This Summer, I was checking out my facebook posts and friend's status when a small add caught my attention. An ad with a link to a company called TenkaraUSA, promoting a different type of fly fishing. Being curious and always look for new techniques and angles on fly fishing, I clicked on the ad. This was sort of the beginning of the end (of regular fly fishing). Well, maybe not the end but certainly an eye opener.
Maybe your are like me, fly fishing for a few years now, having accumulated a wealth of different fly rod, reels, waders, boots, pontoon, a few dozen fly boxes filled with flies, fly tying material stuffed in dozens of boxes etc. and wondered if there is a simpler approach.
I guess I found that simpler apprach, knowing well that I will not give up "regular" or "Western" fly fishing as it is referred to in Tenkara circles.
Tenkara is a form of fishing with a fly that was developped in Japan over the last few centuries. Today, very long telescopic carbon fibre rods are used, typically in the 11-13 ft range, but there are rod that are shorter and longer as well. There is no reel and traditional fly line which would be too heavy for the fragile rod tip. Instead you attach the line to the tip of the rod. For lines, there are a few options: 1) a furled line, typically 10.5ft long, to which you attach a length of tippet - 2) a level line of "heavy" mono or fluor carbon. I have read of people using 000 weight fly line sections of extra long (12ft) tapered leaders of poly leaders, but those do not seem to be that popular. Setup
As for flies, the opinion is that you can use any fly you like (or multiple fly setup), I typically use the same flies I would for regular fly fishing, i.e. nymph & dropper or dry & dropper, but I am starting to venture to use original tenkara flies, such as sakasa kebari which is a reverse soft hackle fly.
Contrary to popular believe that you need to use a short rod on small creeks, Tenkara originates from Japans mountain streams and the long rods do actually help to fish effectively small streams (I agree that if cover is very heavy it's a problem, but I have been fishing creeks on the Colordo Front Range with my Tenkara rod very effectively - more so than with my 7'6"ft 3 wt.).
Catching and landing a fish... well, yes, it is a challenge to fight and land a big fish (let's say 16" and bigger) but it is possible with the proper technique. That being said, my first trout I hooked was pushing 18" and I lost her, but the same day I landed a nice sized brown that I hooked on the far side of the river and had to maneuver through fast and rough water to my side of the river (a net for landing fish helps a lot - unfortunately I lost my net after landing that nice brown).
The beauty of Tenkara is that you have a rod, a line, no reel and a small box of flies that's all you need. Did I mention that a Tenkara rod collapses to about 20" of length and is very transportable and very suited for the backpacker that wants to fly fish?
I know I left out a lot of stuff, but think I have some of the basics covered.
More to come soon, stay tuned.
Tight Lines, -K