Fishing with Style
Tenkara in the United Kingdom
Tenkara - The Art and Method of Japanese Fly Fishing
Tenkara describes fly fishing in the Japanese style, just rod, line and fly.
Tenkara as we know it in the west arrived via the research and links made by Daniel W. Galhardo, founder of Tenkara USA, and Chris Stewart of TenkaraBum.com with Dr. Hisao Ishigaki and Meijin Masami Sakakibara in Japan, from 2008.
Tenkara has spread to become a global phenomenon with its inherent simplicity attracting anglers from complete beginners to seasoned fly fishers.
All seem to find their introduction to tenkara enlightening in all senses of the word as the ease with which to get familiar with rod, line and flies frees one to get on with the art of fishing.
Although fly fishing with the tenkara method appears easy, like many apparent simple pastimes one can spend many happy days thereafter perfecting the art of catching fish on the fly.
Tenkara rods differ from western fly rods in that they telescope down into the handle making them light and portable, small enough even to pack in a small backpack.
The rods range in length from 11' to 14' tapering down to a very fine tip to which the angler ties their fly line to a braided thread called the lillian.
Each rod can have up to 10 telescopic sections which, overall, produces an “action” to the rod.
These actions are classed as 5:5, 6:4, 7:3 or 8:2. A rod classed as 5:5 is a through action rod “soft”. A rod classed as 6:4 is a “middle to tip” action, similar to a standard western fly rod.
A rod classed at 7:3 or 8:2 are a stiff action rod and suitable for larger fish.
The first tenkara line was made from twisted horsehair. Most are now made from nylon monofilament or fluorocarbon fishing line.
The two main types are tapered lines and level lines. Most tapered lines are really just long furled leaders. Most level lines in UK are fluorocarbon. As with everything else in life, the choice of which tenkara line to use is a compromise. Each type has advantages and disadvantages. Anglers in Japan pretty much choose to fish tapered or level lines, and don't switch back and forth.
The line length can vary from being the same length as the rod to sometimes one and a half times to two times the length of the rod depending on the river conditions.
And don't forget the "tenkara tippet" which you obviously need between your tenkara line and tenkara fly. Choice of material and brand is up to you but you should be sure to use a light tippet (max 5X or 4lbs) to protect the rod
Knots for level lines
Tenkara rods require the fly line ("traditional" furled lines as well as "Level Lines") to be attached directly to the rod tip. The tip of all tenkara rods consist of a strong braided material called the lillian string permanently attached to the rod at the factory. It is generally recommended to tie a stopper knot in the lillian for attaching traditional line. However, when using level line the stopper knot is optional, but recommended.
Tenkara level line is attached to the lillian utilizing a simple slip knot loop tied in the level line. The lillian, (with or without a stopper knot) is then passed through the loop and the slip loop is tightened down on the lillian.
Knots for tapered/furled lines
Traditional tenkara tapered or furled lines come from the factory with a loop of braided line attached to one end.
This loop is attached to the lillian using a simple Girth Hitch behind the stopper knot.
This provides a very secure knot and has the added benefit of being removable - a simple tug on the tag end of the loop allows you to quickly remove the line from the rod, either for transport or to change to a different line.
Flies please see more details here
The reverse hackle fly, Sakasa Kebari, appears as one of most ubiquitous patterns for Tenkara with many variations in the use of hackle and body materials.
Before eyed hooks, Japanese fisherman tied their fly patterns with a loop of silk thread to attach to the fly line.
Keep it simple. Sakasa Kebari flies are great but in the UK we can use our standard flies which are just as effective.
Tenkara, like western fly-fishing, has some basic casting techniques involved to cast the fly to a fish. The basic tenkara cast is shown in the diagram above; instead of the usual 10 - 2 o'clock approach of western fly-fishing, tenkara tends to require a shorter stroke and a little more wrist may be used. The traditional grip of a tenkara rod is also shown below, with the index finger positioned above the handle; this grip allows you to use your rod as a precision tool for controlling the line.
The tenkara backcast stops at the 12 o'clock position though it may be stopped sooner to cast the line higher up behind you. On the forward cast the line can be stopped a bit higher or lower, this may depend on where you want to cast your fly closer or further or how you want your presentation to look.
Also, be sure to have an "abrupt" stop at the positions in order to load the rod tip and transfer energy to your line for an effective cast. And, on the forward cast, as soon as you come to the abrupt stop, try lowering the rod tip right away for a very delicate presentation. Experiment with different strokes, hand positions (even two hands may be used), sudden wrist movements, and angles to get your fly to very challenging places and get the most out of your tenkara fishing.
Presenting the Fly
Much of the art in Tenkara lies in the array of techniques for manipulating the fly to entice a take from the fish.
These techniques range from sub-surface pulses of the fly as it drifts in the flow, to multiple casts in the same spot to draw the attention of deep lying fish to rise to the fly.
‘How do you land a fish?’ Well, Tenkara lends itself to bringing the fish to hand rather more quickly than one might first expect.
As one draws the fish near you can often hand line the final moments to bring the fish into a landing net or directly to hand.
Stephen Cheetham - www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk
Tenkara UK www.tenkarauk.co.uk
Philip Sheridan - www.yorkshireflyfishing.com
While this isn’t a full treatise on everything tenkara, it’s a good place to start and if you follow this short guide.
You will have the basics you need to start catching fish right away with tenkara.
Find Out More
Daniel W. Galhardo founder of Tenkara USA - www.tenkarausa.com
Chris Stewart - TenkaraBum - www.tenkarabum.com
Discover Tenkara - www.discovertenkara.co.uk
Jason Klass - www.tenkaratalk.com
Mike Roden - www.tenkaracentreuk.co.uk
Download our leaflet here
Tenkara Instruction in Yorkshire
Including all tackle, rods, lines, flies etc. EXCLUDING day tickets for the relevant river
One Day (Approx 8 hours) £180.00 – additional students £35.00 each
Half Day (Approx 4 hours) £95.00 – additional students £25.00 each
Please contact me to make a booking.
TEL: 01132 507244
Tenkara Style Flies
Tenkara style flies now available to order. I can tie North Country Spider style, as per examples shown below, or any variation you may require.
All flies will be tied on a selection of hooks including Partridge spider hooks and Kamasan B911 barbless hooks for a more authentic Tenkara (sakasa kebari) style.
Please contact me either by phone (number above) or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Standard flies as below will be charged at £1.75 each - minimum of 5 per pattern, plus postage. Payment can be made via online invoice using any credit/debit card.
All orders will be queued as all are tied by me so order early for next year's season.
Greenwells Partridge & Orange Pheasant Tail
Snipe and Purple Stewarts Spider Waterhen Bloa
Partners: Stephen & Christine Cheetham
40 Aire Grove, Yeadon, LEEDS, West Yorkshire, LS19 7TY
Tel: 0113 2507244
To buy Tenkara rods in the UK:
Tenkara Centre UK
Tenkara USA rods are distributed from their UK office
Tenkara in Europe from Tenkara Pyrenees
A good tenkara site: TenkaraBum