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GONZOSeptember 5th, 2011, 1:25 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Rather than continuing to hijack the "furled leader" thread (though there is some connection), I'm starting this thread to try to answer some of Sayfu's questions about tenkara:

I question whether it is trying to take the difficulty out of learning to fly cast, or something that can build interest in fly fishing, or has merits on its own.

It is all of the above.

I get bad vibes about telescoping rods, like the pocket fisherman concept. Never saw a telescoping rod worth a darn, but could definitely be wrong.

I felt the same way at first. I've "built" all of my fly rods since I was in my teens, and I automatically resisted having to buy a "commercial" rod, particularly a telescoping one. However, a telescoping rod is perfectly suited to fixed-line fishing. Not only does it make the long (9'-15') rod very compact and portable when collapsed, but it keeps the rod from being pulled apart when fighting a fish or freeing the line from a snag or tree. The rods have their own unique beauty and typically weigh about 3 ounces. The delicacy of the casting stroke and delivery cannot be matched by conventional gear, and the same is true of some of the presentation possiblities.

The tip of a tenkara rod is finer (often about 0.7mm) than the most delicate conventional light-line fly rods, and even 0-weight conventional fly lines are too heavy for tenkara. The line is usually either a long furled "leader" or a level length of mono or fluoro. This delicacy generally requires that a light tippet (usually under 4 lb. breaking strength) be used. Tenkara is not a "big fish" technique, but the challenge of landing bigger fish with fixed-line fly fishing is as old as fly fishing itself.

Does it come from the old English method of "dapping"?

Not really. It probably evolved independently, and its history in Japan is very old, but all fly fishing has roots in fixed-line fishing. In that sense, it is the most "traditional" of modern fly-fishing techniques. Tenkara is much like the fishing described in the "Treatise" or that of Walton and Cotton, though they used heavy wooden rods and early Japanese rods were bamboo. Its closest modern counterpart may be the traditional fly-fishing techniques still used in Valsesia in northern Italy, but tenkara takes advantage of modern carbon-fiber rod-building technology. It is not "primitive" fly fishing, just simplified (but still modern) fly fishing.

And do with get yarded up into the weeds on a set, and you have to go looking for them?

If I understand the question, you'd do whatever you usually do when a fish gets stuck in the weeds on a light tippet--dig 'em out or break 'em off. However, I suppose you could collapse the rod while digging around in the weeds. I don't know if that would be advantageous or not.

As Roguerat suggested, tenkara may be viewed as "niche" fishing or even a fad (though perhaps "conventional" fly fishing could be more appropriately described as a fad in Japan--there's no question about which is the Johnny-come-lately technique). It is no more of a fad or "niche" technique than "Spey" casting or "Czech" nymphing, and tenkara's unique ability to simplify fly fishing into its essential elements should not be lightly dismissed. That is what attracted me to it as a teaching/learning technique.

However, I have no interest in "selling" anyone (except my boss at work--misson accomplished) on the advantages of tenkara. Take it or leave it, but this lifelong "old school" fly fisher finds it very appealing on its own terms.
EntomanSeptember 5th, 2011, 3:16 pm
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
Hi Gonzo,

Trying new things keeps us young and life fresh. Especially when they are challenging. Like spey casting, I don't think tenkara is a fad like pet rocks or bell bottomed jeans. It is so practical for it's intended use that it's probably here to stay. I remember being so impressed with a spey rod's obvious advantages on the big steelhead rivers out here that I couldn't help but take it up. It was flounder city for the first several years until doing a very important thing. I left my conventional gear at home... It was a crutch preventing me from mastering the new tackle! If you really want to learn to ballroom dance, don't spend your time at the disco.:)

It seems to me that anybody who spends much time on genteel freestones, small tribs and the like should consider tenkara more than a viable alternative. If you think about it, we already do much the same thing when we fish our flies close on a fixed length of line - only using our conventional tackle does it less efficiently and effectively. I find myself doing this often enough on little water that I never did go in for the short rods so popular now. What a way to focus out attention on the important things: positioning, presentation, stealth, etc. Bottom line, it's just downright elegant and an intriguing way to participate in the trout's world.

Regards,

Kurt

P.S. Another thing I find intriguing is the beautiful tenkara style of wet fly with the hackle tied slanting forward instead of back like the conventional wingless wet.
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
GONZOSeptember 5th, 2011, 5:46 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Hi Kurt,

I hadn't seen the "Tenkara" thread in the "Related Discussions" until just now. I had no idea that it had already stirred up some small controversy--go figure.

