One of the most relaxing and fun methods of angling is tenkara. Originary from Japan, this fishing technique is gaining more and more popularity all over the world. It’s an angling method more appropriate for small and medium water streams, but can also be applied successfully on lakes or larger streams.
Rods. Tenkara fishing is done with special, tenkara rods. These are long, telescopic rods, generally over 3 meters in length, of various types of action. Even though there are tenkara rods with a stiffer backbone, similar to the “conventional” fly fishing ones, if you want to fish like a true tenkara angler, it’s best to go with a softer action rod.
That’s because a fast rod requires more arm movement as you load the rod, while with a softer rod, the cast is done with more ease, just from your wrist. With a softer rod, you have to let the rod do all the work, relying on its flexibility.
Depending on your fishing destination, the length of the rod is important. Evidently, on a small creek with a lot of vegetation, you’re going to have a hard time with a 5 meters rod, a 3.5 being more appropriate. However, on a lake, or on a river where you benefit from a lot of open space, it’s best to opt for a longer rod.
Line. First of all, as you probably know, tenkara fishing does not require a reel, the line is tied directly on the tip of the rod.
The line for tenkara fishing is typically lighter than the lightest conventional fly line. Tenkara fishing is usually done with a specific type of furled line, with the same length as the rod, or slightly longer, ended with a 3-4 feet of tippet, light line. In general, furled line is used for fishing in small rivers and creeks. And it usually comes in specific lengths for the rods.
Or, it can also be done with “level” line, which is essentially a type of fluorocarbon line. This line is lighter and typically used for fishing larger streams or on lakes. This type of line can be cut and adjusted according to the angler’s need. For example, you can use up to 30 feet of “level” line, on a 15 feet rod, for a better range. Of course, the at the end of the level line is tied the terminal tippet.
Baits and flies. Tenkara fishing is done with atrificial flies of all kinds, in general whatever fly is best for the particular fishing location. That’s why it’s best to have a box with many flies of all kinds, and change a few until you find the one that’s preferred by the fish in that spot. Look around and see what insects fall in to the water, or are flying in the trees in the vicinity, and use flies similar to those as a start.
Japanese tenkara anglers don’t usually change too many flies though. They normally stick to a pattern, or a type of fly and go with it. That’s because if you change too many flies during a fishing session, you simply waste too much time on it instead of actually fishing and relaxing. The most used types of flies for tenkara fishing, are the simple, black body, brown or white hackle, and Palmer flies, in similar colors.
However, tenkara fishing is a flexible method, you can always use live bait, such as flies, grashoppers, locusts, dragonflies, butterflies, wasps, etc., if you’re not breaking any rules. Also, tenkara fishing for carp, for example, can be done with corn or boilies.
Casting methods. In tenkara fishing, casting is done rather different from fly fishing with western fly rods. Since the rods are softer and very light, you don’t have to move your arm much. Basically, you have to hold your arm close to the body, cast just by using your wrist, feel the rod and let it work for you. There are variations though.
– Sling casting. In case of too much wind, or too much vegetation on a small river, where normal casting isn’t viable. For a sling shot cast, you have to hold the fly in your hand, substantially bend the rod, then release the fly, while pointing it to the right spot.
– Sideways casting. Evidently when you have a lot of brush and trees behind you and above, your only option is to cast sideways.
How to land a big fish. Normally, tenkara fishing is meant for smaller fish, which don’t require too much of a hassle to pull. But in case a 6-7 pounder bites, then the fun begins. It’s quite a challenge to score a big one with a tenkara rod. And for that, here are a few pointers.
– the key is to let the rod do the job, play it on its flexibility to fatigue the fish;
– use your second arm to gently apply pressure above the handle of the rod, to drag the fish and bring it to the surface. Make sure you’re not putting too much tension onto the rod though;
– if the fish is simply too big, don’t hesitate to give it some space and walk after it through the water. Watch your step!
– bring the fish to the surface repeatedly, for it to gulp air, which should weaken it;
– bring the fish to calmer water, to reduce the drag of the current;
– use a short-handled net to catch the fish as you bring it near you;