishing, you wanna put the rod away, another 40 seconds to collapse the rod, wind the line around the spool. So that’s my favorite thing about that.
What is a good tenkara rod for a beginner? And again, all tenkara rods that we offer at Tenkara USA are excellent for beginners. The method itself is really good for beginners, so I wouldn’t get too caught up on thinking of which rod is gonna be best for beginners. Mostly, you wanna look at the features in the rods. There are, I will say, there are two rods that are what I would consider as more general all around kind of rods that cover a variety of situations really well and that’s if you’re unsure of what kind of waters you’re gonna be fishing, you might be going to small streams, bigger waters and you just wanna have something that does it all really easily.
It’s two easy rods for us to recommend are the Iwana, which is a 12-foot rod. 12-foot is the average length of a tenkara rod by the way, and the Sato which is from 10’8″ to 12’9″. So those rods cover that average length of 12-foot which is the average length of a tenkara rod. The other rods are slightly more specialized. The Rhodo being a small stream kind of rod, if you’re fishing very tight waters, the Ito being our longest rod, the Hane being a really good rod for backpacking for taking along in your little adventures. But all of them can be used by beginners really easily. So that’s kind of the the gist of it about tenkara rods.
How big of a fish can I catch on a tenkara rod?
And that’s another question that there is not that much of a specific answer to it. So tenkara is not designed to go after very large fish species. If you’re targeting steelhead, if you’re targeting pike, if you’re targeting just very large species, we don’t necessarily recommend tenkara for that. However, we have seen pike up to 29 inches being caught on a Tenkara USA rod. I think we have that on our blog. Definitely have that on my book. Shaun LeZotte out of South Dakota caught that a few years ago and sent us his photo with this beautiful pike, like huge.
That might have been the largest, possibly the largest fish I have seen caught on a tenkara rod that I’ve seen a photo of. I have seen also like a couple of fish in about seven-pound range. There was a bass, I think that was caught in California that I remember and a video of somebody catching, I forget who he was now, but somebody catching a seven-pound brown trout in New Zealand. So as long as you’re targeting, I’d say, for pretty much most trout, most pan fish in lakes and ponds, bass, all these kind of average, what I would call average kind of species, you’re likely gonna be fine. Even carp, for example, I have caught some carp. If you’re seeing like a super large fish, maybe you have to think a little bit about how you’re gonna handle it, how you’re gonna land the fish, but if you’re fishing for these kind of average sized fish species and you happen to hook into a large specimen of those, you’re probably fine. So that’s kind of the gist of it. For the most part if you’re targeting that 10 to 22, 23-inch trout, you’re good. If you’re targeting the panfish and you happen to hook a five-pound bass, you’re good.
Which rod do we recommend for catching a large fish on tenkara?
And at Tenkara USA we have two main rods. All of the rods at Tenkara USA can catch and land a large fish. They are very strong material, they are made of carbon fiber, they’re designed to play fish really well, the main difference is gonna come in terms of which one is gonna make it easiest to bring a large fish in kinda quickly, so you’re not over-tiring the fish and the two main rods that we recommend in our line up are gonna be the Ito. That’s my favorite rod, I’ve used the Ito for catching carp, large carp, for catching bass and for catching very large trout. And there’s videos of pretty much all of those on our website, and the Amago is another one, it’s a 13-and-a-half-foot rod with a lot of backbone to it. I personally prefer the Ito because it’s got a better, a nicer feel to it, it’s a smoother casting rod, doesn’t feel quite as heavy on the hand and it will handle those large fish really well. You have a lot of leverage, but the Amago is a, it’s a stouter or heavier rod that does a really good job of bringing the fish in a little bit quicker, and it’s also a little less expensive. So that’s in terms of the large fish.
I’ve heard about throwing the rod in the water when you catch a large fish with tenkara, is that for real?
So that’s a quote somebody asked me a question.
And there’s… [chuckle] I always laugh at that question a little bit. I always like to say that maybe somebody’s trying to sell you more tenkara rods than we are. Because, no, you don’t have to throw the rod in the water. But I will cover where that comes from. So, there is a little bit of truth to that. Primarily, that’s a historical thing. Way back in the day, when rods were made out of wood in the west, like in Europe. And I should say tenkara and western fly fishing started in a really similar way where you had a long rod, fixed length of line tied to the tip of the rod, and they looked the same, except that in Europe you’re using wooden rods, in Japan you’re using bamboo rods. But regardless, back in the day, before modern materials and so forth, if you happened to hook a very large fish and you’re fighting the fish and it really feels like the rod is about to break, your last resort is gonna be throw the rod in the water because you have a chance to go and retrieve the rod but it’s gonna be really, really hard to fix it, replace it and so forth. And at the same time if the rod were to break back in the day, the part of the rod might go with a fish anyway, so might as well throw the rod in the water.
But that’s old stuff that might come from some historical texts and that kind of thing. Or perhaps it is just a fact that Tenkara USA rods are really strong and we design them to fight large fish really well. So, modern rods are made of carbon fiber. If you happen to hook into a large fish, your first large fish, you’re gonna swear that the rod is gonna break ’cause it’s bending so much. But you can rest assured the rod is designed to fight a large fish that way. So, at least with Tenkara USA rods, you don’t have to throw the rod in the water, so ignore that. Other brands, I’m not sure.
I can’t see the rod tip. It’s stuck somewhere in there and I can’t see it, maybe it didn’t come with it.
So, sometimes that happens. If you’re not familiar with the tenkara rod, you remove the plug that keeps every segment inside and you kinda tilt the rod down to expose the segments. The first thing that should come out is the tip of the rod where you’re gonna be tying the line. And you can see the lillian, it’s like the flower. The lillian is that red string material that’s on the tip of the rod and you should be seeing that coming out first. Occasionally, the tip of the rod, the very tip of the rod may go in and it gets stuck in there and you don’t see it ’cause it’s just the way it’s working. All you have to do is gonna be tilt the rod, expose the tip, and the first part that you see essentially, the thinnest part that you see, you hold that between two fingers as the rod is tilted down and you shake it very hard, point it down, you shake it, you make this punching down motion while holding that segment and usually that force of the shaking down is gonna shoot the tip out. If you do not see it, the next thing you can do is just unscrew the cap on a base of the rod and remove the tip segment from the back and then re-insert it back in. So, that’s the way you can deal when you don’t see the rod tip.
