The Trouble With Tenkara — And Why You Don’t Need It

by | May 30, 2018 | 51 comments

The advantages of a Tenkara presentation are not exclusive or unique to Tenkara itself, and in fact, the same benefits are achieved just as well — and often better — with a long fly rod and (gasp) a reel.

I bought a Tenkara rod for my young boys a few years ago, because the longer a rod is, the more control the boys have over a drift. And the lighter a rod is, the easier it is for their small arms to cast. Long and light Tenkara rods flex easily, allowing them to load with minimal effort. That’s great for both kids and adults.

I’ve used the boys’ Tenkara rod extensively — long enough to understand exactly what I don’t like about Tenkara and to understand that a fisherman can achieve the same things with a standard, long leader (long Mono Rig) setup.

Update, May 2018: The introductory paragraphs above go straight to the heart of this article — that Tenkara-style presentations can be achieved effectively with a standard fly rod. Two years later, my boys and I still pull out the Tenkara rod on occasion. I like the extra length without the weight. This article simply attempts to highlight the similarities between a Tenkara style and a modern tight line style. Options are a good thing.

Present the fly, not the line . . .

The main asset of Tenkara is the ability to present the fly and only the fly — there’s no fly line or leader laying on the water complicating or destroying a good drift. But is that exclusively a Tenkara advantage? Certainly not. Long leader tactics and all-mono rigs are now commonly seen on many streams, and not just in fly fishing competitions. I fish with a system that keeps all fly line completely out of the equation while fishing wets, nymphs and streamers, and I usually incorporate fly line only when I’m casting dry flies at a distance.

My primary rod is a four weight, 9’6” Sage Z-Axis, and the only advantage that the Tenkara rod gives me over the Sage is length. Make no mistake, the extra length of the Tenkara rod is significant, but to me, it’s not worth the trade-offs and the shortcomings of Tenkara (which I’ll address below). I use the Z-Axis because it’s what I have, but I’ve also spent time with longer rods that get closer to the Tenkara length and flex. A 10′ or 10.5′ three weight rod come closer, and many of the competition rods available make it easy to cast even light flies on an all-mono system.

Precision control over the fly . . .

For many fly fishermen, Tenkara is their first experience with a true tightline presentation. The precision with which you can drift a fly through current seams while tightlining is a satisfying, startling shock when you first see it. After dealing with the weight and mass of fly line for years, many anglers are giddy about gaining true direct contact with their flies, and they quickly learn to enjoy the benefits of directly guiding their flies and having greater control over the outcome. (They catch more fish.)

But remember, tightlining with monofilament is not a Tenkara exclusive. I concede that the softer action and longer rod make the tightline delivery easier to learn at first, especially with light flies. But the same presentation can easily be accomplished with a five weight fly rod. I do it all the time. In fact, I prefer stiffer and faster rods for tightlining (4 and 5 weights),because they are more versatile than their softer counterparts.

The bottom line? I’ve tried taking the leader off my Tenkara rod, attached it to the line on my four weight Sage Z-Axis and had identical results — all with the added benefits of a fly reel. Wets, nymphs, streamers and dries: If you can cast them on a Tenkara rod, they can be cast the same way on a long fly rod with the Mono Rig.

— — — — — —

There are strong opinion in this piece. And I don’t mean to disparage Tenkara fishing or fishermen. Fly fishing has a lot of opinions though — and ever so many options. It’s all fun to explore. I’ve received my fair share of negative comments for using the long Mono Rig, or because I sometimes use Thingamabobbers and Squirmy Wormies. “None of that is fly fishing either.” Right?

I’m not trying to say anything like that here. My intention is to argue that what makes Tenkara a deadly method of fishing can be done just as well, and perhaps better, with a long fly rod and a Mono Rig.

Some argue that Tenkara’s limitations are a strength.

One example is often sited: It forces you to fish close. But the argument is weak. Because with some general self-discipline while fishing a standard fly rod, you can teach yourself to wade closer to your target instead of pulling more line from the reel.

We’re also told that Tenkara is great because it’s so simple. But is it really?

Is Tenkara simple?

In my experience with a Tenkara rod, the elements that make it simple also make it more complicated.

