An Introduction to Simple Fly Fishing

"The lesson that we learn from fishing with a tenkara rod is that we shouldn't fear that a simpler life will be an impoverished life. Rather, simplicity leads to a richer and more satisfying way of fishing - and more importantly, living." - Yvon Choiunard

Print Jump to Reader Comments

by Yvon Chouinard | 2014-04-22 00:00:00-06

Editor's Note

Tenkara fly fishing is to fly fishing as ultralight backpacking is to backpacking.

In the next 2,000 words, Yvon Chouinard will eloquently spell out the tremendous freedom that comes from disengaging from gear (and specifically, the number of pieces of gear) in order to achieve an experience unburdened by complexity.

As a fishing guide, I find tenkara to be totally exhilirating - I no longer have to spend time teaching clients how to cast, how to select tippet, how to build leaders, or the fine nuances of every individual fly. If you are interested in hiring a so-called "tenkara" guide, be wary of the guide who claims that he can teach you (much) about tenkara gear. They may just add complexity to your experience!

I can therefore focus on helping my clients see the natural world - how to spot fish under the water's surface, how to notice that a hatch is "on", how to chase a big fish down a small-stream cattle chute without breaking an ankle (!), how to treat your fly like moving food, instead of incessant line mending exercises, how to see the difference between an osprey and an eagle, or how to build a no-trace fire for a streamside lunch.

There are many lessons to be learned by ultralight backpackers from other disciplines, whether single-speed biking, the one-pot chef, or the tenkara angler. I'm honored to offer Mr. Chouinard's insight here at BPL, and hope you find some useful philosophy from his article. I also hope you'll find some inspiration to throw a tenkara rod in your backpack so you can enjoy high country angling on your next ultralight adventure!

- Ryan Jordan

Introduction

“DESPITE RUMORS TO THE CONTRARY, THE PARAMOUNT OBJECTIVE IS: TO CATCH FISH . . . .” - Sheridan Anderson, The Curtis Creek Manifesto

Since the fifteenth century, every nuance of fly fishing has been written about in the utmost detail, leaving us to endlessly reinvent what has already been discovered. A tiny change on a classic fly and the ‘inventor” gets to name it after himself and collect a dime for each one sold. Many of the books on technique are like business books where a minor theory is spread out over three hundred pages, when all it really merits is a magazine article.

Heaven knows we fly fishers are suckers for every new gizmo we think will give us a leg up on catching fish. We wear vests with twenty pockets and waders with even more storage. And as if that isn’t enough, we have lanyards, waist packs, and backpacks to carry even more impedimenta. Hundreds of fly lines are now available to us, yet I seriously doubt you will catch one more trout with a line fine-tuned to the conditions than with a classic double taper. The no-nonsense fly fisher Rob Brown, from Terrace, British Columbia, looking over a steelheader’s array of fly boxes filled with hundreds of garish flies, said it best when he asked, “When did the green-butt stop working for you?”

simple-fly-fishing-chouinard - 6
Daniela Prestifillippo catches her first fish ever after a few minutes of tenkara lessons with Yvon Chouinard. Cottonwood Creek, Wyoming. Photo: Mauro Mazzo.

I would offer that this proliferation of gear is supported by busy people who lack for nothing in their lives except time. Our “time-saving” communication devices, like tablets and smartphones, make slaves of their owners. We are unwilling, or unable, to put in the 10,000 hours needed to become a master fisher, hunter, or mountain climber. Instead, we load up with all the latest stuff and hire guides to do everything for us - including tying on the fly and releasing the fish. The guides have become enablers rather than teachers. How many bonefish would average anglers catch if they had to work out the tides and wade and spot fish themselves instead of waiting for a guide to bark, “ten o’clock, forty-foot cast now! Wait . . . strip . . . strip”? The guides leave clients so unsure of themselves that they think there must be some secret, unattainable knowledge that only the guide possesses.

As author Sheridan Anderson says in The Curtis Creek Manifesto, the objective of fishing is to catch fish, but in the pursuit of the catch you will gain so much more. The higher purpose of practicing a sport such as fly fishing, hunting or mountain climbing is to affect a spiritual and physical gain. But if the process is compromised, there is no transformation.

 - 2
Golden Trout. Painted by James Prosek.

