Monday, August 5, 2013

Japanese Fly Fishing - Tenkara

When I was visiting the Cinque Terra area of Italy last year, I met an Italian fly fisherman.  He introduced me to the concept of Tenkara or Japanese fly fishing.  It sounded interesting and when I return to the USA, I told one of my former students in PA about Tenkara fishing.  He ordered a Tenkara rod and started using it on small streams in Western PA.

I started looking for information about Tenkara and found it was introduced to the US about 2 years ago.  Here is an introduction to Tenkara from You-Tube.

After reading some articles and viewing some more video, I ordered my Tenkara rod.  It was a Tenkara Japan,  13' long,  5.5 action.  You can get 8', 10', 12', 13' Tenkara rods.  The action can be ultra light, (5.5), light (6.4), or medium (7.3).

The Tenkara fly rod came in a nice pouch inside of a strong 22 1/2" tube.  The 21" rod pulls out into a 13' fly rod.  There is a cork handle (can also get foam handle) and stopper knob that fits inside the top to hold the collapsible sections inside the rod. The tip is very sensitive and very tiny.  The instructions were to be very careful when attaching the line to the rod tip.

This shot shows the delicate tip , the end cap and the red "lilian" braded line attached to the tip.  I put a knot in the end of it.

Next the fly line is attached to the Lilian tag with a Girth Hitch (slip loop).  Note that there is a braided loop attached to the fly line (I used fly line backing).

I put the Lilian line knot through the Girth Hitch twice and cinch down the hitch knot around the Lilian.  The small tag ends help to release the line for storage.

Here is a video on Tenkara knots.

There are several types of fly lines that can be used on the Tenkara.  I ordered a few of the furled leaders and level line leaders.  Then I made some of my own.

The left leader is a typical Japanese braided furled line that is just a foot or two shorter than the fly rod length.  The right leader is a furled mono leader.  There is a small circle or loop at the end for the 3-4" tippet of light line.  I used 4 # tippet with the size 12-14 flies.  A braded loop is attached to the top of the fly line for the Girth Hitch to the red Lilian.  The tippet loop can be attached loop to loop to fly line.  Most of the time, almost half or more of the leader is in the air by raising the long fly rod.
A straight fly line (1-2 weight),  a straight level mono leader (I used red Amnesia), or a part fly line and part mono leader can also be used.  You use mono for floating and fluoro-carbon for wet, sinking flies.  I made a 6' piece of 2 or 3 weight fly line and attached a section  of tapered fly line.  This was about 13' and then I added a 4' tippet of 4 #s.  This worked well for my wet fly and my smaller popper.  Landing a fish was a little hard so I shortened the tippet a foot to a foot and a half.

This is the Japanese leader spool.  It has a soft rubber center and multiple slots to attach your fly and then wind the tippet and leader around the center and hook the braided loop back through one of the slots.  The spool can be slid down the collapsed rod  to the next fishing hole.

These are two old fly leader spools that could be a cheap way to store your leaders also.




This is the traditional Japanese way to carry your rod and line to the stream.  Very simple outfit and easy to use.
I added these two hook keepers as a way to wrap the line and hold the tip inside the rod between holes or on the way back to the car.  They flip flat against the rod when not in use.
These are typical wet and dry flies used in Tenkara fishing.  They are tied reverse hackles.  The hackles point forwards for more motion. 


Here is another shot of the reversed hackle flies.  You will soon learn that there are three way to fish Tenkara.  One is the Traditional Japanese Tenkara style.

The Traditional Tenkara style is very simple.  It will have a furled braded leader with a short tippet.  The use of one fly like the last fly pictured above so that it is a simple, relaxing style of fishing.  Minimum of gear and simple.  You can learn to cast Tenkara  in 10 minutes and a lifetime of perfecting Tenkara fly fishing techniques.  This is the purist approach which pays strict attention to the traditional style of fishing.  It honors the history and the traditions. You fish the surface or one foot below with our flies.  The approach and cast is slow and graceful.  The fishing is as important as the catching.  It is a more relaxed style with attention paid to your surroundings.

The next style would be the Western Fly Fishing approach, which is using the fly fishing techniques you all ready have with a long limber rod and flies that you already use.

The third style is a mix of the two styles.  I use Tenkara with small flies.  I add a bead head to the nymphs to get just a  little deeper.  I use regular and reversed hackles.  I make my own leaders.  I use fluoro-carbon tippets sometimes.  I use Tenkara when I want to relax and fish for smaller fish on smaller streams. I have used it on the streams, a small bass lake; while using my bike, my motorcycle, and for hiking. It would be a great carry-on for the plane.

The choice is up to you.  You can get everything you need for Tenkara fishing for $100 - 150.  The rods can get expensive if you so desire.

Here is my first Tenkara trout.  It was a nice brown trout on a size 12 Tenkara wet fly. It was exciting to use a light weight rod and it was very easy to flick the fly out.  The casting is easier because it is so light.  It is intuitive casting. You use a shorter wrist stroke and just flick it out.

Here is a casting lesson on the Tenkara.

I have caught trout, rock bass, largemouth bass, bluegills, crappie, perch, and a small walleye so far on the Tenkara.  I can't wait to try it out on those Yellowstone streams I love.  I might take it down to Punta Gorda to try from my kayak.

Let me know what you think about this new style of fly fishing. I sure enjoy using it and tying my flies.