What is Tenkara fishing? Where did it come from? Why does it seem to be blowing up across the country? Why should I care? Below is our beginner’s guide to Tenkara fishing where we will hopefully answer these questions for you and give you some talking points to share the next time you are out with your avid freshwater fishing friends. When we started seeing Tenkara fishing popping up in our Facebook feeds and in online articles we got intrigued. We began asking around with some of our fishing friends and apparently it is a widely known style of fishing that has been around for a while (actually quite a LONG while) but is now starting to gain find popularity and see some awareness here in the Southeast.
Tenkara literally means “from heaven” or “from the skies” and has been a widely used fishing practice in Japan for decades although the term and style first showed up in a book over 200 years ago. Fisherman in Japan used the style in fresh water streams as an adaption on traditional fly-fishing because it was easier to catch the local fish with.
Tenkara fishing is similar to fly-fishing although the equipment and technique used are somewhat streamlined. Only a rod, line, and fly are used to fish and no reel is used. Because there is less gear involved, Tenkara fishing is an easier and lighter setup making the learning curve less steep and a little more manageable for most people. The rods are typically much longer than traditional fly fishing rods so that you can pretty much drop your line and fly where you want it instead of casting. While there is still some form and casting involved, it is a way easier and less complicated method than casting a fly rod which makes this a great way for all ages to get into fly fishing.
I wouldn’t quite say Tenkara fishing is controversial but it is not without it’s skepticism from the die hard and traditional fly fishing enthusiasts. Even Lefty Kreh, the god-father of modern fly fishing, called it a fad. But that was four years ago and it has continued to gain in popularity among both novices and experienced fishers alike. Even the seasoned traditional fly fisherman are finding Tenkara an enjoyable and useful form of fishing as it lets you get into places that you wouldn’t normally be able to get to. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to catch smaller fish like bluegill, smaller trout, and northern pike. It also has a generally cheaper initial setup when it comes to buying gear making it a more affordable entry point into fly fishing.