Tenkara Fly Fishing for Beginners

Tenkara Fishing
Tenkara  (テンカラ) – What is it?

I first heard of Tenkara fly fishing hidden in the pages of my favorite fly fishing rag this past winter, and even after reading about it, I still did not really get what it is.  Then, when they asked me if I was interested in writing a blog about Tenkara for the shop, I immediately jumped at the opportunity, still somewhat blind. Now, I have tried it and eagerly describe it to anyone who will listen and I am “hooked” – pun intentional!

What is Tenkara?

Here is my first impression about what Tenkara could be compared to:
-Single speed of mountain biking
-Telemark skiing
-Barefoot running
-Whitewater solo of canoeing
-Oxygen-free ascent of mountaineering
-Gluten-free eating

What it isn’t

Here is what Tenkara is not:
-A Furby
-Floor-sweeping bell bottoms
-The Harlem Shake
It is not going away anytime soon!

Origins of Tenkara

In Japanese, Tenkara translates to “from heaven”, which is so infinitely appealing from the get-go.  The origins of Tenkara date back to over 200 years ago in the Japanese mountain angling culture.  It is the simplest form of fishing imaginable, and therein lies the draw to me.  Our sport has become very esoteric and sophisticated through the years. When you step back and analyze what we do and the tools we use to accomplish the task of tricking trout onto the end of our fly lines, it is astonishing how many things can go wrong.  I recently made a list of all of the things that can go wrong when I am not successful in this endeavor.

The list had 42 items on it.  That means that there are 42 things that need to go RIGHT before I can successfully bring one of our finned friends to the hand.  Tenkara drastically reduces that number, and arguable improves the odds at success, when used properly.

What? No Reel?

Tenkara is, in it’s simplest rendition, a string tied to the end of a stick with a hook on the end that had been prepared to appear like a live creature. Of course, being the high tech innovators that we are, we had to trick it out with our space-aged materials and now it is presented as a carbon fiber, telescoping, triple zoom rod, with a braided tapered furled fly line and fluorocarbon-coated tippet with a fly of some sort attached to the end that is only 20 inches long and would go unnoticed in a daypack.  If that all makes your head spin, then just think of it as a stick with a string attached that has a hook on the end of it that you can take anywhere. There is no reel with this setup, that’s right, no reel!

How to get setup

I will be expanding on the Tenkara method of fly fishing in articles to come, starting with the basic kit setup, beginner strategies for lakes and streams, and expanding the scope as my own horizons with Tenkara expand. I hope to be able to prove one way or the other if Tenkara is a viable replacement method for most any of the fishing strategies that we use here in the Vail area and that Vail Valley Anglers offers to it’s clients.

First Steps

We have Tenkara kits available at the shop at Riverwalk in Edwards.  Please stop in, say “hi” and feel welcome to take this journey with me. We will (re)discover some of the simplicities of our sport.  To get started, I suggest that you visit the following web site to see what some of the products, strategies, and impressions about Tenkara are: http://www.tenkarausa.com.

Eric Phannestiel, Vail Valley Anglers Guide