October 23, 2012

Tenkara Tuesday - Three Years & Counting

Welcome to Tenkara Tuesday.

The month of October marks my tenkara anniversary.  Yes, it's been 3 years since I grabbed that funny little pole in my hand, pulled on it a little bit to make it bigger...and ohhhh...get your mind out of the gutter.

Seriously, my first tenkara outing (& fish) was in October 2009.  I even wrote a post about it, whod'a thunk?  I'm actually up to 119 tenkara posts (120 if you count this one) on the blog...which is more than many blogs of any fishing topic have written period.  I find that both compelling...and honestly, scary.

My first (out of focus) tenkara fish, October 2009

It's been a pretty interesting journey over these three years...and I'll tell you what, it's had some interestingly positive side-effects on my "regular" fly fishing.  Allow me to explain.

1)  Toting 11 & 12 foot rods around Pennsylvania creeks & streams will make you very aware of every stray branch, area of high grass...you get the point...within your immediate area.  When I pick up my substantially shorter non-tenkara fly rods, I rarely get hung up (outside of submerged rocks) anymore.  Can you believe it Spurky?  Probably not, but it's true.  At least in relative terms.  It's actually opened up opportunities to fish really small & tight water I would have never dared try prior to tenkara.

It's not always wise to cut down the trees that in the way of your backcast

2)  Dealing with a fixed line truly does improve your stealth.  Before tenkara, I never was a really sneaky fly fisherman.  I wore whatever color clothes I wanted and rarely crouched or kneeled, I pretty much stood far away and tossed out 30 or 40 feet of line.  Tenkara doesn't allow such luxury and as such an adaption was needed...one that easily translates to "western" fly fishing as well, even if it doesn't to your knees.

Stealthy like a ghost

3)  I kicked the nymph habit.  When I first started tenkara, I used small beadhead nymphs often.  It was what I knew from fly fishing, and a tenkara rod is still a rod, so why not?  Somewhere along the way I started to embrace and find success with traditional tenkara kebari (wet flies).  I think the '12 Tenkara Summit connected those dots for me.  It definitely did in terms of tying my own.  Ever since, I find myself experimenting more with other styles of wets, dries, and other flies in-between when fly fishing, tenkara or not.  Sure, I still like nymphs, but they have their place in my fly box, they are not my fly box.

My original "tenkara" fly box.  Used to only fish a dry (top row) above a beadhead dropper (bottom row).
Kebari (middle row) pretty much never got used.

4)  I appreciate the sound of a reel a whole lot more.  Don't get me wrong, I love my tenkara outfits, and they are surprisingly versatile, but there's just something about the 'click' a small click & pawl makes when fly fishing, be it letting out line, or having a trout take it from you.  As silly as it sounds, it may be the reason why I will never fish tenkara exclusively.  I also find myself appreciating the use of nets to land fish, even if I don't insist they be small and round.

Yeah, reels are good too

5)  Finally, wow...think of all the people I'm honored to have met (either face to face, or virtually) that share the same general interest.  Sure, a lot of them tend to butt heads from time to time - remember, tenkara fisherman and western fly fisherman are cut from the same uniquely opinionated cloth - but in the end they are all passionate about this technique and seemingly as eager to teach as learn.  

A few of many

The list is far too long to call out everyone by name, but you know who your are - a diverse group from across the globe that includes photographers, videographers, fly tiers, "bums," entrepreneurs, innovators, historians, cult members, gear freaks (ironic, no?), guides, poets, doctors, do-it-yourselfers, philosophers, and to be totally honest, just a bunch of generally good people. 

So thank you tenkara for unintentionally enriching my overall fly fishing experience, it's because of you I can't imagine my rod rack ever without both tenkara & traditional fly rods...(oh, and spinning rods ain't too shabby either!)


Are you a Western tenkara angler? Do you have a story, pictures, video, fly recipe, or simply a fishing report from one of your recent tenkara adventures? If so, Troutrageous! wants to hear from you for a future Tenkara Tuesday post! Feel free to send and email HERE, or check out this previous post for more information.


  1. Great post Mike! I especially agree with point number 5. Sometimes tenkara has been about more than just fishing.

  2. You know the rules. You can't put a reel in a post about tenkara. 3 12-hour days at Chuck-E-Cheese for you. ;)

  3. Love this post! Its great to look back over the past few years to see how much you have learned!