Pulsing Tenkara Flies

On October 31, 2013
Comments (14)

by John Geer

Pulsing flies has become one of my favorite techniques to use with a tenkara rod, but the idea of imparting motion to flies was very strange to me after having the importance of a dead drift pounded into me for so long. Luckily, I was able to watch Daniel and Dr. Ishigaki catch many fish using this technique and made it a point to add it to my own bag of tricks. Here are some points I’ve learned that I hope will help you:

Distance – This concerns the distance of your hands and rod tip from your body. Try not to over reach or you’ll have no cushion when a fish takes the fly which can cause break offs. This is true anytime you’re fishing tenkara, but becomes more important with the aggressive takes that pulsing sometimes brings on. Don’t work the fly too close to you or you’ll find it hard to set the hook and control the fly. Find the sweet spot for the line and rod you’re fishing.

Rhythm – Trout almost always feed in a rhythm, just watch them rise sometime. Flies pulsed in a rhythmic fashion may not entice more strikes, but will lead to more solid hook ups. Slow usually works best for me, but on any given day the rhythm can change.

Angle – I usually like to cast down and slightly across when I pulse flies. Some very good anglers like to work more downstream. Casting flies upstream and pulsing them back to you can make hook sets difficult. Find your own sweet spot on angle, but remember that sometimes you’ll just have to work with what the situation offers.

Grip – A lot of the time, you’ll want to lay a small amount of your casting line on the water during the rest between pulses. You may not need to do this if you’re fishing a large and/or heavy fly, but it will help you keep from over working the standard size sakasa flies many of us fish. You’ll learn to adjust the grip you use with the rhythm and angle you’re fishing, along with the current speed.

Taking the first letter of all of these spells out DRAG, which helped me remember this while doing the video. I hope it helps you solve some problems on your next fishing trip, and I hope that trip comes soon.

[Daniel’s notes: the concept of pulsing or manipulating tenkara flies is very simple, yet the tips above will help you improve hook-up rates. The main “mistakes” I see when teaching folks how to pulse their tenkara flies are that they just erratically move their tenkara rod with no rhythm, and as a result miss a lot of fish. Also, fishing too close or too far from their bodies, which translates into lack of control. John did a terrific job at summarizing them in the video and points above].

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14 Responses to Pulsing Tenkara Flies

  1. TJ says:

    Awesome John. This will help me for sure.

    My pulsing to date has been fast and furious (like Vin Diesel) and less rhythm that what I see in your video.

    I will try slowing down and do a more melodic rhythm and see if I get more hits.

    Thanks for the great vid!


  2. John Walker says:

    Do you have a post that explains other techniques and when to use (upstream, downstream, dead drift, long line, short line, etc.)?

  3. Adam says:

    Yes! Technique blog posts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cant wait for more! Or even technique clinics on streams!

  4. John, I think we may be dong more of that sort of thing in the future, in fact you’ve given me some good idea’s for future posts. Thanks for the feed back.

  5. Great video John! I agree with you that the best approach for the pulse is down and across. I sometimes do it upstream and it works, but like you say in the video, the hookset can be tricky.

    During the “normal” trout fishing season, this presentation is basically 90% of how I fish. In the colder winter months (coming up), I know trout aren’t as willing to chase a moving fly as much so I tend to use a dead drift presentation.

    In any case, unlike many traditional fly anglers, my first instinct is to give action to the fly first. And if that doesn’t work, dead drift. If that doesn’t work, there is always dynamite. Though that makes catch & release difficult.

  6. Thanks, Jason. On some of the rivers I fish a lot, I notice real trends and will start with the presentation that usually works there. On this stretch of the Gallatin, if they’re not eating pulsed fly the fishing is probably going to be slow, but others it seems to switch up a lot.

  7. Matt Shipp says:

    Great video John. It is great to have insight into techniques that others find productive. My most productive presentation is definitely letting the fly hang in the current downstream and giving it a little jig before lifting it and then skeetering it back on the surface…ten colors.

  8. Timmy says:

    Awesome video! HOWEVER, im having a real problem hearing it? I have my computer volume set to the max and the video volume to the max and can barely hear what you are saying. I know im OLD but is anyone else having a hard time with the sound? Can you re-engineer it and crank up the sound or maybe “closed caption” for the hearing impaired?

  9. The video is a little quiet,but it’s tough for me to change that at this point. Sometimes I’ll pop in ear phones for videos that are hard to hear, but don’t really like them. I did try the cc option that youtube does automatically. It was pretty funny to read their programs interpretations of what I’m saying. Next time I’ll make sure the voiceover is louder.

  10. Dale H. says:

    This is a great video. It might be a phase, but I tend to watch more videos on technique than a lot of the other Tenkara videos now.


  11. martin says:

    Great video. This is what I like of this site. Lots of tips about techniques with Tenkara. Thanks for sharing it.

  12. David says:

    For John Walker. To find some tips on other kebari ( fly) presentation techniques.

    Do a google search for ” vimeo Tenkarausa ” . Probably the top hit will be – Tenkara USA on vimeo.

    Click on that link and you will find 28 videos. Two videos: A) Tenkara Masters – Lessons with Dr Ishigaki and Sakakabara Masami – casting and presentation techniques. B) Tenkara Masters – a few lessons on tenkara fly -fishing. The two videos are essentially the same video but with different editing. Both are about 19 minutes. And show various ways of presentation.

    Next – Go the the Tenkara USA forum and search for “Animated gifs of kebari presentation”. Click on the link in that thread, the url is lureshark. ( it is not an English language site)

    Scroll down the lureshark page and you will find gifs of several tenkara fishing techniques ; pulsing, dead drift, skipping a dry fly on the surface both up stream and down stream, letting the current swing the kebari to a feeding spot, etc.

    Maybe this is helpful as a starting point though not answers to all your questions.

  13. mike says:

    very nice post and video john. you got me stoked to hit a local stream. i appreciate your reference to mr. klass as well. thanks for sharing and way to stick those fish.

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