I strongly favor short rods (6'-7') for trib fishing with conventional tackle, but many of my favorite headwaters and tribs are classic rhododenron tunnels for much of their length. I've built and used even shorter rods, but have settled on the 6'-7' range as best for the tribs I fish. (In fact, I just built a delightful new pair of 7' small-stream rods earlier this summer. I have a fishing buddy who wanted one, so he offered to pay for the materials for both of our rods in exchange for my design and assembly.)

Although I have my doubts about the application of tenkara on some of my favorite tunnel tribs, on meadow streams, beaver ponds, and even many of the small-to-medium freestone and limestone streams that I fish regularly, tenkara presents some new possibilities and even solves some old problems. (It might even renew my flagging interest in Trico fishing, though it doesn't look like that will happen this season.)

FWIW (and it's probably not much), I have another (well-to-do) friend who fishes with cane rods that I could never hope to afford in places that I could never hope to afford. (For example, he used to regularly fish the exclusive Atlantic salmon club waters on Anticosti--experiences that even Lee Wulff envied when they first met.) Earlier this year, he returned from a spur-of-the-moment float trip on the Green, and I shared my thoughts about using tenkara to teach kids to fly fish. He'd never heard of it. Within a week, he had a 12' 6/4 Tenkara USA Iwana and has been talking tenkara nonstop ever since. I wouldn't have guessed that he would respond that way, but you just never know. He plans to get a longer and stiffer (perhaps a 7/3) tenkara rod for his next trip to the Green. His thoughts about using the rod in a drift boat on big water are intriguing, but we'll have to wait to see how it all works out. ;)
EntomanSeptember 5th, 2011, 7:06 pm
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
I strongly favor short rods (6'-7') for trib fishing with conventional tackle, but many of my favorite headwaters and tribs are classic rhododenron tunnels for much of their length.


Yeah, makes sense. Out west our tribs are more likely to be encumbered with riparian willow bushes or high bank grass than tree canopies. We don't have a lot of trout streams in hardwood forests.

His thoughts about using the rod in a drift boat on big water are intriguing, but we'll have to wait to see how it all works out. ;)


I can see his point regarding presentation. For quick precision placement of the fly as a guide is barking out spots, I can't think of a better way. The guide can keep you in the 25 foot ranges of targets easily with the boat. My concern is what to do with the fish. That's an awful lot of big water and the good trout love to take advantage of it. I've had more than a few almost jerk the rod out of my hand on the take and head downstream so fast that they were into my backing before I could say "what the heck." :)
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
GONZOSeptember 5th, 2011, 7:23 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
My concern is what to do with the fish. That's an awful lot of big water and the good trout love to take advantage of it. I've had more than a few almost jerk the rod out of my hand on the take and head downstream so fast that they were into my backing before I could say "what the heck." :)

Yeah, that is my concern, but mostly for the fish. If a fish jerks the rod out his hand (unlikely if he's using the proper tippet), well...he can afford to just buy another. ;)
EntomanSeptember 5th, 2011, 7:42 pm
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
:)
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
CaseyPSeptember 5th, 2011, 9:24 pm
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
was gifted a Tenkara USA Yamame rod. 'sposed to be the one for bigger fish. yup, you can land 16"+ fish, but you can also break the tip. then you send an e-mail and Tenkara USA sends a new tip section for a ridiculously small price, and you install it as directed with no tools in about 17 seconds.

in reality, they were designed for smaller streams at higher altitudes where the fish are small, and they are really great for just that.

dunno as i'd really want to waste my drift boat time with such a rig, but they are really IT for smallish streams with taller trees. i always catch more fish with my Tenkara, but maybe that's because i don't expect to.
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
GONZOSeptember 5th, 2011, 9:46 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Cool, Casey. Thanks. And yes, I am a bit worried about the fragile tips with the kids. We'll probably be using the composite Fountainhead Caddisfly rods in the hope that they might be more forgiving of mishandling (and for the unbeatable price). Then again, I've seen kids break plenty of spincasting tackle, and it might just be the price we'll have to pay for a simple intro to fly fishing.
OldredbarnSeptember 6th, 2011, 12:16 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
My concern is what to do with the fish. That's an awful lot of big water and the good trout love to take advantage of it. I've had more than a few almost jerk the rod out of my hand on the take and head downstream so fast that they were into my backing before I could say "what the heck." :)


Kurt, Gonzo, Casey,

I get weekly updates to my inbox from Blue Ribbon Flies and it appears that Mr. Mathews has gone "ga-ga" over Tenkara. It would be interesting to know if he's out on the Madison with one...I think there may be a vid on their site.