What tenkara rod do I use in a small stream with a lot of trees around?
So, I mentioned earlier that the average length of a tenkara rod is 12 feet long. It’s a very intimidating length for a fly rod in general if you’re not used to it. So, 12-foot, people look at that and they’re like, “There’s no way I can fish in a small stream especially if there’s trees around me.” And the main thing that I will mention is that you get used to the length of the rod really quickly. So, don’t be too intimidated by that. Don’t be too caught up in that. I can say that I fish very small streams with a lot of trees around me with a 12-foot rod on occasion. I go up to Indian Peaks Wilderness near my home here, very tight streams with a lot of trees around and I use a 12-foot long rod. So, first thing is, don’t be too intimidated by the length of the rod.
However, if you are almost exclusively or primarily fishing very small streams, yes, a 12-foot rod is gonna feel long. So, what you have to do when you’re using a long tenkara rod, like a 12-foot rod, you have to use different techniques. First, your casting stroke, you’re not gonna go as far back as you would with a western fly rod or even when the terrain is very open. Typically, your casting stroke with a tenkara rod is gonna be your back cast. You move the right up to 12 o’clock, pointed straight up. Your forward cast you go to 3 o’clock or so. But when you go up to 12 o’clock, you’re shooting the line primarily up and there might be a canopy and that kind of thing.
So, the first thing you do is you modify your casting stroke, either not going as far back as you would otherwise or casting over the stream or using different casting techniques and also making a faster casting stroke. So, that’s the first thing about technique.
Which rod would I recommend for fishing a small stream with a lot of trees?
The Rhodo is our main rod that we have designed for that. Because, yes, you wanna have a short rod in the Rhodo you can fish that one at eight feet 10 inches to 10 feet six inches. So, I will mention, the 10 feet six inch is already a very short length for a tenkara rod. It’s hard to find. It’s not particularly common to even find those in Japan. I mean, they usually come to around 11 feet or so. There are some 10 and a half feet, but that’s a short tenkara rod.
We kind of took an approach of making it, giving you the choice to fish it even shorter if you really feel like you need to. So the rod you can fish it at three different lengths, 8’10”, 9’9″ and 10’6″ and that covers the basis for all small streams. Now, keep in mind that if you do have a longer rod, like say you have a 12-foot long tenkara rod, you can always choke up on the grip of the rod, so if you hold the rod, let’s say you have the Iwana, which is a 12-foot rod and the rod also collapses to about 20 inches or so, if you just hold your rod at the end of the first segment as opposed to on the handle, you’re effectively shortening the rod by a foot and a half roughly, or even two feet if you go a little bit more. So let’s say two feet, you’re choking up on the grip, all of a sudden, you’re fishing your rod at 10 feet in length which is very, very short. Now, if you really want to, you can also collapse one of those segments even though the rod is not particularly designed to do that but you have the option to do so.
The main recommendation there kinda getting a little bit ahead of myself is maybe try pairing the rod that you have with a shorter length of rod. And it’s becoming clear to me that I’m gonna have to break this episode into two parts because it looks like I’m gonna have to take some more time. So in the future, pretty soon here, look up for another episode on tenkara lines and the other parts of it as well. But in the tenkara lines part, I will cover the common rigs and different things that you can do for managing different situations in terms of rigging your rod. So, look out for part two, which I might put out at the same time, will see if I can do both of them at the same time, but I’m gonna break this up.
Which tenkara rod do we recommend for a large river?
And that’s kind of like when you have a larger river, especially a place that is more open, you don’t have quite as many trees around and overhead, it’s really easy to maneuver a long rod and a long rod gives you a huge advantage because you can cast on the other side of many currents, you can keep the line off the water. You don’t have to quite move in as far, you can pair it with a longer rod more easily and so forth.
So just go for the longest tenkara rod you can. Our longest rod is the Ito which you can fish actually at two different lengths. You can fish it at 13 feet long which is already a long tenkara rod or 14 feet 7 inches. Personally, the Ito is actually my favorite rod by far, you see that in my hands more often than any other rod even in small streams, because I know if I go to a bigger water, I have the length that I want, but if I get into a small stream, I can always do different techniques to have a shorter rod with me as well. So with one rod, I can fish in a variety of conditions, but the Ito is our primary suggestion for large waters, and the Amago perhaps at 13 and-a-half-foot, that’s a good option as well.
What are the differences between Tenkara USA rods and other manufacturers? What are the differences between Tenkara USA and Tenkara Rod Company, and so forth?
So first let me mention this. So there’s been a lot of confusion in the marketplace about the name to Tenkara Rod Company. It’s one of our competitors. Unfortunately, they chose to use a descriptive term to describe their company and really have taken advantage of the confusion that it has generated.
And I wanna get that out there because I see advertisements on Google and it’s making me really upset where they say the original Tenkara Rod Company which is absolutely super misleading, they have, of course, used the Tenkara Rod Company as a brand originally, but we were in the market several years before they came on and they decided to use that confusing term and you see a lot of advertisements that they put out, trying to mislead people in my opinion. So Tenkara USA, at this point, we have been around for 11 years. We were the first company to take tenkara outside of Japan. We were also the first company to put all the pieces together under one brand. We make the tenkara rods, we have designed our own tenkara rods, we have designed, worked with manufacturers to make our tenkara lines as well and we have made our own tenkara flies and we have put all these pieces together as well as a couple of accessories. So, specifically in terms of the Tenkara USA rods, those 11 years have given us a lot of chances to improve our rods a lot over the years. So that’s all we do, we just work on Tenkara USA branded product and we improve them over the years.
There’s this Japanese concept called kaizen which is continuous improvement. I’m a strong believer in that. If you have been following Tenkara USA for some time, you probably have seen different iterations of our rods being released. Some of the changes that we have made to some of our rods have been big enough where we felt it warranted a re-release of the rods. For example, the Iwana, we have gone through multiple iterations but some years ago, we decided to make the Iwana 2 which is the current one, we don’t call it the Iwana 2 but we did mention it at that time because there’s enough tweaks there to make it different enough. So the first thing is we have designed our own rods. A lot of the tenkara manufacturers that are marketing tenkara here, they take off the shelf rods that are in the factory, sitting around, put their brand on it, don’t do any work, they just market tenkara. We have taken the approach from the very beginning to produce, design and produce original rods, that’s the first one, and over time we have improved them, quite a bit, significantly actually. A lot of the changes have never been announced, because we just do it because we want to.
