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Choosing a tenkara rod, tenkara line, and tenkara flies

On October 17, 2016
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By Daniel Galhardo


This blog entry is a transcription from the Tenkara Cast podcast episode “Choosing a tenkara rod, tenkara line, and tenkara flies.” We have had many requests to have the podcasts in this format and are happy to present the first one here. The podcast episode may be found here

Even though tenkara is simple and when we go out we’re not carrying much, I totally recognize that when we’re shopping for the tenkara rod, the first tenkara rod especially, like anything else, it’s daunting. We don’t have a huge number of options but how does one go about selecting the right rod, the right line and the right fly to start fishing with?

Today’s episode, will provide a very brief overview of the equipment used in tenkara and then specifically about the lineup of rods that we offer at Tenkara USA. I’m going to talk about the two different lines that we offer for tenkara and then the four flies. The flies are probably the easier part because it’s more on the philosophy and that kind of thing.

Let’s talk about the overview of the equipment that you need to use for tenkara. On average, our tenkara rods are 12 feet long and telescope down to an average of 20 inches. Some of them were designed to fish at one specific length while others can be used at two or three different lengths.

At the end of the rod you’re going to be tying a fixed length of line. Usually, it’s going to be about the same length as the rod when you’re just beginning. At the end of your tenkara line, you’re going to tie approximately four feet of tippit. Tippit is just the thin fishing line that goes between the line and the fly. And then you have fly.


There’s no need for leaders in tenkara in the traditional tenkara lines that are offered by us. You just go straight tenkara line, tip it, fly and that’s it. No need to complicate things with leaders.

If you’re coming from a western fly-fishing background, that might sound really long but essentially, we’re substituting running line for a rod. You can ask anybody and they’ll tell you that once you start fishing with a tenkara rod, 12 feet is really not that long. It’s not nearly as intimidating as it sounds. I just want to put that to rest early on that, yes, it sounds long but that’s the average length of a rod and you get used to it very quickly.

Let me talk specifically about the lineup of rods that we offer, why we have different rod models and how we go about deciding which rods to get. Our rods range from 8 feet, 10 inches to 14 feet, 7 inches. There are five different rod models that we offer. I’m going to start with the shortest and talk about the longest at the end.

The shortest rod that we offer is the Rhodo, R-H-O-D-O. We named it after Rhododendron which is a kind of tree that is all over eastern streams in particular, and it tends to make the streams very tight and requires a shorter rod. The first rod in our lineup is the Rhodo and the Rhodo’s a cool rod because it’s an adjustable rod, you can fish it at three different lengths. You can fish it at 8 feet, 10 inches, 9 feet, 8 inches, 10 feet, six inches. They are specifically designed to be fished at three different lengths by a little bulge in one of the segments and also there’s a special plug that we developed to hold everything in place.


The next rod up from the Rhodo in terms of length, is the Sato. The Sato is also an adjustable rod, you can fish it at three different lengths but it’s a little bit longer. You can fish it at 10 feet, 8 inches, 11 feet, 10 inches, and 12 feet, 9 inches. The Sato is probably our bread and butter, our main recommendation. That covers the main lengths of tenkara rods, on average, very versatile rod.


After the Sato, we have the Iwana. The Iwana’s the name of a fish in Japan and it’s actually one of the very first rods that we developed. We’ve had a couple of different iterations of the Iwana but it’s been one of our most popular rods since we started selling it six and a half years ago. The Iwana’s designed to be fished at 12 feet. Although it’s telescopic it is not adjustable which makes it a great value rod, as it’s a little less expensive.

After the Iwana, we have the Amago. The Amago is a 13 and a half-foot long rod and it’s what we classify as our big fish rod. If you know you’re going to be catching larger fish and by larger, I mean, 18-20 inch fish and over, very often, the Amago is the rod to look at.

After that, the fifth and final rod in our lineup is the Ito. The Ito is an adjustable rod that you can fish at 13 feet long or 14 feet, 7 inches.

That gives you the sense of the lengths of the tenkara rods and that’s going to be the primary distinction among all of the rods that we offer. Over time, I have simplified the rod options in terms of action and that kind of thing. They all fish somewhat similarly, the length’s going to be the main distinction with the exception of the Amago. That has a lot more beefiness to it, a lot more backbone and that kind of thing, it’s our big fish rod.

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