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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.

Comments for Warm Water Tenkara: First Impressions

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Apr 24, 2011
First Impressions
by: TenkaraBum

Sounds like your first impressions were favorable, even if the big one did get away. While it's true that tenkara is not made for the monsters, you will be able to land larger fish than you expect (alhthough certainly not all of them). With warm water fish in particular, be sure to check your tippet after catching a few fish (and after each large one). Even though their teeth aren't big, they are surprisingly sharp and will abrade the tippet pretty quickly.

Good to hear that the killer bug worked for you. I have mostly used multiple sakasa kebari when fishing warm water but the killer bug is good just about wherever I've used it.

Let us know how things go on the tiny trout streams.

Apr 24, 2011
First Impressions
by: David

I enjoyed the comments on your first time out with Tenkara. Particularly about using the Killer Bug. Always wondered if they are as good as advertised.

Do you consider the Killer Bug your go to fly? Your comment that there good every where seems to point to that.

Apr 24, 2011
Killer Bug as Go To Fly
by: TenkaraBum


For the last couple years it certainly has been.

I have high hopes for the Killer Kebari, though, and I think it may replace the killer bug as my go to fly. I'm pretty sure it will be at least as effective, plus it fits the Hida Takayama yarn body tenkara fly pattern.

Apr 28, 2011
More Impressions
by: James Fulmer

Thanks for the comments. My "killer bug" wasn't the official version. I just used some brown antron yarn with a copper wire rib. I've ordered the soft hackle style, and am anxious to see how they work and if I can approximate the color. After the monster snapped my tippet and stole the fly, I tried a San Juan worm just for the heck of it. Didn't get as many takes, but the Bluegills seemed to like it. Landed a nice fat one.

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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

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

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