And that’s kind of the, just the way that we do things, we wanna continuously improve. Most batches of tenkara rods that we make we make some improvement on them and we don’t call it out because we just wanna make the rod better. The other thing too is sometimes people do say our rods are a little bit pricier than others, but I will mention that there’s a reason for that. The, any fly rod, but tenkara rods also, the most important component which makes the entirety of the rod, it’s also one that it’s difficult to gauge the quality because it’s hard to see what’s going on in there, but it’s the carbon fiber. And carbon fiber, if you look at a low grade one versus a high grade and when I talk about low grade and high grade, I’m not talking necessarily about high modulus versus low modulus, which some people refer to. I’m also talking about the weave pattern and the combination of resins that we have to put on with the carbon fiber, the way they’re rolled, the pattern, the cut pattern as well and so forth.
So there’s a lot of differences in the carbon fiber and you can make a rod less expensive by skimping on that. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of compromises that start happening, where the rod can become more brittle, it can break more easily, the rod might feel heavier, and there’s all these kind of compromises you have to figure out to make a good tenkara rod at a lower price. Most of our rods are a little bit more expensive because we do spend a lot of money on the carbon fiber, it’s a huge part of the cost obviously, the biggest part of the cost of making the rods. And we believe in strongly in keeping the quality of the carbon fiber that we use at a very high level, because that’s your rod, that’s what’s gonna fight the fish, that’s gonna prevent breakages very easily and so forth. So that’s the second difference, in terms of Tenkara USA rods and most other manufacturers. And the other one I would say, well, maybe another big one is the features and designs that we have made. We have some patents still pending on a couple of our designs but we do have very well thought out features that make the fishing experience very good with Tenkara USA rods.
And so those are, I’d say the biggest differences. And then obviously, Tenkara USA rods come with a full lifetime warranty and that’s actually something that sets us apart from every company out there, is our customer service and the warranty that comes with Tenkara USA rods. First of all, there’s a couple of things that we do. If you ever break a Tenkara USA rod, you don’t have to send anything back to us, we were the first company to just start sending a segment out as needed. Occasionally, we may ask somebody to send a rod back if they really want to keep the rod and there’s something that we can work on, but 99.9% of times this time, you don’t have to send anything back to us, we just send you the replacement parts that you need. And that’s for the life of the rod. We’ve been in business for 11 years now, you can ask anybody who’s ever worked with us about our warranty and how we follow through on those and we’re really good about that. I personally have always believed that the way to grow tenkara is to have people sharing their story with each other.
You have a good tenkara story, you’re gonna share it. If your rod breaks and you put in a closet because you can’t fix it, then you’re not gonna share tenkara with others or you’re gonna share some disappointment stories. So from the very beginning, we have had really, really good warranty on the rods and to make that easy, we have an incredible team doing customer support. So you can call us at 888-i-Tenkara, 888-483-6527, you’re gonna get somebody on the phone either immediately or they’re gonna call you back right away. TJ and John do a terrific job at getting back to customers. You can try it. Maybe that’s something you wanna do, try getting a hold of companies that you wanted to work with before you buy a rod and see how fast we get back to you. So that’s the other big difference to support the warranty that we offer. So that’s enough, I think I, sometimes I can get really caught up on that but I feel very passionately strong about the service and the quality of the rod that we make at Tenkara USA, so I kind of sometimes focus too much on that but it’s true.
What do I do if I break a tenkara rod? What’s the warranty procedure for fixing a tenkara rod made by Tenkara USA? The other question is, do I need to register my rod with Tenkara USA once I buy it?
Those are questions that we get in terms of the warranty and let me just kinda go through our process. If, first of all, we have the thing that we, TJ actually put the name on it, but we call it the Tenkara Care Guarantee, which just tells you that if it’s a rod made by Tenkara USA, we’re gonna take care of you. You don’t have to register a rod that you buy if it’s got a Tenkara USA brand on it, we made the parts for it, the parts are typically pretty much never interchangeable with other rods, unless just by coincidence one part is, but Tenkara USA parts are made for tenkara rods. If it has a brand, Tenkara USA brand on it, we trust that it came from us and that we’re working with somebody who bought it from us and we’re gonna make everything that we can to make it easy to take care of your rod, so you can be fishing again pretty soon.
You don’t have to register the rod with us. If you break one of the top three segments on the tip, the tip and the two segments below it, all you have to do is you go to tenkarausa.com/rods and we do have the parts section in there where you can order a tip. And when I say order this is what’s gonna happen for any part that you need, or sometimes multiple parts, we don’t actually charge you anything for the actual part. So the only thing that we charge currently, it’s $17, but that’s literally our shipping and handling cost and we use a fulfillment house, it costs money for them to go pick the part up, put in a box or tube, package it up and get it out the door and for storage, and so forth, so we have that legitimate cost for the picking and packing of the part.
And then there’s the shipping cost, so it’s $17 out the door. If you look up shipping costs for your location from either Colorado, where actually our fulfillment house now has moved to Dallas, Texas, you’re gonna see that that’s pretty much our cost. Actually oftentimes, the $17 doesn’t quite cover it, so we get kind of close, but that’s whether you break the tip or any other segments and occasionally, even multiple sections. So all you have to do for the tip segments, go to tenkarausa.com/rods, so you get the tip rod for the model that you need. For the other parts, you can also go through the website to essentially order the $17 warranty, but then just send an email to our team with which rod segments that you need.
And we want to communicate with you about those because we wanna make sure we’re sending the right part, but just know that the way we number the parts of tenkara rods, we go from the handle up. So the handle is segment number one, segment above it, the second thickest segment is segment number two, three, four, and so forth. Some of them go up to eight, some of them are seven and then the top three are just gonna be tip sets. So that’s how all you have to do for dealing with warranties with Tenkara USA.
Do Tenkara USA rods come with a case in a sock or a case and a sleeve, if you wanna call it that?
Yes, all Tenkara USA rods currently come with a hard case and also a woven cloth-bag, really nice quality cloth bag. And maybe I’ll add to this one.
Do I need to use a case with a tenkara rod?
No. So the cases that we sell or that we send out with the tenkara rods, they are primarily extra protective, shipping quality case that’s gonna protect the rod really nicely in rough, very rough conditions, when it’s kind of moving around, perhaps if you throw it in the back of your trunk of your car and so forth, but typically speaking, you don’t need to use the case because the rod itself, the tenkara rod that you have in your hand is its own case.
