What Is Tenkara Fly Fishing? | The Simple Way To Fly Fish!

What Is Tenkara Fly Fishing? Tenkara is a Japanese type of fly fishing that became known outside of Japan around the year 2009. Daniel Galhardo popularized Tenkara fly fishing with the founding of his company Tenkara USA.

テンカラ is Japanese for Tenkara, which means “from heaven” or “from the skies,” according to Wikipedia.

Tenkara Japanese Style of Fly Fishing

Tenkara is the technique used in fishing for trout in the mountain streams of Japan. This technique is a lot like the fly fishing we Westerners know, but the term Tenkara is strictly the Japanese style of fly fishing.

How Tenkara Fly Fishing Started

This Japanese style of fly fishing has been around for about 200 years and was introduced to Western countries around 2009. So it is a very new style of fly fishing comparatively. Tenkara is very popular in Japan, and we are just starting to learn the benefits of this type of fly fishing here in the West.

Tenkara was used initially in the mountain streams by professional anglers in Japan. This technique made it easy to catch the traditional fish found in Japan, like the Amago, Iwana, and Yamama. Initially, they used long poles made of bamboo, which is abundant in Japan.

They also didn’t need the use of reels as we use in the West because of the length of the poles.

How to Choose a Tenkara Fly Rod

Tenkara fly rod chart.

Choosing the right tenkara fly rod is important because the more comfortable when using the rod the better chance you will have at catching more fish.  I will now explain a few things to consider when deciding on the right tenkara rod for you.

What is the best rod length for Tenkara?

Tenkara rods come in various lengths. The standard length of a Tenkara rod is 12 feet but the length you need will depend on where you are fishing. If you are fishing where there are a lot of overhanging branches and the stream is rather small then you will want to opt for a shorter Tenkara rod like a 10 or 11-foot rod.

But if you are fishing in a wide-open river where there are no obstacles in your way, then I would go with a 12-foot or longer rod. The main thing other than where you are fishing is that you are comfortable with the length of the rod.

What is the best action for Tenkara?

Tenkara rods have come in two types of activities you can choose from. They are soft and stiff. The action you choose is more of a preference than anything. Many Tenkara anglers like a softer action rod because they are easy to load and cast.

With a stiffer action rod, you get a stronger rod that’s great for catching large fish, and you get more of a precise cast at shorter distances with the stiffer rods.

Most Tenkara rods have a soft action because they are designed to fish for smaller species of fish, like trout, that is 8″ to 18″ long. I would recommend a soft action tenkara rod for ease of use because, most of the time, you will be aiming to catch smaller-sized fish. But in the end, it all comes down to personal preference and the kinds of rivers and streams you will find yourself fishing at.

Related: Best Tarpon Fly Rods

Tenkara Fly Fishing Essentials

Tenkara Fly Fishing Rod

Tenkara is an easy and effective way to fly fish. The equipment needed for this fly fishing style is minimal compared to how we fly fish in America. You don’t need a reel when fly fishing in Tenkara style! You will need the following to get started in Tenkara fly fishing.

Tenkara Telescoping Rod

You will need a long rod so a telescoping rod will work best unless you can get a traditional bamboo rod, but this would be difficult to transport especially if you are fishing in wooded areas where the streams would be. Tenkara rods are available that are designed explicitly for Tenkara fly fishing. These rods are, on average, about 12 feet long. Prices vary depending on size and brand.

Tenkara Line

Next, you will need a Tenkara line. This line comes in two different kinds. There are Tenkara level lines and Tenkara tapered lines. These lines can be used by themselves or with a 4-foot tippet at the end of the line to which you tie your fly.

According to Tenkara USA, tapered lines are the easiest to set up and cast with and come in a fixed length. The level lines come in a spool with about 65 feet of line and can be cut to length.

Try both, and whatever one works best for you, go with that one. A 5X tippet is recommended if you are going to use tippets.

Tenkara Flies

Tenkara Fly

Of course, you will need to use a fly when Tenkara fishing. Any type of fly will work with this type of fly fishing.

Tenkara USA recommends using Sakasa style fly because they work well in most conditions when you are out fly-fishing. Sakasa Kebari flies are reverse hackle-wet flies.

The hackle refers to the hair or fur tied to the fly. The hackle is tied facing forward, unlike traditional western flies, where the hackle is facing the other way on the fly.

Along with the Tenkara rod, line, tippet, and fly, you will want needle-nose pliers to get the hook out of the fish. Some cutters to cut your line and a holder for your Tenkara line. All of this can be bought in kits that are sold online.

Setting Up a Tenkara Rod

Setting up a Tenkara rod is simple. The rod comes with a plug on the end of it. First, remove the plug. Then you want to pull out the braided tip, or Lillian as it is called. Ensure to leave the hard tip the Lillian is attached to in the rod.

Next, you want to tie your line to Lillian. When you have the line tied on, you will hold the rod with one hand and slowly slide out the segments of the rod one by one until they are all extended.