My Tenkara rod telescopes into a light, eleven-foot fishing tool. And it packs away easily for transport. The sections fold into themselves like an old-school radio antenna. That’s excellent. I have carried a Tenkara rod to places where I could not conveniently carry a fly rod, even if it was broken down into four pieces. And the lack of a reel makes Tenkara even more compact.

However, that same design is also the root of Tenkara’s multiple troubles.

Before walking through the brush to a new stream location, I can’t just put the fly on a hook keeper and reel up the extra line. No. Instead, I need to either wrap the line on a plastic Tenkara spool made for the job,  or I figure-eight wrap the line (by hand) around an add-on hook keeper system. It’s time consuming and not very simple.

Granted, threading up or breaking down a fly rod is also a time investment, but I keep my fly rods rigged and broken into two sections that I hold together with a rubber band. I can remove that rubber band, put the two sections together and be fishing much quicker than I can with the Tenkara system. In this case, using a reel actually makes things simpler.

Perhaps the most irritating thing about a Tenkara rod is how it collects a small amount of water inside the sections while fishing (even when not submerged), and if I don’t want corrosion or nastiness inside the rod, I must disassemble the rod after every fishing trip (as per the manufacturer’s instructions), let the sections dry, and then reassemble. I fish too much for all that.

By far, my biggest issue with Tenkara is the lack of a reel. Yes, I do understand that’s supposed to be the whole beauty of it — the simplicity, right? While I can recognize and appreciate the aesthetic of fishing with no reel, I just can’t get around the inefficiency.

Picture the following: I’m standing in water up to my knees, with a Tenkara rod, fishing a pocket behind a large boulder twenty feet away. I’ve caught two trout. I now want to fish the other side of the pocket, an extra seven feet away. But because of the fixed line and no reel, I can’t reach the extra length. The Tenkara angler will tell me to wade seven feet closer. In fact, that likely is the best solution (I always prefer to fish as close as possible to my target). But as I take two steps forward, I start down a ledge and I’m quickly waist deep in the water. I simply cannot wade the extra five feet to reach my target. So now what to do? I can either give up on the far seam, or I can pull in my line, cut a new length of material, add it to the existing line, reattach the fly and then cast to the far side of the pocket. When I’m done fishing that far-off spot, I probably don’t want the extra length of leader, so I’ll clip out the extra line and tie more knots. Lots of downtime there.

By contrast, with a rod and reel, I strip off seven more feet of line and fish it. Then I reel it up when I’m done. That’s simplicity.

Realistically, if I’m fishing the Tenkara rod in the above scenario, I’ll probably ignore the far side of the pocket and move on, deciding it’s not worth the trouble and maybe passing up the best fish in that section.

But that’s the beauty of Tenkara, right? The limitations of the system just presented me with a new challenge, because now I have to adjust and find a new way to approach the pocket and that far seam — perhaps from the other side of the river where there’s no ledge?  Fair enough, but I personally don’t enjoy the self-imposed handicap.

We choose our own handicaps while fishing. If I wanted to catch the most fish, I’d throw chum and a baited hook. In truth, I fish a fly rod and flies because I honestly believe it’s the most efficient tool for the job of catching wild trout in my home waters. With the fly rod, I can meet the trout on their terms — at whatever stage of feeding they are in. I can effectively imitate all life-cycle phases of any insect or baitfish in the river. With Tenkara, I have a hard time doing that as efficiently.

The long leader, Mono Rig approach is extremely effective for nymphs, wets and streamers. Even dry flies can be comfortably cast at distances approaching thirty-five feet. All of it can be done with either a fly rod or a Tenkara rod. To me, the extra length of a Tenkara rod is the only significant advantage for fishing a tightline method, and it’s not worth the trade off.

Now give me back my reel!


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. For medium sized rivers I prefer 13 to 15 foot long Tenkara rods and nymphing rigs so the arguement is elementary until manufacturers begin making longer nymphing rods with guides and a reel seat for tight line nymphing at greater distances (and longer nyphing drifts). I le tmy clients try both and about half prefer nymphing with a tenkara rod.

