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  1. #1

    Smile Tenkara

    NOTE: Some folks erroneously believe that Tenkara gear is no different than the cane poles they've used or other stick and string rigs they've fished with. Before proceeding on this thread, they should take a look at post #178 below titled "For those who fished cane poles".

    This thread is not about a product - it is about fly angling. Part of my experience the past few days has involved Tenkara fly rods. First, a Yamame 12' fast action ( 7:3 in TenkaraUSA's system of classifying their rods ) and next an Ayu 13' slow action ( 5:5 in TenkaraUSA's parlance ).

    Before going further, I want to thank Dan at the Grizzly Hackle in Missoula for permitting me to demo these rods and providing the lines necessary to do so. For the Yamame I used a 13' or thereabouts level line with 4X tippet and for the Ayu I used a Tenkara Furled Line which is about 10' long tipped with 5X.

    Honestly, I didn't care for the Yamame with the level line. But when Dan insisted that I try the Ayu with the furled line, I decided to give it another shot. Thanks, Dan.

    The Yamame is Tenkara's heavy duty rod - the one you would use for larger fish. The Ayu is one they would recommend for smaller fish on smaller water. That's what I had in mind for these rods, and the Ayu turned out to be a stellar performer, with a rod action that is outstanding once you get a feel for it, and a furled line / tippet setup that cast a size 10 FEB Hopper beautifully. It also cast a size 16 caddis emerger pattern, a size 14 Harrop's Henry's Fork Caddis, and a size 16 parachute CDL PMD effortlessly. But the water I was on is great hopper / golden stone water and I knew the FEB Hopper and an LF Golden Stone would be the workhorses today.

    The first three places I fished today are ones that I have fished previously so I knew what to expect.

    Pocket water where you have to cast far enough that you can't keep the line off the faster water and get a very short dead drift at best. With the longer rod and the very light line, a much longer drift was possible.

    This little guy was first up on the caddis pattern provided a while back by BB member ScottP.

    Then water far enough away that the 13' rod made it more of a reach than a cast, and with a high tip, it was simple to keep the fly in a dead drift.

    Only caught two or three trouts in that little hole, but saw something like 10-12 around the fly in the short time I fished there.

    On downstream a way, there is a pocket of soft water on the far bank that is more than a reach. It takes a cast and an immediate mend, and then some concentration to keep the line off the hard water and get a good drift.

    This is the third time I have caught this cutthroat right at the lower end of the soft water pocket.

    After catching the fish above, I moved off to another creek. The first stretch I fished, I had fished before. Full of smaller trouts, up to 8-9". Can't tell you how many hit the fly or ate it. The fly being an FEB Hopper. This little guy ate the fly after I cast it left handed.

    Next I moved up to some water that has been calling to me everytime I drive through this area, but that I had never stopped to fish before. It is big enough to challenge the 13' Ayu, which has a total reach of maybe 25'. What's that old saying about fishing bigger water like it is 30' wide ?? Wade out a bit and you've got it covered.

    Started a bit slow on this run. But when I started hitting the seam between the fast water and the soft water on the far side, I started picking up cutts. Three or four right on the seam. All about 12-13". Beautiful fish.

    Then I decided to bring the fly right down the middle of the run - something like 7-8' deep, best I could tell. First up.

    Last up and last fish of the day. 14" plus of wild, native West Slope Cutthroat not at all in love with the LF Golden Stone that he ate. What a sight to see this fish come up from the bottom and absolutely smash the golden stone !! And with only about 14' of line in addition to the length of the rod, he was a handful. Put a real bend in the Ayu before I could work him into the soft water just below my position.

    Tenkara is going to be a continuing part of my fly angling experience. The Ayu will be mine by this time tomorrow. If this report whets your appetite, just google Tenkara and you can find out more about their product line.

    For those who have questions about my experience, fire away !!

    Last edited by JohnScott; 09-20-2012 at 11:01 AM.
    The fish are always right.

  2. #2


    Very cool! My question is this... Could you do the same or something very similar with a telescoping "cane pole" type rod? Or are the actions too different?
    The Green Hornet strikes again!!!

  3. #3

    Default Not familiar with ...

    Quote Originally Posted by quivira kid View Post
    ...Could you do the same or something very similar with a telescoping "cane pole" type rod? Or are the actions too different?
    ... a telescoping cane pole type rod, Zac, so I can't really answer your question.

    From my experience last year fishing an 8' for 5 wt bamboo fly rod exclusively for six months, it is hard for me to imagine a 13' rod fashioned from bamboo ( or any material other than graphite ) that would weigh 2.7 ounces, balance beautifully, and cast effortlessly.

    H.A. - Some folks are going to be negative about anything that doesn't fit their experience or preferences. Those folks should not discourage open minded people from talking about this or any other approach to fly angling. Not to worry about "peace." You beat me to the punch today suggesting to Deanna that she approach Tenkara about becoming a sponsor. Maybe this thread would cause them to give it serious consideration.

    Warren - I'm getting a new furling jig set up in the next week or two. I think that I will be able to make my own Tenkara lines. If it doesn't work out, I'll be in touch with you about furling me a couple.

    The fish are always right.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Wherever I am, there I be


    hmmmm...you've given me some food for thought. I have seen these rods but never tried one. I really do like the thought of them for backcountry excursions along smaller rivers and streams.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006



    As Heritage Angler said, welcome to the world of tenkara. Although tenkara won't do everything, you'll notice more and more places where it will work just fine.

