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Tenkara

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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Kudo

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Complete tenkara set:
  • Best-selling adjustable tenkara rod: Rhodo
  • 2 spools of line, line holder and 1 free set of flies

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Tenkara gear

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.

rod
Tenkara Rods
There are multiple options for tenkara rods. While each has a place where it will be most suitable, depending on how open the stream is and the size of fish targeted, we can say any rod will work well and any tenkara rod is suitable for beginners. We recommend getting the longest rod you can for the stream you fish. Tenkara rods are 12ft long on average; some of our rods feature a patent-pending adjustable system, which allows you to fish them at 2 or three lengths. Shop for tenkara rod, or read reviews.
tenkara line
Tenkara Lines
There are two types of lines used in tenkara: tenkara tapered lines and tenkara level lines. Either will be used by itself with 4ft of tippet at the end. Which line you will use is a matter of personal preference; we like to recommend you try both in the beginning if you can. Tapered lines have a fixed length, are super easy to setup and cast softly. Level lines come in spools of 65ft and can be cut to length. At the end of the line you tie about 4ft of tippet (we recommend 5X tippet).
Shop for tenkara lines.
tenkara fly
Tenkara Flies
Any fly, including any western fly, can be used with a tenkara rod. Dry flies work superbly with the long reach and drag-free drifts allowed by the rods, and nymphs work great with the tight lines. While not all tenkara flies have a reverse hackle (sakasa style), those are the most typical style flies. We have found the "sakasa" style flies, or sakasa kebari, to be very versatile and work in a tremendous amount of conditions. We only offer flies we use ourselves and know they work. Shop for tenkara flies.

 
 
 

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.

How to use a tenkara rod
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

grip_transparentCasting 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.

  • How to cast with tenkara tenkara-shirt

    How to cast 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...

  • Techniques for tenkara Tenkara techniques

    Techniques for tenkara

    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...

  • Pause-and-drift technique and landing Pause-and-drift technique for tenkara

    Pause-and-drift technique and landing

    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.

Girth Hitch,tying line to tenkara rod
Tenkara tapered line to rod tip: GIRTH HITCH
Very easy knot, fold loop over line and pull line through it. That gives you a hitch, which you will slide over the soft tip of the rod (called the "lillian") and tighten against a stopper knot at the tip of the rod. *Always leave the hard tip of the rod inside the main part of the rod to prevent breakage.
tying tippet to tenkara level line
Tippet to level line, tippet to end of tapered line, or tippet to fly: DOUBLE-LOOP SLIP KNOT
Make a loop, then two small loops at the base of that, and finally pass the tag end of your tippet through the two small loops only from the back towards you. Practice this one a few times at home, it is a very easy and simple knot but can be tied incorrectly at first. The video will help.
fly
 Level line to tenkara rod is a variation of the Double-loop Slip Knot, minus one loop:
This knot can be tied almost identically to the double-loop slip knot. Make a loop, then a smaller loop at the base of it and pass your tag through the small loop only. We recommend tying a stopper knot at the two ends of your level line before connecting it to the rod or tippet to line.


The blood knot is useful for connecting two lines together, for example if you decide to cut your main level line to shorten it (do not cut the tapered line), and later you wish the level line was longer again, you can connect them together with a blood knot. Or, if your tippet gets too short, you can tie more tippet to it with a blood knot. All you do is make the lines parallel, turn the line 3 times around on one side, pass the end through the middle, then turn the line 3 times on the other side and pass the tag end through the middle in the opposite direction, and pull on the lines.

Blood knot to connect two lines together

Tenkara Knot videos

 

  • Tenkara Knot: one knot for tippet to... Tippet to tenkara line

    Tenkara Knot: one knot for tippet to...

    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...

  • Knots for tenkara Knots for tenkara

    Knots for tenkara

    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.

  • Tenkara Fly-tying Video Series: Royal Conrad Tenkara fly-tying with Steve Conrad

    Tenkara Fly-tying Video Series: Royal Conrad

    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...

  • Fly-tying with Allison Marriott Allison Marriott tenkara fly tying

    Fly-tying with Allison Marriott

    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...

  • Fly-tying without a vise tenkara fly tying without a vise

    Fly-tying without a vise

    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.

tenkara fly-tying kit, basicBasic Kit, $95

Great beginner vise, spring-action clamp style, requires no adjustment for hook size. Imported.

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Fly Tying kit, upgradedUpgraded Kit, $145

High-end pedestal-style vise, non-rotary. Made by Peak Fishing, in Loveland, Colorado.

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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™

  • Catch and Keep and Catch and Release catch_keep_trout

    Catch and Keep and Catch and Release

    Fishing started as a means to secure food. As society evolved, it has become primarily a sport for most who practice it. Catch and release (C&R) has become the norm...

  • Conversations: Japan with Adam Trahan and Adam... Tenkara Cast Japan with Adam

    Conversations: Japan with Adam Trahan and Adam...

    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...

  • My Outdoor Obsessions My Outdoor Obsession tenkara and climbing

    My Outdoor Obsessions

    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...

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Listen to more episodes

Discovering Tenkara DVD USA

DVD

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.

$29.00

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