I’m an American tenkara angler that is influenced by Japanese tenkara and my own experiences at home. I initially learned about tenkara nine years ago from Tenkara USA (Daniel Galhardo) and subsequently deepened my knowledge from researching Japanese blogs and web sites. I used what I knew from my own fly fishing knowledge and by researching and interviewing famous Japanese Tenkara anglers. I shared many of those interviews with the community here.
What follows is a basic look into the equipment that I use to wet wade and fish my own home streams and as I travel around North America and beyond.
My primary tenkara rods are the Ito, Sato and Rhodo. I’ve been fishing these rods since they have been available. I own a couple of Japanese brand rods in my quiver but my Tenkara USA rods are my first choices to go fishing in my home streams. I think if I had one rod to choose, it would be the Ito. It is a rod where I can hunt small native trout in wild places and then further down the mountain where the stream flows into the high meadow lake, I can catch stacked up big trout coming from out of the lake. It’s a rod that has length and makes a small fish fun yet I can catch 20” fish with it all day long.
Whether you are a fly fisherman that uses tenkara as a part of your toolbox or a dedicated tenkara minimalist, the Tenkara USA strap pack is an excellent organizational storage solution. I’ve been using one since they have been available. I use it for everyday fishing and for travel and on my last trip to Japan. It held all the pieces of kit that I needed for traveling for an extended stay.
I set mine up as a cross chest pack but have left the quick clip at the top to attach to a strap on a daypack or a belt. It’s highly versatile and I even use it for storage when I am just fishing out of my pockets.
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).
In this installment of the Tenkara Guide Spotlight, we’d like to introduce you to Daniel Pierce II of our Tenkara Guide Network. Daniel Pierce has been a great help to Tenkara USA and the north eastern tenkara community for some time now. Dan guides classic trout waters in his home state of Maine, wild places with beautiful native book trout, landlocked salmon, and smallmouth bass. Besides guiding, Dan is very active at teaching tenkara at area events and can usually be found in the Tenkara USA booth when we are in New England.
Besides tenkara activities, Dan works as a middle school counselor, enjoys spending time with his family, and bow hunting for deer and turkey, all of which influence his fishing and guiding. Dan genuinely enjoys sharing the outdoors with others, as his responses below will support.
What types of environment do you guide tenkara anglers and how long have you been guiding? About how many guide trips and tenkara guide trips do you do in a season?
I guide in the great state of Maine. The number of days I guide changes year to year and depends on the weather but it is usually 20-25 days a year of guiding with clients and then a few tenkara classes through out the year. I work full time as a school counselor at a middle school and started guiding when people asked at fly fishing shows where they could find a guide in Maine. I saw an opportunity and jumped on it! People come from New England to fish in Maine with me because of the native brook trout we have here and because there are so few tenkara guides in New England.
Do you guide only tenkara or also western fly-fishing (or spin fishing)?
I exclusively guide fixed line fly-fishing which has given me my niche in Maine. Maine has a number of outstanding fishing guides but only one tenkara guide!
What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of guiding with tenkara?
Tenkara is great for people who are new to the sport of fly-fishing because there is a quick learning curve if you have someone knowledgable with you. I have found tenkara to be a great “add on” activity to recreational guiding here in Maine. Disadvantages would be sometimes people don’t fully understand the limitations of tenkara fishing.
What are your favorite Tenkara USA rods for guiding on your favorites and are your personal favorites different that what you guide with?
Ever since I got the Rhodo and Sato, I have never looked back. There are times I still fish my Amago but 95% of the time both guiding and fishing on my own, it is one of those rods. The rods are well made and reliable which is why they are my go to rods. Between the two rods I can effectively fish a rod between 8 and 13 feet.
What types of rigs do you fish as far as terminal tackle, i.e. single dry fly, indicator rigs, dry dropper, etc. ?
Especially when I am guiding, I do not get very technical with rigging. Many of my clients are looking for simplicity and effectiveness. For this reason, we rig with level line, tippet, and a single fly.
Has there been anything about fishing and guiding with tenkara that has been a surprise to you compared to your initial impressions of the fishing method?
My biggest surprise was the effectiveness of this method of fishing and the range and variety of fish I have been able to target with tenkara.
So we come to the question of fly choice. I generally guide people who are interested in being outside, learning something new, and hopefully catching fish. For this reason, I fish very few fly patterns. From 2011-2014 I fished one fly; a black hook, black thread, grey turkey feather sakasa kebari. Early in 2015 I started to mess around with killer bugs AKA ( UKB, Sawyer’s, Crane fly larva). I now fish a sakasa kebari 3 different colors and a killer bug in 3 different colors, although 9 out of 10 flies I tie on is a black sakasa kebari. My general philosophy is the more time my fly is in the water, the better chance I have of a fish seeing it.