    When you demo the 12' Iwana, be sure to demo the 11' one as well if you do any fishing in smaller streams. If they don't have one in stock, ask them to order one at the same time they order the 12 footer. It is one sweet little rod. I wouldn't take it out looking for 20 inchers, but up to about 15-16" would be fine. An Ayu for bigger streams and 11' Iwana for smaller streams is a very nice combination.

    Also, at some point you might want to try a light level line for your Ayu. It will cast a lighter level line than the Yamame, and you can fish a line longer than the 10.5' furled line.

    quivira kid,

    If by telescopic "cane pole" you mean the crappie or panfish poles, they're not really comparable. Before Tenkara USA opened its doors last year, I bought a number of telescopic panfish poles, both fiberglass and graphite, to try to get as close as I could to a real tenkara rod. A tenkara rod is designed to cast an unweighted fly using just a furled leader (or level line as light as 0x fluorocarbon for an Ayu) as the "fly line." Panfish poles are designed to cast either a weighted jig or a worm, split shot and bobber. They're not nearly sensitive enough (plus they're a lot heavier). Even the Yamame, which is considerably stiffer than the Ayu, has a more sensitive tip than a panfish pole.

    I've written a lot about tenkara rods, but I can't give you a link. Google knows where to find me.

    Edited to add: They're great for 'gills, too!
    Last edited by CM_Stewart; 07-17-2010 at 01:35 AM.
    Tenkara Bum

  6. #6


    John and CM, thanks for the responses! I already have a 13 ft telescoping "dipping pole" and figured it might work. That's why I asked.
    The Green Hornet strikes again!!!

  7. #7

    Lightbulb Know what you mean ...

    Quote Originally Posted by CM_Stewart View Post
    ....I've written a lot about tenkara rods, but I can't give you a link....
    ... but I can post a link to a website by a TenkaraBum that has written a lot about Tenkara.


    I certainly hope everyone who reads this thread will follow the link and become better informed about this approach to fly angling. Great reviews on the rods available from TenkaraUSA, also.

    The fish are always right.

  8. #8


    Nicely done of course, but I am curious as to what triggered the desire to try one. Remember I'm the one with the bum shoulder who is trying to find something to fish that gets the job done without doing my shoulder in.

  9. #9

    Default A few days ago ...

    Quote Originally Posted by LadyFisher View Post
    Nicely done of course, but I am curious as to what triggered the desire to try one. Remember I'm the one with the bum shoulder who is trying to find something to fish that gets the job done without doing my shoulder in.
    ... I fished the spots in the third and fourth photos with standard gear - in the form of a Winston Ibis 7'6" for 3 wt. At the little pool in the third photo, it was almost impossible to keep the fly on the water with any kind of decent drift. It occured to me at that time that a really long rod like a Tenkara might be just the thing.

    As luck would have it, I was talking to one of the guys at the Grizzly Hackle the next day. When I mentioned the experience I had the day before, and mentioned Tenkara, he told me about his experience. That was all it took to get me started. ( You probably don't recall that jburge started a thread last summer about using a Tenkara on his small stream / backpacking adventures in the Sierras of California ?? That was my first awareness of this kind of fly angling. )

    The Ayu weighs in at 2.7 ounces. The line and tippet are roughly the equivalent of a 14-15' furled leader and tippet. No reel. No fly line as such. No backing. Just a very well balanced slow action 13' rod casting effortlessly, even with a fly too big for the tippet ( size 10 LF Golden Stone on 5X ). And it is so intuitive that after a couple casts with my left hand, which I never do with standard gear, I was casting accurately and following the fly almost as well as with my right hand.

    A couple other points. This is NOT for distance fishing. The rod I had is TenkaraUSA's longest rod. The total reach could go to about 30' with a very long tippet attached to the furled leader. It is not for big fish, although the Ayu handled that last cutthroat just fine. The Iwana 12' model would probably handle a 20" trout nicely. I'm going to demo that model as soon as Dan gets one in from TenkaraUSA early next week.

    One of the great things is the portability. This is a telescoping rod. When closed, it is just about 21" long. Along with the overall portability, transporting it between fishing spots is really nice, even when bushwacking really nasty stuff. Telescope it all the way down, take the line and tippet up in a few large loops and head off to your next spot. When I finished today, I headed back to the road through some really rough, heavily forested terrain. Hardly gave the rod a thought. Even with a broken down four piece fly rod, getting through that stuff would have taken a lot more attention.

    This approach to fly angling does have obvious limits. But the biggest limits are probably the ones self imposed by the angler who doesn't really give it a fair chance.


    Deanna - the LF Golden Stone rules the water I was on today
    The fish are always right.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Lake In The Hills. IL USA


    !2' & 13' flyrods just seem "clunky" for lack of a better term. This, speaking from absolutely NO experience at all with using them. I can see their utility fishing pocket water and making lloooooonnnngggggg casts but I don't do much of either. And then, on second thought, the Hoback near the "junction" in late September low flow (lotsa pocket water) would be a GREAT place to have a long rod.
    Thanks for the post. Looks like you're having a wonderful time in your new digs.
    Stay well!

    THAT being said, I'd rather be in Wyoming.

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