Tenkara is a Japanese method of fixed line style fly fishing. The angler uses light action poles and line to catch Salmon and Trout which hardly classify as microfish. Tenkara was and still is used to catch mostly Trout in small mountain streams. Some anglers have adapted and use it for Bass and Panfish angling.
Modern Tenkara Poles are Fiberglass and Carbon Fiber
Modern Tenkara anglers have adapted the rod, line, and flies for most other species. There still is no reel used as Tenkara lines are slightly only longer than the rod. Casting is more or less false casting a few times although there are some other techniques for casting. A poor caster with traditional fly fishing gear may find their best cast ever with a long Tenkara rod.
Originally, Tenkara fishing rods were simply a long bamboo rod. Long bamboo rods with short fixed lines were easy to place a fly or lure accurately. At the time Western-style rods and reels were not in use. Furled, or braided, fly lines are simply tied to the tip of the rod. Today Tenkara rods are made with fiberglass and carbon fiber.
Tenkara Fly Lines are Slightly Longer Than the Rod
This fly line was designed to be easy to cast a lightweight fly. Like Western fly fishing, Tenkara fly line is tapered so that it will cast the weight of the fly. Baitcasting and spinfishing uses the lure weight to cast instead of the fly line. Tenkara style fly lines are slightly longer than the rod and fixed to the tip of the pole.
Tenkara fly lines are usually furled or made up of several braided or twisted lines. The tippet is then tied to this line and then on goes the fly. I have used both Tenkara style fly lines and modern style fly lines. I prefer a double tapered floating modern fly line on the Tenkara rod for dry flies, top column wet flies, and pop bugs. I just cut a double tapered floating line to match my rod. Conventional Tenkara fly lines I’ve used do not generally float high on the water surface.
Tenkara Fishing Gear is Better Suited for Trout and Panfish than Micro Fish
Tenkara fly fishing lures and flies are similar to Western fly fishing. Tenkara flies are usually made from natural materials to imitate insects like small caddis and mayfly larvae. I have found the Tenkara technique is excellent for fishing under low hanging trees for Red Breast and Bluegill from a boat. East coast trout fishing the Tenkara rod works well for as well. Tippets are usually between 12 inches and three feet monofilament or fluorocarbon. Use the appropriate pound test for your quarry like a 7x for Trout or 6-8lb line for Bass and heavy Panfish.
Tenkara is a system more than anything and can be influenced by your own personal preference. This basic article isn’t meant to dive into the whole traditional Tenkara system of fishing but it is more suited for trout, bass, and panfishing than it is for micro fishing. A foam spider one afternoon brought in more than 80 hand-sized Bluegill, Fliers, Warmouth, and Crappie drifting a kayak. A micro hook baited with a bit of earthworm will also catch a lot of micro fish but that isn’t really Tenkara fishing.
Tenkara Fly Fishing is a Simple and Basic Way to Enjoy Fishing.
A benefit to Tenkara is its basic simplicity. There are no moving parts to seize up or otherwise fail. There is no spool to palm for a drag. You can put on your waders and enjoy a day of fishing with a light weight fishing rod. New anglers to fly fishing would definitely find it easier than dealing with an excess of line coming off a reel.
Fly fishing is fun and if you enjoy all the related hobbies and activities of fly fishing you will most certainly like Tenkara. Fly tying, matching the hatch with artificial flies, and a long rod are a lot of fun. If you can fly fish you will likely have no problem catching fish on your first day out. There are better rods and methods to use for micro fishing, however.
by Edward Johnson