Tenkara Fly Rods and Gear Review

Choosing a Tenkara Set-up

Which Tenkara Fly Rod?
When you decide to purchase the Tenkara flyrod system from Tenkara USA (they have loads of great vidoes on their website), you’ll want to make sure that you are getting the appropriate kit.  There are several models to choose from and I have found that the most versatile kit is the SATO.  This kit includes the “triple zoom” telescoping rod that can be adjusted to three different lengths (10’8”, 11’10”, 12’9”) that is very useful for varying situations from tight overhanging brush to wide open large pools. I like this versatility and have successfully fished my SATO at each of the three lengths in a variety of situations, and I would highly recommend this rod for anyone considering Tenkara.  Per the Tenkara USA website: The Tenkara USA SATO rod is named after Mr. Ernest Satow, an avid mountaineer who was the first person to make a written record of Tenkara. If you think that you want a smaller rod, then consider the RHODO, which also a triple zoom rod that telescopes to three varying lengths (8’10”, 9’9”,10’6”), but is smaller and lighter weight than the SATO.

What else do I need? 
You will also need to get a fly line.  The traditional line is a furled, hand-woven braided tapered line that attaches to the “lillian” of your Tenkara rod (the small red string that is attached to the tip top). There are several length and color options for the line, and I would recommend the 13 foot gold version available from Tenkara USA. There are other options for the line including using a level line, but I’d suggest that you start with the furled line and you may want to have others for various situations.

Other optional equipment
As a way to store your line (and flies) you should get a line holder, which is a plastic foam core spool that is designed just for this purpose.  You will also want to have the typical fly-fishing equipment of tippet, nippers, forceps, a net and flies.  Of course there are traditional Tenkara flies that are noticeably different from our typical selection of flies that you may want to experiment with at some point, but I’d suggest that to get started, you use flies that are already in your box and move into the Tenkara flies as you become successful with this new method.

Rigging your Tenkara rod
It is critical when you prepare your rod for fishing, that you keep the hard tip of the rod inside the main segment and only expose the lillian as you attach line to the rod tip. Keeping the hard tip inside will prevent a broken Tenkara rod tip. To attach your furled line to the lillian, you will need to first make sure that the lillian has an overhand knot tied in it. The furled fly line comes with a large loop in the end and you can use a girth hitch to attach the fly line to the lillian.  You can find an excellent illustration and example of this process, as well as a video depicting the girth hitch and other Tenkara-specific knots by following this link: http://www.tenkarausa.com/learn-tenkara/.

Once the line is attached, you are ready to expose the rest of your rod. Hold the rod handle segment near the opening with one hand, and with the other hand gently pull the Tenkara rod tip out and pull the first section out until the base is snug against the top of the next section. Continue this process for each subsequent segment, sliding them out between your fingers and making them snug against the next segment. Pieces should feel secure, but not overly tight.

You can now attach tippet (I suggest 5x or 6x) using a loop to loop knot or clinch knot to the end loop of the furled line and then a fly to the tippet in the typical fashion that you would use with your traditional fly-fishing method. The tippet should be added so that your entire line is about 1.5 times the length of the rod.

Vail Valley Anglers has a full line of products from Tenkara USA including rods, lines and flies. Stop by the shop for an introduction to Tenkara!

In the next blog, we’ll discuss casting, fly selection first impressions and closing up your kit.