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Take a Boy (or Girl) Tenkara Fishing

by Les Albjerg
(Caldwell, ID)

Valley Creek - Lure Fishing

Valley Creek - Lure Fishing

One of the most enjoyable times fishing this year was taking a nine year old out fishing. James' Dad texted me today, "James had fun and really likes your long pole."

My hunting partner's middle son really likes to fish. I told him I would take him fishing this weekend when they came up. I was willing to sacrifice some hunting time to encourage a young fisherman. That said, I didn't have to sacrifice any hunting time since I got my elk the morning the family was coming up to join us in our camp.

We headed down to Valley Creek on Saturday morning to fish. The water was crystal clear. James brought his spinning outfit. I had no clue how well he could fish. I also decided that this was about him, not me. I wasn't going to fish. I purposely forgot his tackle box because he only had large hooks and a large bobber. I set him up for Ultra-light Worm fishing! We went to the first pool. I showed him how to rig the Red Wiggler and gave instructions on how to fish with a barbless hook. I then stood back and watched him fish. I was amazed at how well he could read the water. He worked the pool from the bottom inside to the top outside. He worked to pockets to perfection. He caught three fish. We went to the next pool, and he did the same. There were some areas he missed, and to my delight he caught two fish out of the areas I pointed out to him. We only had two hours to fish before his mother was taking him up to Redfish Lodge for family activities. So, I asked him if he would like to try a different kind of fishing. He was eager to learn.

I got out the TenkaraBum Traveler 44 and set it at the 3.6 meter length and put on a level 3 line the length of the rod. I wish I had a video of his eyes as he saw the rod get longer and longer! He listened very well as I took him through the basics. I tied on a size 12 Royal Coachman Kebari. We went to the next pool. It was a perfect place for a beginner, only grass behind us. He caught on to casting fairly quickly. Playing fish was a different story. It is a good thing I had a dozen flies! The poor young man was used to the drag or heavy line to horse the fish in. He broke the first 4 fish off. I was able to do some coaching. He caught 2 before we had to go. He was excited. I had to head home with my elk. He wants me to take him fishing again with "the long rod." What a joy and satisfaction to see a young man enjoy and learn a new way to fish. This would have been totally missed if I had been wetting a line. It is better to give than receive.

On the way home, I did fish one of the Japanese Plugs I bought on the Finesse Fishing site with the Tenyru Rayz Spectra. I didn't catch anything, but really enjoyed learning a new lure. If I had used a Tenkara rod, I am sure I would have caught fish. That is a different story.

Oh, yes I did get my elk, a yearling bull with my bow at 30 yards. Small but tasty. That is a whole different story, and this is fishing forum, not a hunting forum.

Take a young person fishing and help grow our sport! You will be surprised at how much fun you have!

Comments for Take a Boy (or Girl) Tenkara Fishing

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Sep 03, 2018
Great post.
by: John in N.C.

You did the right thing by not fishing and instead investing your time in helping the young fella have a good experience.

Sep 03, 2018
by: Herb S.

Over the years I’ve taught quite a few kids to fly fish, mostly over the age of 13 when I was doing it formally for a summer recreation program run by the local high school, and a few younger kids at Trout Unlimited functions. You’re right, Les, there’s a great deal of fun and satisfaction teaching kids. But age has something to do with it and I came to some conclusions, mainly when running across young boys on bridges or river banks crying because their closed-face spin-cast reels were jammed. After clearing a few of those abominable reels I began to hate them and started thinking. Why give kids something they don’t understand how to repair and turn ‘em loose to fish on their own?

So I found the solution with 10’ telescoping fiberglass poles. I’d been experimenting with them, and longer versions, for my own amusement (which led me to get interested in tenkara, by the way) and realized they were the best way to introduce younger children to fishing. But I ran into resistance! When our TU chapter took on a day instructing underprivileged kids at a day camp we arrived to find the councilors had piled up the spin-cast rods into a tangled mess, and naturally, some of the reels were jammed. It took us half the day to get the outfits ready to fish. I had previously suggested that we buy some cheap cane poles, but somehow many adults think, or have been trained to think through advertising, closed-face spinning is the way to go, and my ideas got shot down even after that awful experience at the camp.

So on my own I began buying discounted 10’ B&M or other brands of poles and when asked to teach youngsters (starting at 7 or 8 years old) of friends I was ready with the following: You need the pole, a spool of 6# mono., some #8 Aberdeen hooks, BB split shot, fingernail clipper, a discount store hemostat and a small foam bobber. You teach the kid or kids how to tie the improved clinch knot. The test is them tying the line to the pole, sliding on the bobber, tying on the hook, pinching on the shot and they’re in business. I usually advise wax worms as bait but worms are fine, too, especially since they can dig their own. I gave my last two poles and tackle to a friend’s son, 10, and daughter, 12, at a lake cottage they were renting and they went crazy catching bluegills. They had to practically drag the girl in for supper. By the way, a 7 ½’ 3X fly leader can be looped onto the pole with the addition of the 6# line for a tippet and they’re able to fly fish.

Or you can buy your own kids a tenkara or keiryu rod now that they’re available. Chris will help. Kids & fixed line =

Happy fishing,

Sep 03, 2018
Great Job!
by: Mike Schelp

I like how you "forgot his tackle box"! One of the worst mistakes I’ve seen with people taking kids fishing is getting the HEAVIEST stuff possible! 10-12 pound test line that is as stiff as steel wire, size 2 or 4 hooks, 1/2 oz lead weights and a rod and real useful only as an example of what NOT to use. Then, the kid gets discouraged when they don’t catch anything. You got it right in all aspects; you did a good deed! You put the kid on to fish, then coached him into landing one (or two!) and that was the clencher for that young man. You got him hooked, too!

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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.

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