What is Tenkara ?



One word : Simplicity! Tenkaraly simple, one rod, one line and one flie.


Tenkara is a telescopic rod that as no reel and no fly line. Simply a line at the end of the rod, that make the caracteristic of being realy economical and very pratical.


Most of us we have all one day done some Tenkara. Remember when you where a kid and took a branch at put a line at the end of it that you took from your dad fishing box little worm that y a clump, well that is what is fly fishing Tenkara is !


Whether you are a fly fisherman of experience or a neophytein the domain of the fly fishing world, learning process of the casting will take just a few minutes.


There is a lot of avantage to have a Tenkara rod. Like she is ultra-light, compact and takes just a few second to take it up and down, outdoors poeple (trekking, canoe, bike, climbing...) and the travellers will find a lots of pratical advantage.


If you have to cross a river, simply take it in and put the rod in your wader, like that you will have your hand free and be more secure. You will also walk more freely in the forest not having your flie or the rod caught in the branches. The other advantage is if you fish for several hours you will not suffer from fatigue of your arm because of her lightweight and you simply do on cast, there is no false cast in Tenkara. Whit that in mind your flie is more in the water so more chance to catch fish. 


Historic of Tenkara


Tenkara is an ancient japanese fly fishing method that exist for about 400 years (no official)


The word Tenkara means ''From the skies or From the heaven''. We do not excatly no when or how that name came across. There's a few writing about it but not saying that much.


Tenkara was fish in mountain stream of Japan in a commercial way. The kind of fish caught was and still are, are : Ayu, Iwana(fish of the rock), Amago (fish in the rain) & Yamame (women in the mountain).


The fly fisherman in Spain an Italy would have been fishing whit Tenkara rods about the same time as Japanese people but there bamboo where to heavy so that where the reel and fly line came in. In Japan they are 46 kind of bamboo and about 600 species, that permit to the Japanes craftsman to make some flexible and weightless rods in sections.


During Edo period (1603-1868) the Samurai where encourage to fish whit those rods. According to two different versions of the history, it would have been pratice for either, for temper the caracter of the warrior or to train them on there stealh approch, reaction speed and there agility.


Historic of the rod






At the beginning the rod was made of just one lenght of bamboo. After the Japanese handcraft started to put some metal joint to be more pratical for the transport. Certain of them put a little bit of finess buy putting perles on the bamboo rod. Usuly it was for the aristocrat Monarchy.






Historic of the flie



In the year 1600, the first flies where sold by two familly still going strong at this day, the Meboso, whit 20 generation and the Katsuoka. In 1703, a lot of models where tied whit real gold, it was for fishing the Ugui (Trout). Since 1926, more then 1 million of flies are sold each year.


There is 600 different model of traditional flies. Often the name of the flies come from a geographical location from the countrie. The particularity of those flies is that they do not have eyelet and they are all barbless. To know how to ties those kind of flies it can take at least 5 years.



Historic of the line


The fisrt Tenkara lines ware made in real silk. After they took horsehair (3 string) furled in taper because the cost of those was less expensive and less complacated to make.


In Japan they are still Master in Tenkara that are active to transmitted they knowledge on that style of fishning.

Reference for the historic: Tenkara and Kevin C. Kelleher / Misako Ishimura


Tenkara rod


The Tenkara rod are made to capture trout from 8'' to 16'' long. The lenght of the rod when close are about 14'' to 24''. Collapse they can reach the lenght of 9' to 15'. The light weight are from 2 to 4 onze whit a maximum of 11 sections. Another thing about that rod is that she float. They have corck handle, certain of them can be made of wood (more weight) or in foam (more irritant after a long day of fishing). They are strong even do they are very lightweight et balance whit great precision.


