Warm Water Tenkara: First Impressions
by James Fulmer
Two weeks ago I'd never heard of Tenkara.
Thought I'd share some of my rookie experience, meager as it is. My home water is a pond about ten miles from my house. As a part of an urban park, it gets a lot of attention from picknickers, hikers, and more than a few fisher persons (although I've yet to meet another fly-fisherman). It still manages to support a nice population of small to medium size sunfish and the occasional bigmouth lunker.
I went up there yesterday afternoon with a 13ft Kasugo (6:4) and a 10ft Yokoshima (7:3) received last week from the AllFishBuy folks. (I am, incidently, hoping to get one of the new TenkaraUsa Iwana rods when they become available.) I met a young man at the pond who was eager to show me a photo on his iphone of a bass he caught earlier that day which he figured would go eight pounds. I was thinking more like five, but then if I had caught it, I'd probably go eight myself. I congratulated him with both admiration and envy. I've hooked a few like that, but have not landed one out of this particular fishing hole. (He caught his with a big ugly plastic worm that would haved scared small children.)
I rigged up the Kasugo with about 14ft of 15lb running line. I know this is a lot heavier than is recommended, but I wanted to see how the rod would handle it, and thought the heavy line would better cut through the considerable wind gusts this place gets in the late evening. I tied on a home-made version of the TenkaraBum's killer-bug to couple feet of 5x tippett, attached, in turn, to a few more feet of 1x used as both a taper and a cushion between tippet and running line.
I've had many fine days on these waters, and this one ranks with the best. Let me share a few impressions:
1. The soft tip of the tenkara rod does not transfer the electric jolt of a stiffer-tipped fly rod, but it detects the soft strikes better. And yesterday 3/4 of the strikes were soft. I doubt I'd have noticed half of them with my other rods.
2. Fish tend to throw the hook less with the tenkara rod. Again, I think the soft tip does not allow the fish to get enough purchase on the hook to throw it. I didn't count, but I'm pretty sure my hook-up to landing ratio improved by about 50 per cent.
3. Roll casting is ideal with a tenkara rod. This a great way to cut through and under the wind, and if you remember to get the line out of the water and load only with the tippet, you can get a fairly delicate presentation.
4. There are limitations. I hooked up with a five plus pounder and had a major thrill for a heart-stopping ten seconds or so. I know it was five plus because it snapped my 5lb tippet cleanly like it was a wet noodle. More skill, more experience, and a whole lotta luck might have allowed me to land it, but I kinda doubt it. Tenkara, perhaps, is not made for the monsters.
I could go on, but I've blabbered enough. I can hardly wait to try the lighter lines and smaller rods on the tiny trout streams I am partial towards.
Walk softly and carry a long stick. - Teddy Roosevelt (almost)
Tenkara has no strict rules. Enjoy tenkara in your own way.
- Eiji Yamakawa
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin