What is tenkara?
Tenkara is the Japanese method of fly-fishing, which uses only a rod, line and fly. Tenkara shines in mountain streams, where the long rod and light line provide the best possible fly presentation. Tenkara is also effective in a variety of waters, such as alpine lakes, or urban ponds for panfish and bass. Tenkara is the ideal setup for anyone looking for an intuitive and fun way to fly-fish, something to take along on a backpacking fishing trip or teaching kids the art of fly-fishing, without the complexities.
The tenkara history is long, though little of it is documented. Originally tenkara was the domain of commercial anglers in the mountain streams of Japan. Knowing that history goes a long way to helping fly-fishing remain simple, after all the original tenkara anglers did not have fill a vest with tons of stuff yet caught plenty of fish.
The first reference to tenkara fly-fishing was made in 1878, when Mr. Ernest Satow, a British diplomat who lived in Japan at the time, wrote in his diary about local fishermen using flies to catch the yamame (a Japanese trout) in the streams near Mt. Tateyama.
Tenkara was originally the domain of commercial fishermen in mountain areas of Japan, who would catch fish and sell it to villagers and inn-keepers. That history is important in helping understand tenkara, and ultimately help keep fly-fishing simple. Understanding tenkara is the reason we visit Japan every year and maintain a strong connection with tenkara masters in the country.
Read more about the history of tenkara here.
Tenkara USA is the first company to introduce tenkara outside of Japan.
Founded in 2009 by Daniel W. Galhardo, Tenkara USA is a fully independent company, based in Boulder, Colorado.
The vision for Tenkara USA is to introduce tenkara outside of Japan, to open the doors to people who like the idea of fly-fishing but have always found western fly-fishing too complex, and to excite experienced fly anglers through an undeniably effective but simpler approach to fly-fishing.
In 2007, Daniel Galhardo discovered a method of fishing called tenkara existed in Japan. After visiting Japan he fell in love with the method’s uncomplicated nature and decided others needed to learn about it. So, Daniel set out to create a business to introduce tenkara outside of Japan by putting tenkara gear in the hands of people. In March of 2009, a month before Tenkara USA officially “opened doors”, Daniel left his successful career in international banking to dedicate himself full-time to creating Tenkara USA.
Through frequent visits to Japan, Tenkara USA has developed very strong relationships with tenkara masters. We rely heavily on their knowledge and feedback to ensure the products we make and information we share are of highest quality and true to tenkara.
It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that our introduction of tenkara here has created a small revolution in the fly-fishing industry. Tenkara USA products have acquired renown worldwide, applause from our teachers in Japan, and passionate devotion by our customers.
You can read more about our story here.
The tenkara philosophy is our philosophy and simplicity is at its core.
We believe in respecting where tenkara comes from because that's the best way to keep things very simple. We are not inventing a method of fishing, we are here to share the tenkara story with you. We believe in innovating and creating the best products possible, and if anything ever fails we will work to get it fixed quickly so you can be in the water sharing the tenkara story with friends. We love simplicity because it is liberating. It allows us to travel far without worrying about what gear to carry, and it allows us to explore and enjoy tenkara with other activities because simplicity doesn't take up much room.
You may ask, “why does simplicity matter?”
Simplicity matters because it is liberating and makes fly-fishing accessible and intuitive. Take, for example, the idea that tenkara anglers in Japan use only one fly pattern
, and don’t change it. It goes completely against the thinking of western fly fishing, where, if the fly pattern is not working, it should be changed. And fly fishing requires dozens of fly patterns, and a hatch-guide book must be consulted before going fishing. Tenkara’s focus on technique rather than gear means you can go to any stream in the world in search of trout without worrying about what flies to take. This philosophy of not relying on unnecessary gear applies to a lot of things people may tell you that you need to fish, from leaving the reel behind, to not needing leaders, to realizing split-shot, strike indicators, floatant (the list goes on), are not needed to fly-fish. Liberating.
The small amount of equipment and speedy setup means we can take tenkara anywhere and enjoy it with other activities. Going for a hike? Bring tenkara along (and just one fly pattern). Going backpacking, climbing, canoeing, foraging? Take a tenkara rod, line and fly and enjoy fishing along the way. Read about TENKARA+
, the idea of enjoying tenkara with anything.
Latest from the blog
We like to think of ourselves as more than just a tenkara rod company. We're as interested in sharing information, instructions, stories and the philosophy of tenkara as making great products. Our blog is the richest resource on tenkara anywhere. Here are the latest posts.
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