Tenkara rod action





First number = Rigidity of the rod

Second number = Soupleness of the rod

5:5 - 5 sections rigides & 5 sections flexibles (50% - 50%) - 2 pounds 

6:4 - 6 sections rigides &  4 sections flexibles (60% - 40%) - 4-1/2 pounds

7:3 - 7 sections rigides & 3 sections flexibles (70% - 30%) - 6-1/2 pounds

8:2 - 8 sections rigides & 2 sections flexibles (80% - 20%) - 9 pounds

Pound from Nissin for the model ProSquare






Tenkara rod anatomy


Rubber cap whit scions (permet the line to let it

Lillian #1 red line to attach the line to the rod

Sections #2 @ #7


Metal cap whit rubber end (to absorbe the chock of the section)




Carbon of the Tenkara rod







The quality and structure of the carbon is a aspect very important in the rod. The pourcentage varie bethween model of the rod. We can found the maximum strenght of the carbon in the last section where the handle is.











What to do whit a Tenkara rod


To hold the Tenkara rod, you have to put your index on the top of the handle and put it in the deep of your hand. You have also the ''V'' technic where the index is still on top of the rod but you have a light angle whit the thumb on the side of the rod and your hand will be more in the middle of the handle.


To open a Tenkara rod, first you have to take out the rubber cap in a straight line (no inclinaison) that will prevent the break of the tip of the rod. After you will open it whit a light pressure between your thum and index. Be carefull not to put to much pressure because you will have a hard time closing it and a pressure to soft your section will come in when you will strike the fish and you dont whant that because you will break the rod. During all the time you open and close your rod you have to keep your flie in your hand because a fish can take it.


Once you are finish fishing you have to take car of your rod buy cleaning it for a couple of reason, the odor, nor to cumulate some dust, and if you fish in winter you don't want it to freeze.


If you fish for big fish, do not point the rod straigt to him like you do in western style. That will cause the section of the rod to stick or the lost of the Lillian.



Tenkara Lines


Furled line

It is the traditional Japanese line. She is made of often made of monofilament in a taper shape in one lenght, often 12'. For dry fly fishing that is the line you whant to have on you. She will deposit you flies on the water whit a very gently touch.







Level Line

Made in fluorocarbon, the Level Line is the most popular line in Tenkara. She comes in a lot of color that is visible to the human but not for the fish. The most popular diameter is the #3.5 (about 10 pounds). She has a lot of advantage (see below the diameter and the comparaisons).







Personal line

The backing line of 20pounds or 30pounds in yellow color is my personal line that I take in 95% of the time. She is barely more weight then the two other Tenkara line. When it is windy she can cut the wind whit no trouble making a nice cast. She is very visible to the eyes so you can follow your line. She doesn't have any memory like the two other lines, that makes it really fun to let it on the rod.




The Tippet made in monofilament or often made for dry fly fishning and the fluorocarbon are made to fish whit streamer, wet flies and nymph.


In Tenkara the tippet never exceeds the weight of 5X (4ponds) and we can go as low as 7X (2pounds) for challenge (do not play to much whit the fish if you pratice catch & release or fish whit very tiny flies.


You can if you want put some wx on a part of the tippet (about 3''-4'') for dry fly fishing if you have to put more tippet in the water. But we try in Tenkara not to put anything on the line that can be armfull to the environement.


Tenkara line

The Tenkara line never touched the water only a little part will. Because of that you will never make amendment. In spring that will help you when the water level is very high. When there is a lot of current you will troug your line in front or behing the bolder that is a advantage of the Tenkara rod whit her lenght.





Lenght of the line

Here is 3 choice :n play whit the lenght of the line.

Short line : Shorter then the line

Standard line : Same lenght the the rod

Long line : 1-1/2 time the lenght of the rod

The lenght can vary depends of the rod and what kind of fishing you are doing.











Tenkara knots

The Tenkara knots are very easy to learn and do. You do not cut the exceeding line it will be your strike indicator.



Tenkara flies

The Tenkara flies are call Sakasa (revers hackle) Kebari (flie). They are very easy to do and very economical because they are made from 2 or 3 material. Most of them are being tied whit size #12 hook. Do not hesitate to play whit the lenght of the hackle, it will imitate other kind of insect.









Presentation of the flie

The Tenkara flie has a lot of different technics, here is a few ones :


The dead drift : The fly is in a dead drift situation after being cast upstream of the river in a angle of 90° or 45°.


The pause : The fly makes a pause about for 2 second a a precise place (usally about 2' from the fish) and done répétition and after you let the fly on the top of the water at the excat place.

