Tenkara fly fishing is a rapidly growing fishing style in North America. The roots and history come from the high mountain streams of Japan where commercial fishermen developed an incredibly effective way to take smaller to medium sized trout with a fly.
Tenkara rods are much different than the fly rods we are familiar with. There are no guides, no reel and the rod is telescopic. The rods vary in length from around eight feet to about sixteen feet, with the most common sizes being between eight feet and fourteen feet. The line attaches to the tip of the rod. The line needs to be around the same length as the rod, but longer or shorter lines work just fine. All of this comes together in a very simple style of fly fishing that almost anyone can learn.
Now you may be wondering how the angler lands a big fish with no reel to play the fish with? The answer is simple – just about all trout, regardless of size should be played with the rod, whether you are Tenkara fishing or fishing with a normal fly rod. Only in an incredibly rare situation do we fight trout on the reel. The difference between Tenkara and regular fly fishing is the lack of reel and length of the rods. With Tenkara, a big or small fish is brought to hand by moving the rod backwards over your shoulder and grabbing the line or netting the fish, just like a fish on a “Western” fly rod should be landed.
There are many traditional Tenkara flies, or “Kebari,” which means “fly” in Japanese, but the most recognizable is the Sakasa Kebari. This style of fly is like an English soft-hackle or spider with the hackle turned backwards over the eye. Some people like these flies and only fish Japanese flies, some fish the “Western” flies we are used to. One of the major pillars of Tenkara is the idea of only using one fly for every situation.
Tenkara is a very simple, almost instinctual way of fishing. Beginners find Tenkara to be an incredibly inviting way to enter the world of fly fishing for trout.
Great Feathers offers Tenkara guiding and instruction on the Gunpowder Falls and its tributaries. We use Tenkara USA gear in all of our lessons.