Do NOT throw your tenkara rod in the water

On June 11, 2014
Comments (10)

We’ve been hearing a lot of comments recently about the very stupid myth, or “instruction”, that if you catch a good size fish on tenkara, you should throw your tenkara rod in the water. And we hope you have not been taking that seriously.

So, we want to tell you: You should not throw your tenkara rod in the water. At least not a Tenkara USA rod. 

The myth is being spread with the popularity of Yvon Chouinard’s and Craig Matthew’s book, Simple Fly Fishing. It is a very unfortunate piece of instruction we wish had not been included in an otherwise decent book. It is based on old tales of anglers centuries ago throwing their wooden or bamboo rods in the water to prevent breakage.  Good modern tenkara rods are advanced tools made of carbon fiber and exponentially stronger than older rods. If high-quality carbon fiber is used and the design and construction are solid,  tenkara rods are very strong and very rarely break on fish. You may want to follow the fish a little bit as you fight it and get it in a good position (away from strong currents) to land it. But, I hope you believe us when we say you do not need to throw your rod in the water.

We do not market tenkara as a tool for targeting large fish. However, from the very beginning we recognized that if we were to successfully introduce tenkara to these shores we needed to design good rods. We could have counted on people loving the method enough that they would forgive a rod that breaks, or a rod that needs to be thrown in the water. But, we took a strong stance that tenkara rods should not break easily, and designed them with that in mind.

While we could make more money by telling you to throw your rod in the water and come buy another one, I really, really hope this message gets spread far and wide.

Don’t believe us? Here are just a couple of nice fish landed on our rods, where the angler NEVER threw the rod in the water. You can also do a search for “large fish tenkara” to find some other good examples

Do not throw your tenkara rod in the water - pike on tenkara usa ito

Shaun Lezotte landed this pike on a Tenkara USA Ito rod. Shaun is a guide for Dakota Angler & Outfitters.

Jacob lands a large fish with tenkara without throwing rod in the water

Jacob lands a large fish with tenkara without throwing his Tenkara USA Amago rod in the water

Here’s a nice short video of my wife landing a very good size trout on one of our rods. Not only does she not throw her rod in the water, but she doesn’t even have to move as the rod does all the work. She lost the second one when the hook came off the fish.
Margaret with large fish with tenkara without throwing rod in the water

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10 Responses to Do NOT throw your tenkara rod in the water

  1. Michaela says:


    I value my Yamame and Iwana rods too much to throw the rod in the water , if I could not land the fish I would just break off!, anyway I like little fish so my rods are safe.

  2. Agree 100%. I’ve always thought this was bad advice and it doesn’t even make sense. If you throw your rod in the water–you’re letting the fish regain strength and it will be even harder to land. Better to tire them out a little so they’re easier to bring in.

  3. Jimi says:

    I always thought that instruction was the equivelant of telling a deer hunter “if you miss on the first shot just throw your rifle at them.

  4. Daniel, on a related topic, what do you think of the PVC-coated “tenkara” line being sold by Patagonia?

    • Daniel says:

      The PVC line offered by Patagonia kills one of the main advantages of tenkara, which is the ability to use a very light line which stays off the water. It is easier to cast in the very beginning because it is much heavier, but the tenkara line doesn’t take long to get used to casting and when you get used to it the fishing is way better. Plus, a PVC floating line does only one thing well, which is to float, whereas a tenkara line is used with different techniques: line off the water for surface presentations, in the water to sink a bit. That makes tenkara lines more versatile. Lastly, with the PVC line being so thick it requires a leader, something unnecessary with tenkara lines.

      • Daniel, I haven’t had the chance to try the Patagonia system, but I think you are probably right on in your assessment. The floating line would seem to be a disadvantage on high gradient freestone streams. This is fixed-line, reelless fly fishing but probably not tenkara.

  5. Rob says:

    I would agree with Daniel on this one. The dynamic nature of a tenkara rod is a significant advantage in fighting fish. The long lever arm provided by a tenkara rod allows you greater control over a run (ie. you can learn to steer the fish). Daniel, I would be happy to provide you with any number of pics of very large trout caught using tenkara rods. I have thrown my rod only once – when attempting to land a large brown (27+ inches) caught on a mouse pattern when he ran straight upstream on me. I didn’t do it to prevent the rod from breaking (I had no concern about rod breakage), but rather to prevent the tippet (the weakest link in the chain) from breaking, and thus leaving a hook in the fish. And, like Daniel, I’m not sure I understand the need for PVC floating line. I would much rather enjoy the advantages of a more standard tenkara line as outlined by Daniel above. But, to each his own!

  6. Ron Landis says:

    Notwithstanding my long-time friendship with Craig Matthews, it seems that throwing my rod at a large fish is like blocking a left hook with my chin. Ouch! Something’s likely to get hurt; probably my Yamame or Sato. Frankly large fish intensify your concentration and focus your landing skills, so hold on and bring that darn thing in. Furthermore you shouldn’t care if they occasionally break off. I’d rather lie to my friends about the one that got away, than bore them with selfies. 😉 Enjoy the hook-up, tie on a new kebari, and do it all over again. Much better than mowing the lawn.

    • Daniel says:

      Ron, I agree that large fish tend to intensify our concentration and overall have the capability to make us better anglers. As long as we don’t give up and throw the rod to them :)

  7. luis says:

    I haven’t read that book, but I’ve read several articles where Yvon drops that “tip”, and frankly, it always was in a context that lean to a joke to me, as some he did in his ice climbing book.It may have had some sense in some specific fishing situations with 2 horsehair tapperd ends, or extremely thin silk, but nowadays if you take that seriously, probably you’re the kind of people who needs to be told that your microwave can’t be used to dry your cat and keep it alive at same time.

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