Tenkara USA Amago
There are few places more ecologically similar to tenkara’s birthplace than the Pacific Northwest. Cascading streams abounding with trout are annually invaded by anadromous trout, char, and salmon. The Amago is a tenkara rod that provides plenty of enjoyment while catching 10″+ trout but has the backbone needed for a chance encounter with a larger sea-run fish. However, if you want a dedicated rod to take on small salmon, big trout, or the occasional river Smallmouth Bass the Amago is my rod of choice.
…from the book.
Learning tenkara is easy. You don’t need the internet to become proficient at this simple form of mountain stream fishing. All you need is a rod, line and fly and the excitement to spend a little time in a great place of your choosing.
I am an early adopter of tenkara (outside of Japan) and come from a long history of fly fishing small streams. I got my first rod from Daniel at Tenkara USA in 2009. I was so excited about this new to me form of mountain stream fishing, I decided to investigate the history of it by traveling to Japan. In 2013 I made my first trip and was excited to see that Tenkara USA was a part of the Japanese interest in spreading tenkara. I saw this in the Japanese media and the friends I was making there, they wanted to know if I knew Daniel. I have visited Japan again in 2016 and I am happy to report that I chose the right path doing tenkara only for nearly 9 years.
In my research of tenkara, I have collected many books on the subject and all of my books have been with the help of Japanese friends. I have been told by more than one Japanese tenkara angler that my collection was larger than any one that they have ever seen. I have had a couple of these books early on, translated to me by my friends. Over the years of collecting tenkara books, I have found that a lot of the books have the same type of content. This is not unusual, fly fishing books written in English fall into the same pattern of describing the stream and the methods that work for taking fish.
The Rhodo story
By Daniel Galhardo
Ever since the release of the first 12-foot long tenkara rod in the US there have been requests for a 9-foot tenkara rod to be made. I get it, 9 feet is the length everyone is accustomed to when looking at using a rod and reel set up. That’s the length anyone will tell you should get if you’re just getting into fly-fishing. Plus, 12 feet is scary!
There was certainly a lot of work to educate the public that with tenkara longer is usually better. And that for the vast majority – but admittedly not all – places going to a rod under 10 feet in length would negate the advantages of using a long tenkara rod. It was not to say that a tenkara rod shouldn’t be shorter, but I certainly wanted to push people to go longer. A short tenkara rod has its places, but it shouldn’t be the default option.
I can guarantee that if our first tenkara rod was 9-feet in length or under, it would have been the best-selling rod we made for a long time, perhaps up to today. We would have also gotten more people to try tenkara in the first couple of years too if I had gone that route and offered something less intimidating in length. However, I feel that people would have completely missed out on the advantages of using a 11, 12 or even 14foot long rod.
By the end of 2009, the year I started Tenkara USA, I was offering 3 tenkara rods at tenkarausa.com (and a couple of variations of some of them). We had the Iwana, the Ayu and the Yamame. All 3 were named after Japanese fish (Iwana and Yamame being trout). At the time, the Ayu, at 13ft long, was the longest rod we had on offer. And, while that length scared people who were just taking up tenkara, I had fallen in love with the longer reach of the rod. But, I wanted a bit more reach, which would allow me to keep line off the water more easily for the best possible presentations.
So, I started to work on what I envisioned would be my favorite rod. It would be longer than the Ayu, I knew that. As I started playing with different prototypes, I realized that the longer the rod became, the more tip-heavy it would feel. At that point, I decided to start working with our factory on making a good adjustable rod, which would allow me to fish it at 13ft long, or go even longer when I wanted it.
It was April 2011 when I received the latest prototype of the rod I started working on about a year and half earlier. I was spending 2 months in a mountain village in Japan learning more about tenkara when the rod arrived in the mail. I was excited to see the package come in, after the pretty good previous prototype I was anxiously anticipating its arrival. The rod had a beautiful semi-matte blue and black finish. The factory paid good attention to all the details required and it just felt good in the hand. That day I was just hanging out at the Mazegawa Fishing Center, which is all of 200 yards away from the Maze river. I walked to the water and proceed to start casting with a few lines I had on hand.
It cast them beautifully.
