Tenkara is the traditional Japanese form of fly fishing dating back to the 8th or 9th century. Though the first written reference to Tenkara was in 1878. The term Tenkara became popular in Japan thirty or forty years ago, before that it was commonly referred to as "Kabari Tsuri" (meaning fishing with a feathered hook). Tenkara was used not as a leisure sport but as a means of gathering food for commercial fisherman who would catch and sell fish to local inns. Because of this, not much has been documented about fly-fishing in Japan. However, it's interesting to notice that similar styles of fly-fishing have been practiced throughout many regions in the world, such as northern Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Russia, and others. Before reels became widespread, fixed-line fly-fishing, such as Tenkara, was practiced in many parts of the world. Tenkara is the only method that has remained popular and continues to be practiced
Using only a rod, line, and fly, Tenkara focuses on simplicity.
Tenkara was developed and refined over centuries. Each element in Tenkara fly-fishing, being vital and necessary in the sport of angling, was perfected to be the best at its use. Unlike in western fly-fishing, where rods were originally made of wood, and thus too heavy for comfortable use of long rods, Japanese anglers used bamboo. This light material allowed for the favored long rods to be continually improved upon, whereas in the west the angler's creative energy was spent devising ways to reach farther with shorter rods.
Tenkara rods are the fundamental and most distinctive feature of Tenkara fishing. They are long, each piece telescopes and fits inside each other, and they have very sensitive and soft action.
The extended length of the rods makes them well suited for fishing in streams, where keeping line off the water at a longer distance provides for a signficant advantage: the current will not drag the line with it. The collapsible feature also removes ferrules used in western fly rods, which allows for a very smooth curve and bending action through the rod.
The Tenkara setup is ultra-light, rod weighs an average of 3 oz, and by not using a reel or fly-line several more ounces are cut.
Every rod will have a different feel, and the feel of the rod (how much it flexes) is primarily a personal preference for softer or stiffer rods. To explain the "flex" or "action" of a Tenkara rod, an index ratio was developed. We call this the "Tenkara Action Index©". The Tenkara Action Index© tells anglers how many: "Bottom parts are stiffer : Tip parts are more flexible". Most Tenkara rods are classified as 5:5 or 6:4, where a 5:5 rod indicates 5 bottom parts are stiffer and 5 tip segments bend more easily. A 6:4 rod indicates 6 parts are stiffer and 4 tip segments bend more easily, and so forth. 7:3 and 8:2 rods are considered more specialty rods for those who prefer fast rods or are pursuing larger fish and want the rod to help them land the fish.
In Tenkara, as in western fly fishing, the fly has virtually no weight so the line is what is being cast forward. Though traditional lines were made of furled horse hair, modern lines are made from monofillament, fluorocarbon, and even tying thread. The traditional Tenkara line (furled line) is made to cast in perfect balance with Tenkara rods - with power, precision, and very delicate presentation. Traditional lines come in a fixed-length (10 1/2ft or 13ft) and are super quick and easy to setup and to use. Level lines are a special formula of fluorocarbon and have been selected based on their castability and higher visibility. Level lines are dense enough to be cast, but very light so they can be kept off the water a longer distance. To the end of either line, simply add between 3 and 6 feet of tippet. There is no need for a leader to be used with Tenkara.
Tenkara's long history may suggest that thousands of fly patterns were created and used. However, Tenkara's focus on simplicity is also evident in it's flies. Most Tenkara flies are tied using only thread and a single feather. Tenkara fly-fishing often focuses more on the techniques of presenting a fly rather than the appearance of a particular pattern. The idea of giving life to a fly by motion make Tenkara flies very versatile and effective. Motion in a fly is an important aspect of Tenkara fishing, and is made possible by the light fixed line used, where the long rod allows the angler to precisely control the motion of flies. Often traditional Tenkara anglers learned to tie and fish with only one fly pattern. This is a big difference from western fly fishing and the hundreds of flies that one carries.
For more information about Tenkara, check out the sites on the main page.
|(Tenkara USA was used as a reference for the above information)|