Fishing with a fly can be such an incredibly complex and passionate sport that no one can fully master all the different disciplines in one lifetime. Some anglers prefer to limit themselves to only fishing with dry flies, while others specialize in perfecting their casting, fly tying, or even learning the Latin names and life history of all the insects. These can be legitimate endeavors in themselves, and there are untold books written about these subjects. This book is not one of them.

"Simple Fly Fishing" is for the young person who wants to learn but feels intimidated by the complexity, elitism, and expense of the sport. He sees his father who owns multiple thousand-dollar rods and reels, fishes only with guides at five hundred plus dollars a day (plus mandatory tips), and flies all over the world to stay at luxury lodges. And the son thinks, “This is not for me.”

It is also for the woman and her daughter who are put off by the image of the testosterone-fueled “rip-some-lips,” good-old-boy, bass and trout fisherman who has turned the contemplative pastime” into a competitive combat sport.

simple-fly-fishing-chouinard - 5
After a five-minute lesson, nine-year-old Lola proceeded to land seventeen rainbows in a day and a half. Fall River, Idaho. Photo: Jeremy Koreski.

"Simple Fly Fishing" is also for the experienced angler who has all the gadgets and gizmos and discovers he or she wants to replace all that stuff with skill, knowledge, and simplicity. It is for the person who believes that a design or a piece of art or a sporting endeavor is finalized and mastered “not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away,” as Antoine de Saint-Exupery advocated.

It’s for the person who thinks maybe it’s time to look at the raked Zen sand garden with its three stones and see if he or she can convey the same powerful, evocative image of space and balance with only two rocks or even one.

Most anglers soon discover simple fly fishing helps preserve our capacity for wonder. It can teach us to see, smell, and feel the miracles of stream life-with the beauty of nature and serenity all around-as we pursue wild fish.

Aside: The Day I Learned to Kayak

The Gros Ventre River below Slide Lake falls over one hundred feet per mile, and in the spring runoff has few eddies to pull out and rest in. If you bail out of your boat, you can only hope to find it miles downstream where the current slows as it enters the Snake River.

I had just learned to do an Eskimo roll using only my hands and got a wild hair to run the river solo and without a paddle. A kayak paddle is a powerful tool. You can use it to slow down, speed up, or brace to keep from tipping over. And at the last second, you can do a quick sweep or Duffek stroke to avoid a rock or a suck hole.

Without a paddle, I had to sit low in the boat with my hands in the water. Whenever I went over a steep drop, I had to resist the tendency to lean back. I turned by putting the boat on its side and pressing the nose down just like carving with skis. I had to look far ahead to plan my line. It was pointless to fight the current; I had to let the river tell me where to go. That was the day I really learned to kayak.

The Tenkara Rod

Many of us of a certain age remember our first fishing pole. We would go to the local sporting goods store and buy a long bamboo pole-what was then called a Calcutta. A line, with a worm or fly on the end, was attached to the tip. For centuries, perhaps even before the time of Christ, this is the way people all over the world learned to fish-and still do.

Twenty-five years ago, a Japanese friend gave me a telescoping fiberglass road with no reel seat. It was a beautiful, precious gift, light, sensitive, and elegant. When I received this rod, I didn’t really understand what I was getting, and I stored it on a shelf in my cabin for fifteen years. I have since learned that it is called a tenkara rod, which means “from the heavens” and is used in Japan to fish for yamame, amago, and iwana trout in small mountain streams.

Some years later, I fished the Sesia River in Italy with Mauro Mazzo. He mentioned that the traditional way to fish the Sesia is to use an eleven- to sixteen-foot-long rod with no reel and just a horsehair line tied to the tip. The lines, which are about one or one and a half times the length of the rod, are twisted from the tail of a white stallion, starting with fourteen or sixteen hairs and tapering down to three at the tippet end. A short, nylon tippet is added and one to five soft-hackle flies are tied onto the tippet one foot apart. Casting is done using various overhead, roll, and Spey casts. It’s particularly effective in winter with a size 22 purple-body soft hackle for wary and selective grayling. The hackles, made from the very soft feathers of a bird called ciuffolotto, maintain their lifelike action in the river. There are still about twenty practitioners of this technique in Italy, of which ten make their own lines.

The next summer, Mauro and I decided to try the tenkara rod on a willow-lined meadow creek in the Wyoming Range. It was a very windy day in August, and grasshoppers were being blown about, so we put on a muddler and fished it upstream as a hopper and downstream as a sculpin. The thin, heavy horsehair line cut through the wind far better than a floating fly line. Every bend of the creek had a pool, and we moved from pool to pool without having to reel in line and let it out again. We caught fish in every pool: nice cutthroats up to sixteen inches.

simple-fly-fishing-chouinard - 4
At eighty-three years old, Arturo Pugno, the master, needs no polarized glasses to spot fish. Sesia River, Italy. Photo: Mauro Mazzo.

