Tag Archives: tenkara

Shorter Tenkara Rods, by Popular Demand

Daily Gazette article
Thursday, December 19, 2013

Morgan Lyle

Fly-Fishing: Tenkara rods don’t have to be long to be effective

When it comes to nymphing, the longer the rod, the better the fishing.

A longer rod makes it easier to hold your line and leader off the water and stay in direct contact with your fly or flies. You can reach over currents, rather than laying your line across them and risking your fly being dragged off course.

High-stick, tight-line nymphing is probably the single most effective way to catch trout in most circumstances. That’s why the European (and now American) competition anglers do it — and they do it using 10- and 11-foot rods.

new tenkara rod 1

Tenkara USA’s Rhodo, one of two adjustable-length models introduced in December. The Rhodo can be fished as short as 8 feet 10 inches.

Rod length has always been one of the keys to the success of tenkara fishing, too — along with the ultra-soft action that makes it possible to cast a line as light as a 15-foot piece of 12-pound fluorocarbon.

But there’s a paradox. Tenkara fishing is rightly billed as ideal for small streams with lots of pocket water, but those same streams are often covered with low canopies of trees and brushy banks, leaving little room to cast a 12-foot rod.

Now, the best-known seller of tenkara rods outside Japan, Tenkara USA, has rolled out two new rod models, each one adjustable to three lengths. One, the Rhodo, can fish as short as eight feet, 10 inches and as long as 10 feet, six. The other, the Sato, can be fished at 10 feet, eight inches, 11 feet, 10 inches or 12 feet, nine inches.

It’s part of the evolution of tenkara fishing in the U.S. When Tenkara USA introduced the long, telescoping rods with no reels in April 2009, the orthodox view was that all tenkara rods were long — 11 feet was considered a shorty.

But it turns out there are all kinds of telescoping “pole fishing” rods in Japan, including some that are eight feet long or even shorter. They’re technically not tenkara rods, but can be used the same way and are great fun for small wild trout on headwaters streams.

Out west, the tenkara anglers have it easy — many of their streams are wide open, with no trees or brush to interfere with casting or playing fish. Back east, where the mountains are forested all the way to their summits and the wetter climate makes for lusher streamside flora, a shorter rod comes in handy.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Daiwa Soyokaze nine-footer from Tenkarabum before the company discontinued the model. It makes it possible to fish in tight spots, and it handles average and even bigger trout surprisingly well.

This 1.6-ounce rod still has the central tenkara characteristics: a tip so flexible it can be loaded by nothing more than a leader and a fly, and an overall action so soft it can protect very fine tippets, even when playing nice trout.

Then again, I’ve never had all that much trouble with my 12-footer in small, backwoods streams. In fact, the challenge of casting in a tunnel of snaggy vegetation is part of the game. These are very often the spots where good trout are found, precisely because the surroundings offer protection from herons, kingfishers, fly-fishers, etc.

Still, it’s a positive development that five years on, the orthodoxy is less rigid and fixed-line fishing is evolving in response to American anglers’ requirements.

The new Tenkara USA rods have gotten glowing reviews from bloggers, such as Jason Klass at TenkaraTalk.com, who were provided them in advance of their release for field testing. They sell for $215, and complete information can be found at tenkarausa.com.

They’re not Tenkara USA’s first adjustable-length rods, by the way. The company’s Ito, which fishes at 13 feet or 14 feet, seven inches, has been available for some time.

Nor are Tenkara USA’s new models the first three-position rods available in the U.S. Tenkarabum.com has offered the Japanese-made Suntech Field Master, a very similar rod except it has non-skid finish on the blank rather than a cork grip, for about a year now, at a roughly comparable price.

All of these rods are excellent trout fishing tools and very much worthy of your attention, if you’re at all interested in fixed-line fly-fishing.


First Trout on the New Soyokaze Rod

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new category of tenkara rod available — one that’s not even really intended for trout fishing, but that turns out to be great for fishing small streams for small wild trout.

The model I used is the Soyokaze by Daiwa, a brand well-known in the U.S. for spinning and casting rods and reels but which doesn’t (yet) sell any of its telescoping, fixed-line rods here. Daiwa’s higher-end tenkara rods are the sweetest tenkara rods I’ve ever cast, and they can be bought (as can the Soyokaze) at TenkaraBum.com.

