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Is Tenkara fly fishing?

Trip reports, findings, events, and general experiences with tenkara fishing. Tell other tenkara enthusiasts about your tenkara experience

Is Tenkara fly fishing?

Postby olanz » Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:52 am

The other day I was fishing in southwest Virginia swining soft hackle flies with my Ito and was catching a fair number of fish and suddenly a game warden appeared and asked for my fishing liscence, which I gave him. Then the interesting part to this story, he informed me that this area was a fly fishing only area, which I told him I was aware of, and he asked me to please leave the area because I was in violoation of the fly fishing only regulation. I tried to explain the Tenkara rod, etc. but was getting no where with him and packed up and left. Has anyone else had an experience similar to this? Just curious.
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Re: Is Tenkara fly fishing?

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:11 am

That's too bad.
I have not yet heard of that happening, but we have been preparing for it from the beginning. Tenkara IS legal in Virginia's fly fishing only waters. Please take a look at this section of the forum: ... 184d79b407
Perhaps you want to print out that response for Virginia.
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Re: Is Tenkara fly fishing?

Postby rmcworthing » Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:26 am

Wow. I'm sorry that happened.

Whether or not Tenkara qualifies as fly fishing still sometimes crops up on forums. The question has never been very important to me; I don't mind what you call it, I just know I love it. But if defining Tenkara as a subset of fly fishing means ensuring access to waters, then perhaps I should learn to pay more attention.

My occasional interactions with DWR and other officials on the water here in Utah has always been very positive. My DWR biologist friend informs me that DWR's primary interest in fly fishing only waters is based on resource conservation (ie. the impact of live bait on a fishery is greater than that seen with fly fishing).

This topic has been addressed to death on this and other forums. But if you match DWR's purpose in supporting fly fishing only waters as stated above with the fact that Tenkara utilizes a true fly, it seems to me you certainly meet the intent of law. And the official stance elicited from various state and federal officials and shared by the many members of this forum (like the one Daniel cites above) certainly supports Tenkara as fly fishing.

I wonder how we can all best address the situation you found yourself in should we ever encounter a similar one.
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Re: Is Tenkara fly fishing?

Postby CM_Stewart » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:00 am

rmcworthing wrote:I wonder how we can all best address the situation you found yourself in should we ever encounter a similar one.

1. Know the regulations in the state you are fishing, and if applicable, on the water you are fishing. If you are on a "fly fishing only" body of water, know how the regulations define "fly fishing." Also, carry them with you.

2. Several states define fly fishing as fishing with a fly rod, a fly line and a fly reel, but when the applicable regulatory agency was contacted, they replied that tenkara would fit within their definition of fly fishing. If you are fishing in one of those states, it would be wise to carry with you a letter or email from the appropriate regulatory agency clearly stating that tenkara is legal in fly fishing only areas of the state.

The only state I am aware of that has replied that tenkara is not legal in fly fishing only water is New Hampshire (home of Orvis, by coincidence?). There may be others that I don't know of.

It is not at all certain that an unofficial email sent to someone else two years ago will protect you from a fine this year. If I planned to fish fly fishing only water, I would contact the agency myself (and gently suggest that if they publish regulations that make it clear tenkara is legal, fewer people would call and write to ask about it). If they haul you before a judge, the judge is likely to follow the published regulations unless you can show that YOU asked for a clarification and were relying on the clarification that YOU received.

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer and that's not legal advice. Just common sense.
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Re: Is Tenkara fly fishing?

Postby adventureR » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:38 am

Sorry olanz, but the simple truth is some people noticing the lack of a reel just react "funny" to put it nicely. I feel after reading your post maybe you ran into someone who probably knows about Tenkara but thinks it's just not fly fishing. I'm sure you presented him with the fly or flys you were using, but some people out there have for some reason or other made up their minds. The reason it sounded this way to me is from experience with hearing comments about fishing from a kayak. Of coarse never to my face, always at a great distance. The one I hear the most is you can't catch no fish from no kayak. I hope we practicing Tenkara don't have to start carring legal documents. I will really cut into the level of simplicity.
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Re: Is Tenkara fly fishing?

Postby olanz » Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:30 am

thanks everyone for your responses and for the most part i was trying to explain to the game warden most of the suggestions mentioned but he kept telling me that i don't have a reel and that it bordered on poaching. don't know what he meant by this and i am sure this is an isolated event because i was asked for my license in the past while tenkara fishing. the funny part is that i was doing very well until asked to cease my fishing. thanks again for your suggestions. otto
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Re: Is Tenkara fly fishing?

Postby Anthony » Tue Apr 17, 2012 2:15 pm

Chris - that's probably good advice.

I have a message in to the PA Fish Comission (haven't heard back yet)- just to be safe - although I know they've been contacted by others.

In Pennsylvania there is one aspect of the Fly Fishing Only rules that could potentially stick a PA tenkara angler and here it is:

From the Pennsylvania regs:
- Fishing must be done with tackle limited to fly rods, fly reels and fly line with a maximum of 18 feet in leader material or monofilament line attached. Spinning, spincast and casting rods and reels are prohibited.

I would imagine that many of us could easily have more than 18' of leader material if we are level line fishing, when you consider the tippet as well. So be careful in PA.

How a furled line fits into this I can't say for sure.
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Re: Is Tenkara fly fishing?

Postby goneflyfishing » Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:12 pm

Anthony wrote:How a furled line fits into this I can't say for sure.

It could be potentially treated the same as a level line. After all, furled lines have been typically used in place of leaders for better turnover.

To be on the safe side, I would take the furled line length into consideration for the 18' I guess.
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Re: Is Tenkara fly fishing?

Postby jumsted » Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:07 pm

It's a shame this is even an issue. The nature of the regulation is to prohibit bait fishing, treble hooks, rooster tails & other such mechanical lures, right? A fly is a fly, regardless. The Tenkara rod is a means of handling the fly, so it's a fly rod, unless you're dangling a salmon egg or some other bait from the line.

I was once questioned on my local river for using a rooster tail when the regulation simply stated "barbless hooks only". I used barbless treble hooks. In hindsight, I was probably violating the nature of that regulation, though I was following the rules as written at the time.

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Re: Is Tenkara fly fishing?

Postby Karl Klavon » Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:16 am

Definitions of just what constitutes "Fly Fishing" vary considerably from state to state. On some waters in Oregon you can not use a weighted fly, split shot or a sinking fly line of any kind. As I understand it in the past the rules here in California stipulated a fly rod, fly reel and a fly line must be used for it to be considered fly fishing but the state has moved away from fly fishing only regulations in favor of Artificial Only Waters Regulations, although Tenkara fly fishing is not specifically mentioned in written regulations at this point, Tenkara fly fishing passes muster as being a legal form of fly fishing in this state. An Artificial Fly is defined as a fly commonly made by fly tying procedures. I know of anglers who have claimed that Power Bait is an artificial lure because it is an artificial manufactured chemical product, and not a natural bait like salmon eggs, minnows, worms, crickets, grubs and such, so they figure they can fish "Artificial Lure Only Waters" with Power Bait. No so says the State of California. As a matter of fact putting any substance on an artificial fly that attracts fish to the fly through the use of the fish's scenting abilities turns the artificial fly into a form of bait fishing here in California. It is always a good idea to read your state's fishing regulations very carefully, and the Special Regulations that may apply to any special regulation waters that you may be fishing.
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