The presentation dead drift and pause : It is the combinaison of 1) and 2)

The twich : It is the mouvement of va-et-vient of the fly that is between two waters. The soft hackle plays the rôle of being a emerge insect.

Pulling : Do like a streamer (little fish), pull on the line that the flie is moving toward you about 6'' at the time whit a pause of 2 second in beetween each pulling. Sometime you can modify the pulling buy a pause lest or more then 2 second.

Let the flie caler in the white water to go and reach a certain deepht.

Make it skate it on the water making it doing a ''V'' shape. It is imatate a caddis going to leg he eggs on the water.

Ref. Daniel Galhardo



Action of the flie

Fast water : For the soft hackle in the direction of the current, do a mouvement of back and fort more sudden and less rapid.


Calm water : For the soft hackle going the same the opposite of the current, you have to do a mouvement of back and fort less sudden and faster.
















The casting done whit a Tenkara rod have to be done whit a soft hand. It should be done not tu relax because it is going to affect the cast by being not precise. If you hold it to firm the same thing will happen.






Here is some few cast done whit a Tenkara rod that are almost the same as the western style :


For open water                                                      For narrow space

Overhead cast                                                       Bow & arrow cast

Sidearm cast                                                        Roll cast 

Backhand cast                                                       Lob cast

                                                                    Underarm cast





 Overhead cast

 For the overhead cast, you have to take the tip of your rod at : 12h00 and  10h00, whit a complete stop but not to sudden.

 Hold you arm near you body not to get tired whit all the cast you will make.

 You have to break a little bit your wrist, you forearm will do the rest of  the movement.

 The exection speed will predominate on the strenght of the cast.

 The feet position is a factor to considered in the quality of the cast, to  put  the right feet in front (if you are right handed) whit a angle of about  15 degres.

 Buy doing a cast whit a tight loop, your cast will be more precise and will  cut throug the wind better. Buy doing a bigger loop, the presentation will be  more soft and make it more easy to do the cast, if you have more the one flie  or a heavier flie. If you do expend your arm you will go and get a little  extra lenght and this will help to absorb the throwing of a big flie and will  absorp the schock of the tip of the rod.













Sidearm cast

Cast like a overhead cast but the position is 11h00 - 1h00 or 9h00 - 3h00

















Roll and perpendicular cast

Roll cast

Let the line in the water, it will be a anchor for the line

Hold the rod at 12h00

Fast cast in front


Perpendicular cast

Hold the rod to the position of 8h00

Hold your rod behind you at 10h00-11h00

Then throught the rod fast in front and stop it at 9h00













Bow and arrow cast

Hold your tippet equal to the handle and put it up near your hear, make it bend like if you are shooting whit a bow and then let the line go. For a more precise cast just hold. To do a more precise cast just hold the line about 8” from the flie.













Other cast

Lob cast

It is just a transfert of the line and flie on the opposite side where you just cast.


Backhand cast

Cast on the other direction whit the rod on the opposite of your shoulder.


Underhand cast

It is to cast your line underneath a obstacle, like a branch.



Landing of the fish

To land a fish whit a Tenkara rod you have to put your rod behing your head, that will make the line come to you and then you crab it and the you pull it nice and slow for the fish to come to your net.

Whit big fish you will do your strike on the side whit an angle.

Do not fight the fish when you got it.

For the big fish, follow it whit a good pressure et get the tip of the rod down when the fish want to go. Let the rod do its job.



Catch & release

If you pratice the catch and release, here is a few things you should know for the surviving of the fish :


Do not do the back and fort whit the fish in the water because you can drown it, the fish will not be able to take his breath so just let it in the water buy placing only your hand underneath is belly or let it in the net. The fish will tell you when it is time to go!


A good net whit gentle mesh (that is not to large) is a essentiel tool for catch and release.

Always wet your hands to manipulate the fish if you have to touch him (Barbless hook is the best not to touch the fish)

Do not put your fingers in the gills of the fish.

Do not let the fish to long out of the water when you take some pictures.

Do not tighten to much underneath the head because the organ are at that place and they are very fragile.

When you hold a bass buy it mouth do not incliner the head you will arm the fish. Just put it a neutral position, that means straigh parrallel to your body.