    • Thanks for the input. 15 feet sure is long. If my guide handed me a 15 foot rod, I’d likely use it too. 🙂

  2. Dom, Great write-up. I have to admit, I got a good chuckle over this. I too purchased a Tenkara rod mostly to try and relive the nostalgia of when I used to fish as a kid for bluegill with a long bamboo pole and line directly attached. When I recieved the Tankara rod in the mail and started the assembly, the memories of what I hated about that bamboo pole started to filter back in my mind. The line storage issue was my biggest dislike of the bamboo pole as I would just wrap the line tightly aroung the pole only to have a memory coiled spring made out of mono the next time I would try to fish with. However, now that I had the Tenkara rod, I was determined to recreate my youth, but instead of bluegill being my target, I was after trout. After about an hour with this rod, I thought to myself, “What in the hell am I doing?” I walked back to the car, collapsed the Tekara rod and pulled out my fly rod and reel (I loved your last line of “Now give me back my reel). There was a reason I progressed on from that bamboo pole and a reason I never fished that Tenkara rod again and your article just put all those reasons into a very enjoyable read. Thanks!

    PS I think the best part of the whole article is the fact you use a Sage Z-Axis. Classic Rod!

    • I too feel you are limiting yourself with a ten foot Tenkara rod. I own a 9′ and a 13.5′ rod and only use the 9′ rod for smaller streams and overgrown areas. Both rods are easy to carry in a sling pack.

  3. Well Domenick, your last line is my argument. When you have 30 different fly reels and 30 different rods to chose from why would I need to add another rod, etc. I have no problem with people who enjoy Tenkara…I enjoy my reels!

  4. Thanks for putting the Tenkara and traditional Western style fly-fishing in perspective. I agree with your assessments here, and Howard’s comment, too. Well done!

  5. Suppose you compared a 10′ tenkara rod to a 10′ 3wt western rod using mono and fairly light flies. I would think the tenkara rod would cast better since it has a much softer tip and is designed to cast light lines. A 3wt rod casts 3wt line better than a 7wt rod and for the same reason a tenkara rod casts “00000” wt line better than a 3wt rod.

    • I think “cast better” is too subjective. I cast the Mono Rig on 4 and 5 weight rods all the time. In fact, it’s my preference. Just yesterday I fished dry flies on a Mono Rig at thirty feet on a Mono Rig and a five weight. It cast wonderfully. If by “casts better” you mean flexes more, then sure. But there are some downsides to that as well.



  6. I have fished with a 14 ft. Tenkara (Keiryu) rod a lot, but I’ve gone back to my ESN for two reasons o.besides the ones discussed by Dom above.

    1. Tenkara rods are more brittle than graphite or glass fly rods. A lot more brittle. They break quite easily (I don’t mean while playing fish; I mean if they fall on a rock or something else that’s hard).

    2. If you get stuck in a tree or in an underwater rock or log in water that is too deep to wade to, you’re in trouble. Since you can’t let out line and pull, you have to pull with the rod. The result is that either the rod or the lillian breaks. Either way, you’re done fishing for a while.

  7. I bought my (then 8 year old) son a tenkara rod because he was having trouble controlling excess line in his casts. He used the tenkara rod 4-5 time practicing and sorted out his issues. The first time he used the rod fishing, he decided it was too difficult to bring fish to hand and hasn’t used it since. Fortunately we had his traditional fly rod with us.

    • . . . and that’s not very simple either.

  8. With all due respect, I was very surprised to read the following comment in your article. Taking my rod apart chews up less than 3 minutes and it forces me to examine it for wear and tear.

    “Perhaps the most irritating thing about a Tenkara rod is how it collects a small amount of water inside the sections while fishing (even when not submerged), and if I don’t want corrosion or nastiness inside the rod, I must disassemble the rod after every fishing trip (as per the manufacturer’s instructions), let the sections dry, and then reassemble.”

    …You wouldn’t like bird hunting! 😉

    Happy Holidays,


    • Yeah, my thing is that if you fish every day, the last thing I want to do is take it all apart. Sure, 3 minutes, but then another 3 to reassemble after it dries. It’s just another not-so-simple thing about Tenkara that I don’t care for. And I don’t have any need to check my fly rods for wear and tear after every trip. I really don’t.

      I know the article rubs some people the wrong way because they love their Tenkara rods. No problem. They just aren’t for me, man.

