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Tenkara Skeptic

by Anonymous

Wow, what an elaborate website. It is very informative. I just can't see using a $150 "cane pole" to dab flies as being all that exciting. Simplicity is one thing, but this appears to be a way to avoid learning the silent art of fly fishing.

I suppose each has his own choices, but Tenkara seems, to this sportsman, a really good money maker for someone. I really like the idea of a blog where the majority of the posts are hocking gear that will make one's Tenkara experience genuine.

On a positive note, I did tie up a few reversed soft hackles and they seem to work pretty well.

Comments for Tenkara Skeptic

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Apr 13, 2011
Try it, then decide
by: TenkaraBum

If you ever get a chance to try tenkara - with a real tenkara rod, do so, ideally on a small freestone stream full of plunge pools and pocket water. That is the kind of stream on which tenkara was developed and refined, and that is where the advantages over Western gear are most apparent.

Intially, tenkara rods were indeed cane, but hardly the kind of cane pole you may have used as a kid to fish with bait and bobber. The rods were three or four sections, but each section was from a different species of bamboo chosen to match the characteristics of that particular bamboo with the bend profile required for that section of rod.

Then as now, the design goal was to cast (not just dap) an unweighted fly with the weight of the line, just as in Western fly fishing. As bamboo gave way to graphite, the rods became lighter, stronger and capable of casting a very light line - essentially what you use now for a leader. Today's tenkara rods are no closer to your old cane pole than your graphite fly rods are to the greenheart rods of yore. And tenkara casting is no closer to dapping than Western fly casting is. (Does anyone double haul on a small stream?)

If you can imagine making 25 foot casts with nothing beyond the rod tip other than a 15 or 16 foot leader you can imagine the delicacy of presentation that tenkara permits. And with the long rod holding virtually all of that leader off the water's surface, out of the grasp of conflicting currents, the presentation isn't just delicate, it's virtually drag free.

And when you hook up, and you surely will, probably more frequently than you would with Western gear (again, on a small freestone stream) the connection to the fish feels very, very direct. The fish doesn't fight the drag, it fights the rod, and you feel every head twitch. Trying to keep a wild 16" trout from getting into the fast current and heading downstream is a lot more exciting than having him pull against the drag and definitely making it downstream. And the fish that's pulling 30 yards of fly line down the rapids and around rocks is much more likely to pop the tippet than one that is fighting the bend of a supple rod with the line straight, tight and singing.

If by the silent art of fly fishing, you just mean double hauling and mending, you're probably right - tenkara anglers have no need to use them so there's no need to learn them. Everything else is about the same, really.

Apr 13, 2011
Try it, then decide (part 2)
by: TenkaraBum

Tenkara is still in its infancy in the US (actually anywhere outside of Japan), so no one's making really good money - nothing like Sage or Rio or Orvis. I mean, how could the Fly Fishing industry not make really good money when they sell rods at $750 (instead of $150), and lines at $75 (instead of $15).

And you are right that my blog posts generally do announce or introduce new products. But you might have noticed that there is no advertising anywhere on the site. Have you picked up a Fly Fishing magazine lately? I'm sure more space is devoted to ads than to stories. Do you suppose the gear they hock will make one's Fly Fishing experience genuine?

The reversed soft hackles do work well. To get the most out of them you might want to fish them with a long rod and light line, though. You can even keep your reel, even though you won't need it

Apr 14, 2011
by: Kevin Kelleher

Anyone that accuses tenkara of being expensive, is merely hanging on blindly to his premium fly gear in the hope that this simplicity and thrift will go away.

Of course, tenkara resembles the origins of fly fishing more than its PVC line and reel-laden permutations, and the enthusiasm of fly fishing pros Craig Matthews, Ed Engle, and John Gierach lends credibility, but a fly angler won't be convinced until they try it. This is from a letter I received Monday:

"I took the Tenkara out again yesterday. Caught a 16 inch rainbow on an Elk Hare Caddis. Maybe the most fun I've ever had landing a fish. I had thought the Tenkara might be a novelty rod or just used for backpacking situations. But the simplicity of the outfit (if you can even call it that) has really made an already enjoyable pursuit even more so. The quantity of fish I am catching on dry flies hasn't hurt either. In other words, you and your book have a convert!"

