I’m an American tenkara angler that is influenced by Japanese tenkara and my own experiences at home. I initially learned about tenkara nine years ago from Tenkara USA (Daniel Galhardo) and subsequently deepened my knowledge from researching Japanese blogs and web sites. I used what I knew from my own fly fishing knowledge and by researching and interviewing famous Japanese Tenkara anglers. I shared many of those interviews with the community here.
What follows is a basic look into the equipment that I use to wet wade and fish my own home streams and as I travel around North America and beyond.
My primary tenkara rods are the Ito, Sato and Rhodo. I’ve been fishing these rods since they have been available. I own a couple of Japanese brand rods in my quiver but my Tenkara USA rods are my first choices to go fishing in my home streams. I think if I had one rod to choose, it would be the Ito. It is a rod where I can hunt small native trout in wild places and then further down the mountain where the stream flows into the high meadow lake, I can catch stacked up big trout coming from out of the lake. It’s a rod that has length and makes a small fish fun yet I can catch 20” fish with it all day long.
My net (Japanese word for net is “tamo”) is certainly important to me. Like the rod that I choose, I own a couple of Tenkara USA tamo as well as traditional Japanese tamo. I have given a couple of these away to my friends as I really enjoy them. I like the circular design with the curved smooth handle. The design of this net is ergonomic, I can tuck it in a belt or on the strap of a sling bag or even a daypack shoulder strap. It’s fine mesh is smooth on the fish, hooks do not foul in the net and it is lightweight and easy to handle. I really love my Tenkara USA tamo and I use it quite a bit for my everyday fishing my favorite streams.
My keiryu (Japanese word for mountain stream fishing of all sorts) equipment is minimal, my wading system is compact and I can pack it in a daypack for travel. In the back of my car, I carry a small basket that will hold ALL of my fishing equipment and it keeps things organized.
My wading spats are of Japanese design. They cover my lower leg from knee to ankle and are neoprene and doubled in the shin area. They are easy to get into, a long zipper on the outside of the shin has a double backing and a boot hook keeps the spat from rotating and or riding up as you walk in the stream. The spats serve many duties, one, they are insulating and keep your legs warm. They streamline your lower legs by keeping your pants from flopping in the stream as you work your way upstream. The neoprene and the doubling on the shin protects your shin from rock and branch bruises as you walk, hike and climb up the stream. I use neoprene socks that are perforated in order to complete my lower leg insulation and protection.
My keiryu boots are in the Japanese sawanobori style. They look like climbing boots that are slim, not very padded at all. They have a rand that is sticky and I often use it to anchor myself, pressing and or twisting my foot into place between rocks. The boot sole is rubber, sort of like soft carbon rubber found on climbing shoes. Sawanobori is the Japanese word for climbing steep streams and waterfalls. This equipment is specifically designed for climbing wet. It is streamlined and compact. When things get really slippery, I use Japanese pin soles, a sort of minor crampon made especially for keiryu.
There are a few other little things that I use that are Japanese in design. I use a little fishing bag, mine is from Tenkara USA. The Japanese use a small bag as well and many companies produce these bags. I also use a back of hand protection, sort of like a fingerless glove. I use a head covering, very popular in Japan but also by salt water fisherman, a tube of fabric that is easily pulled up over the neck and can cover the face.
The core of my tenkara is Tenkara USA products, rod, net and bag but the rest of my gear is Japanese sourced. I have enjoyed researchng and figuring out the gear that I now have used for many seasons by the help from my friends. The Japanese style keiryu gear is functional in design, minimal in bulk and completely functional for mountain stream fishing.