There’s debate about whether rods like the Soyokaze can properly be called tenkara rods at all, since they don’t have cork handles — just a slightly fatter blank at the butt end, with a non-slip coating — and they are shorter than tenkara rods: six to 10 feet instead of 12 to 15. I gather these smaller ones are known as tanago rods and are used for anything from panfish down to minnows.

The Soyokaze model I used is an unbelievably light 9-footer that’s just right for dropping a Usual in pockets the size of a dining room table on a small, shady, rocky stream full of fallen tree trunks, where all the trout are wild. I know there are a couple spots on this stream where it’s possible to catch larger trout. I didn’t use the Soyokaze for them; I broke out the Tenkara USA Ebisu, my all-arounder, instead. (They weren’t biting anyway.)


Little six- to eight-inchers are the norm here.


The forecast was 93 in NYC. Considerably cooler here. I waded wet, just quick-dry pants & wading shoes.

ImageWon’t be fishing the pool below the falls anytime soon — it’s full of oak tree. We’ve had some hellacious thunderstorms around here this summer.

Introducing the Stewart Stone

I’m just not a morning person. A real fisherman would have been up at 4 and on the water at first light. I settled for being up at 6:10 and on the water  by 8. Fortunately, most of the Muscoot River below Amawalk Reservoir is in the shade all day anyway, so the bright July sun wasn’t a problem.

I’ve never done very well on this beautiful stream. Today, I landed two, lost two others and had a few dismissive flips. I’ll settle for that, too.

What made it interesting was the fly. I’ve come across several mentions of big tenkara flies lately, so I decided to try one myself. It’s probably not unique enough to merit a name, but I gave it one anyway: the Stewart Stone, named for TenkaraBum Chris Stewart of New York.

It was Chris, after all, who popularized the yarn used to make the Killer Bug. That stuff has some serious mojo,  and I think it’s the most important part of the Stewart Stone. In  the water, the yarn (Jamieson’s Shetland Spendrift, in sand, colored with a Prismacolor marker, also in sand) is complex stew of shades that combine to create a meaty, live-looking pink, with a fuzzy halo.

The fly that became the Stewart Stone differs from a big Killer Bug in a couple of significant ways:

  • It has a tail and a hackle, both olive-dyed Hungarian partridge. (Chris’s Killer Kebari has a hackle, but no tail.) Brown-dyed or natural partridge would probably work just as well.
  • It has a pronounced taper.

I tied the fly on a size 8 Orvis 1524 hook – a 1X heavy, 2X long nymph hook that I would normally use for Woolly Buggers. I’m not used to tying or fishing nymphs that big. Sure, I’ve always had a few big black stoneflies handy, but only used them as a last resort and never had much success (probably because by the time I tie on the last resort fly, my own mojo is on the wane.) The Stewart Stone is  not a lovely fly to cast on an Ebisu with a TenBum hand-tied line, but I can more or less put it where I want it. Yes, it makes a loud plop when it hits the water. This doesn’t seem to bother the trout. Most strikes to this fly have come right after splashdown.

I decided to think of the pattern as a stonefly last weekend, when I saw lots of big stonefly shucks on the rocks protruding from Esopus Creek. A few small, wild Esopus rainbows endorsed it that day. Two days earlier, on a hatchless afternoon at the Hale Eddy riffles on the West Branch of the Delaware, a chubby trout grabbed the fly as it swung below me, and several others nipped at it but wouldn’t commit.

I guess it might imitate a stonefly, but I think of it as more of an attractor. There aren’t many insects around right now, so maybe the trout are less fussy. At the very least I know they’re seeing it.

Tenkara: Orvis is In, TFO Ain’t Saying

From the start, tenkara enthusiasts have wondered whether the established fly-fishing tackle companies would get in the game.

No need to wonder anymore. Orvis now carries the Tenkara USA Iwana – quite possibly the first time it’s sold another brand of rod, and certainly the first time it has offered a fly rod that doesn’t use a reel. (And yes, it’s a fly rod – you cast the line and the fly goes along for the ride.)

Orvis Marketing Director Tom Rosenbauer has described tenkara as a good introduction to fly-fishing, with a learning curve that’s “nowhere near as steep.” Of course that’s true, but tenkara also resonates with many (though certainly not all) highly experienced fly-fishers. In fact, Rosenbauer himself said a tenkara rod seemed like a fun way to fish a small stream as far back as September 2009.

Meanwhile Temple Fork Outfitters had a prototype tenkara rod on display at ICAST, the annual show by the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, in Orlando July 11-13. One observer reports the rod is called the Soft Hackle.