Try'll like it!

Apr 14, 2011
Kevin, I'm not surprised
by: TenkaraBum

It may be that many people have to see it or try it for themselves to understand.

Reminds me of a tweet by Tom Sadler (TenkaraGuide on Twitter). He gives tenkara talks and demonstrations, and frequently faces skeptics. He tweeted "I let them laff then I take them to a mountain stream and shut them up." Once they see how effective it is they stop laughing.

Ralph Cutter (who runs the acclaimed California School of Fly Fishing) had a similar first impression - both before and after. He wrote in California Fly Fisher "the few videos and descriptions of tenkara I had seen prepared me for a lesson in dapping and high sticking. However, when Daniel made a crisp, tightly looped cast and hit a fist-sized pocket 30 feet away, I was incredulous."

Apr 14, 2011
Agreed, in part.
by: Timothy A. Nitz

I actually agree with the poster. Using a $150 cane pole for dapping wouldn't be very exciting. At least I don't think it would, I don't own a $150 cane pole to try. If he meant to say that casting quality tenkara-type gear is unexciting, I would agree with that, too. I don't even really think about casting so much when I am angling with tenkara gear, except to determine where I am casting and what vegetation is in my way. What I do find rather exciting, however, are the many strikes, from both expected and unexpected holding spots. In any event, I would be hard pressed to call the casting part of angling "exciting." And if that is what draws him to fly-fishing in the first place, he may well be bored to death with fixed line angling.

I do not know this "silent art" of flyfishing referred to. If it's the silent retrieve on many modern fly reels, well, I would disagree, I kinda like the clicking of a quality reel. But whichever, I believe my overall fishing is a little quieter using tenkara gear than conventional fly gear. Almost has to be since I am working in fairly close. But I remain open to the notion that there is some silent art of flyfishing I know nothing about. Right now I am focused more on the fish than any art.

There is one comment in the posting that does concern me, however. The notion that there is gear that will make one's tenkara angling experience "more genuine" does bother me. I am not Japanese, I have not angled in Japan, and I don't profess to be a "tenkara" angler. That said, whether or not there really is a "discipline" of tenkara, a school of training and practice adhered to, remains an open question to me. So far I tend to think that there really isn't such a thing and never was, but I could be wrong. In any event, there are some ideas that come out of the Japanese angling tradition that are very useful, just as there are ideas that come out of "euro-nymphing" and traditional western wet-fly angling that are very useful. I try to use all of them when angling with my tenkara gear. I'm not sure what gear is being referred to, or what "genuine" means in this context. The only things I even own that speak to an older time in Japanese angling might be my horsehair line which I haven't had the opportunity to use yet and my Japanese creel which I use just because it's smaller than my western creels and works a little better than a plastic bag.

I did do something the other day that I found exciting, though. Since the season remains closed here and I wanted some water time with new rod and lines, and since angling in Oregon requires a "hook", I snipped off the bend of the hook and went casting. It was good practice learning to feel that point where the fish would hold onto the fly for an extended time. I actually had some lengthy tug of war sessions.

Apr 17, 2011
It all comes down to snake guides
by: Anonymous

It seems the deal breaker for some revolves around the presence or absence of snake guides. The fly fishing forum folk embrace the use of strike indicators, split shot, mono running line, micro jigs, chuck and duck, reels with a disc drag that can stop a buick, etc as long as a rod with snake guides is involved. If snake guides aren't in the equation somewhere, it just ain't fly fishin'.

I really don't care how other people choose to fish, and I care even less what they think about the methods I choose. In my mind, if it is legal to use, and you enjoy yourself, have at it.

Apr 18, 2011
by: Timothy A. Nitz

Not to get off topic, but what is a micro-jig? Can you explain one as an example, I'm completely ignorant of them.

