Tenkara Tips

What You Need

  • Rod, line, tippet, a few flies, nippers
  • Rod: single or multiple lengths, telescopic
  • Popular U.S. vendors: Tenkara USA, DRAGONtail
  • Don’t need special flies — use whatever you want — but worth trying Tenkara flies


Tenkara flies (tenkara kebari) place less emphasis on imitation and more on presentation. They reflect a tenkara philosophy of relying on technique instead of gear. Most tenkara anglers in Japan only use one fly pattern, each one having his favorite one. 

Gear Setup 

  • Line length: start with about same length of rod but can be any length, much longer + 4/5’ tippet (use the heaviest tippet you can get away with, I usually use 5x or 3x)
  • Don’t break the tip! Easy to do. To open, hold close to the opening and pull out each section, put line on before extending it out
  • Line to rod: loop to Lillian or Tenkara “one knot” to Lillian
  • Line to tippet: tippet ring/swivel to tippet or  “one knot” (double fisherman’s knot) for tippet and figure-8 knot for level line

Fishing Tenkara

  • Casting: hold with index finger on top, and end of handle; up to 12 o’clock and forward to 10, quick motion; need quicker snap for level line
  • Best for dry fly fishing: dead drift, pulsating, pause and drift, pulling
  • Landing fish: rod at 45 degrees or higher and angle back then grab line, keep arm close in to body and hand line it in and net
  • Lightest presentation ever, great for dry flies


  • Furled lines: traditional, easy to cast, not great for wind, can get wind knots and twisted up easily, sinks over time and needs treated. 
  • Tapered Nylon: easy to cast, good float and presentation, good starter line; tippet ring, 
  • Sinking Line: I’ve only used one from DRAGONtail with swivel, extra long length, works well with small streamers, nymphs
  • Level Line: Cut to any length, low drag drift, little memory, doesn’t twist up, a bit more work

General Notes

  • Tenkara flies with reverse hackle are hard to tie on with some knots; I use the Tenkara “one knot” which is basically a double loop slip knot. Simple.
  • I use this same knot for level line to rod and line to tippet and it’s very strong.
  • The idea of using just a couple of flies and varying techniques is very liberating, and I’ve caught just as many fish doing this as with trying to match what’s in the water.
  • A long Tenkara rod is a good way to try Euro nymphing
  • Use whatever fly you want, including dry/droppers. The main thing I’ve found is that I can generally get better presentation with Tenkara
  • Be wary of  moving from place to place: this is where you risk breaking that tiny end segment and getting your line all twisted up. Consider a line holding solution for your rod