Fishing Rods photo

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Take a close look at this photo Tim Romano took of Oliver White battling a small tarpon. You’ll notice something is missing… the reel. That’s because there isn’t one.

We just came back from a gonzo jungle expedition (in a place I’ll tell you about later) where we literally caught hundreds of trout- to salmon-sized tarpon every day. So to make things even more interesting, we decided to catch some on a Tenkara rod (Yamame). We landed over 50 tarpon on Tenkara, the largest weighed about eight pounds.

Now, believe it or not, a juvenile tarpon might be the ideal Tenkara fish. A five-pound bonefish is going to make a straight run and blow the rod apart. A five-pound trout in heavy current is likely going to snap you off (though I did see Chris Hunt land a laker and a northern pike on Tenkara when we were in Saskatchewan together last fall). But a five-pound tarpon almost always goes straight to the air when hooked, so the fight is more like playing yo-yo with a really long fly rod. The take is incredible: See a fish roll, plop a cast in the area with a Deceiver fly or some other small streamer, give a few twitches with the wrist, and bang.

They really should keep a record for the most Tenkara-caught species by one angler. That would impress me far more than some obscure IGFA line class “world record.”

I’m also sticking with my point that Tenkara might be the best tool for teaching new anglers fly fishing. One member of our group, Patrick Henry, had never fly fished before. We decided to keep things simple for him: One Tenkara rod and one fly. He caught over three dozen fish that way. I think it’s fair to say that he is the first angler on the planet to have his initial fly fishing experience be catching three dozen tarpon on a Tenkara rod.

Fishing skill aside, the location was the main reason behind our Tenkara fest. We found tarpon Shangri-La in jungle creeks that looked liked they were boiling with tarpon, as they splashed and rolled in the black waters. I’ve never seen anything like it. But you’ll have to stay tuned to find out where we were.