At that section, the Maze river was very wide, about 90 feet across, but it was a mountain river with lots of pockets and features. I extended the Ito to its fullest length, 14ft 7inches. And, suddenly I was reaching waters I had not been able to reach until then. It was and felt beautiful! I collapsed the rod and drove further upstream, to where the stream closed in and became narrower. The rod performed beautifully there too. Its shorter (13ft) length was manageable in the tighter section but when the stream opened up here and there, I was able to fish it just the way I wanted it.
The rod became available shortly after, and it has been my go-to rod ever since. I know its long length can be intimidating and I sincerely wish more people would give it a try for it is a very special rod.
by Daniel Galhardo
“Which tenkara rod should I get?”
“What tenkara rod is best for beginners?”
“What should I get for my first tenkara rod?”
These are questions we have been asked daily at Tenkara USA for the 8 years we have been in business. Below are a few things to consider and further below I share my specific recommendations. I also cover the Tenkara USA rod lineup in this video.
How to Choose a Tenkara Rod
Choosing a tenkara rod could feel like the most daunting aspect of tenkara. The advice I usually give is to follow a couple of basic suggestions but to not overthink it.
A good tenkara rod should be designed to fish well in a large range of conditions. The main criteria for choosing your first tenkara rod will be its length, which is primarily dictated by the size of water and amount of overhead coverage you will encounter. Other things to keep in mind are: fish size, quality of materials, features, price, collapsed length, and warranty.
Adam: John, thank you for allowing me this interview.
I’ve read your new book; “All Fishermen Are Liars” and I really enjoyed it however I would like to start the interview with a question on an older book of yours. I’ve spoken with a lot of people that are into Tenkara that know nothing of this book of yours and I would like to make them aware of it. I think it is a great way to look at fishing a small stream and even a good introduction to fly-fishing.
“Can you tell us about your book, Fly Fishing Small Streams”?
John Gierach: “Fly Fishing Small Streams” was published by Stackpole Books in 1989 and is still in print. It was essentially a second installment of my earlier book “Flyfishing the High Country” (Pruett, 1984) for those who didn’t have 14,000-foot continental mountain ranges in their backyards. Small stream fishing wasn’t unheard of in the late 80s, but at the time it wasn’t considered sexy enough to be covered by the fishing magazines. Everyone wanted to catch 20-inch trout in big water in Montana or fish for steelhead and salmon; fishing for ten-inch trout in little creeks was considered kid’s stuff.
I’ve since been accused of popularizing small stream fishing and I’m certainly not blameless, but I think it would have happened anyway. As your readers know, it’s just too much fun to have stayed a secret for long.
Adam: I really like it and still pull it out from time to time to reference or lend it out. In the chapter, “The Comforts of Stuff” you describe your time searching for the “all around fly rod” and then the specialty rods for small streams. I enjoy the parts you wrote on the lite lines of 1 and 2 weights. It is this natural interest that you have that probably brought you to Tenkara rods and fishing that sort of equipment, I don’t know, maybe you could comment on that.
In my own experience, the search for a rod that will deliver a fly with such delicacy yet have so much control over it that brought me to Tenkara. The simplicity is sort of “anti comforts of stuff” but it is all fishing.
Eating Fish Shioyaki Style
by Daniel Galhardo
I will occasionally eat fish when I’m out. Killing fish, and eating them seem to be a part of the human instinct. I’m a big believer that generally “a fish is too valuable to be caught only once”. But, I also try to avoid being a hypocrite. I eat meat, and I eat fish too, and there is no reason I should be able to do it only if bought from a market where the act of killing and the connection that brings to the food you’re about to eat are outsourced to the fishmonger. But, in order to reconcile my love for sport fishing, and my desire to eat the occasional fish, over the years I have come up with a rule of thumb for the occasions I’ll allow myself to take a fish’s life and eat it: stocked fish or places that I’m fairly certain see less than one angler a week, or where there is a clearly huge abundance of small (8-9″ fish).
It has been some years now since I’ve learned about tenkara, an efficient form of mountain stream fishing. Through my experiences using this simple, old style of fishing, I have found that I can apply principles of minimalism to nearly everything I do. I’ve learned about efficiency and different ways of looking at everyday challenges. In applying these concepts, I have come up with a formula that works for me. It can be summed up with the following sentence.