  9. I enjoy some of your writing, but was struck by the hypocrasy of you writing this:

    “I’m to the point where I enjoy the transition between styles. I remember streamside moments, years ago, when I felt like every fly change, every knot and leader adjustment, came with wasted time. But I don’t believe that anymore. I now think that I waste more time by not adapting, and so I’ve made peace with the expiring minutes as I clip monofilament, and I wrap and twist and pull to form the knots and make the adjustments.”


    And you writing the following above:

    “When I’m done fishing that far-off spot, I probably don’t want the extra length of leader, so I’ll clip out the extra line and tie more knots. Lots of downtime there.”

    It seems that clipping line is acceptable downtime when using a reel, but not so when fishing with a Tenkara rod.

    Am I overlooking something?

    Thank you!

    P.S. I fish with a both a ‘western’ fly rod and a Tenkara rod. I love fishing with a Tenkara rod for smaller trout. Whether feeling takes or bringing in a fish, I enjoy the sensitivity of my Tenkara rod and all of the feel it provides. I don’t get that from my rod and reel setups.

    • Hey Charlie,

      You said:

      “It seems that clipping line is acceptable downtime when using a reel, but not so when fishing with a Tenkara rod.

      Am I overlooking something?”

      I don’t think there’s any hypocrisy or any conflict in the two passages. And I think you are overlooking something:

      I don’t mind changing the tippet section of my rig. As I said, I’ll tie the knots and add a dropper. I’ll add an indicator, change flies, or go to a pair of streamers. I don’t mind that. But I do mind having to adjust butt section length every time I want to fish longer or shorter. Now, I know I can walk closer or further away to adapt, but sometimes that’s not possible, and it’s always easier to just reel up or pull some more line off the spool.

      As I said above, the biggest limitation is the lack of a reel. I mentioned all the troubles that follow in the article. To me, it’s very inefficient and inconvenient.

      You also mentioned, ” I enjoy the sensitivity of my Tenkara rod and all of the feel it provides. I don’t get that from my rod and reel setups.”

      But have you used the Mono Rig on your fly rods? Have you swapped your Tenkara line over to the Western rods to see what they can do? That’s really the thrust of the article — that you can get the same performance, the same benefits of Tenkara, with a Mono Rig and a Western Rod. The only thing missing, really, is the foot or so of length. But again, we can walk closer or strip some line off the reel.

  10. I mainly fish a 10’ 4 wt. I can see how a Tenkara would be good in some circumstances. I would not like a Tenkara rod when going after 20”+ fish. The rod can take a lot of stress off your 6x if held properly, a guide told me about 40% less stress on the line. With Tenkara you can not get that kind of relief. My 10’ 4 wt can handle 20+ fish with 6x, I have done it many times. The same rod does great catching small fish.

    Go ahead, fish Tenkara, it is not for me. When I am buying tippet, do not try to tell me how Tenkara is so much better or you will see an eye roll and my back walking away.

  11. A Point on Fly-Casting with the Tenkara Rod (Hand-Lining your catch left to a future post): There is certain elegance in the (proper) casting of a Tenkara rod. The necessary tight, short arc stroke is all you need for the tangental multiplier of the long rod to take over and give you a twenty foot to thirty foot, tight-loop cast with barely a whisper of exertion. And a super delicate fly presentation, that bodes well for fooling selective, challenging trout. It can be a thing of “Zen-like” beauty. That is, if you are casting the Tenkara rod properly.

    But almost to the tee, the anglers I’ve watch online and that I have observed (I live on a popular Wisconsin trout stream west of the state capitol) are NOT casting these rods correctly. That’s because they are using the ubiquitous Push-Pull Fly-casting Stroke that 9 of 10 “Western” flyfishers use. Namely, the most popular fly-casting style taught in the United States over the last 40 years. First taught by Doug Swisher & Carl Richard in “Fly-Fishing Strategy” (1976), and by Lefty Kreh, and also friend Ed Jaworkski, in a slew of books and videos over the same 40-year period.

    The proper stroke is the (Short)Tournament Stroke as taught by Joan Wullff in (her) slew of books and videos, by Art Lee in his “Lore of Trout Fishing” (1999), and most recently and completely by Jason Borger in his 2017 “Single-Hand Fly-Casting (1st edition “Nature of Fly Casting”, 2001).

