Photo by Luke Nilsson
Developed in Japan about 200 years ago, tenkara fishing was introduced to American anglers in 2009. It involves using a very long fly rod with no reel; the line is tied directly to the tip. Using a truncated style of short-distance casting, anglers can use these rods to reach across conflicting currents and prevent a faster (or slower) current from pulling the fly and causing drag. Adherents are nearly worshipful of tenkara, which they say puts more emphasis on skill and less on gear.
1. Tenkara rods telescope, and some can extend to nearly 15 feet. With a base length of less than 2 feet, they’re great for packing into tight headwaters. “Use the longest rod you can,” says Daniel Galhardo, owner of Tenkara USA. The limiting factor is how much canopy might impede the cast, not overall length. “You’ll quickly get used to the length, and you’ll want the line control.”
2. Lines are about the length of the rod and attach to the rod tip. There are two broad types: More traditional tapered lines afford a super-delicate presentation. Newer level lines are more easily altered on the stream but harder to cast. Lines are tipped with a short 3- to 4-foot tippet.
3. Most tenkara flies feature a reverse hackle in which the feather is brushed forward toward the hook eye. This gives the fly a pulsing profile.