Mauro’s girlfriend, Daniela, who had never fished a day in her life, picked up the rod and in less than five minutes landed the biggest cutthroat of the day. “Easy,” she said. “What’s the big deal?”

I think this centuries-old technique was perfect for fly fishing that day and more effective than anything that has come out of our high-tech fly fishing industry. In fact, this is the same gear and technique traditionally used by French and Japanese market fishers. When your living depends on supplying restaurants and hotels with trout, you’re not going to waste money on seven-hundred-dollar rods, five-hundred-dollar reels, and three-dollar flies.

Learning to fish with a tenkara road and a short line is the easiest way to learn to fly-fish. It can be taught to an eight-year-old in minutes. Put her on a riffle with an old-fashioned soft-hackle fly, and she can out fish dad on the first day. Catching fish right from the start is the way to catch an angler for life. And dad can become a better fisher by applying the lessons learned from this ultimately simple method to fishing with his regular gear.

Other than learning to fish where the fish are, the most important thing an angler can do to catch fish is to control the action of the fly. It’s more important than the color or size of the fly, the time of day, or getting off a perfect cast. Why is a worm so effective? Because it is always moving. Why have soft baits replaced hard spoons and lures? Because they bend and flex in enticing ways.

 - 3

Too many fly fishers are so fixated on launching long casts that they end up putting the fly beyond where the fish are. And with those long casts, they cannot control what the fly is doing.

This is especially true of steel headers and their long Spey rods: Most steelhead are close to the bank, not in the middle of the river. I once watched the great steel header Harry Lemire fish behind a friend of mine. Lemire was walking the bank, making short casts with a floating line and making his signature fly, the Steelhead Caddis, wake, swim, twitch and flit around on the surface. He was hooking fish just behind my friend who was wading deep, casting long, and not catching anything. Control is everything.

"Simple Fly Fishing" uses the simplest of all fly fishing methods, a pole with a line on the end, to illustrate how to control the fly without the complexity of modern equipment getting in the way. Getting the fly to the depth where the fish are feeding and imparting motion to the fly is critical. This is where the tenkara excels. You will catch fish using simple methods and knowledge, in an elegant and artful way. This is fly fishing at its most basic, and like kayaking without a paddle, it brings you closer to the simple truths of the sport. When you pick up (or go back to) a rod and reel, you will be a more complete angler. I believe you will also enjoy your time on the water more and, to Mr. Anderson’s point, catch more fish.

Simple Fly Fishing: The Book

Excerpted from Simple Fly Fishing, which includes more chapters about trout and their food, fly fishing with wet flies, streamers, nymphs, and dry flies, as well as a summary of a variety of fishing situations of interest to the tenkara angler.

Simple Fly Fishing, by Yvon Chouinard, Craig Matthews, and Mauro Mazzo (Patagonia Books, 2014).

 - 1


Citation

"An Introduction to Simple Fly Fishing," by Yvon Chouinard. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/simple-fly-fishing-chouinard.html, 2014-04-22 00:00:00-06.

Print

Reader Comments

You must login to post comments.

New Visitors: Create a new account
Username:
Password:
Remember my login info.

An Introduction to Simple Fly Fishing
Display Avatars
Sort By:
Maia
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
An Introduction to Simple Fly Fishing on 04/22/2014 17:39:00 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

An Introduction to Simple Fly Fishing

Matthew Perry
(bigfoot2) - F

Locale: Oregon
An Introduction to Simple Fly Fishing on 04/23/2014 11:31:27 MDT Print View

Very good article on Tenkara!
I stopped into my local fly fishing shop here in Eugene, Oregon, yesterday, on the off chance that they might be carrying Tenkara gear. Of course they did not. I asked the owner why they did not stock any supplies for Tenkara and was told that he believes it's just a fad/flash in the pan. When pressed further, the real reason came out...he just cannot understand how one lands a fish with Tenkara. LOL. No reel, no way to land the fish, i guess. He was flabbergasted by the sheer simplicity of it. I tried to explain how simple it was (hand over hand,direct the fish to you, or just back up onto the bank), and he had a deer in the headlights look on his face. He was unwilling to concede that his traditional way of fly fishing was anything but superior to Tenkara. I just could not change his mind. It's the way he learned to fly fish and it is the only way. Period. The look he gave me is the very look I get when talking with clerks at REI about lightweight backpacking gear and techniques. Gear snobs are the same, no matter what the sport.