Rods are made out of carbon fiber, the handle segment is gonna serve as a case where everything else is nested inside. Usually, if I’m backpacking, if I’m traveling, all I do, I either wrap my tenkara rod, my own tenkara rods inside of a some cloth or putting between shirts and that kind of thing in the suitcase, or maybe at the most, have it inside the woven cloth bag. If I am throwing my rod in the trunk of my car with a bunch of other stuff and there’s a higher chance of it breaking, then I’ll use the case, but… So yes, the rod comes with the cases, comes with the socks, all of them do, but you don’t really need to use it if you’re trying to save weight. I think that’s what I was trying to say.
What length line should I use with a tenkara rod?
So that question can be kind of a big one, but let me start by saying that whenever I refer to tenkara line, I’m referring to the thick, bright or visible, very visible line that is gonna be the casting line, that’s gonna be moving your fly and so forth. But when I talk about tenkara line, that’s what I’m talking about. And then at the end of the tenkara line, we use tippet, which is the thin clear, fishing line and that’s gonna separate your tenkara line from your fly. As a rule of thumb, I use four feet of tippet, you can go between three and five or potentially even a little bit longer, but between three and five feet of tippet, I use four feet just stay in the middle, so that kinda gets that out of the way.
So we can focus on the length of the tenkara line, specifically. So a good rule of thumb, and let me tell you first as well. There’s no hard and fast rules in tenkara, like when it comes to your rigging and a lot of other things. So I’m kinda providing you just some rule of thumbs, some kind of places to start in your experimentations with tenkara. But a very common place where people start is with a 12 foot tenkara rod, which is the average length of a tenkara rod and 12-foot line, and as Jason Sparks one time turned me on to the, what he called the rule of 12s, 12-foot rod, 12-foot line, size 12 hook, your size 12 hook on a tenkara fly. So that’s a really good place to start. I like his rule of thumb, really easy to kind of understand. And it’s a good place to start because a 12-foot rod, which is the same length as your tenkara rod in this case is gonna give you good enough reach, but it’s also gonna be very manageable in terms of casting and in terms of landing the fish, so it gives you a good place to start learning. And for a lot of situations, for a huge number of situations, that’s a perfectly adequate rig and you probably don’t even have to deviate from that that much, but I wanna show you some options as well.
If you’re using a short tenkara rod, a shorter tenkara line will also come in handy. So if you have, for example, our Hane, which is a 10 foot 10 inch rod, 12-foot line is perfectly adequate. But maybe you wanna start with the 10 and a half, 10 foot line, four feet at the end of it, if you’re fishing in a smaller to medium-sized stream, something kind of paired with the rod. If you’re using a longer rod, having a longer line will also come in handy. So if you have, for example, the Ito, which it goes 13 feet or 14 feet 7 inches, somewhere in between those two lengths is a good place to start, so maybe a 14 foot 6 inch line that we offer, great place to get started. You can have a very easy time learning how to cast, landing fish and so forth. If you make the line much shorter than the rod when you’re getting started, you could… First of all, you’re gonna miss out on the reach sometimes, but even the landing on a fish if you go too short could be a little bit problematic ’cause you just don’t have quite as much to pull it back. Usually, we don’t see that as a major problem, but just starting with the length of the rod is a good place to start.
But then from there, you can go shorter or longer, depending on your situation. So in the tenkara rod’s Q&A part here, I talked about my favorite rod, which is the Ito. You can fish the Ito at two different lengths, 13 feet or 14 feet 7 inches and that’s the rod that you see in my hands most of the time, whether I’m going to smaller stream or a very large river. And the main thing that I change besides some technique as well, is gonna be the length of the line. So when I go somewhere up in the mountains here, tighter kind of streams, I love pairing the Ito with a short line, roughly, 11 feet in length and about 3 feet of tippet at the end of that. So the line is gonna be a little, the line plus tippet is gonna be roughly the same length as the rod or a little bit shorter.
I have even done it a little bit shorter, like a line that was roughly 10 feet and 3 feet of tippet that was really good for a small stream because then you’re avoiding doing much casting, so that’s kind of the main thing. And in terms of bringing the fish in you just have to look for where the openings are, so that’s one example. And at the same time, I have used the Ito on many occasions in very large rivers and in those cases, I combine the rod with a line that is roughly one-and-a-half times the length of the rod. So, and that’s again a rule of thumb but that’s a good length of line for… That you can still comfortably manage and you can land a fish without too much problems but it’s not way too long. I have gone longer lines as well, up to twice the length of the rod, but it starts becoming a little harder to manage, a little less easy to use that.
But if you start experimenting, I just recommend that you don’t go super long right away. Build up to it because you’re gonna have a little bit of a learning curve. So in terms of going the longer way… The shorter way pretty easy, you don’t have too much of a learning curve there as long as you don’t go super short because then it becomes impractical, but once you start experimenting with longer lines I recommend adding about 3 feet of line at a time. So let’s say you start with, that you want a 12-foot rod. First line is going to be 12 feet roughly, give and take a few inches or a foot. And what I recommend if you start playing with longer lines is add about 3 feet and when I say add, then we’re usually playing with the level lines which allow you to adjust the length pretty easily.
But you add about 3 feet at a time so your next line might be a 15-foot line. Gives you a chance to kinda get used to a little bit of longer line plus 4 feet of tippet at the end and the one after maybe 18 feet, and that will probably cover pretty much all the situations you may have in front of you. And if you really want to you can experiment with longer lines as well, but that’s usually where I recommend people stop. So that’s kind of the main, the gist for the length of the line.
What type of lines are used with Tenkara?
So there’s two main terms you’re gonna see relating to tenkara lines: tenkara level line or tapered tenkara line. As the names imply the tapered line is gonna just be a line that tapers down from a thicker end, which is gonna be tied closer to the tip of the rod, to a thinner end which is gonna be where your tippet is gonna connect and then your fly after that. So tapered line and then the other one is level line which is a level diameter and it comes usually in a spool that resembles more of a, a lot of people… What people usually know as fishing line. And then there’s advantages and disadvantages.
What are the advantages of tapered lines for tenkara?
