Where is Tenkara Perfect?

On October 14, 2013
Comments (13)

For the most part, most of my tenkara has been on the type of classic mountain stream the style of fishing evolved on. But, in my home state of Montana I also spend a lot of time on larger water than typically associated with tenkara as well as on stillwater. And I fish for both trout and warm water fish. In the last year, I’ve been truly surprised by the variety of fisheries that have impressed me as being tenkara-perfect outside of the trout world.

I suppose the biggest shock to me was finding out how much I enjoy fishing warm water ponds with my tenkara gear. Where I live, there is a nice community pond with a good population of smallmouth bass. It’s been a handy respite when local streams weren’t fishing well, or I didn’t want to drive to go fishing. I often carry my rod with me, even when just going for an evening walk around the lake. The compact size and weight of the the tackle makes it nearly unnoticeable until needed.

The highlight of this summers pond fishing was watching my girlfriend catch her first bass.

Mary’s first bass.

I also found some stream warm water fisheries that seemed perfect for tenkara. A visit home to see my parents in Missouri allowed me to revisit a stream I cut my fly fishing teeth on. This really wasn’t a fishing trip but a chance to spend some time with my folks. Again, the tenkara fishing kit was much easier to pack as an afterthought, but that made it no less effective once back in the Ozarks. I had hoped for some more smallmouth bass in a native setting for the species. A large group of spawning gar made that tough, but I did catch some nice sunfish. Someday I hope to go back when the smallmouth are biting, but I never mind catching pretty little sunnies.

Ozark Sunfish

Texas also showed me some very good warm water stream fishing. My New friend Russell Hustead showed me a stream in the middle of Arlington that, while far from being a wilderness experience, offered a welcome diversion from the city environment that makes a Montana trout bum a little uncomfortable. I was surprised to see how the same ability to hold line of the water that was such an asset in Montana mountain streams was also a huge benefit in a metro Texas sunfish stream; instead of beating conflicting currents it allowed me to hold the fly in pockets between the moss and weeds. The great line control also allowed me to use the pulse retrieve so effective on Gallatin trout on Texas bream and the light tackle matched the fish perfectly. Plus, the small warm water streamed just seemed “right” for tenkara.

Russell pulls in another.


I worked at the Fins & Feathers Fly Shop in Bozeman for several years. We were often asked what the best time to fish Montana was. Our standard answer was, “when you can”. Tenkara in mountain streams will always be my favorite, but I think the best place to fish tenkara is where you can. I’m looking forward to trying tenkara in more environments and not sure what will come next. I’d love to check out the Texas Hill Country, or spend some more time chasing Ozark warm water fish. I’d also enjoy spending some more time fishing farm ponds back in Illinois with some of my old fishing buddies. And maybe even figure out how to catch a flounder with my tenkara rod when I visit my folks in Mississippi….
The possibilities are endless, and tenkara-perfect can be wherever you find yourself.

At least I’m wearing the hat!

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13 Responses to Where is Tenkara Perfect?

  1. TJ Ferreira says:

    Super cool and great blog post. Are you sitting on some cement dock or something in the last image? TJ

  2. I’m in Belize right now 10/14/13, using keiryu rod for fly fishing for big bonefish. Mega fun! Caught small stingray today.

  3. TJ, it’s an abandoned yacht basin in Biloxi that holds flounder, small sea trout, redfish, mullet, and lots of other Gulf Coast fishes. Didn’t make it back last winter, but my parents said it didn’t fish as well.

    John, I saw you were chasing bones on FB. Best of luck to you there! Can’t wait to hear how it goes, maybe something you learn will help me catch a flounder. :)

  4. Besides trout on small mt streams and bass and ‘gills in ponds….catching juvenile bluefish in tidal saltwater marshes here on Long Island is also a blast on tenkara gear. My next saltwater target is a flounder.

  5. great blog john, shows that tenkara is good in so many places. going to use mine on the llano this week, if I don’t get flooded away!!!

  6. I have found that although tenkara can be used in a number of different environments, it really excels in high grade mountain streams. I know that is what it was used for but I think its even better in this environment than “western” fly fishing.

  7. Lance, I agree. That’s also where tenkara speaks to me the most. I’ve just been very surprised by how much fun it can be in other environments, and also think it can be very productive in them, as well.

  8. Matt Shipp says:

    I too have found myself surprised at well tenkara works fishing sunnies in clear water…delicate presentation and super fun. Great read John.

  9. Timmy says:

    We need some steady, up to date blogs! Where are you TJ? Daniel? Bring us up to speed!!!!!

  10. Jesse S says:

    Thanks for sharing what many of us Tenkara converts already know!! I love the qoute about fishing WHEN YOU CAN. I really think this is one of the best benfits of Tenkara. It is so compact and portable. I am really looking forward to having a few bucks saved and picking up an extra setup just to keep with a box of flys in the truck at all times.

  11. Jesse S, I agree. The portability is a big part of the versatility. I’m looking forward to heading back to Texas next week, and love the fact that I don’t have to do any special packing just to take my fishing gear!

  12. Jesse S says:

    I am glad you keep talking about texas fishing. I am moving there in about a month and glad to hear I don’t have to give up the rod!!

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