It started last fall when I was at an event hosted by the Beaver Creek Fly Shop. James, the owner, had a young lady demonstrating how to cast a tenkara rod. I was amazed at how simple, easy, and fun it was to cast. I am sure most of you have felt it. You go to the same river or stream that you always go to, break out your favorite 5wt rod and off you go. Fun, but sometimes it feels like a routine. At least for me it does — at times.
So when I started casting the tenkara rod, it was something new and exciting. After doing a little research and talking to Vernon, the manager at Beaver Creek, I decided to buy a tenkara rod. I purchased the TenkaraUSA Iwana model – a good all round tenkara rod. For those of you interested in getting into tenkara, the price to get started is very reasonable. For a little over $200, I had what I needed to get started. My first trip was last November to Western Maryland to fish Big Run State Park for brookies. That morning, I started with my 2wt rod. I caught a few fish but was not enjoying how the rod cast. After lunch, I switched to my new tenkara rod. Instantly, I was having a blast casting to and catching little 6” brookies. One thing that I like about tenkara is how accurate your casts are, which is great if you want to target feeding fish.
Now, if you research tenkara, which means “from the heavens” in Japanese, it involves not only a type of rod, but also a philosophy/mindset about how to fish tenkara. To start, the rod is not your typical fly fishing rod. It’s a telescopic rod that can be between 10’-13’ feet. The Iwana is 12 feet long. Plus, no reel is involved. The line is attached to the tip of the rod.
Also, true Tenkara believers don’t rely on multiple fly patterns. It relies on a pretty basic reverse hackle fly, called the Sakasa Kebari, which means backward fly in Japanese. It is believed that these simple flies will catch fish if fished the proper way.
I am not a tenkara “purist.” But I do enjoy tenkara fishing. However, so far, I have used more traditional flies. In fact, during one trip this spring, I used a hopper/dropper rig and had a blast catching trout on both flies. This included a couple of 15-16 inch trout near Cunningham Falls.
The challenging part is what you do when you catch a fish. Again, there is no reel. With bigger fish, this can be a rather comical issue. Basically, you end up grabbing the line and hand fighting the fish. But it’s a fun fight. While these rods are lightweight, I had no trouble landing fish up to 16 inches. It’s great for smaller fish. When you catch a five inch brook trout, it’s a blast and gives you a fun fight.
During my tenkara year, I fished with the rod about six times. I have fished for sunnies, bass, and trout with some success. I even tried it in Florida for mangrove snapper ( I had a nice hit – I think). It’s fun and while I don’t see myself ever becoming a tenkara “purist” and ditching my favorite 5wt, it is now part of my fly fishing arsenal. It’s a fun way to fish and I am looking forward to next year. It’s something new to learn, which is always a fun part of this sport.
Thanks for reading this issue of “Streamlines.” I hope to see you at our monthly meetings, upcoming fly tying classes, or other club events!