One of today’s hottest trends in the sport of fly fishing has ancient roots in the mountains of Japan. Hundreds of years ago, the art of Tenkara was used to help feed many villages with small, colorful trout from the clear tumbling streams in the Japanese high country. The word Tenkara as far we can tell means “from heaven or from the skies” which is surely meant for the gentle way the Kebari fly or “feathered needle” lightly settles to the streams’ surface.
Tenkara fly fishing is minimalist fishing with only a rod, a line and a fly involved. The rods are telescopic and pack down to little over a foot long, making them perfect for the backpacking angler. There are several models that when extended they can range from about 8 feet up to 14 feet. The furled line is attached with a simple girth hitch to a short piece of line at the tip of the rod to what is called a lillian. This type of set up makes removing or adding the furled line fast and simple. Your furled line is about the length of your Tenkara rod that you are using. At the end of the line, you attach a piece of 5X tippet about 3 to 4 feet long. A fly is then tied to the tippet and you’re ready to fish.
Fly selection can be regular dry flies and nymphs or can be traditional Tenkara flies, which are called Kebari flies. Kebari flies resemble reverse soft hackles with the hackle pulled out over the eye of the hook. In fact, a lot of hard-core Tenkara fishermen will use only one fly pattern and concentrate on presentation of the fly instead of relying on a box full of flies and a vest full of tackle. As a result, the angler can fish fast and light without the distraction of a truckload of junk to carry around.
Casting a Tenkara rod is very similar to a regular fly rod without a lot of the hassle. Having no reel and having the line tied to the tip of the rod makes casting, hooking and landing a trout very intuitive. After just a few minutes even a beginning fly fisher can be pretty effective. Most of the line is held up off the water during the drift so this eliminates most of the drag, which is the evil demon that haunts a beginning fly caster.
The Appalachian high country is perfectly suited to Tenkara fishing so much so that Tenkara USA, which is the leader in equipment, has designed a rod specifically to fish here in the hills we call home. The Rhodo “get it rhododendron” is an ultra light rod made for our eastern trout streams. It is a pure joy to fish with, every fish feels like a tiger on the end of the line.
The Delayed Harvest streams here in Georgia and North Carolina are awesome places to practice your newfound Tenkara techniques. Other small streams like Noontootla Creek, Rock Creek and Coopers Creek are also on my hit list when in season. The Smokies are also heaven for the Tenkara fisher. Come by Southern Highroads Outfitters to see and cast the full line of Tenkara USA’s products or call us at 706-781-1414 to book a Tenkara trip. And, who knows you may fall back in love with the pure simplicity of fly fishing again.
by Capt. David Hulsey, IFFF Master Certified Casting Instructor