Apr 18, 2011
by: TenkaraBum

A micro-jig is like a standard jig but extremely light weight so it can be cast with a fly rod. Weights range down to 1/124 ounce. See

Jun 17, 2011
To Tenkara Sceptic
by: Anonymous

I believe you meant to use the word dap instead of dab in your post. Anyway, I just learned about tenkara a few days ago, but in the several videos I've watched, I've seen no one dap with tenkara gear. I've seen actual casting done with the gear. I like the idea of it for the type of stream where it was developed: high gradient, pocket water. I believe it would be very enjoyable to get on one of those streams with tenkara gear and work upstream, picking trout out of pockets, for hours. Very efficient.

Dec 18, 2011
by: Anonymous

Dapping with a tenkara rod is actually pretty difficult. the line and rod combo are just too long and light to use it that way. That said, the rods do seem pretty expensive for what they are. If you can make a telescoping crappie pole for $10, i don't see why you can't do the same with a tenkara rod, seeing as they are way lighter and use less material. CF is no longer a cutting edge material that justifies premium prices, but it seems like the entire fishing industry still treats it that way.

Dec 18, 2011
Equipment prices
by: TenkaraBum

All the $10 crappie poles are fiberglass. Tenkara rods are way lighter because they are made from carbon fiber rather than fiberglass. Carbon fiber is more expensive. None of the $10 crappie poles has a cork grip. Cork is expensive. The $10 crappie poles have 3 or 4 sections. Tenkara rods have 7 or more. More sections means more steps in the construction process, which also adds to the cost. There is also the question of volume. Tenkara is a pretty small market. The $10 crappie rods are made in much larger production runs, which means less set-up time and lower production costs.

The real question, in my mind, is why does the addition of a reel seat and set of snake guides turn a $150 rod into a $350 rod?

You are right that fluorocarbon is no longer a cutting edge material, but it is still more expensive to produce than nylon. If it could be sold for the same price as nylon mono, somebody would do so to get a competitive advantage. The entire fishing industry is not a small group of tycoons that conspire to keep prices high. It is made up of thousands of companies in dozens of countries, and more than a few would cut their price to the bone if they thought the extra volume would make up for the lower price.

The reason you can't buy a $10 tenkara rod is that no one on earth can make one (and package it, and ship it, and store it, and do the accounting that has to be done, and pay the excise taxes that have to be paid, and have enough profit after all that to make it worth the trouble - and the risk that no one would buy the piece of crap it would have to be to sell for $10 in the first place).

You can certainly buy a $10 crappie pole, and tie on a piece of nylon mono, and feel good about all the money you saved. You will be able to fish with it and you will catch fish. Just don't kid yourself that it will be anything at all like a tenkara rod, because it won't. I have 7 different crappie rods, all purchased before tenkara rods were available in this country, to try to mimic a tenkara rod. I have tried two others. None are anywhere close to as nice as a tenkara rod, and a couple of them couldn't cast a light line to save your life.

Jun 14, 2015
5.4 M Telescoping Rod
by: Tom Bartlett

I got a 5.4 Meter 12 section carbon fiber rod from China on Ebay for $15. It has no handle. I took it out to my back yard and tied 0.14mm mono-filament line to the lillian. I added a little piece of string to the end to simulate a fly. With a stout shifting breeze that "fly" would drop anywhere I wanted it to. It was like fishing with a spider web. It reminded me of what I did with mono on my fly rig as a kid. We called it wind casting and the bluegills went crazy over a bare hook barely touched to the surface. This seems ideal for pond or lake from a pier even with no breeze. Because of the rod length, who needs to cast? For less than $20 I have my whole rig. I can't wait to catch fish with it. This may not be pure Tenkara but it seems fun.

Sep 30, 2018
Fixed Line Fishing
by: William Auty

I have been fishing with fixed line poles most of my life,(am now 72 years old). Recently I have tried some various models of tenkara and keiryu rods that I purchased from TenkaraBum. They are all excellent, and work fine for trout and smallmouth bass which we have here in upstate New York. However I also use a fiberglass cane type pole which I have for many years with traditional winged wet flies. On bigger rivers for bigger trout and bass it still works just fine as it always has.

I use and tie old winged wet flies that are mostly fished upstream and still catch trout, and always will. I will explain how I do this, but in some other posting. For now just let me say that I love all types of "fixed line fishing" regardless of its name. To me it is not anything new or trendy, just great fun.

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