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3 Myths about Fly-fishing with a Reel

On July 10, 2013
Comments (15)

You can reach everywhere: People must assume that because they have a lot of line in their reels that it will give them unlimited reach. But, first we should keep in mind that fish are not always on the other side of the stream, river or lake. Second, keep in mind that in streams fish can frequently be found on the other side of a heavy current, and absolute reach is not as important as effective reach. Why not? Because being able to cast far doesn’t mean one can get a good drift, when using a heavy line, after casting it will immediately be picked up by heavy currents causing a need for mending. In fact, below is one spot I’m referring to, the angler told me he had always wanted to “reach” the soft water on the other side of the stream but was unable to get any kind of drift there. I gave him the tenkara rod, he reached it, got a perfect drift…though no fish this time. We should consider “effective” or “necessary” reach more than the idea of absolute reach.

You never get caught on trees: Often people assume a long tenkara rod is a recipe to getting caught on trees more often, while a short fly rod will keep you away from trees. I have found that to be a myth. When you’re fishing a stream, the goal is to reach a particular spot where the fish will be. The distance will be the same whether you’re using a short rod, reel and long line, or long rod, no reel and “short” line. With a reel and running line you can always adjust the length of the line, and sometimes it is easy to forget how much line is out. Here’s a good illustration of what can happen, by H.M. Bateman. This variable line probably is exacerbated by the fact that a typical fly cast goes 10 o’clock, 2 o’clock, putting the rod tip much closer to the trees behind you. With tenkara, on the other hand, the line length is fixed and one can be aware at all times of where he can cast. Further, the cast with a tenkara rod counts on a much shorter casting stroke, stopping the rod vertically on the backcast and shooting the line up more than back (one can even stop the rod before it gets to vertical for tighter spots). Regardless, there will be trees, and anglers will always get caught on them, simply because they are there.

Landing fish is quicker: We have all seen this happen, an angler will catch a “monster” 12-incher, and will go on to say, “oh man, that is a hot fish! It is taking line from my reel!”, and we may have witnessed the occasional angler catching a hot 18-incher that takes the angler to the backing. These are not the norm, but it happens for one reason: fish are able to take line from the reel. And, unfortunately, some people feel the need to “play the fish”, because, indeed, the feeling of a fish pulling on the rod is hard to match. With tenkara, on the other hand, the fish has no opportunity to take line. Typically a hot fish will be caught in a bungee-cord situation where he tries to run but can’t, the rod stops him. In my experience I have found that fish seem to give up more quickly when they are unable to run. And, because there is no need to retrieve line pulling it in is very quickly. In the end the angler is the one to decide how quickly to bring a fish in.

Tenkara anglers, what do you think based on your experiences? Any more “myths” in fly-fishing?

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15 Responses to 3 Myths about Fly-fishing with a Reel

  1. Ryan says:

    I agree about the ability to fish better in wooded areas. On my last trip I was able to slingshot my fly underneath trees I had never been able to fish without Tenkara. Also I was able to reach much farther across riffles, while my western partner struggled to mend enough to get a good drift.

  2. Tim says:

    Who wrote this article?

  3. Jay says:

    Myth: Tenkara is for small fish in small streams.
    I have caught several fish this season that are longer than the first section of my 12′ Iwana (20″+) and the memory of landing these fish will last a long, long time. Sometimes I have had to run downstream and others times I have been able to just lever the fish out of deep holes. Small fish or big fish. It can be done with a tenkara rod.

  4. Tenkara is just a fad.
    Famous words of someone named Lefty.

  5. Stephen says:

    “Us and them” articles like this and the resulting comments do no one any credit.

  6. Chiseler says:

    I was at at fly casting clinic last week and everyone tries to cast a full fly line if you can’t do that that you fail the coaches exam
    Funny I asked them how far away do the cast for real fish and then showed then my Amago that got their attention and then proceeded to show them,there were some that agreed,but you know old school.

  7. Stephen says:

    Daniel…..John ( a TUSA employee) thinks Lefty Kreh is an idiot because he has a different opinion of tenkara. You can’t think that reflects well on TUSA and us dedicated tenkara anglers, can you ?
    I liked your article ..but tenkara is not a better way to fish, it is a different way to fish. Sakakibara-san says he fishes every way he can and does not disparage one over the other. That should be our model.

  8. Hans says:

    I am not a Tenkara user yet, but I see what Tenkara can do. I will be buying my first Tenkara the Amago but I will still keep using my 6wt and 8wt for different presentation and technique. Why do we need to collide when we can unite right?

  9. JDSmith says:

    Tenkara is a ton of fun for me. Daniel, I want to thank you once again for showing it to me/us. It has brought me so many happy days on the water, and has also ran off a good girl as well, but no worries she had poor rod skills and her manipulation was way off point.

    Anyway, John I don’t think Lefty deserves such hard criticisms. So maybe he doesn’t get it, maybe he does but thinks little of it. He’s a living legend in the fly fishing world. I’ll be curious to see down the road if any Tenkara fisherman will achieve even half of the accomplishments that he has. Or if any will be inducted in the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame. That would be a true validation for tenkara.

  10. Hans says:

    I think Lefty had no choice but to say what he had said because he is the role model or the legend of the western fly fishing. Can you imagine what his followers will say or do if he said the other wise?
    Unlike all of us, a hero like him must pick a side.

  11. Peter in Colorado says:

    It is a myth that on small streams you need to get closer to the fish (and risk spooking them) with a Tenkara rod.

    The “effective reach” with a Tennkara rod is greater due to the rod’s length and the lightness of the line.

    I can start my cast further from the fish with my Tenkara rod (as opposed to using a 3 weight western fly rod and reel set up).

  12. Fred Rickson says:

    Articles like this diminish your fishing method……despite what you say, you still sound defensive and trite.

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