The more you know, the less you need.
For this installment, I will approach traveling and using what I call, the tenkara lifestyle, to promote efficient travel.
In my own experience, I have realized that nothing is better than experience to realize just what you need. Packing for a trip shouldn’t be difficult. There is some homework involved if you are new to traveling light but as you reduce the contents of your pack, you will realize that each component of your travel kit becomes more important on its own and as an integrated system.
Key to the concept is to check the weather where you are going and make a pack list for up to a week. If you can get through a week with your packing list, you can easily live for two weeks or a month or longer. Packing for one week, I have a comfortable pack size and I am able to be prepared for just about any activity. Hiking, fishing, going out to dinner, hot springs or lounging with friends or distant family. At the end of the week, I’m going to do some laundry whether it be washing my clothes in washer or in the shower, bucket or near a stream and hanging them to dry but I’m ready for another week.
In 2012, I filmed tenkara angler Hiroto Sasaki tying a fly in Tokyo, Japan. And, as it always happens when watching someone tying a fly, I learned a cool trick to finish tying a fly. Since then I have been showing this way of finishing a fly without using a whip finish fly tying tool whenever I teach someone how to tie flies. And the feedback is always excellent. The line-twisting method is a quick, efficient and easy to learn way to finish off a fly you tie. Here’s how to do it:
If you are anywhere near Lancaster, PA this weekend, make sure to come visit us at the International Fly Tying Symposium to learn more about tenkara fly-tying.
Since Tenkara USA was founded in 2009, we’ve heard a lot of different stories of rod breakage from our customers. Some of these are pretty obvious, some sneak up on you. It’s important to realize that all of these can cause damage that may not show up as a breakage at the time of the incident. The actual break may show up later while casting, making it appear that the rod can broke for no reason. Here I want to share some of the most common causes of tenkara rod breakages to serve as a heads up so that your fishing trips will be more trouble free.
1) Tip breaks on set up: When a rod tip breaks close to the lillian, it’s because of improper stress during setup/take down. To avoid this, be sure to keep the graphite of the rod tip buried inside the handle assembly and other sections when tightening down the line/lillian connection. It’s a good idea to keep your thumb firmly over the top of the handle assembly while doing this. This is by far the most common breakage for new tenkara anglers. Also, never try to tie the line to the lillian with the rod fully extended. It’s a recipe for disaster. You can watch this video on the proper setting up of a tenkara rod.
2) The rod broke when hit with a fly/weight: This one often shows up later, but the impact of a hook, beadhead, split shot, or just a heavy fly can damage the rod and weaken it at the point of impact. The fly/weight etc. doesn’t have to crack the segment, it just needs to weaken the scrim of the rod to make a breakage much more likely. This doesn’t mean you can’t fish a little weight with your tenkara rod, just be sure to keep your casting loops open and away from the rod (especially the more delicate tip sections).
3) Sections are stuck next to each other in the rod: Not exactly a breakage, but can still put a rod out of commision, and cause a breakage in the struggle to free the sections. This almost always the result of the rod being opened or closed out of sequence. Be sure when extended the rod to start by pulling the tip section out of the handle, and working progressively to the handle. Closing procedure is the reverse, start with the thickest section and work progressively until the lillian is in the handle. The process is the same with zoom rods, you’ll just have to move down to the staggered adjustable sections as open or close the rod.
4) The sections are stuck and won’t extend after I took the rod apart and put it back together: Again, this one isn’t exactly a breakage but can ruin a rod. Anytime a rod is taken apart, but sure that the sections are all going the correct way. If sections are reversed and forced together, they can become stuck to the point that they’re ruined and those sections will need to be replaced. Tenkara rod segments will usually have some sort of banding, and will always have a rough section at the bottom which can be used to orient the sections correctly.
5) Section snapped while closing the rod: This can be one of those incidents where earlier damage shows up as a breakage, but can also be the root cause. Be sure when closing the rod to put pressure straight down to collapse with as little side pressure as possible. Do not over-tighten the rod, just make sure the segments are snug while extending. Also, keep the hands close together while closing the sections. I like to rest my bottom hand inside of my top hand when closing stubborn sections. Keeping the rod clean will also help, as grit inside of the sections can cause them to be much more difficult to close. Sometimes use of the “rubberband ” method will help.