The main advantages in my opinion are gonna be the ease of casting, it’s gonna just be much easier to cast because the tapered line has a little bit more mass and at the thinner end it’s gonna stay off the water more easily, but it just has an easier casting, possibly more accurate when you’re getting started. The disadvantage of a tapered line typically is gonna be that it’s a little bit heavier than a level line, so it’s gonna sag under the tip of the rod a little bit more, so you may have to just kinda keep the rod a little bit more elevated, be more mindful of that.
What are the advantages of the level line?
One of the main ones is related to the length of the line. The level line allows you to adjust the length of the line really easily and make your own line as you wish. So you get a spool of level line, at Tenkara USA the level line comes in 65 foot spools, you can cut three to four lines out of that or even five to whatever length you want and you can also adjust it on the fly. So if you find that you’re fishing with a line that is too long and you really wish you had a shorter line, you can cut off 3 feet off of it and save it for later and later on you can join them back together with a blood knot or something similar.
So that’s one of the big advantages. The other one is that the line is much lighter which allows you to keep the line off the water much more easily. The slight disadvantage to that is that because the line is lighter it’s gonna take a little bit more getting used to casting with it. You’re gonna have to have a little bit more speed on a cast and if you’re just getting started, you may take a little bit longer to kinda get that right for the line to turn over really nicely. So that’s kind of the gist of those.
Do I need to use a leader with a tenkara line?
No. So if you’re not familiar, a leader is… It can be made in a variety of ways, but it’s usually used in western fly fishing where you have this very heavy thick line and you’re trying to separate that line from the fly and you’re also having something that’s gonna make a little bit of a better transition. If you were to have your very thick line going straight to the fly, first of all you wouldn’t be able to tie it through the hook for the most part, but you wouldn’t have a transition, so you’ll just have a big splash at the end of it and all other things that happen because of it. So you wanna have some separation and some transition to the fly, so that’s what a leader is… It provides in western fly fishing. With tenkara we are using a line that is way lighter, much, much thinner than a western fly line, so we don’t need to use a leader. The line is essentially the leader. All that we need to do is add some tippet to the end of the line.
What length tippet… And I’m gonna add to this one, what length and size tippet should I use with tenkara?
So in terms of the length of the tippet I recommend just doing 4ft long that’s my favorite length, it fits a huge variety of conditions really well but anywhere between 3 and 5ft or so is good. The times that I will use a shorter tippet like 3ft long are when I’m fishing in a very small stream and I have more canopy and I wanna try to shorten my rig a little bit and I don’t need quite as much separation ’cause I’m not moving the line quite as much I’m also keeping the line off the water almost entirely so I don’t need quite as much separation, 3ft is acceptable then or maybe if my tippet gets a little shorter and it’s 3ft long I would probably keep fishing with it unless I have a strong reason not to do so. The times that I might use a longer tippet might be when I’m fishing in calm, clear water or slightly spookier fish and I wanna try to improve my presentation and what I mean by presentation is just having the fish… Giving the fish less chance of seeing my main line, so I just kinda wanna try to get a little bit more separation then I’ll use about 5ft of tippet like in a clear spring creek for example.
15:07 – In terms of the size of the tippet and what I mean by size in this case is in the, in terms of what strength or what breaking strength of tippet, in the US we refer to tippet as an X rating, so 5X is what I recommend, that’s roughly the equivalent of 5 pounds, two and a half kilos, that’s my primary one, that’s what I carry almost all the times, I feel like it’s thin enough that it’s not gonna create much drag on my fly, it’s also not gonna be quite as visible to fish but it’s thick enough that’s gonna be plenty strong for the majority of fish that I catch. However, if I’m going somewhere that has a lot of large fish, 18-inch trout or if I’m going somewhere with a decent number of bass or carp, larger fish species in general, then I use 4X tippet.
16:04 – I never go any thicker than 4X, I just don’t find that I have a need for it because the tenkara rod protects the thinner tippet like a 4X or 5X really well ’cause it’s gonna be flexing so it does a really good job at protecting a thinner tippet size. But with 4X I still have the option of using my hand or the rod to break off the tippet and what I mean by that is like, if I get snagged at the very end of the reach of the rod I can pull straight, in a straight line, and I can still break the 4X, 3X material is gonna be really hard to break by doing that without potentially damaging the rod. So 5X tippet 4ft in length is my rule of thumb, my main recommendation.
What’s the difference between a tenkara line and a western fly line? Do I need a tenkara specific line for tenkara? And yes, one of the huge advantages of tenkara is that you have the ability to cast as light a line as possible which allows you to keep the line off the water. And when you start using a heavier western fly line you lose that advantage. So the tenkara lines are designed specifically for tenkara rods. And yes, you can experiment with it, I have seen people that are marketing western fly lines with tenkara, you can use it, I just really don’t recommend it. We don’t sell anything that’s not tenkara specific on our website because I’ve tried them, I never thought that there was much to it so that’s kind of our take on it, that’s my take with my experience with tenkara over the last 11 years learning from people in Japan and so forth.
What knots do you use for connecting your tenkara line to your rod and then the tippet to line?
There are two types of lines as we mentioned, there’s the tapered lines and the level lines. And the tapered lines another advantage of tapered lines can also be seen in the fact that they’re very simple to set up. Tapered lines they should come with a soft loop material on the thicker end which is gonna be used to attach the line to the rod and all you have to do to rig the line is gonna be making a girth hitch, if you’re not familiar with a girth hitch just look it up, come to our website and you can see what it looks like but it’s incredibly simple, it’s not even a knot it’s a hitch technically where you just kind of fold it and you fit it over to the tip of the rod so a very simple set up.
So you’re using a level line then we’re using a slip knot. If you come to tenkarausa.com/videos you should be able to find all the videos or if you just come to our home page actually and you scroll down a little bit one of the first videos that you see is the knots used for tenkara, so that kinda hopefully shows you exactly what you need to do. But the slip knot that we use is actually technically a fisherman’s knot which ironically is one of the most underutilized knots in fly fishing. But that’s what the level line knot to the rod is. And we have the advantages that we use the same knot for tippet to line and then tippet to fly as well. So we have what I’ve called in the past the tenkara “One Knot” and it is a variation of a fisherman’s knot where when you go to the tip or the rod you make the fisherman’s knot standalone, you fit it over the lillian, the red braided material on the tip of the rod, you make the lillian go through the knot twice and you cinch it.