TFO executive Brandon Powers wouldn’t comment on the prototype or whether the company plans to introduce tenkara tackle. The Fly Line broke the news back in January that TFO was considering selling its own tenkara rod.

Tenkara USA founder Daniel Galhardo Galhardo said he’d been approached before by big-box retailers, but turned them down because he doesn’t like the idea of tenkara tackle being sold by people who don’t know the tenkara method of fishing or its history. He sensed that Orvis executives took the Japanese fixed-line trout fishing seriously.

“Every single person in their org­anization at the retail level, people [Orvis staff and dealers] at the fly-fishing shows that had booths, every single one was excited about tenkara, was cur­ious about it,” Galhardo told The Fly Line.

OK, so Orvis & TFO. Who’s next?

Chris Stewart, author of the TenkaraBum website and online tenkara tackle shop, sees the Orvis move as a toe-dip. “At the least, they’ll know if their customer base will buy enough tenkara rods to justify making their own rods,” he writes. “If they sell well, look for Orvis tenkara rods in a couple years – and then all the majors will jump in.”

Orvis Carries Tenkara USA

A huge development in tenkara fishing in the U.S.: Orvis is now carrying Tenkara USA tackle. Press release below. More soon.


Orvis to Sell Tenkara USA Products
San Francisco, California

Today, San Francisco based company Tenkara USA announced that Orvis, industry leader in fly-fishing equipment, will start carrying Tenkara USA’s rods, line and flies and helping promote the Japanese method of fly-fishing called tenkara.

Tenkara is a very simple method of fly-fishing, which uses only a rod, line and fly (no reel). The line is tied directly to the end of the rod, and while the casting technique is similar to Western fly-fishing it is also easier to learn.

Tenkara USA was founded in 2009 by Daniel Galhardo and is the first company to introduce and promote the method and equipment for tenkara outside of Japan. Since its introduction, tenkara has developed a passionate following and growing popularity in the US, Canada and throughout Europe.

Galhardo thinks this partnership with the 156-year old Orvis company represents a huge milestone for the sport.  “Tenkara has generated a lot of heated debate within the fly-fishing community over the last couple of years. Having a well-established fly-fishing company like Orvis embrace the method and promote it to its customers is an irrefutable validation of tenkara”, said Galhardo.

Orvis contacted Tenkara USA in early 2012 expressing interest in their products.  Galhardo says, “The trust a large company like Orvis is putting on Tenkara USA based on the quality they saw in our equipment speaks to our worldwide leadership on tenkara”.

Tom Rosenbauer, Director of Marketing at Orvis, sees a potential for tenkara to remove many of the typical barriers to entry new fly anglers experience. “Tenkara can be a great way for people to get introduced to fly-fishing.  Eliminating the reel and line handling removes a lot of the complexities of the sport, and the ability to get a drag-free float on pocket water makes it easy for novices to grasp this concept.  Plus, it’s inexpensive and the tackle is simple and not intimidating”, said Rosenbauer.

Rosenbauer added that tenkara is not only a refreshing forte into fly-fishing for westerners, but also a good way to introduce children to the sport.  “Tenkara is something fun and new (actually hardly new, but new to Americans) to try for fishing smaller trout streams and panfish ponds.  It’s simple and brings you back to the essence of fly-fishing.  I know I will be teaching my 7-year-old how to fly fish with a Tenkara rod on a local bluegill pond.”

Tenkara USA’s current product lineup includes six rod models, and a couple of different lines, and four fly patterns specifically designed for tenkara. Orvis will initially be offering one of Tenkara USA’s most popular rods, the 12-foot long Iwana model, along with the tenkara lines and flies designed specifically for tenkara.  The tenkara gear is now available on Orvis’ website.

About Tenkara USA

Tenkara USA is a fully independent, US-based company. Founded in 2009 by Daniel W. Galhardo, Tenkara USA is the first company in the US fully dedicated to bringing the Japanese method of fly-fishing, tenkara, to those in pursuit of a simpler and more effective way to fly-fish.  For more information, visit www.tenkarausa.com.

About OrvisIn 1856, Charles Orvis founded the Orvis Company in Manchester, Vermont, offering the finest fly-fishing equipment, and priding himself on customer satisfaction and service. Today, along with their world famous fly-fishing gear, Orvis offers distinctive clothing, home furnishings, gifts, and dog products. They are the longest-running mail order business in the United States.  For more information, visit Orvis.com.