Do you have a favorite fly? What is it?
Most people would think spring in Maine means early season fishing, when really it means turkey hunting. The two spring male wild turkeys I shoot each year will give me enough feathers to refill my fly box for the season and beyond. I started using turkey feathers in 2011 and have exclusively used them for my sakasa kebari since then. The feathers are a blackish grayish color that have an unbelievable amount of action and turn almost translucent when underwater. So my favorite fly is a simple one; TMC103bl size 13, black thread, turkey feather sakasa kebari.
Do you have a fly fishing or tenkara based online blog? What is the URL?
No blog yet but keep your eyes open!
Do you have an social media presence for your services? What are your Facebook or other social media accounts names?
Here at Tenkara USA, we’ve been very excited about sharing tenkara with people new to fishing in general. This has been incredibly rewarding for all of us, but I would like to spend a bit of time in Tenkara Transitions helping those who are experienced and accomplished fly-anglers transition to tenkara.
While tenkara casting is usually much easier for beginners to pick up than western fly-casting, we have seen instances where casting a tenkara rod is difficult or clumsy for an experienced angler. As the physical requirements of tenkara casting are minimal, (after all, we’re casting a much shorter and lighter line with a longer lever) the difficulty some experienced western anglers have can be attributed more to a mental block than a physical inability to execute the task of a good tenkara cast. In my opinion, this block can largely be conquered once the different casting goals of western fly-casting and tenkara casting are understood.
For sake of brevity, I’m going to define these goals in the aspects of western fly fishing and tenkara that I and most of my friends seem most enthusiastic about, casting dry flies on rivers and streams with a western fly rod and casting unweighted flies (dry or wet) on a mountain stream with a tenkara rod.
With western casting, the cast begins with a straight line back cast roughly parallel to the water’s surface. Once the line has straightened behind the angler, the forward cast sends the line roughly parallel to the waters surface until it unrolls above the target, usually about eye level. Just as the line falls, (hopefully) controlled slack is often put in the line in the form of an arial mend. The rod tip then follows the plastic fly line to the surface of the water to leave the intentional slack in place and at the ready to place additional mends in the line as conflicting currents have time to take hold. Obviously, there are many different scenarios a western fly caster may find themselves in, but I hope this provides a good baseline for comparison.
In tenkara, the cast begins with a backcast above and behind the angler. Usually a bit before the line straightens out behind the angler, the forward cast begins and throws the line in front of and down from the rod tip. The line should unroll relatively straight to the target, roughly ten inches from the surface of the water. As the fly and some tippet hit the water, the rod tip should be left high, holding all or at least most of the casting line off of the water so that no mending is required. Again, there’s a lot one can do with a tenkara rod, but this is the norm for myself and many, (perhaps most) of the tenkara anglers I speak with.
Once a western fly-fisher understands these different casting goals, tenkara casting can be the simple and elegant act it should be; not much more than a flick of the wrist sending the line above and behind the angler followed by a flick of the wrist sending the line down and in front of the angler. There are more detailed and well done tenkara casting articles and videos that I encourage aspiring tenkara anglers to seek out, but believe understanding these basic goals will help the information in those sources be more accessible for someone entrenched in western fly-fishing. I also feel that understanding these goals will help the angler transition back and forth from tenkara to western fly fishing, should they so choose.
If you’re a western angler who’s had issues making a tenkara rod cast the way you think it should, please let us know if this explanation helps you. If not, we’d love to hear what you’re having troubles with in an effort to help you on your tenkara journey. Best of luck and happy casting!
When I started getting into fly-fishing, it was for me a solitary activity. Perhaps I wanted to hide the poor line management and inaccurate casts; or perhaps it’s just that I was usually seeking solitude. Nowadays I absolutely love fishing with others, and it’s not because my casts are now accurate and I don’t have to worry about line management, I just realized it’s a lot of fun to share my experience, my evening in the water, with others. Sometimes, I find it is actually a little sad to have a wonderful evening in the water, witness fish rising around me, watching a spectacular sunset, colorful fall foliage or a majestic bird and have no one to turn to and say, “did you see that?”
This week I went fishing with people on a couple of occasions. When you fish with others you have two choices: stick together, take turns at each good spot or leapfrog one pool at a time, always staying in sight of one another. OR, fish more on your own, leapfrogging longer distances and leaving a lot of pools in between for one another. I find the second option a good compromise between seeking solitude and desiring company.
Now, if the second option is the approach you’ll be taking with a partner, or a few friends, I have found that there must be a system to tell your partners where you started fishing. After all, if they can’t see you, and you already fished an area, fishing for them won’t be all that great. When leapfrogging, I suggest using the Duck system. Continue reading