Tenkara fishing has recently become wildly popular across the United States. It is not a new technique…in fact it is one of the oldest forms of fly fishing originating in Japan. There are many things about Tenkara fishing that make it so attractive, but as a seasoned fly fishing guide I am going to give you a short run-down on why it is attractive to me, and where it fits in to my role as a fishing guide as well as recreational fun for myself and my family.
One phrase comes to mind when I think of Tenkara: “Keep it Simple, Stupid!” There are times, and situations to get technical while fishing, and other times to keep it super simple and just have some fun. When its time for the latter, I normally turn to Tenkara. You have a telescopic rod that packs down easily into a backpack, a line that attaches right to the end of the rod, and then tippet connecting the line to your fly….thats it! You can literally fit everything you need for a day on the water into your shirt pocket. This makes it perfect for combining fishing with other outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and mountain biking.
Where Tenkara fishing shines in my neck of the woods (Western NC), is the small mountain streams we have so many of. Typically these are small streams and creeks filled with small to medium sized trout that do not see a lot of fishing pressure. Here, presentation is everything, and fly selection is not nearly as important. You don’t have to cast far, and the trout aren’t going to make any long runs where having a reel with drag is a necessity. Because Tenkara rods are longer than the average fly rod, it becomes easier to make good drag-free drifts because of the lack of line being held on the water….the result is often times more strikes from fooled trout. What do you do when you hook up on a fish? Play the fish with the rod until it shows signs of becoming tired, then simply grab the line with your free hand and bring him to your side to be released.
I have found that Tenkara fishing is possibly the perfect gateway to fly fishing for new anglers. There is not a lot of equipment to purchase, and the casting/presentation technique can be learned in under an hour. It’s a great activity for families to enjoy as well. I could fish all day, every day, but my family isn’t nearly as die-hard as I am. The solution is a day hike to a waterfall with a Tenkara rod stowed away in the backpack. Take a snack-break along the creek, put the rod together real quick, and the family can all have some fun catching a few trout. It’s all about having fun, and keeping it simple is the best way to do that!
Written by Matt Cantor