    This is in fact the very casting stroke taught by Japanese Tenkara guru, Masami Sakakiabara (see his many short videos on YouTube). But this stroke, squeezed into only a 6 to 12-inch required path, requires study maybe instruction and most certainly practice. And dedication, as Sensei Sakakiabara is always lecturing on. However, this seems to be just what Western anglers taking up Tenkara methods seem to trying to get away from (as they themselves report in Blogs about “simplifying” their fly-fishing by eliminating a reel and using only one fly, or maybe only one box of flies). Proper casting with a Tenkara rod is simply NOT easy. Making Tenkara-fishing, NOT easy. Or at the least, no easy to do well.

    Pushing the 12 to 14 foot Tenkara rod through the typical 2-foot straight-line path, is anything but elegant. As observed in the plethora of Tenkara anglers – their casting is energy consuming yet inefficient, it introduces excess energy into the system, said energy sent “rippling” down the (most recommended) level line and attached tippet, opening up the line loop, and causing the spaghetti-like line-puddle so common amongst Tenkara anglers (and untrained Western casters too!). Restricting their already limited casting distance and resulting in poor presentations. Which presentations said Tenkara anglers say is the method’s supreme advantage over the typically, shorter Western fly-rod

    As long-time Penn State fly-fishing Professor, Joe Humprehys (now retired) teaches in his video, “A Casting Approach to Nymphing Tactics” (1992), looking the viewer straight in the eye with the determination of the bull-dog boxer of his pugilist past: “Fly-casting is fundamental. If you can’t cast – you can’t catch fish”!

    I bet, if asked, Professor Humprehys would say this very basic precept applies to every flyrod, in the hand of every angler – Western or Tenkara. And rightfully so.

    • That’s right. Keep it tight.

  12. Ah, but one benefit of Tenkara you’re not going to get with a standard fly rod: The joy of hearing someone say “look at the size of that guy’s rod!”

    (For a few years I went after everything from trout to bass and carp with Tenkara. I now fish mostly a 10’ 2wt for trout and an 5/8wt for everything else. Too many situations where the fish are more than 2’ deep and where Tenkara is no fun)

  13. Hello,

    I agree for the most part on your article and it was a great write up! I just have a minor question. I feel like I get a better dead drift with a tenkara in most situations as the line attachment at the end of the rod eliminates a lot more of the “line-sag” than a traditional flyrod with a reel (even with a mono rig). It might not be a lot but the fact that you have the mass of 10ft of 20 lb chameleon through the guides does drag the flies a bit towards your rod. Interested to know your thoughts and I appreciate all the info you provide!

    • I don’t believe the 20 pound butt section in the guides adds any relevant sag. It’s light. and it sticks slightly to each guide, too. Fly line in the guides, yes. Competition fly line in the guides, yes. They each sag in the guides. But not the Mono Rig. Not in any common circumstance, anyway.



  14. I have never fished the Tenkara system, but I have watched people do it. Landing a fish seemed odd to me – hand over hand on the line with the rod tucked away somewhere out of the way. And I wondered what one does with a larger fish that may require a bit more line to avoid a break off, especially when following the fish down stream isn’t possible. I won’t give up my rod and reel either. Dave B

  15. Not sure why this even needed to be written. Tenkara sucks! hehe

  16. I love tenkara for the weight savings when backpacking, I love seiryu rods for small brook trout streams. I really want to hate your article, unfortunately I have came to the exact same conclusions. My Redington classic trout 3 weight strung up with 2 weight line gets the nod more times than not. It will do everything my tenkara rods do except be lighter. 😉 Love the article and the blog.

  17. Thoreau would have been an advocate for Tenkara. “Simplify, dammit!” And while I like reading his writing I don’t want to emulate his life. I am not a follower of Tenkara and I have no desire to try it; though I like to read about it in pieces like yours. Anything that sparks discussion abut the various differences in our chosen fly fishing disciplines is good. I like the fact that you can stir up shite without going all Halfordian on the subject and making it about the people who do love the method. Nicely done. I like the fly rod. I like the weight and feel of the line. I like the quiet moments before I step into the stream when I’m rigging up. (I like rigging up, it invites quiet moments of anticipation) You’ve convinced me through the persuasiveness of your mono argument to try it. I’m still getting used to it but I can see the benefits. To all those who love Tenkara, wave your flag high and carry on; our differences are what make us a great fraternity.

