How tenkara works
A rod, line and fly. Line connects to the tip. Easy casting of a fly to spots where the fish are, intuitive landing. That's tenkara in a nutshell. Read more to find everything you need about tenkara.
You have a telescopic rod that extends out to 12ft on average – rod length ranges from 8’10” to 14’7″. You tie a fixed length of line to the rod tip. Line length can be from the same length as the rod to over 2x the length of the rod . With line tied to the tip of the rod, rod extended, about 4ft of tippet at the end of the line and your fly, you’re ready to fish. Casting is very intuitive, just move the rod back and forth to throw the line forward and cast your fly to where the fish is. You’ll pick up the casting in about 2 minutes, scroll down to learn how to cast with tenkara. And, of course, you may be wondering, “how do I land a fish if there is no reel”? Super intuitive, a fish is pulling one way, you’ll just pull it towards you by tilting the rod back and bring the fish toward you. Keep reading to find out more.
You need a tenkara rod, a tenkara line and tippet, and flies. A line holder to store your line, and a set of forceps (to remove flies caught deeper in a fish's mouth) and nippers (to cut your tippet and line) are also handy to have. Read below for the gear you need to start fishing.
Shop for tenkara lines.
How to use a tenkara rod
Opening a tenkara rod
1) Remove rod plug. Tilt rod down slightly to expose the tenkara rod tip.
2) Keeping the hard tip of the rod inside the main segment, expose the braided tip material (the lillian), attach line to rod tip. (keeping the hard tip inside will prevent a broken tenkara rod)
3) Once your line is attached, hold rod handle segment near the opening with one hand. With the other hand pull the tenkara rod tip, and each subsequent segment out, sliding them out between your fingers. Starting with the tip pull each piece out completely until next segment comes out and becomes snug. Do this in order. Pieces should feel snug, not overly tight.
Closing a tenkara rod
To collapse the tenkara rod, simply start by pushing the segments back into the handle, in order, starting with the thickest segment first and making your way to the tip of the rod. You may leave your tenkara line tied to the rod tip, and, when you have collapsed the entire rod, wind the line around a tenkara line holder and move on to the next stop. If you’re ready to pack up for the rest of the day, pull the tag end of your line to remove the line from the rod and stow both away.
Should you have any problems with your tenkara rod, take a look at the rod troubleshooting page for easy solutions to common problems.
Casting and techniques
Casting with tenkara is very intuitive, you will get it after just a few casts. The basic concept is that you will move your rod tip back quickly, stop at the vertical position (12 o'clock) to throw the line back and make the rod flex. And, then move the rod tip forward, stopping at roughly 10 o'clock in front of you. making your line move forward and the fly hit the target. Having an index finger on top of the handle helps stop at the vertical position more naturally and improves accuracy. Watch the video below for more information on how to cast with tenkara.
Tenkara casting becomes very obvious when you have a rod in hand, it is a bit similar to throwing a ball at a target, your brain does most of the work after a few attempts. The videos below will show you how to cast with tenkara as well as techniques for using your tenkara fly and also how to land fish with tenkara.
Casting with tenkara is not difficult. In fact, we find it to be a very intuitive thing to do. Learn how to cast tenkara in this video with Daniel Galhardo. Remember to...
Tenkara places more emphasis on technique rather than gear. One way to simplify is to reduce the number of fly choices and try different techniques. In Japan I’ve...
Here’s a good video shot at Mossy Creek, Virginia, demonstrating the effective use of the pause-and-drift technique for tenkara. It also perfectly illustrates how...
Knots for tenkara
Knots are just one of those things, no matter how experienced you are, you may have to learn and practice. But, don't worry, there are only 3 knots you really need to learn: (1) a girth hitch to connect your tapered line to rod tip, (2) the double-loop slip knot for tippet to various places (the level line to rod tip can be seen as a variation of this with one fewer loop). And, finally, (3) the blood knot to connect two lines together should you need to.
Tenkara Knot videos
Learn how to tie the “Double-Loop slip knot” for tenkara, one very simple tenkara knot that can be used to tie your tippet to tenkara line and tippet to...
Learn the basic knots used in tenkara fly-fishing. Tie your tenkara line to rod, tippet to line and fly to tippet...
How to tie tenkara flies
While you can purchase tenkara flies and we make that easy, tying tenkara flies is one of the easiest ways to get into fly-tying and can be a fun hobby too. A tenkara fly, or kebari, is often tied with the simplest of materials: a hook, sewing thread, and a feather (hackle). The tenkara fly embodies the spirit of tenkara in its simplicity and effectiveness. Learn how to tie tenkara flies.
In 3 minutes tenkara guide, and McGuckin’s tenkara guru, Steve Conrad will show you how to tie a very effective tenkara fly, the Royal Conrad...
Allison Marriott is a fly-fishing guide and fly-tying instructor in the Boulder, Colorado area, working for Rocky Mountain Anglers fly shop. As part of our Tenkara...
John Geer shows us how to tie flies without a vise. That’s simple fly-tying...
Tenkara Fly-tying Kits
Fly-tying is also pretty simple. We have put together two tenkara fly-tying kit options with all that you need to tie tenkara flies and nothing you don't. The kits have enough hooks to tie 50 flies and will pay for themselves very quickly compared to purchasing flies.
Listen to our Podcast
The Tenkara Cast is a podcast hosted by Daniel Galhardo. It covers stories, techniques, philosophy and other information that will inspire you to keep your fly-fishing simple and explore the outdoors. Sharing the tenkara story™
Subscribe and listen via iTunes here The allure of Japan to tenkara anglers goes beyond the tenkara fishing. The allure is as much in the culture, food, sake and overall...
You can subscribe to our podcast via iTunes or Soundcloud Our podcast archive is also available here Daniel, founder of Tenkara USA, has been described as a...
Tenkara shows us there is a different way of thinking about fly-fishing, and that includes how we think about bugs and their relation with fly-fishing. In this episode...
If you’re looking to learn much more about tenkara in one place, and directly from our own teacher Dr. Hisao Ishigaki, you may consider the Discovering Tenkara DVD.
Filmed on picturesque British upland streams and presented by the UK’s first certified Tenkara Guides – Paul Gaskell and John Pearson – this volume demonstrates key elements of the method that is “Japanese tenkara” – its history, philosophy, equipment and flies. Join the Discover Tenkara Team together with Japan’s foremost tenkara expert – Dr Hisao Ishigaki – for a look at the fundamental elements of this beautiful and effective fly fishing tradition. Read more.