It kind of reminds me of those very old films of some natives fishing the northwestern rivers in the old days. Maybe you have seen this footage. There were natural narrows where they had extended scaffolding etc out over the river and they had these long rods and would snag a fish and swing in out and in to large baskets...Maybe they were spears...Memory's foggy.

Speaking of small rods and tight streams...I fished a stream near my grandparents old homestead back in the day where I was literally casting in a tunnel of growth. Situations like this let you know right away about how good or bad your casting is.

I would catch the nicest brookies there. The darkest I've ever seen and towards evening they would be so stuffed with caddis pupae they would be spitting them up...The Browns in there, I read in latter years, were more plentiful than in the PM. The only problem was the size of the river was so small if you stuck your toe in they knew you were there...Also, so loaded with crayfish the big boys mostly fed at night anyway.

Spence

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
SayfuSeptember 7th, 2011, 11:45 pm
Posts: 560Gonzo..Excellent post, and I understand Tenkara, and its use a lot better now. I was trying to be funny on the weed/set statement, and should have reread my post. I wanted to say, do hooked fish get tossed up in the weeds on the set. I could see a long rod with fixed amount of line launching smaller fish. Wish I hadn't even said it. Thanks for the lengthy, and informative post.
GONZOSeptember 8th, 2011, 12:12 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Happy to oblige, Sayfu. Sorry for misinterpreting your question; I'm sure some fish flinging happens, though some folks can manage that pretty well on conventional tackle. On little brookie tribs, a buddy of mine is so expert at overanxious fish-flinging hooksets that I've considered carrying a catcher's mitt. ;)

BTW, my well-to-do tenkara-crazed friend sent me this link by e-mail yesterday:
http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/flytalk/2011/09/lake-trout-tenkara-rod?cmpid=enews090711

SayfuSeptember 8th, 2011, 9:07 am
Posts: 560
I was guiding on the Yakima in WA ST. one time, and a client hooked a small fish, and hit me right along side the head with it. And I also had a guy hook a fish on his backcast. That's what they mean when they say "rippin lips" I guess.
OldredbarnSeptember 8th, 2011, 1:03 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
a buddy of mine is so expert at overanxious fish-flinging hooksets that I've considered carrying a catcher's mitt. ;)


I was guiding on the Yakima in WA ST. one time, and a client hooked a small fish, and hit me right along side the head with it. And I also had a guy hook a fish on his backcast. That's what they mean when they say "rippin lips" I guess.


Boys...I hate when that happens! I was fishing a stocked pond. They stuff it with with large hatchery has-beens. I'm in my float-tube and I see a rise near some overhanging brush. I set the hook and instead of a 20+er it was a small bass...I ducked as the poor little fella zoomed over my head...Have you ever appologized to a fish?

Spence

Odd hookups...1) I raced up north back in the 90's some time and hit the river running. On nearly my first cast I catch a brookie. As I'm removing the hook the fly hits the water and as I'm bending down to let the first one go a second brook runs off with my fly...I said to myself, "Nice way to start the damn day, kid!"

2) I have had one time only where I hooked a rather small brook and as I was stripping him in a larger fish nabbed him and bent my rod right down...I tried to get in to a position to see this fish but he let go and I never saw him...I actually released the rather traumatized little brook...Again. Have you ever appologized to a fish?

3) Sitting on a frozen lake ice fishing. My friend has a minnow rig setting off to the side that was untouched for most of the day as we jigged for panfish. He gets a nice fish on and I try as quickly as I can to remove my line from the water. Unfortunately I was too late and our lines entangled. My friend wanted me to break off. I was using old 6x left over tippet as my line, but as I reeled the fish kept coming my way...Out of my hole in the ice popped a 26" northern! We had to unhook the fish and my friend had to drop his rig back through my hole so he could reel it back in...I have a picture somewhere and my poor friend said, "I finally catch a damn pike through the ice and for ever there will be an asterisk next to it...Reeled in on 6x by Spence...Damn!" Ok...Have you ever apologized to a buddy? :)
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Jmd123September 8th, 2011, 1:37 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2473
I've given a few small fish flying lessons in my time too...

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...

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