Tenkara is Definitely Not Dapping

Tenkara USA and its fans have been sensitive from the beginning to tenkara being characterized as “dapping.” They object because the term suggests tenkara fishing doesn’t involve casting. It does, of course – true fly-casting, with the line traveling in tight loops and the fly just going along for the ride.

T-USA has even sprung for magazine ads with the headline, “Tenkara Is Not Dapping.”

That’s truer than most people know. Real dapping is done with a telescoping rod typically 17 feet long, fitted with a fly reel, a center-pin reel or even a spinning reel. (Tenkara rods are also telescoping and long, but not that long.) The running line is 10-pound-test mono, which snakes up through the core of the rod and out the tip. (Tenkara lines are affixed to the rod tip.)  The mono is attached to several feet of blowline, which is an ultra-light floss that sails in the breeze. On the other end of the blowline is a tippet, and tied to that is a fly. The whole rig may weigh two pounds.

There is no casting. You let the breeze take the blowline and lower the rod when you want the fly to fall to the water. It’s usually done from rowboats held perpendicular to the wind on lakes in Ireland and Scotland.

I learned all this in a superb book called “Dapping” by Robert H. Boyle, a former writer for Sports Illustrated, stonefly expert and lion of the environmental movement who has been instrumental in halting awful ideas on the Hudson River and now, at 83, is helping lead the opposition to fracking in New York.

“The fly is carried by the wind, and in response to the dapper’s movements of he rod, gently alights, sits with feathers and fibers twitching, tantalizingly dances and prances across the surface, and if no strike results, takes to the air where it seductively hovers before landing again to start the cycle anew, its antics exactly like that of a living creature doing what comes naturally,” Boyle writes. “No fly caster, no matter how gifted, can make a fly put on such a performance.”

Of course, you can dap with a tenkara rod, sort of. If it’s real windy, just lift the rod and let the wind grab the line. In fact, if it’s that windy, you may have no other choice. But you can’t cast a dapping rod.

What most people in the U.S. think of as dapping is really just the short game that all fly-fishers, with or without reels, have always played: flicking your fly to nearby spots without using much line.  You can definitely do that with a tenkara rod – and much more.

“Dapping: The Exciting Way of Fishing Flies that Fly, Quiver and Jump” is published by Stackpole Books and retails for $24.95. It’s a delightful and fascinating book about a form of fly-fishing most Americans know nothing about, and I highly recommend it.

ImageMorgan Lyle

Daiwa Tenkara Rods Available in the U.S. for the First Time

By Morgan Lyle

Chris Stewart, aka Tenkara Bum (right) with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard in Montana in 2011.

You can now buy a rod from  the Tenkara Bum – and not just any rod: a high-end Daiwa, just like the guys in Japan fish.

For two years, www.tenkarabum.com has been a retail outlet for tenkara lines, flies and accessories, as well as an excellent repository of tenkara lore. But only now has the Bum, whose real identity is Christopher Stewart of New York City, offered rods for sale.

Stewart enters a U.S. market that is dominated by Tenkara USA, which introduced tenkara tackle and methods to the western world in April 2009, and also Fountainhead and several smaller rod sellers. The difference is Tenkara Bum’s rods cost twice as much as anything else on the market outside of Japan.

“I think the tenkara market in the U.S. is now ready for some premium rods,” Stewart said. “Even the Daiwas I’m bringing in are not their most expensive series of rods. These are the mid-priced rods in Japan – or at least the mid-priced rods from one of the top name companies. They’re really, really nice rods, though, and I do think that once people decide they like tenkara, they’re going to love these rods.”

TenBum’s Daiwas include the LT series (level line/tapered line) in a 7:3 action in lengths from 10 feet, 7 inches to 14 feet, 5 inches and priced from $345 to $415; and two models in the 5:5 LL (level line) series, an 11-foot-8 for $360 and a 13-foot-5 for $400.

The rod actions are a bit different than the tenkara rods we’re accustomed to in the U.S., Stewart reports. The faster-action 7:3 rods aren’t as stiff as other brands, and the 5:5s aren’t as soft – especially since the LL rods have hollow tips, which makes them a bit stiffer. Stewart explains all this on his site.

We tenkara enthusiasts have been wondering whether Daiwa and Shimano, the top tenkara rod companies in Japan, would begin selling to the U.S. market. So far, they haven’t; Stewart imports the Daiwas and says he sells them for about the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

Until now, the only way western customers could buy a Daiwa or a Shimano was by dealing directly with a Japanese retailer, which isn’t very easy for those of us who don’t speak Japanese.