Tenkara fishing

Tenkara fishing, explained and what is needed

This style of fishing really has been a way of fishing for a long long time. The Japanese simply made it work better and gave it a great name it certainly sounds better than pole fishing! Although I’m sure our ancestors just called it “fishing”. It doesn’t take long when you look at old paintings or early pictures in a book to realise that Europeans had been fishing a similar way for thousands of years. Even Egyptian hieroglyphics show them using a pole and line to fish.

Tenkara is the traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing, ideal for mountain streams. In tenkara you use a rod, line and fly, no reel is needed. Originally it was practised by commercial/professional fishermen in the mountain streams of Japan, who used to catch fish for a living.

Japanese: テンカラ, literally: “from heaven”, or “from the skies”

tenkara fishing

This style of fishing is a streamlined companion to fly-fishing. A rod, line and fly is needed for tenkara. Anything else is a personal thing.
If the rod will cast a line out with a fly on the end – it will do. If the line can be attached to the rod and a fly – it will do. If a fly can be attached to the line – it will do.
Tenkara is – simply fishing.


The Rod is usually between 10ft and 13ft made of various materials and the makeup of the rod is really down to your preference. With the availability of these materials most rods are and should be very affordable. Some of the least expensive do the same job as some of the expensive ones. The more expensive rods are usually a talking point to others rather than firm advantage. You can catch as many fish on a £60 rod as you would a £200+ rod – fact!
In Tenkara fishing a really well made rod is lovely to use as you would expect but pound to pleasure I struggle to justify the difference. After all the rod is just a tool to help you do the job at hand.


The tenkara fishing line is as important as the rod. It needs, with the help of the rod, to get your fly on/in the water. The right one will turn your fly over perfectly and get it to where you want it. I often hear about wind problems and my reply is always the same, get yourself in the right place and the wind can only help you, use the wind to your advantage.



Many flies are designed to catch a fisherman not necessarily fish. Over the last 30 years I’ve been caught out buying flies that work on certain rivers, lakes or reservoirs. It always seemed to be from the box with most in it? You seriously don’t need a massive collection of flies to be successful. I use what I’ve called the tenkaraten this is a collection of ten flies that have never let me down. Mainly western patterns with some Sakasa Kebari they work in every situation. Take time to learn a little about entomology and river craft and they will fit every eventuality. The most important thing about a tenkara fly is manipulation. Move it right and it will catch a fish.

Tenkara fishing – Simply fishing


Tenkara fishing hasn’t been that popular outside of Japan until recently. Advancements with the reel practically wiped out our version of pole fishing along time ago.

Tenkara is easy – don’t let anyone tell you different. Sure to master the technique is going to require experience, practice and a little patience but when all’s said and done you can do Tenkara style fishing within a few minutes.


Tenkara Stuff in Short 

You only need a rod a line and a fly to fish tenkara.
This is true but, I always have a way of keeping my line attached to my rod so the rod is set up ready to fish.

I take a couple of spare lines at least a furled tapered leader and a fluorocarbon level line on a line spool with about 4ft – 6ft of tippet attached.

A line straightener – line cleaner

Some tippet material, I use fluorocarbon usually x3.

Flies – I use The Tenkaraten or The KBK Fly

Some scissors/line clippers.

An Amadou patch for the dry flies.

A small scoop net. I use a collapsible Damo net and I also have a really nice small wooden scoop net that is only around 36cm long.

A good pair of polarised glasses.

I love the ability to move freely when I’ve made the effort to go fishing and tenkara allows you to do this. Everything I take can fit in my pockets, even though I tend to take a small bag with me as it holds a bottle of water and some snacks!

I often get asked which I prefer, fly fishing or tenkara?

I don’t see it as an “either or”, Sometimes you just can’t cast in areas with a fly rod as you can with a tenkara rod. These styles go together and when I take a fly rod out for a spin, I’ll always take a tenkara rod with me for those situations. After all it takes up so little room!
If I’m not familiar with a stretch of water and I need to explore it, then a tenkara rod is always my preferred choice.

I may have a shop for you to buy items but for me it is about simply fishing and if you have questions please ask – the answers are free 🙂