Tenkara and the flies from heaven

When you put together years of tenkara lessons, practice, research, and cash (as most hobbies!) then I guess you would want to see some return. The years people spend believing there is more to it and try and find the “secret”… I can now tell you I know what that secret is. – “Understand the basics”.

Yes it’s that simple. Giving quite a few tenkara lessons over the years and people often come along and think there’s more to tenkara than there actually is.

Let’s break this down.

Can you cast your line out to where you want it? (If not practice)

Have you some simple understanding of entomology? (If not learn some)

Do you know where the most likely spots are for the fish? (If not find out)

Do you know how to bring in a caught fish? (You’ll need the above to learn and practice this)

My tenkara lessons consist of; getting you to cast – in various ways to get you to where you want/need to be. What flies to use and why. Understanding why fish are where they are (River craft). And a few tricks that I’ve learnt over the years.

I was in Scotland at the beginning of the month with a friend who had never tried tenkara. We sat in a boat and enjoyed teaching him how to cast with a tenkara rod. A basic cast that took all of 5 minutes and he picked it up very easily.

While practicing I looked around to see what life was like on, in and around the water. There wasn’t a great deal of activity on the water and very little fish taking from the top. We chatted a little about the entomology that was probably happening and he decided to go for a regular Frank Sawyers pheasant tail nymph pattern. Explaining how they act in the water and to mimic that.

As we were in a boat he tried casting just shy of the Lily pads, that grew in a semicircle pretty close to the boat, and explained to him why the fish are more likely to be there.

Having not had the chance to explain fully what to do once he had caught a fish as he’d got one on within a couple of casts. A few suggestions on the go he got the fish to hand pretty well.

Is there anything else to learn at this stage?

Most of it is purely practice; casting, river craft and making your fly behave like a fly or getting a nymph to be a nymph! Learning as much as you can about entomology. Not always remembering the names of the flies/nymphs annoys me sometimes but as soon as I spot one I know what it is, why it is and how they behave. Armed with this my catch rate goes up massively.

For years I have sworn by a team of flies I put together known as the tenkara ten. Within this selection you can cover all bases. I do normally sell the set but I hardly have chance to sell them anymore online, as they go as soon as a set is put together. If you spot them on the website I can only suggest you get them quick!


The Tenkara Ten

After reading a book in the late 90’s called “Matching the hatch” by Pat O’Reilly I took it upon myself to only fish with a selection of flies he refers to as the magnificent seven. There are many books out there and this is in my top ten of the best and recommend it for many reasons.

Mainly fishing the Tenkara style since the late 70’s I’ve had a few years to come to terms with which flies to keep in the box and which to let go. The magnificent seven plus The Killerbug Kebari (my original one fly!), Takayama Kebari and the good old Frank Sawyers Pheasant Tail nymph being the other three.

I love Dr Hisao Ishigaki’s approach of simplicity to Tenkara fishing and even he relates to western flies being important when fishing Tenkara in the UK. So along with this selection of flies it takes away a lot of the frustration and allows you to do what you are there to do – Simply Fish!

1 x Killerbug Kebari size 12 – Made with Chadwicks 477 yarn or Sempefli substitute.

Over the last year I have worked on this pattern with a new weighted hook and a particular hen feather – this pattern is usually first on my hook and after a little more research will be available on in the shop. Worked properly it is ridiculously effective. I’ve found imitating a nymph at its final part of its nymph cycle as it creates a gas bubble to take it to the surface to change when it is then driven to dive back to the river bed then the bubble takes it back to the top at this point it is eagerly taken by fish. With the weighted hook it dives so much quicker and seriously works amazingly well.

1 x Takayama Kebari size 12

Same as above but when some colour is needed then this pattern works a charm. I tend to use a red Takayama Kebari to cover a blood worm although I’ve found this works for many larva types. Doesn’t need to be weighted as they flow with the flow of the river.

1 x Sawyers Pheasant Tail Nymph size 12

This has always been a good pattern to use and is very effective for deep pools or slow flowing parts of a river. In clear water taking it past a fish with little jerks normally does the trick.

Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear (GRHE) (Sizes 14 and 16)

A great pattern that covers a multitude of situations, especially when fish are taking in the water.

Greenwell’s Glory (Sizes 12 and 16)

Bright days or dark flies in the air this fly will cover most of the dark fly patterns

Tups Indispensable (sizes 14 and I6)

Dark days or light flies in the air, one of my personal favourites.

Silver Sedge (sizes I2 and I6)

If I spot a stonefly this goes on, works a treat. If you see flies skimming the water use this pattern and move it on the water little skims at a time.

Damsel Nymph (sizes 10 and I2 long shank)

I use this on the river bed, little pulls at a time followed by longer darts to induce a take.

Coch-y-bonddu (sizes 14 and 18)

Under a tree or over grown bushes this pattern is ace. Usually a bow and arrow cast to get me underneath the tree and let the wind or breeze do the rest; otherwise little movement is best but some movement.

Olive Suspender Buzzer (sizes 14 and 16) “Alternative” shuttlecock (sizes 18 and 20)

I’m still a little torn with this pattern as I think the shuttlecock’s work just as well especially with the CDC feather. Whichever you go with if there is a hatch on this is a brilliant emerging pattern.


Tenkara ten