On the other end of the level line you tie a stopper knot and you can tie just about anything that you want there, I do a figure eight knot just to serve as a stopper and then I do almost the same thing, I make a standalone fisherman’s knot with the tippet and then I fit it over the line and cinch it tight. I don’t have to go through it twice because it’s the little thinner, has a little bit more bite. And then tippet to fly, same thing except that I go through the eye of the fly first and then I make that fishermen’s knot. But you can see that, it’s a visual thing, but you can come to our website and take a look at that.
Can I use any fly with tenkara?
Yes. You can use any fly that you want. So essentially what’s at the end of the line is up to you. If you have a favorite fly, if you have a favorite dry fly, if you have a favorite nymph use those, there’s no reason not to. When I started off with tenkara I used to use an elk hair caddis, like a ton. It was one of my favorite flies, I used that the majority of the time, eventually I kind of transitioned to tenkara flies and I started seeing advantages on those and I stuck with those. But any fly will work with tenkara.
What’s the difference between a tenkara flies and other flies?
Well, so there’s a couple of ways to look at it. So a tenkara fly is an artificial fly like any other fly, and there’s a variety of different patterns of tenkara flies as well. We have on our blog in the past, published a lot of photographs of different styles of tenkara flies that we’ve come across over the years. Like most endeavors, when we’re doing it for fun, there’s a lot of playing, there’s a lot of… And every angler is gonna think that his fly has something a little different and so forth. There’s actually not a huge difference between flies and tenkara flies as a whole, but I will point out a couple of things. In general, most experienced tenkara anglers, and I’m kinda taking the approach of traditional tenkara here as a method. Tenkara as a method more…most tenkara anglers in Japan they tend to stick with one fly, they’re not switching flies very often, if at all, and they’re typically using unweighted flies.
Because, and the reason for that is that they’re also using flies that are not specialized. So when you’re looking at dry flies for example, a dry fly is designed to do one thing really well, which is to float. However, if you kinda see the fish a little deeper, you’re kinda forced to switch flies and get something that’s gonna sink down to the level of the fish. If you’re using a nymph, especially a heavier nymph, and you see fish rising, you’re gonna have to switch flies. In tenkara the approach has typically been to not switch flies use one fly that you can use in a variety of situations. So an unweighted fly that’s not designed to float very much, or not designed to really sink very fast is the typical choice. You will see a lot of tenkara flies, all of the flies that we sell on our website are what we call sakasa kebari. Sakasa in Japanese means reverse, kebari is the name for an artificial fly. And the sakasa kebari is not the only type of tenkara fly that exists, but it is very heavily used by most experienced tenkara anglers in Japan. The sakasa kebari is the typical fly that has the hackle facing away from the band of the hook.
And I like those flies, there’s a reason we offer those flies, or the main being that you can impart motion to the fly. So if you twitch a rod up and down the fly is gonna pulsate like open and close, it’s gonna have some kinda motion to it, and it’s gonna retain some profile to it and it’s also gonna serve as a nice anchor in the water for some techniques, but that’s a very common thing when people think of tenkara flies, they often think of the reverse hackle fly not the only type of tenkara fly out there, but very commonly used.
What are the best flies that you sell that will work for my area?
That’s a very common question. So at Tenkara USA we only have four different fly patterns? Those are the four fly patterns… essentially they’re basically the same pattern almost with some small variations. But those are the flies that I personally fill my box with, that’s why I started offering them. They are flies that have come about from learning from teachers in Japan, from experience fishing with them, and then one of them is a fly that I created myself called the “Oki,” which in Japanese just means big. In the philosophy here the approach is that any fly can work in a huge variety of conditions. If you look at tenkara as a method and you kinda look at the method as a whole, and you absorb that kinda philosophy that any fly can work, you can use those flies in a variety conditions.
I have used those four fly patterns all across the United States and several other countries by now, in a huge variety of waters. I have used those flies in mountain streams, in spring creeks, in lakes, in flat kind of big rivers and so forth. Like a very large variety of waters with a lot of success. And that’s because I kinda take tenkara as a method, and I kinda try to use those flies to entice fish. So using different manipulation techniques and so forth. And you can look more at tenkara techniques in a previous episode of Tenkara Cast, by the way. So that’s one approach, the other one would be if you really still believe that a particular area fish are gonna be keyed in to certain patterns and so forth. The only other thing I can tell you is that you can ask friends or you can ask the fly shop near you, if they have a fly that they recommend, that’s just not the approach that we take at Tenkara USA. I’m not saying that it’s a bad approach.
It will work, that there’s definitely a reason people do that. It’s just that the approach that we have taken is that using these very few patterns and kind of focus on technique works equally well. So we’d never really have recommendations for what fly is gonna work better. Now, the question that goes with that as well, is
how do I choose which fly to use?
And if we look at the tenkara method as a whole, where, I just mentioned like we’re not placing huge emphasis on flies, the way I choose between those four flies that we offer, and first of all, there’s three sizes, there’s a size 16, which is a very small fly, size 12, which is just kind of the middle, size eight hook, which is the larger fly. Those are the three sizes and then the size 12, which is kind of the middle, we have two different colors, a light one and a dark one. The Ishigaki is the dark one, the Amano is the light one. The rule of thumbs for me are, I start with whatever fly is already tied to my line or to the tippet in this case and if I don’t have one or if that doesn’t work after 15-20 minutes of trying different things, then I’m gonna go to size 12, or if I don’t have one, oftentimes I start with the size 12, or most people do, I should say.
Personally, I start with the size eight, ’cause I like to see how aggressive the fish are, if they’re taking a larger fly and then I move a little smaller. But if the waters are running kind of murky, and high, kinda fast, I do tend to favor the larger fly, giving the fish a better chance to see it. If nothing else is working or if the fish are doing these really kind of subtle takes, I go small fly, size 16. So that’s kind of how I usually approach it. Other than that, I don’t put a whole lot of thought into the flies.
How do I cast a heavier fly with tenkara? And, how do I avoid rod breakages from using a heavier fly?
There are a couple of things here. When we’re talking about heavier flies, the flies can be either really big and bulky or they can be just a heavy kind of bead head kind of fly. The main thing and the casting is gonna be similar for both of those, so whereas we usually talk about the casting with the tenkara rod, being like an accurate up and down cast and you’re making this, it’s actually not a very tight loop but the casting is gonna resemble what’s gonna be a tight loop.
