Tenkara Fly Fishing?

So what is this thing called Tenkara?

From dailygazette.com Schenectady, NY
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Morgan Lyle

It is making a comeback. Tenkara, a centuries-old Japanese style of fly-fishing that uses a telescoping carbon fiber rod, 10-foot line, tippet and fly — no reel — is beginning to show up on trout creeks and Web sites across the country.

read the whole story here Fly-Fishing: Tenkara interest growing

Well – I have recently just heard of this type of fly-fishing and I like the sound of it. However, I don’t have any experience at all with it, I’ve never even seen a Tenkara Fly Rod.

Luckily for me though I bumped into someone in cyberspace that does have Tenkara experience and he was kind enough to share a few words. So I’m turning it over to C.M. Stewart:

I like simplicity. The route that got me started fishing with a tenkara rod is complex, though. A couple years ago I saw a picture of a North Country soft hackle on an internet forum. I was struck by the elegant simplicity of just a wisp of hackle and a bit of silk thread. I had to learn more. Through research I concluded that I couldn’t fish them to best advantage with my 8′ 5-weight. I needed a longer, lighter rod. I researched loop rods (the kind used by Dame Juliana Berners and Isaac Walton, not the ones made by a company in Sweden) and horsehair lines. Researching horsehair line triggered links to tenkara fishing in Japan, because horsehair lines were used there as well. Conceptually, a tenkara rod is just like a loop rod, in that there is no reel or guides. The line is tied to the rod tip. No one fishes with loop rods anymore, but tenkara fishing is alive and well in Japan, and just beginning to make a presence in the US. (Conceptually, it’s like a cane pole too, but with a cane pole you can’t cast a size 16 elk hair caddis to a rising fish 20′ away using a line so light that it never hits the water and only the fly and a couple feet of tippet touch down without even a ripple.)

To me, the two main attractions of tenkara fishing are presentation and simplicity. The long, light rod and short, light line allow me to fish in ways that I just can’t with a shorter rod and a heavier line. My tenkara rods are 12′ long. My line, including tippet, is 13′ long, and is basically a long hand tied leader with a very long butt section of 10# test fluorocarbon spinning line, a very short transition taper, and 2′ of 6x tippet. (Some tenkara anglers prefer tapered lines like those sold by Tenkara USA. I like what is called “level line tenkara” even though I cheat a bit and put in a short transition taper.)

I learned the hard way that with a line longer than that I couldn’t net a fish, because the rod bends – a lot. It was a nice fish, too. I learned the hard way to use light tippet. Before I could get a real tenkara rod I used a graphite panfish pole, which looks the same but isn’t nearly as strong, and I broke the rod on what would have been the biggest trout of my life. The line is not just dapped, it is cast, and it casts beautifully. Because the line is short, and so light, I can fish with just the fly and a foot or so of tippet in the water. That’s pretty handy when fishing in tricky currents or eddies. (Yes, you can do that with your 9′ rod, but I can do it 20′ away.) With no line in the water, there is never any line splash, I never line a fish, and drag is minimized. I am convinced that improved presentation more than makes up for the limited casting distance. I catch more fish now than I ever did with my fly rod.

I was initially attracted by the presentation, but what I now like most is the simplicity. Fishing (like life) used to be a lot simpler. I didn’t need a ton of stuff to fish and a second mortgage to pay for it. In a way, tenkara takes me back to those simpler times. I can concentrate on the cast and the take and not have to worry about the stripped in line wrapping around my legs or trying to get a fish onto the reel. To land a fish I just raise the rod tip. An 8 or 9 inch fish pretty much comes right in. An 11 or 12 inch fish races around a bit and jumps (even the browns, it seems), but succumbs pretty quickly. A 15 or 16 inch fish gets my adrenaline pumping, because I’m just not sure who’s going to win the fight. Much bigger than that and the fish will always win, because with no reel I can’t let it run. That’s OK with me, though, because I always remember the big ones that got away.
C.M. Stewart

The first American tenkara tackle company just opened for business: Tenkara USA. Their rods are typically 12-ft long but “telescope” to a mere 20-inches. Now that’s a travel rod. Tenkara USA’s sells its rods for between $130 and $160 (and they are guaranteed for life). The furled lines sell for $20.

The Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum (CFFCM) will present a talk and demonstration of Tenkara Fishing by Dr. Hisao Ishigaki at the CFFCM in Livingston Manor, NY on Saturday, May 23. For more information, please call the CFFCM at 845-439-4810.

what say you?