Edited by bigfoot2 on 04/23/2014 12:11:32 MDT.

Cargill Henderson
(cJNz) - M
Thankyou. on 04/23/2014 17:49:40 MDT Print View

Fantastic article. Just looking at how to get set up to go fishing in some of the NZ backcountry streams and Tenkara is getting a serious look in as a simple way to get started.

So far, my impression so far is less gear, more technique, same number/quality of fish which appeals.

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - M

Locale: 40°N,-105°W-ish
Tenkara, Patagucci style on 04/23/2014 18:27:37 MDT Print View

Fly fishing, with all its "rules" and equipment, had as much appeal to me as golf. That is until I learned about Tenkara through Daniel Galhardo, credited with bringing this variant to North America. It is a liberating style of fishing, suited particularly to catching moderately sized trout from mountain streams, using minimal equipment. That works for me when I'm backpacking.

This "article" is an extract of the introduction from the book that Patagonia published to accompany the launch of their brand of Tenkara rods. Buy one of their sets, and you get the book. As a book introduction, it's OK, but it doesn't add anything to what's already in the public domain on this topic. As a subscriber-only weekly article on BPL, it's on par with the disappointing content we've been subjected to lately. Come on Ryan, it's been too long since we've had anything of substance. Your subscribers deserve better than this puff piece.

Glenn S
(Glenn64) - M

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Tenkara, Patagucci style on 04/23/2014 18:47:26 MDT Print View

While most of this article is included in the "look inside" preview on Amazon for the book, and this article seems more like a book promo, it is still just a free article and not part of the member-only content, so no foul from me.

I enjoyed reading it, and it even got me out in the yard playing with my $5 Tenkara knockoff toy. The article is catagorized as "trends", but since it's a book preview, more book review would have been more fun to read perhaps.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Tenkara Article on 04/23/2014 18:50:27 MDT Print View

Stuart - hopefully the article will provide some inspiration to others here, even if it can't find value for all. We'll be incorporating a number of book chapters in our upcoming publication schedule, they'll be valuable to some, and perhaps less so to others. I'm going to try to solicit some original content from the book authors as companion introductions targeted specifically to the BPL community. In addition, we hope that providing actual content from a book, rather than a biased review designed to drive affiliate book sales, more accurately promotes the book by offering you a sample of their writing style. In addition, we'll generally make book excerpts public so we can help increase awareness of the author.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Tenkara, Patagucci style on 04/23/2014 18:55:55 MDT Print View

@Glenn - thank you, excellent feedback. We'll try to offer more unique content not available elsewhere as we move forward publishing book excerpts.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: An Introduction to Simple Fly Fishing on 04/23/2014 20:18:08 MDT Print View

I enjoyed this, both for the content and for seeing an article written by Chouinard here. Will probably buy the book now.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: An Introduction to Simple Fly Fishing on 04/23/2014 20:23:55 MDT Print View

Neat except with some philosophy to boot. A fly-fishing buddy of mine mentioned cheap gear rom a discount retailer (yeah, that one) is how he started newbies (though he could afford a pretty expensive rig, himself).

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Liked it, and I don't eat fish on 04/23/2014 20:53:14 MDT Print View

I liked this book excerpt, and I don't eat fish. Yvon's a good writer, and his "simplicity" and "less gear, more skill" messages are very much in line with BPL core values.

Maybe if I'd been introduced to tenkara when I was young, instead of struggling with rods and reels and tangles and ... I might have enjoyed fishing.

-- Rex

M G
(drown) - F - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah
Re: Tenkara Article on 04/23/2014 23:27:29 MDT Print View

Ryan,

This is great news. Looking forward to more like this. I was pleasantly surprised to see the book excerpted here.

