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And, finally, remember tenkara? It’s a form of fly fishing that involves a super-long rod and no reel? We ran a few reports on tenkara a while back, half expecting this form of no-reel fly fishing to catch on. It clearly hasn’t, though, because it appears to be workable in a limited number of situations. The following report from Alaska subscriber Donavan Pieterse is the first tenkara feedback we have received in months. Our hat’s off to him for taking the time to write the report. Does anyone agree or disagree with what he says? Is anyone even interested in keeping the discussion alive? Write [email protected].
“Tenkara is great for 10 percent of my fishing situations,” Pieterse writes. “I think it will prove to be a ‘gateway drug’ for beginners before they decide to explore the other 90 percent of fly fishing. For those lucky enough to live next to small streams with small fish, small flies, and little wind, tenkara offers a simple solution. Up here in Alaska, our rivers are fast-moving, and they have grayling, rainbows, Dolly Varden, and salmon in them. I fish at several locations that have very complex, hard-to-reach current seams, however. Keeping your line off the water with a tenkara rod makes drifting possible in these locations, not just easier. My 13.5-foot tenkara rod gives me the extra reach I need to present to fish here. It also allows me to fish these areas without spooking the whole pool. Standard fly tackle just wouldn’t work in these locations.
“I think of my tenkara rod as my ultimate high-sticking tool. In pocket water, I can cast quickly and repeatedly to an area without scaring away fish with the line. My best success on some pools where there are no rising fish is achieved by working upstream with tenkara, staying away from the fish as much as possible. Next, I drift my offering deeper with a standard fly line. That spooks more fish but gets me to the bottom. Last, I go deep with sculpins against the bank. To reiterate, I start shallow with tenkara, delicately working my offering upstream. After a rod change, I go back to the tail end of the pool to drift the deeper water. Finally, I fish the far bank with a sink tip.
“In my view, here are some of the conditions and situations tenkara can’t handle: wind; big, heavy flies; deepwater presentations; large fish; distances greater than 25 feet; streamers; and saltwater. Obviously, fly shop owners need not worry about tenkara cutting into their current business. If I owned a shop, I would promote it heavily to kids and beginners, however, because they will want to expand the environments and situations in which they can fish once they are excited about fly fishing. That will mean they need to buy traditional tackle. My bet is, a lot of would-be fly fishermen attempt fly fishing with cheap, department-store equipment only to get so frustrated they lose interest. If their first experience was with a tenkara rod, they would have more fun and success right away and be hungry to upgrade their skills to traditional equipment.
“I bought my current tenkara rod in the winter, so my first practice was on local sunfish in the spring, obviously not in Alaska. Using skittered dry flies, nymphs, and small muddler minnows, I caught crappie, small bass, and bluegills. What kid wouldn’t love that? Those cartoon character–themed rods you can buy in a department store break after the first few outings. My advice is to give kids a tenkara rod. Leave the worms in the ground and junk tackle in the department store!