You’re just making this really kind of accurate pinpoint cast, that doesn’t work quite as well with larger or heavy flies. With larger or heavy flies, you wanna open up the loop a bunch, so it’s gonna be more of a lob, you’re still doing a similar motion, but you’re kind of more throwing it than really doing a particular cast because the fly is gonna have so much weight to it that you can do that. But one thing that we see sometimes is when people have experienced rod breakages and we kinda try to figure out a little bit more of why. Oftentimes it has been because of using heavier bead head flies and what happens is in the middle of casting, if the fly nicks the rod, that’s gonna create a weak spot on the rod, and that’s gonna happen with a tenkara rod as well as a western rod. If that fly nicks it, carbon fiber is gonna have a little micro-fracture, it’s gonna be a weak spot and that can break down the road. So what you wanna do is just change your casting to more of a lob, keeping the fly away from the rod as much as you can.
When tying sakasa kebari style fly, how do you judge how long the hackle feather should be? Is it based on hook gap, hook length or just educated eyeball?
So that’s a good question. When people get into tie flies, they’re often taught about proportions. Sometimes, there are formula, in western fly tying anyways, there’s formulas. You wanna have your hackle be no more than a time or two times the gap on the hook and so forth. There’s all kinds of little proportion rules. We really don’t concern ourselves too much with that in tenkara, because we think the fish are gonna take most things anyway, as long as the fly’s presented properly. However, sometimes when I tie a fly like and I have a hackle, all of a sudden it just looks so long, and it’s like, eh, it just like feels way out of balance. I’m not sure if that’s because of my western fly fishing background or it’s the normal aesthetic or what it is. If I were to give a general rule of thumb, maybe the hackle being twice the gap of the hook could work okay, I think, and that’s just kind of an educated guess.
It’s an educated eyeball really, there’s no proportion, there’s no tenkara angler in Japan who would ever tell you there’s a rule, there’s a better way to do it. That’s just not how it works. Any fly can work well. I’m interested in the one fly philosophy, but more to do with you or sorry, I’m trying to read a question.
“I’m interested in the one life philosophy but more to do with how other people came to choose their one fly. Can you expand on how the masters came to their one fly?”
Yes, so there are a couple of ways. I mean, we all learn tenkara from somebody or somewhere. So, typically, that’s where we’re gonna start. You have the fly that when you’re starting off with tenkara you pick up from a friend or you pick up from a teacher, you pick up from Tenkara USA on our videos and we know that works ’cause somebody else is using it. But with time, we start kind of making some modifications to the flies because either we get bored or we just wanna experiment or we just wanna try something different or we find that there’s something that seems to make sense or that works and there’s a couple of ways to think about it. I’d like to think of Dr. Ishigaki’s story with one fly.
Where he talked about when he started learning tenkara in the ’70s, he kind of started picking up all these different flies because she was the first person in Japan that got to know a huge number of tenkara anglers in different parts of Japan. Until then, people were not communicating much across the country, tenkara anglers didn’t really know each other, and because he started publishing some stories in a magazine, he started getting in touch with all these anglers in Japan and he start going around learning from them and he realized that each one of them pretty much stuck with one fly pattern, but at the same time, you know all their patterns that he was observing they were somewhat similar in size. Nothing super large, nothing super small, but they were all different. And he kinda started having his idea, that they’re all catching fish, they’re all using one fly without switching, they’re all having success, so that must mean that just about any fly should work.
And then in one occasion, he was fishing with one of the, he went to go fishing with one of the tenkara anglers he was corresponding with, the guy gave him this really bright, like a white fly that was a very large, like a kinda largely hackled or heavily hackled fly and his thought originally was like, “There’s no way this fly’s gonna catch a fish.” It’s like unlike any fly that he had seen from other people. So he just thought he would not catch fish. Yet, he and the people that he was fishing with, they both caught fish on that fly and that was the moment that he kinda started thinking like, “Man, just about any fly works.” [chuckle] As long as it’s presented properly and it’s of reasonable size and possibly reasonable shape and colors. So that’s kind of how he kind of discovered that one fly could work and because any fly could work, he decided to go for the simplest fly that he had learned from all these people, which was just this black sewing thread, some cheap brown hackle. And that’s not the only fly that’s in his box because he says he gets bored of tying the exact same fly, but that’s the fly that he is just primarily, if he’s trying to fill up his box, that’s what he’s gonna tie.
So that’s how he came about that fly. As for myself, personally, I have learned primarily from Dr. Ishigaki. The Ishigaki fly was the fly that I was trying to use the most when I was learning how to use one fly all the time and building the confidence to use one fly most of the time, but there was something, as I learned tenkara a little bit more and I learned from different teachers, there was something in my opinion that was missing on the fly that he used, where he used a kind of a stiffer rooster hackle and when I was fishing with Mr. Amano who uses this pulsating technique very often, his fly which uses a pheasant hackle, you can also use a partridge, something softer, his flies had a lot of motion to it. They still retained a nice reverse hackle, but they had more motion, so I kinda started liking the softer hackle. And I also really started liking larger flies because it kinda oftentimes gave me a chance to see how aggressive the fish were and in my opinion too, like a fish is trying to maximize how much food it’s gonna take. So, a larger fly started making sense to me.
So my favorite fly became a size eight, larger than Dr. Ishigaki’s or Mr. Amano’s, combining elements of both. So it’s got a soft hackle, black body, and so forth. So that’s kind of how I came to my favorite fly. I am not an exclusively one-fly guy, my fly, as I mentioned, my fly box has usually four patterns because I do like having a little bit of variation in size, primarily. And if I find a fly on a tree, on a branch or if somebody gives me a fly, they go into my box, and I’ll use them, either because I, why not? So if I’m in the middle of fishing and I’m not catching many fish, I’m bored, I wanna experiment, I haven’t used this fly in a long time, just because, just for the sake of it, I’m gonna tie whatever else is in my box, so if you ever see my box, it’s not a particularly pretty box. I use the four flies primarily that we sell on our website, but I also use things that I find or people give me on occasion. And then in general, people just might have theories that one thing may work better than another, so Dr. Ishigaki chose the simplest fly that he could. Mr. Hirata in Japan, for example, I’ve written about him, where he uses snake skin for the body of the fly, so he gets the little strips of a snake that he catches, a Mamushi, and he thinks that the reflection of a snake skin is gonna be more tantalizing to a fish, so that’s his theory and that’s the fly that he uses.