Joshua Billings
(Joshua) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz,Ca
No love for the reel. on 04/23/2014 23:34:57 MDT Print View

Now I can appreciate all the tenkara stuff but a light weight fly rod and reel is also really fun. It's not this hugely complicated thing and I would argue that you can cast farther in lakes though I don't really know much about tenkara. A light weight reel with line is like 3 or 4 ozs only. Perhaps a reel also makes it easier to bring in fish in a stream too because you don't have back pedal or anything like that. I hope y'all have fun with your sticks and string. Just messing. Good night.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F - M

Locale: NW Montana
Re: No love for the reel. on 04/24/2014 19:02:10 MDT Print View

Interesting excerpt, though I would have preferred more than this snippet here. I too look forward to more from Yvon's book, so here's hoping that Ryan can make that happen.

Though, I have to take issue with Ryan's initial comparison: "Tenkara fly fishing is to fly fishing as ultralight backpacking is to backpacking."

That, in my limited opinion, is an overstatement. I don't disagree fully, but I think the comparison is more apt between tenkara and SUL backpacking. You can catch fish--and often lots of them--with tenkara, but the conditions in which that's possible are more limited. The comparison between UL backpacking to fly fishing would be with a minimalist set-up limited to 12-16 oz. of gear--minimalist but without a significant loss of function in a wider variety of conditions.

I've spent a lot of time fishing tenkara over the last year, many of them the very same Montana waters that Ryan touts its use for. I really enjoyed it too. But I'm not giving up my classic Western style of fishing. I found tenkara too limiting on open Western rivers. There were a lot of fish I didn't catch because the simplicity was too limiting in those circumstances.

Scott Truong
(elf773)

Locale: Vancouver, BC
RE: An Introduction to Simple Fly Fishing on 04/24/2014 22:09:48 MDT Print View

Clayton and Joshua have good points. I love having a reel, casting, stripping etc.. lots of fun.

Yvon is right in that you're more likely to love fishing if you actually catch something, especially in the beginning. So do whatever it takes to get you on the water.

For me that means versatility and I personally prefer a western set-up.

I understand about the intimidating thing with lines etc, but it really isn't that bad. And fisherpeople love to talk about fishing so just ask.

I mainly float/gear fish for steelhead and salmon. I also mainly use jigs I tie, and like tieing your own flies (except way easier), is highly satisfying....but I can also cast across the river, use blades under a float... and yes..gasp..even cured roe to catch fish with my gear setup.

One day I may be such a top rod that using anything but "flies" is just too darn easy, but that won't be anytime soon.

Fishing simply can be achieved no matter what style you utilize. UL spin set-up and a bubble float likely also works really really well.

Whatever it takes to get tight lines.

Glenn S
(Glenn64) - M

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: RE: An Introduction to Simple Fly Fishing on 04/25/2014 03:39:51 MDT Print View

I'm totally new to Tenkara, but even when I'd bring my collapsible spinning setup, I didn't really view it as hard core fishing gear. I guess if I had to cross-categorize it, I'd relate it to something along the lines of a point and shoot camera. I might get a good picture opportunity, I might not, but I want it along with for when those chances might arise. It's not like I'm a pro photographer, where I'd want some real gear.

I guess I view this Tenkara thing the same way. Sure, some people get into it pretty heavy, as an art unto itself, but for me, it's just a couple ounces of take along fun that I'd love to have if the opportunity seems right. So something so light and simplistic really fits the bill.

YMMV

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
An Introduction to Simple Fly Fishing on 04/25/2014 05:46:23 MDT Print View

A good piece! Yeah tenkara style fishing is not rocket science. Nor does it work well as lake fishing gear, It doesn't work well on tidal flats. Nor does it work well on larger rivers and in larger pools where casting distance means a lot. In small creeks it works as well as any. In pocket water, it works as well as any. It is a style and a technique to fly fishing that is different enough to simply give it it's own name.

Like nymph fishing with sink tip lines and shorter leaders, it works well. It is not the delicate presentation of a 2wt fly line with a size 16 dry, though. Nor is it a fast moving streamer through a stream with a 9wt rod. There are times that lifting a huge steelhead on a size 10 wet can be as much challenge as nailing a 14" brown on a size 22 midge.

They are all different styles, with tenkara being especially well suited to backpacking: simplicity, weight, and choice of flies.

I have broken a reel while out, cut 10 yard of line off and tied it to the but of the rod. This is akin to tenkara fishing. A good half my fish are nailed within 15-30 feet of where I choose my stance. Again, this is kin to tenkara fishing. Confusing the issue of tenkara fishing with "western" style or fishing the Beaverkill is nonsensical.

I try to fish the conditions of the water, not let the fishing dictate the water I can fish. The tenkara rigs have limitatons in the size of fish, the distance they cast, the odd twist of the leader/line, and the choice of fly you fish with. They are second to none on a small rocky stream, though.