How To Close a Tenkara Rod

Now that you know how to properly set up a Tenkara rod, you will want to learn how to close it. When collapsing the Tenkara rod you want to start at the base pulling the first segment of the rod in and pulling each of the segments in until you have the last one in.

You can leave your line tied to the rod, and when the entire rod is collapsed, you wrap the line around the line holder. If you are done for the day, pull the tag from the end of the line and put the rod away.


Conclusion – What is a Tenkara Fly Rod?

Now that you have the answer, What is Tenkara fly fishing? You can try this simple and effective form of Japanese fly fishing. You need to remember only a few things about Tenkara fly fish. You need

  • Tenkara telescoping rod
  • Tenkara line
  • Four-foot tippet
  • Tenkara Flies
  • Line Holder
  • Pliers or Fishing Tools
  • Cutters to cut your line

That’s about it—fewer things to remember than your traditional Western fly fishing. The best part of Tenkara fly fishing is that it is the easiest way to fly fish and a very effective way to fly fish for trout, bluegills, or whatever stream fish you may want to fish for. So the next time you fly fishing, give Tenkara a try. You might never go back to the old way of fly fishing again!

I hope you enjoyed this article and got some helpful information from it. If you have any questions or comments, or have a good fly fishing story to share, please leave them in the comments section below. And as always, Happy Fishing!

Cory is a content writer-editor and founder of Tackle Box Talk. Favorite Quote: "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."

11 thoughts on “What Is Tenkara Fly Fishing? | The Simple Way To Fly Fish!”

  1. This is an informative and educative article. You have thoroughly put everything in perspective for anyone reading this post to understand the points. I am just getting to know about tenkara  fly fishing and I learnt alot from this writeup which is an eye opener for me.  I will have to try it out anytime soon.

    • I’m glad you got some useful information about Tenkara Fly Fishing. I hope you enjoy Tenkara fishing and let us know how it goes for you. Happy Fishing, Ola!

  2. Though this is my very first time of hearing about Tenkara Fly Fishing, I must confess that I had really widened my horizon by reading your post and getting to learn how to fly fish. Really learned a lot from your video about the Tenkara rod setup. It’s so very explicit and easy to understand. Thanks so much for teaching many and adding values to us via educating us on how to fly fish. I hope to read more posts from you subsequently.

  3. Hi, 

    Many people love to catch fish and its called fishing. Many people don’t know how to fishing or how to catch fish. There are many types of fishing. Tanker fly fishing also a new and well way to catch fish. In this site there are tell about the tanker fly fishing. You can get many type of information from there about the tanker fly fishing.it’s help you very much. I’m also get too much help from there. Thank You for shearing this.

  4. Fly fishing is a hobby that helps reduce stress for me and also fosters bonding between me and my family and friends. 

    Taking a trip into the woods to fly fish and think, when I’m alone. Or to fly fish and catch up with friends and family and then have picnic is a very good recreational activity for me. 

    So, making the recreation easier and more fun is a better deal. That is why I’d be opting to take up the Tenkara Fly Fishing from now on. 

    • I know you will enjoy Tenkara fly fishing. It’s one of the best ways to relax and unwind.

  5. This is a great post about what Tenkara fly fishing is all about. It was very informative. Though I have not had of that before, then my uncle is into fishing as a business. And the last time we discussed, he was telling me about the fishing technique he had exploded in the past. Following the fact that setting it up seems not to be difficult, I will recommend Tenkara fly fishing for my uncle, and I also love this because I have known about this before him. So I will bookmark this page for future use 

    • I know he will love this type of fly fishing.

  6. Hi Cory! Concerning Tenkara fly fishing I must thank two persons. The first one is Daniel Galhardo for popularising Tenkara fly fishing in America. And the other is you for explaining what it is and it’s benefits.

    I’m impressed we don’t even need a reel. And yes, compared to what we have used for fly fishing, the equipment needed for Tenkara style is minimal. I’ll definitely give it a try. Do you have any suggestions where to purchase a Tenkara telescoping rod?

    • I’m glad I could explain Tenkara fly fishing for you Henry. Fishing without a reel is getting to the basics of fly fishing and that’s what I love about this simple form of fishing. As for the Tenkara telescoping rod, I have done a Tenkara Rod Review of the Tenkara USA Sato fly rod. It is a very good telescoping rod and is made by the company that Daniel Galhardo founded. Happy Fishing!

  7. Tenkara fly fishing is an excellent addition to the traditional fishing empire of North American. It comes from Japan and only a couple of hundred years old. This fishing technology is rapidly increasing in North America.

    Tenkara rods are much different than the fly rods we are familiar with. There are no guides, no reel and the rod is telescopic. It is an easy assemble and can attract small to medium fish.

    This blog with a clearly demonstrating video of Tenkara fly fishing assemblage is very easy to follow.

    Happy Tenkara fly fishing.


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