Tenkara Fly Fishing

A stick, some string and a fly

Getting Started

You can learn everything you need to know to get started catching fish and having fun in about 5 minutes.  The instructions on this page will get you started.  Tenkara rods are durable, but also delicate.  It is IMPORTANT to read and understand  how to properly use them, otherwise you can damage your rod.

Opening your rod

 After removing the rod plug,  tilt rod down slightly to allow the soft braided cord tip section (lilian) to become exposed. Keep the hard portion of the tip inside the still folded rod sections.Make sure the soft braided tip has a single overhand knot tied at the end.

 With only the soft braided cord portion exposed, attach the Tenkara line to the braided tip, This is easily done by forming a sliding loop in the end of the Tenkara line, and sliding the Tenkara line loop over the soft braided rod tip. Pull the sliding Tenkara line loop tight around the braided tip behind the overhand knot that was  tied into the braided tip.

 

Once line is attached, the rod can be extended.  Hold rod tip and each successive rod piece near opening of rod. Gently slide each segment  out between your fingers. Pull each piece out completely,  one at a time, until next segment is engaged inside the unextended portion of the rod . There is no need to put any substances on the rod to assure a good connection.  It's best to keep the rod clean and free of any extraneous materials or debris.

 Pieces need to mate just snug, there is no need to apply excessive force to seat a piece inside its mate.  Excessive force when opening the rod may cause it to become difficult to close the rod when done fishing. 

As with all things Tenkara, a light hand is always best.

 After a time or two, you will find the set up process to be much faster than having to string line through the snake guides of your western style fly rod.  You will be the first one out on the water.

Attaching a Single Strand Tenkara Line

Some Tenkara anglers prefer to use a single strand mono/flouro Tenkara  main line.  A single strand line also uses a very simple means of attachment -

Start by tying a simple overhand knot to the end of your line.

 

 Form a sliding loop in your tenkara line by tying another simple overhand knot

 

 Keeping the hard portion of the tip inside the still collapsed rod, tighten the sliding loop around the lilian 

The knot can easily be loosened by pulling the tag ends of the Tenkara line and the lilian.  Be careful to keep the rod tip protected inside the rod when attaching or detaching your Tenkara line.

 

Closing your rod

You will reverse the process you used to open your rod.  Start at the bottom of the rod.  Grab the section just above the joint with your fingers.

PUSH STRAIGHT IN!   Do not apply any side way pressure  Work your way from the bottom sections up, one at a time. Be particularly careful when pushing in the thin tip sections.  Make sure to push straight down. 

If a segment is particularly stubborn, try to use a rubber pad like the ones used to open jar lids to get a better grip.  Be  sure to grip right above the joint.  

You can also try setting the rod butt on a solid object, and lightly tapping the stuck segment against the bottom of the rod. This will often loosen the stubborn joint. 

If you are careful not to apply too much pressure when opening your rod, the closing process will go very smoothly.

 As with all things Tenkara, a light hand is always best.

Avoid getting dirt or other debris into the joints. Wipe your rod down with a cloth before taking it down so you don't interject dirt into the joint, rinse rod with freshwater after using it in saltwater as soon as you can. Your rod is a valued tool and friend, take a minute to take good care of it.

 

Tippet size selection

We recommend that you use a tippet of approximately 3 lb test breaking strength or less.   Never exceed the 4 lb as an upper limit.  The flexibility of Tenkara rods does a great job of protecting fine tippets under normal fishing conditions.  The rods themselves are strong and certainly not prone to breakage., but the delicacy of the rod is part of the appeal of Tenkara.  In the case of a snag (high in the trees, deep under water, etc.) the tippet should provide the weak link in the system.  When snagged, try to collapse the rod to enable you to apply force directly to the line.  If you must use the rod, pull straight back with the rod aligned to the Tenkara line.  DO NOT apply excessive force via a fully bent rod.

DO NOT try to lift a fish out of the water using the rod.  It's best to use a landing net when trying to bring fish to hand.

When playing a large fish, try to keep your rod at a 45 degree angle.

Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.

As with all things Tenkara, a light hand is always best.

Rigging a Tenkara Line

Nothing could be simpler to get started fishing.  Just attach a 2-3 foot length of 3 lb test mono to the end of your tenkara main line.  Fly fisher like to complicate things, so you will often hear them refer to this end piece of mono as the tippet.  Tippet "material" is readily available at just about any place that sells fishing equipment.  Since fishers like to complicate things, they label tippet material with two numbers.  You want to use tippet that is labeled 6x with a breaking strength of 3 lbs. 

 If you like to complicate things a bit, feel free. I almost always fish a furled Tenkara line.  A furled line typicallly has enough inherent mass to turn over a fairly long leader tippet combination.  I like to fish a fairly long leader/tippet, if nothing else to add a bit or reach and range.

 I use a two (sometimes three) step single strand mono leader/tippet.  In most cases I fish a 6-8' leader/tippet.

 If I am using 3 lb tippet, I'll use around 5 lb for the body of my leader.  The Tenkara line will often terminate at the tippet end with a looped mono extension.  I then take a 3 -4' section of the 5 lb.  I tie a loop in the 5 lb and do a loop to loop connection to the mono extension at the end of the Tenkara line.  I then attach my 3 lb with a double surgeon's knot to the 5 lb "leader".   When my 3 lb tippet gets too short, I can easily replace just that last section.


=========================-------------o o----------------------------------------------------------------xx-------------------------------------------------------------------------~
 <rod              Tenkara line                  mono      loop              3-4'  5 lb                                    knot                   3-4'  3 lb                                         fly
                                                      extension   to loop

 I have fished with even a longer leader/tippet.  If I want more length, I usually go to a three step leader/tippet, i.e. add a length of 7 lb to the above.  The only downside to using a long leader is that it takes an extra few hand over hand cycles to gather in the catch.

 

DO NOT - Important

Fish don't break Tenkara rods, fisher folk break Tenkara rods!

Tenkara rods are resilient, but not indestructible.  Tenkara rods only take a few seconds to collapse and extend, use that fact to your advantage.

 If you firmly snag your fly, DO NOT reef back on the rod until something breaks. If you do, one of two things will snap.  Either your tippet, or your rod. DO NOT take a chance, simply collapse your rod, grab your line and pull until the snag is resolved.  Extend your rod, and continue fishing.  Keep your tippet light, you need a weak link in case you do get snag.  If you want to fish with a 20lb tippet, please leave your Tenkara rod at home and take along your Shakespeare Ugly Stick.

DO NOT lay your extended rod onto the ground or into the dirt, if you need to set your rod down, collapse it first.  Getting dirt and grit into the joints of your rod greatly accelerates wear and tear.

Lastly, DO NOTuse your rod to lift a fish out of the water, grab the line ahead of the fish and lift the fish out of the water.

 

Following these simple common sense rules will avoid problems.