All of my Tenkara posts are conveniently accessible with the link below:

So what is tenkara?

The easiest way I can describe tenkara is that it is a form of fly fishing with a very long (typically telescoping) rod and no reel. It employs a (relatively) light line. The combination of the long rod and light line make it a very effective form of fishing, easily allowing for the often sought "drag free drift" as well as in-water fly manipulation.

A simple tenkara outfit. 
A telescoping tenkara rod, a small box of flies, a spool to hold your line when not in use,
and a small pack (optional) to hold it all.

In its purest form, tenkara fishing is portrayed as manipulating simple hackle flies (kebari) in cold, high gradient streams in pursuit of trout or char. This is because the technique was first developed by Japanese commercial fishermen in the mountain villages of Japan. Their materials to craft equipment were very basic, so they relied on advancing technique rather than developing gear as the key to catching fish.

While I do fish kebari for trout the majority of the time I use my tenkara gear, I've also had success fishing with dries, nymphs, and small streamers using a tenkara rod. There's quite a bit of online debate whether or not if once you make that pivot if you're still truly tenkara fishing.

Heck, I live in Florida now, and even use it in still, warm water ponds for bass and bluegill. I definitely recognize that is no longer "tenkara" as traditionally practiced in Japan at that point, but catching fish on the light tackle is still a heck of a lot of fun! And for those interested in semantics, an all-encompassing term to use instead of "tenkara" that involves any deviation in style is "fixed line fly fishing."

Tenkara Brownie, caught with Sakura Kongo

Why do I enjoy tenkara? 

There's something comforting in simple equipment - we're just talking rod, line, and fly. Removing many of the hassles that come with gear variables, I've found it creates an on-water experience where I can really unwind, take in my surroundings, and simply immerse myself in fishing. Some people have found tenkara so enjoyable, they even go as far as to give up their reeled fly rods!

I'm not taking that leap.  My tenkara rod serves as a nice compliment to my "normal" 3-wt fly fishing outfit, and another great way to enjoy small stream fishing.

Chunky Valley Forge National Historical Park Wild Brown Trout
Nice tenkara brown trout caught with Tenkara USA Iwana Series 1
Valley Creek, Valley Forge (PA) National Park

As with most things, the best way to figure out if tenkara is meant for you is to actually give it a try yourself.  If you want to learn more about tenkara, I've written many posts on the subject (accessible HERE), as well as publish a semi-regular series called Tenkara Tuesday.

In addition, below you will find some really informative resources to help get you on your way:

Websites & Blogs:


If you have any questions about tenkara, I'd be happy to try and answer them.
Just use the comment form below.


  1. Ok, so since I started fishing tenkara I have subscribed to the one fly theory, but lately feel like I'm missing out. When you fish those nymphs like the cj or prince, do you use an indicator? With the reverse hackles I don't feel like I need to, but I'd love to fish some nymphs with my Iwana to get down deeper, and wonder if I'd feel the takes without a thingamabobber. Thanks.

  2. I tried the smallest sized thingamabobber I could find when I first started fishing nymphs on tenkara and didn't like it. Not saying it didn't work, I just didn't like the way the furled line casted (or the way it felt) with my 11' Iwana. Felt more like casting with a spinning rod than with a fly rod for some reason. I actually ditched that set up pretty quickly.

    I don't use an indicator per se, more so an indicator dry fly. If I fish a #18 nymph, I'll use a #14 or #12 dry and fish them in tandem. That's what works for me.

    I'd at least try the thingamabobber set up, you may like it more than I did. Different strokes for different folks.

  3. Guys, what I can't get my head around ( and I have nothing against any legal form of angling) is that I can do the same thing with a traditional fly rod and reel, can't I? And, if the situation arises, still have the fly line available to roll out a 30 foot cast...what am I missing? Is there more to it? ( I'm actually dying to try it, btw.)

  4. Hmmm...tough to explain. You're not missing anything. I still have and fish rods with reels all of the time.

    I guess it's just a matter of not bringing what you don't need on the water - when I fish a small stream it's the perfect tool. Tough to describe until you fish one. It's got such a unique feel to it, it makes 6 inch trout feel like monsters.

    I only recommend it for small stream/small fish. You may see others fishing for bass with the larger versions...no thanks. To add, I really prefer the 11' Iwana version I have to the 13' Ayu version. The Ayu just isn't as fun to fish IMHO.

    Also, the fact that it collapses down to 20 inches is pretty slick too. Makes transport through wooded areas a breeze.

  5. Thanks for trying to explain it. I can see the application on small streams, although "small" is a relative term. Down here in GA and NC a small stream is usually between 3 and 10 ft. wide and covered with an almost impenetrable amount of rhododendron and mountain laurel. An 11 foot rod would probably be useful only if you cut it in half, and were also really good and bow-n-arrow casting under the rhodo's!
    But it does look like it adds a new dimension to the graceful side of fly fishing, that's for sure!

  6. right on man, never heard of tenkara fishing till this blog.. I can see it now.. "tenkara spey rod lands huge native steelhead" .. cool blog keep up the good work.


  7. Travis - this link work for ya?

    Shimano Mainstream Fishing for Steelhead
    Fast forward to about 12 minutes in.

    OK, it's not exactly tenkara, but pretty close, with MUCH bigger rods.

  8. I recently switched to Tenkara this year, due to heavy rain I have only been out 6 times. Each time I out fished every fly and bait fisherman around. I use the Ishigaki Kebari reverse hackle in black/orange, black/white, gray/white also use the fujioka kebari and the gujo kebari. I am convinced that the simplicity of the fly gives the trout less to reject. All my trout are caught on the surface or film. They will rise for these tormenting Japanese flies. As the lines wet the fly they can go lower in the stream but can be dried out rather quickly with a few false casts.

  9. I have a couple questions...1. Can tenkara realy get to those spots and provide the better drift, what I'm getting at is which do you prefer for small streams. Yeah I know they both have a time and place but still. 2. I've been thinking about getting the Lefty Kreh Finesse series 1 weight. Which should I choose?

    Thanks for your help,

    1. Hey Devin, thanks for the note. I can't really speak to the tenkara vs. 1-weight. That's totally a personal preference thing. Outside of my tenkara rods, the lightest rod I own is a 3-weight.

      I will say that the length of tenkara rods do really do a great job with drag free drifts...there's little to no line on the water...so no mending or anything needed. Within a 25 food radius, I've never had an issue hitting a spot.

      Hope that helps. As with any "which rod should I buy" question, the correct answer is always BOTH!

  10. Tenkara looks like something I might be interested in! Thanks for the posts!

  11. Never heard of tenkara fishing till this blog. Thanks for valuable knowledge.