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Confessions Of A Keiryu Angler

by John V.
(3rd rock from the sun)

Keiryu rods: Nissin 450ZX stiff and Diawa Kiyose 36SF

Keiryu rods: Nissin 450ZX stiff and Diawa Kiyose 36SF

Here we are, the first posting of Japanese keiryu fishing methods in the USA.

I have spent the past 8 months learning about Japanese keiryu fishing methods and how it all works. Below are some insights on how to build a keiryu fishing rig and how it works.

The rig I will describe here is built specifically for a Nissin 450ZX Stiff keiryu rod.

Most keiryu anglers use a line/rig the same length as the rod or 1-2 ft shorter. It is all about the tight line and drift control just like tenkara.

My rig is a standard keiryu rig as used in Japan.

This rig is about 13' long.

Line is 4X Varivas fluorocarbon tippet.

4 line indicators made of bright polypropolene yarn tied on to the line using a surgeons knot tied with the yarn. That makes it so that the indicators can be easily adjusted along the length of the line.

Gamakatsu eyeless hook snelled directly onto the main line

You don't have to snell an eyeless hook. You can use any type of eyed hooks you want. I just decided to stick to the Japanese method and use snelled hooks.

1 BB split shot.

Attachment to lillian is the same slip knot used for level line tenkara lines.

I am using heavier line and weight than a standard Japanese keiryu rig. I am fishing a large deep river with high spring flows right now. In smaller streams, most Japanese keiryu anglers are using 5-6X lines with lighter weights.

How it all works:

The rod: Rods designed for keiryu fishing have a slightly different flex characteristic than a tenkara rod. Although many keiryu rods will work amazingly well for tenkara fishing methods, tenkara rods may not work so well for casting super light keiryu lines with weights attached. Keiryu fishing is just as specialized as tenkara and just as refined from centuries of tradition and evolution. Best to use a rod built for the task.

Weight is about 8 inches above the hook.

Yarn line indicators are spaced about 4-6 inches apart and the lowest indicator is placed just above the water surface. You adjust where the indicators are to get the bait to the desired depth. No yarn in the water.

The indicators are not really strike indicators. They just help you see where your line is in the water.

Bait: You can use any kind of bait you want. Traditionally, live aquatic insects are used. Just pick up a few large rocks and harvest your bait. You could use salmon eggs, worms etc. I have been using some Berkley Powerbait stuff while I get the hang of casting the keiryu rig. I keep flinging the live insect baits off the hook.

The cast is quite different. I find it easiest to use 2 hands with the big Nissin 450ZX. It is kind of a slow spey type cast.

You drift your bait just as you would a kebari. Same fishing tactics are used. Accurate bait cast is essential. This is not a huck it anywhere in the water and wait. It is very active fishing just like tenkara.

I have found that keiryu fishing is equally as challenging as tenkara. I have personally been using keiryu methods in the big rivers. I know that keiryu anglers in Japan fish small mountain streams but I prefer tenkara for that.

Will I be hanging up my tenkara rod and become a bait fisherman?

No, I am interested in learning more about the other Japanese fixed line fishing methods. Contrary to popular thought, you can enjoy more than one form of fishing. There is nothing wrong with a tenkara angler doing some bait fishing when the mood strikes.

Comments for Confessions Of A Keiryu Angler

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May 16, 2013
Often wondered....
by: Lynn

.... how they tied on the indicator yarn that I have seen in keiryu fishing vids. I've given some thought as to if keiryu style bait fishing couldn't make for a new sport here in America on some of our medium-sized rivers. I'm thinking specifically of the rivers that flow past my own county, the Wabash and White, here in Indiana. Using a good-sized keiryu rod that can handle upwards of a size '1' line (6-8 lb test) as a tippet, one could have some fun tying into either the indigenous carp/buffalo or the invasive asian carp.

May 16, 2013
New Sport
by: TenkaraBum (KeiryuBum)


I've often wondered the same thing. I think it could. I think tenkara anglers who live near larger warm water rivers may take up keiyru fishing for species that don't readily take flies. Also, I think bait fishermen may recognize that the improved presentation a long rod and relatively short line can provide works for them just as it does for tenkara anglers. Plus, there's the fun from fighting a fish without a reel.

Getting over the "it's just a glorified cane pole" argument will be harder for keiryu than for tenkara, but there will be people who will try it and will like it.

May 19, 2013
by: Anonymous

Very interesting John. You have my attention. I personally don't use bait, too easy, but I'm curious if anglers in Japan fish Keiryu with fur and feathers or only with bait. Can you please post a video on youtube for use all to enjoy. Thanks John great post!


May 19, 2013
Keiryu tenkara crossover
by: KeiryuBum

I remember having seen at least one web page or blog post where a Japanese keiryu angler used a weighted nymph, but it was a long time ago and I didn't bookmark it. I will be doing more research on this because I believe it is a reasonable approach.

May 19, 2013
keiryu videos
by: Anonymous

JD, I'm working on some videos right now. I will get them up as soon as I can. I will post a youtube link on this page.


May 19, 2013
Excited to see a video
by: Thomas

Well knowing you Dr. John whatever you do, it will be done right. I am excited to see a video when it is completed. Please let us know on the Panfish Forum and supply the link so that we all can have a look. Thanks for this information, Thomas

Jun 09, 2015
A little different style of Keiryu fishing
by: John Evans

I have a little different style of keiryu fishing that's working well in southern, warm waters. I use a stiffer rod, such as a Daiwa Kiyose 33SF, with a weighted nymph on the end, plus a little foam strike indicator that I make from fly tying foam. I usually attach a live butterworm to the weighted nymph for extra attraction. I do let the strike indicator rest on the water. While this style of fishing is a little unusual, it's proven to be very effective for stocker trout, panfish, largemouth and small mouth bass, and even catfish. I don't use weight on the line--just the weighted nymph with live bait attached. It's great fun to see that little strike indicator twitching. Well, give it a try and see how it works for you.

Jan 30, 2016
Riggin live bait on a hook
by: Dean

i would love some links or information on how to get those buggers(nymphs, beetles, grasshopper, etc.) on a hook properly so it doesnt fling off every time. worms arent so hard but these other insects seem to get off the hook every time

Jul 17, 2020
No rules!
by: Robert

I've only fished tenkara once and kept catching fish not meant to catch on my light rod. I'm hooked (pun intended) and want to remind people to not get too twisted about "rules". The goal is to catch - if the 'rule' helps in that, great!! If not, discard and try something outside the rules!!!
Just received my k rod.... oh man, so ready!!!

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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” - Benjamin Franklin

"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." -
Col. Robert Venables 1662

As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.


The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.

Beware of the Dogma

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