    • Thanks Mike. And thanks for getting it — it’s not about the people who like Tenkara, it’s just a discussion of why Tenkara works and how it can be duplicate with a regular fly rod and more options.

      Thoreau would definitely like Tenkara. Nice.

  18. I rarely fish tenkara but there are several sitauations where it really shines. I like to hike in for miles up to the headwaters of remote mountain streams, I can pack 3-4 different tenkara rods with different lengths and different leaders (I’ll have a nymphing set up, a dry fly set up, a wet fly/kebari set up) for minimal weight. The delicacy of presentation with a light furled mono leader with tenkara when dry fly fishing also cannot be understated….you could do that with a mono rig (and i have) but the cast/delivery is not as easy/effortless.

    I fully agree about versatility, I fish a conventional fly rod with mono rig set up 95% of the time. But tenkara fishing small mountain streams with dries is a pleasure when I am in a “dry fly” mood.

  19. I think you are not very good at tenkara

    • Mono Rig on a fly rod. Same thing, with far more flexibility.

  20. I’m relatively new to fishing (3 seasons now), picking it up after retiring. I started fishing for trout with a 5wt western fly rod/reel. It was a big learning curve to start fishing this way, but I had a blast and eventually saw some success. This past season, I added a Tenkara rod as well as a 4 pc finesse spin rod/reel. I find that each has it’s sweet spot. Here in Missouri, I fish mostly spring fed-Ozark streams or tail waters. The combination of my 5wt, Tenkara rod, and finesse spin rod is perfect for my local waters. The Tenkara and spin rods break down to less than 20″ (my spin rod breaks down to 16″!) and weigh 2 oz each. I carry both in a sling pack and can hike in with my hands free. I wade with both rods in my pack and cover a lot of water. I throw traditional flies (wet and dry) with my Tenkara rod, and small 2.5g spoons (single hook) with the spin rod. When I fish a tail water and can make longer casts, the 5wt is my go-to weapon. To me, it’s all fishing, and I use whatever best matches my conditions. I love mixing it up between the three rods!

  21. Hi Domenick. I use both. I would not think to use tenkara in water where I can use my “regular” fly rods. But after many trips into tight mountain areas where a reel and actual fly line casting don’t do the job, tenkara has been a great solution for me. I think too many people are trying to use tenkara beyond its “natural range” in tight places; your comments certainly fit that situation. So maybe your title should end with “why I don’t need it”?????

    • Thanks, Paul. I know this article seems a little abrasive to some people. I understand that.

      But I think a lot of readers miss the overall point of this article. And I think you may have as well.

      I’m saying that nearly everything that you can do on a Tenkara rod, you can do with a long fly rod and a Mono Rig, but also have the great benefit of adjusting for length with a reel.

      So, I know you may still not agree with that, but it is the point. You mentioned a reel and “actual fly line,” but that’s not what the article is about. It’s about using the Mono Rig to enjoy the benefits of Tenkara.

      That said, here’s a different point that addresses your experience, and how it’s different than my own: I’ve never found a mountain stream where a fly rod, a short leader (not a mono rig) and good fly line casting ever failed. Ever. And I’ve fished some tight stuff. I love throwing tight loops and short, punchy casts with dries. It’s a good challenge. Fun stuff.

      Thanks for the discussion.



  22. I say to each his own. I have completely switched to fixed line fly fishing but that’s my individual taste. The author makes his argument based on his fishing needs and desires and I think it’s completely fair. All these people arguing over what’s superior are wasting their time. Do you what you like and be comfortable with it. Fly fishing should be enjoying, not stressful. Relax and enjoy the ride.

  23. I just tied up a mono rig to use on my Tenkara rod for small stream fishing. mwahahahahahaha

  24. You have completely left out the manipulation techniques of Tenkara and how deadly they can be to lure unwilling trout to bite. I fly fish with western outfits and Tenkara. The benefits are manifold here in Colorado, I can tell you from experience. There are several techniques that are completely impossible with a western fly rod and reel setup. You would do well to seek out someone who practices true Japanese Tenkara and have them show you the benefits of manipulation techniques to double and triple your catch ratio. is the first place to start. Feel free to email me with questions. Would love to point you in the right direction.

