In over a decade in business we have received many questions on all aspects of tenkara. This is the first episode trying to cover as many questions as we could compile on tenkara lines, tenkara flies and more.
00:03 – This is Daniel Gallardo and you’re listening to the Tenkara Cast, the podcast about the simple Japanese method of fly fishing, tenkara. In the Tenkara Cast I’ll be sharing information with you on techniques, history, gear and philosophies, as well as tenkara stories from anglers all over the world. This podcast is brought to you by Tenkara USA, introducing tenkara outside of Japan since 2009. It is only possible we create content such as this podcast and all the videos that we create, because of your support, so we thank you so very much for purchasing Tenkara USA rods, lines and flies. I hope you enjoy learning more about this simple Japanese method of fly fishing, tenkara.
00:46 – Hi everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Tenkara Cast, my name is Daniel, I’m your host and in this podcast, I cover everything tenkara. If you’re new to the podcast, please take a look at our previous episodes. We have covered a lot of good content over the last couple, a few years now, and if you haven’t done yet, please subscribe to the podcast so you can get a notification on your phone through your favorite podcast app. We are now also available via Spotify, if you use that, I know a lot of people use it. So this episode is a part two of our Q&A on tenkara. Part one, I covered a couple of general questions about tenkara. A couple of, one of them was like whether tenkara is good for beginners. How so, why and whether tenkara is good for backpacking? And then I went into most things I could think about in terms of tenkara rods. If I didn’t answer your question on everything that you wanted to know about ’em, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line at tenkarausa.com/podcast or whatever other means, you can email us, you can send a message through our blog and podcast page and so forth, or Facebook.
02:00 – In this episode, I’m gonna cover pretty much all the commonly asked questions that we get about about tenkara lines and other questions that we thought would be beneficial to have here. So it’s kind of a bigger thing, but I’m also gonna try to get into tenkara flies and some other questions that we get pretty often. So hopefully, I answer all your questions, if by the end of the episode, I haven’t, please don’t hesitate to contact me as well. Now, let’s start with, 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.
03:29 – 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.
04:53 – 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.
06:00 – 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.
07:02 – 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.
08:02 – 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.
08:57 – 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.
09:23 – So I just mentioned level line. Another common question that we get is what type of lines are used with Tenkara? So there’s two main terms you’re gonna see relating to tenkara lines: level line or tapered 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.
10:18 – So 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.
11:05 – Now, 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.
11:46 – 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.
12:21 – Now, another question that we get is, 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.
13:34 – What length line… Sorry 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.
16:55 – What’s the difference between a tenkara line and a western fly line? That’s one of the questions. But I think I also get very commonly asked question is, 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.
18:00 – Let’s see, so I think that’s… Oh, I think in terms of the lines… What knots do you use for connecting your tenkara line to your rod and then the tippet to line? So there’s 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.
19:00 – 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.
20:12 – 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.
20:52 – Now, let’s get into tenkara fly. So we’re at 20 minutes, I can keep covering it [chuckle] in the same episode without having to break it up. First question, 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.
21:43 – 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.
22:53 – 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.
24:13 – 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.
24:48 – 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,” O-K-I, 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.
25:51 – 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.
26:57 – 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.
28:23 – 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. So how do I cast a heavier fly with tenkara? And along with that, I’m gonna pair, how do I avoid rod breakages from using a heavier fly? So there’s 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.
29:38 – 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.
30:40 – 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.
32:06 – So again, to the question, 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’s 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.
33:33 – 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.
34:37 – 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.
35:52 – 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.
37:07 – 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 M-A-M-U-S-H-I, 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.
38:55 – 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. Somebody asked, 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.
39:50 – 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.
41:21 – 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.
42:58 – 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.
44:07 – Another one. Do I cast with the tenkara rod or do I just dap? And if casting, how do I cast with tenkara? So yes, absolutely. 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.
45:34 – What’s the difference between casting with a tenkara rod and a western fly casting? So 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.
46:20 – 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. And lastly, 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.
47:13 – 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.
47:53 – But again, if you come to our website, look up the video on how to land a large fish with tenkara, you’re gonna see how that’s done at a little bit more clearly. So that’s it. Hopefully, I cover most of the questions that you’ve had about tenkara. If you have other ones, if there’s enough, I’ll cover another episode, but if you have any specific questions, things that… It doesn’t matter what kind of question it is, things that you’ve been curious about, if you… Pretty much everything has been answered either in my book, or through various posts and that kind of thing, but don’t hesitate to ask me again, because I don’t mind at all if you just drop us a note and you have a question. Even if it’s a super basic question that you’re wondering, don’t hesitate to come to tenkarausa.com/podcast. Leave me a comment so that I can respond directly to you as well. But, thanks so much for listening to another episode of the Tenkara Cast and until next time.
49:02 – And as always, I’d like to especially thank Nick Ogawa Takenobu. You can find his music at Takenobumusic.com as well as our Spotify playlists. In Spotify, just look up Tenkara and you should find Tenkara Tunes with a lot of Takenobu’s music. Find any information referenced to this podcast at tenkarausa.com/podcast. Just find the link to this podcast episode and you’ll find any photos, links or any information referenced right there. This song is called Voyage Across the Sea by Takenobu.