So that’s kind of the gist of it. You can have a theory, you can play with it and sometimes that gets reinforced. So when you have a fly and you had this theory and it happened to be a particularly good day of fishing, you think that there’s something to that, so that’s where you start to using. So that’s most of the Tenkara flies kind of stuff that I wanted to cover. Now, let’s get into just a few other questions.
Where can I find a guide or teacher to help me learn more about Tenkara?
First of all, our website is probably a great teacher. There’s tons of resources out there. I believe strongly that tenkara is intuitive and simple enough that you can learn a lot on your own. We provide some guidance so you can kind of tap into the intuition, but learning on your own should not be too difficult. That’s a benefit of tenkara.
However, I know for a fact that you can steepen your learning curve any time you have a teacher close to you. And that’s how I’ve learned a lot about tenkara, like what I’ve learned in a couple of years would have taken me more than a decade to learn, what I’ve learned in the last decade probably would have taken me 30 years to learn. So you can definitely learn much quicker if you have somebody who you’ve learned from. And to that end, we have put the Tenkara Guide Network together. So if you go to tenkarausa.com/tgn and I’ll put a link on the podcast page, you can find people in various parts of the country that have been having a lot of experience, a lot of success with tenkara, and you can hire them for a day, you can learn a ton in a day. Oftentimes especially if your purpose is to learn rather than just try to catch fish that day. My recommendation is like, yes, definitely try to catch fish, there’s definitely no question about that, but I always think that having a guide is an incredible opportunity to learn and we can use that knowledge on other days to catch fish. So like on one day of learning, you can have hundreds of days of catching more fish as opposed to one day of taking shortcuts to catch fish where you don’t learn quite as much. So that’s kind of my main tip for leveraging a day out with a Guide. But you find guides close to our area.
Can I use in tenkara in lakes?
Absolutely. Tenkara really shines in places with moving water. No question about it, because you have a long rod, you can keep the line off the water, you do not have to mend, that’s one of the huge advantages of tenkara. No mending necessary. However, tenkara is a fishing tool. And growing up, I used to use a cane pole in the lake all the time. It’s no different from using tenkara in a lake. I might say, no, it’s not quite the method. The method of tenkara looks more like tenkara when it’s done in a stream or a river. So there’s some differences. It’s not exactly how tenkara was developed, but you can see tenkara as a tool and you can use that in the lake with no problem. Any time I’m backpacking, and I end up in a lake, I’ve caught plenty of fish with a lot of success. Difference is in techniques. I recommend you go to the tenkarausa.com/podcast or through your podcast app, look at the lakes techniques podcasts that I’ve done. And along with that, we also get a common question.
Can I use tenkara in salt water? I was actually surprised the other day when I started doing the podcast again a few weeks ago, I went to our podcast host website in my podcast episode actually the last podcast episode that I did before I took a long break, was our very most popular episode and it was about Tenkara fishing in salt water.
And again, that’s not tenkara the method, I would not really call that tenkara. Not to create a whole argument about what tenkara is, tenkara isn’t, it doesn’t look like tenkara in most ways. We’re using this really heavy flies, we’re not quite doing the same kind of casting and so forth. We’re also not fishing the same place or the same fish, but you can use tenkara rods as a tool in salt water very successfully. That episode, I also interviewed at a very famous rock climber who’s a friend of mine, Henry Barber, where we just sat out at his place after a couple of days of fishing, or three days of fishing salt water, of catching striped bass, having a blast with those. And he has a lot more experience than I do. But there’s been an article in our Tenkara magazine which you can find if you go to tenkarausa.com/blog, we put out the magazines for free. There’s an article there about fishing in salt. So yes, many people have successfully used tenkara in salt water including myself as a tool, not as a method. Some differences there.
Do I cast with the tenkara rod or do I just dap? And if casting, how do I cast with tenkara?
99% of your tenkara fishing is gonna be casting. That’s one of the big advantage of tenkara, is this really accurate pinpoint casting. Your cast is gonna be more of an overhead cast. If you’re very familiar with fly fishing, it looks more like a steeple cast. Steeple cast where you shoot your line up and to do so you stop your rod a little earlier, you stop the rod pointed up, your line goes up on a forward cast it kinda goes down diagonally where the fly shoots into the water first. So, you’re absolutely casting. That’s the majority of tenkara. When people ask about dapping, that just means… It can mean a couple of different things, but what they usually mean is lowering the fly onto the water and I would say that’s one technique you can use with tenkara is to dap. Don’t use that very often, sometimes in a very tight stream, I don’t have much room to maneuver, I’m using a short line, and in some places, it just makes a little bit more sense to lower the fly onto the water. Sometimes you kind of dip the fly there a few times. Very effective technique but typically not how you fish with tenkara.
What’s the difference between casting with a tenkara rod and a western fly casting?
As I just mentioned, main one is that you’re gonna stop the rod sooner on the back cast instead of going 10 o’clock, 2 o’clock, you go 12 o’clock to maybe 2 o’clock, and that’s gonna create more of a steeple cast but the other huge difference is that instead of shooting the line out in front of you, parallel to the water, and lowering, letting the line kind of land on the water, lay on the water completely. We’re gonna typically just be shooting the fly down first and have no line touching the water to begin with. So that’s the two main differences.
You can also talk about how to hold a tenkara rod. Typically you’re using an index finger on the top, which is gonna make you naturally stop your back cast at 12 o’clock and you’re gonna use the wrist a little bit more as well. Do use the wrist. But I highly recommend, take a look at our website, look at the casting videos to make much more sense out of that.
How do I reel in a fish when I have no reel? [chuckle] Or how do I land a fish with a tenkara rod? The how do I… [chuckle] That one is probably the most common question I get when I’m doing a presentation. How do I reel in a fish when I have no reel? And also how to land a large fish with tenkara? And that’s a very intuitive part of tenkara. Whenever you’re trying to land a fish, it’s a very intuitive thing because a fish is pulling away from you.
First of all, it’s not gonna be able to take it in line because the line is tied to the tip of the rod. It’s one benefit because your intuition is just gonna tell you, “Try to bring it back towards you.” And to do so you’re just gonna angle the rod back. If your line is about the same length as the rod, you’re just gonna oftentimes just naturally grab the fish. If the line is a little bit longer, you angle the rod back, grab the line, and then bring the fish in close to you as calmly as you can and then net it or grab it. So that’s how you do that. Whether it’s a small fish or a large fish, the technique is the same. You can watch a video on how to land a large fish with tenkara, you’re gonna see how that’s done at a little bit more clearly.
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