Thanks for a good article! I will be looking for the book...

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Fly Fishing on 04/25/2014 14:21:56 MDT Print View

Just another perspective...

I came to fly fishing by a different route than most. I bought a tenkara setup and used that a bit near home. It was fun and I caught fish. I took it along when I was going to hike the JMT. It seemed like a slam dunk. Then on the drive out west from the east coast, on an impulse, I bought a 4 wt fly outfit from Cabelas. It was an inexpensive setup and half price to boot.

On the way there I stopped and fished with it a bit. I caught some trout and was hooked. The tenkara stayed in the car and the fly rod and reel went on the trip. For me it was just more fun. I caught lots of fish and had a lot of fun.

It was heavier, but not all that much. I still had a lighter load than any of the backpackers that I met with the only exception being a couple runners and speed hikers looking to break a record or training to do that.

As far as having something to take along "just in case", I wouldn't bother if that were the case. If I didn't plan to definitely fish I would take neither tenkara nor a western setup. Besides my trips are mostly out of state and the license is usually expensive enough that it would be crazy to buy just in case.

I may not have all of the right technique, but I picked it up right away and was catching fish as soon as I managed a couple decent casts. That took maybe 10 minutes.

I am not knocking tenkara, but I found that even though I came to fly fishing via tenkara, I prefer a western setup.

Edited by staehpj1 on 04/25/2014 14:23:48 MDT.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F - M

Locale: NW Montana
TenkaraUSA Guide Service on Patagonia Tenkara on 04/25/2014 17:14:05 MDT Print View

Here's an intriguing post by a Colorado fly shop on the new book and Patagonia tenkara line. Interestingly, the guide shop not only carries tenkara gear, but they are also certified by TenkaraUSA.

Thus, the excerpt:

Upon further review of Patagonia’s approach to tenkara, even more statements make us wonder what is Patagonia really saying. With descriptions like “This book reveals that the best way to catch trout is simply, with a rod and a fly and not much else”, is Chouinard saying that you also do not need his $600 waders? or his $450 SST Jacket? Should we all skip high end fly fishing gear in its entirety and just go to Walmart to get set up with simple gear and advice on regional conditions? You would spend a lot less money, pick out your own gear without the hindrance of any advise and have a more simple experience – right?

It only gets more interesting from there.

EDIT: Got the link right that time.

Edited by GlacierRambler on 04/25/2014 17:16:11 MDT.

Mark Krotine
(mkrotine) - M
An Introduction to Simple Fly Fishing on 04/25/2014 17:30:00 MDT Print View

When I got into ultralight backpacking, I happened to discover tenkara rods while searching for a light-weight tube to protect my 1-weight western fly rod from breakage. After I purchased a tenkara rod, I was able to reduce my total packed fishing gear weight from about 28 ounces to just under 4 ounces (including my fishing license!) and I found tenkara fishing simple, refreshing, and liberating. I almost always now carry a tenkara rod on my ultralight backpacking trips and enjoy fishing during my hike or after I've setup camp each evening.

I especially like the following quote from this article ...a sporting endeavor is finalized and mastered “not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away,”. This is the essence of ultralight backpacking.

There are certainly situations where spinning and western fly rods excel over a tenkara rod - for example, spinning and western fly rods allow the user to cast further out and enable one to fish large, deep high-country lakes. However, the tenkara rod is a great tradeoff for the ultralight backpacker and I plan to carry a tenkara rod on future backpacking trips. After all, the common goal is to go light on our journeys.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Tenkara Limits on 04/26/2014 13:12:46 MDT Print View

" I found tenkara too limiting on open Western rivers. There were a lot of fish I didn't catch because the simplicity was too limiting in those circumstances."


I haven't fished Montana, yet.

But in 3 hours at the Lee's Ferry "Boulder Field" on the Colorado River, running about 8,000 cfs, I caught and released 50 fish. (About 10 of those were LDR's.) Most were around 12", but there were a number of 14+'s and a fat 17".

Big fish in fast water Are a challenge with tenkara, but not impossible. My home waters are steep and fast, and the average fish is 14". Last year I had a string of 13 days with over 20 fish, and 5 of those days went over 30.

Not bragging here, just saying that the "limits" of tenkara might be less than you would imagine.

Edited by greg23 on 04/26/2014 14:46:27 MDT.