6) Rod broke when it hit an overhanging tree: This can happen to any of us. Just be sure to be aware of your situation when you cast, and especially when you set the hook on a fish. It’s also pretty easy to get the tip of the rod caught up in a tree while playing the fish, as it’s shape changes throughout the fight. Again, the best you can do is stay aware, and if possible move to an open spot to play and land the fish.
7) Rod broke on a snag: This may be the most common breakage for experienced tenkara anglers. The sudden immovable strain of a snag puts a strain on the rod that will break them, even if they’re only bent to a point that would be no problem with a steady building of force (like when playing a fish). It’s always best to get ahold of the casting line to pull a snag loose, looking away from the snag when pulling on the line to protect your eyes. If you can’t do that, close the rod as far as possible and point it directly at the snag to pull free, again turning your face away from the snag. This may cause the sections to be tighter than usual, but that’s usually less likely to cause a breakage than trying to force a snag loose by popping the rod.
8) The rod broke on a hook set: The same thing is going on here as the snag. It’s the sudden force that breaks the rod. In tenkara, a light quick hookset is all that is needed. It’s a quick motion, but if you’re activating your shoulder or back muscles, you’re probably using too much force. Think quick but light flick of the wrist, like a light backcast.
9) I stepped on the rod while landing a fish: We get this one a lot. It’s best to find a way to hold the rod while releasing the fish. I hold it in the crook of my neck. Dr. Ishigaki can keep hold of the rod in his hands with the tip pointing up while he releases a fish. Throwing it down makes it more likely to be stepped on by you or someone else trying to help, and can also damage the rod on rocks, etc. that will scratch and weaken the finish of the rod. It’s also a good way to get the rod more dirty, which can result in grit in the sections as discussed earlier.
10) The rod broke while walking through brush while closed: This one happens most to those who leave the line tied to the lillian while in transit. We’ve also heard of it happening while the rod is in a car with a bunch of other gear around. A snag can grab the line, then pull on it enough to get the tip of the rod outside of the handle assembly, where side pressure can snap the tip. If you’re going to transport the rod this way often, please consider using a universal rod cap that will help hold the tip down in the rod in the event of a snag. It’s also not a bad idea to have the rod in a sock to block the line from sags. If you spend enough time practicing your setup knots, you may find this method of transport is not as helpful.
11) The rod broke while playing a fish: This one is surprisingly rare. If you’re staying below the 7lbs of break strength we recommend with our rods, the tippet should break before the rod. A lot of these breakages are earlier damage showing up, but if it’s early in the life of the rod, it could be a defect. If you are hand-lining the fish (i.e. line is longer than rod) be aware that grabbing the line at the handle when the rod is sharply bent can cause breakages too.
12) The rod broke while landing a fish: The process of landing a fish can put a lot of strain on a rod, especially if you’re trying to steer it to the net without grabbing the casting line first. This is one reason we recommend grabbing the line and trapping it with the rod hand before netting/landing the fish. That act should take a lot of strain off of the tip sections of the rod. This is also a good habit to develop if you wish to explore fishing longer lines, where hand lining will be necessary.
13) The rod broke while casting: Unless you’re using WAY too much force, casting the rod should put very little pressure on the sections. Almost always a breakage that shows up on casting was caused by damage that happened earlier, usually one of the above issues. If the rod does have an actual manufacturing defect, it will more than likely show up very early in the life of the rod. That does not mean every breakage early in the life of the rod is caused by a defect, but actual defects do usually show up in the first trip or two.
Breakages will happen, and they’re nothing to be ashamed of. But, they’re also never fun and can spoil a trip if you don’t have a back up rod. We hope this list will help you avoid them and have a better time on the water.
You can also listen to our podcast episode on rod breakages:
If you do have a breakage with your Tenkara USA rod, we can ALWAYS help, even if the breakage is obviously not a manufacturing defect. Just email us at email@example.com or call at 888 483 6527 and we can help you with the repair process.
For more information, please visit our “Tenkara Care” page