    • Hi Jonathan,

      I feel like you may not have read the article.

      My writing was not designed to unfold the manipulations and techniques of Tenkara. The article’s message is contained in the title. You don’t NEED a Tenkara setup to perform the manipulations and techniques you are referring to. Those same techniques are available to all anglers with a fly rod in their hand (especially long rods). The angler need only use a Mono Rig.

      I would challenge you to find one Tenkara technique that cannot be duplicated with a fly rod and a Mono Rig.



      • Because the rod is not directly connected to the rod tip in a mono rig, I would venture a guess that ashtapazuri, or Pon Pon as it is known in Japan would be harder to accomplish. I will admit that I have never used a mono rig because it looks alot like Tenkara with a fly rod. Tenkara pretty much handles all of my high gradient trout stream needs so it seems redundant and heavier to also carry a reel. I realize there are uses for both, and I am aware of the situations where you might want a reel. I don’t fish those situations often, so naturally, my gear of choice is Tenkara. I think the mistake most westerners make is thinking that Tenkara is just a rod, but the rod evolved with the flies and with the manipulations for those flies and with the rod, etc. It’s a whole package. Have fun with whatever your doing should be the bottom line.

        • Well, we certainly agree on your last part. Do what makes you happy.

          You said: “Because the rod is not directly connected to the rod tip in a mono rig.”

          If you meant that the line is not connected, it indeed IS connected. The line in a Mono Rig is connected to the rod. You can feel the nymph scratching rocks through the rod tip. It is certainly connected. Is it tied on? No, because that would limit our versatility in length, as it does with Tenkara. I am just as much as in control and in touch with the flies on a Mono Rig as you might be with your leader tied to a lilian. Actually, that lilian introduces more slop into the system, if you think about it. I believe the Mono Rig puts us in an even more direct connection. In fact, because I also have the line in my hand, I can feel the line as well as the rod. And I can make MUCH more subtle motions by manipulating the line with my line hand than you can on an extra long Tenkara rod. See my point there? It’s significant.

          You say you haven’t fished a Mono Rig. But I have spent considerable time with Tenkara. I understand the limitations, and I believe there are no worthwhile advantages to Tenkara vs a Mono Rig on a long fly rod.


  25. Tenkara for small rivers and sbirulino-spinnig method for everything else.

  26. Loved this article.

    55 years ago I was taught to fish for trout in the streams of the Eastern Sierra by using a cheap, long, fiberglass fly rod and a cheap reel loaded with backing and a long top shot of straight mono, 2-4lbs depending on the stream, tied to a Alcock single egg hook and as many split shot as needed to get the bait, 0il pack salmon eggs, down to the fish. We used that rig to dead drift every part of a river, and had “limits“ almost every time.

    In my late teens, a friend took me “fly fishing” with a standard outfit (sink tip line, strike indicator and nymphs). It was not a bad experience, but I could never get the drifts I could with my mono technique. So, I tried my rig tied to a nymph (no indicator). I never fished “bait”again.

    Flash forward to 1990s. I was an early Tenkara advocate because it felt natural given how I’d been nymphing with a fly rod, and I liked the added rod length and the convenience of the telescope feature.

    I ultimately went back to my fly rod (but longer and lighter, like the Echo Shadow X). I just like the feel of the mono in my left hand, and I can alter casting length easily (I can actually do a version of the “double haul”) without changing position. With enough weight, I can probably cast a fly 30 or 40 feet easily with incredible accuracy and then play the out line for a perfect drift, or pump the fly back upstream at the end of the drift. Can even pull steamers up cut banks that way.

    Bottom line, for me, the mono rig technique is vastly superior to both a traditional fly rig or Tenkara because of its combination of simplicity and versatility. Is it “fly fishing”? I don’t really know, or care.


  27. Try out the Sunray Zero weight rod with 2 tip options (longer solid carbon fiber tip makes it an 11+foot Tenkara-ish rod) and Tom Bell’s micro-thin fly line. Best of both worlds for even up to 20 inch trout.

    I learn a lot from all your articles. Keep it up.


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