Trout fishing the tenkara way

Trout fishing the tenkara way

An ancient Japanese fishing technique — tenkara — is becoming increasingly popular in the back country of the United States.

Tenkara, which means heaven or from the skies in Japanese, originated with commercial or subsistence fishers in Japan who sold their catch to various inns or in markets. The long, supple rods were used mostly in small streams for relatively small fish, says Craig Hardt, of Lynnwood, a fly fisher who enjoys using a tenkara rod on his trips to the back country.

The rods are popular with backpackers even though they can be 10 to 15 feet in length because they are fully telescoping — with about nine sections that collapse inside each other. Once made of bamboo, tenkara rods are typically now made with lightweight graphite material. That makes them easy to carry in a hand or pocket or to slip into a backpack.

Hardt is among an increasing number of people who carry a tenkara rod on their hikes or backpacking trips in the Northwest.

“There’s a lot of interest in backpackers,” said Dick Sagara, a sales representative for Temple Fork Outfitters, a fly rod manufacturer that offers several tenkara models. “Those who are interested in the rods are very passionate about them.”

Sagara says the rods are popular among people who want to try something different and those interested in a minimal amount of gear.

Tenkara outfits are similar to regular fly rods, but streamlined. Unlike fly rods, which use a fly reel and a host of floating and sinking lines, tenkara rods don’t have a reel or long lines. A tenkara setup involves a rod, a braided and tapered leader, and a simple fly. Leaders are attached to the rod tip and are usually the length of the rod. They are used to tease a fish into striking the fly.

Hardt says flies are very simple, usually just a feather or two and just a bit of material. The long, flexible rods allow them to drop a fly into spots where the fish are expected to lie. As the fly drifts downstream, Hardt may pulse it by raising the rod tip slightly or twitch it to urge a fish to strike.

“Any movement is a potential strike, so you have to watch the fly carefully,” Hardt said.

Tenkara outfits are simple tools that aren’t designed for deep pools of water or for large fish, Hardt says. He likes to fish the rod in places like the South Fork Stillaguamish River near Granite Falls, along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River off I-90, in tributaries of the Yakima River east of Snoqualmie Pass, and the Cle Elum, Entiat, and Teanaway rivers.

My nephew, Matt Benbow, of Tacoma, likes tenkara rods because of their simplicity and the fact that you don’t need to buy a lot of extra gear. He fishes the small streams around Snoqualmie Pass, carrying his collapsed rod and a handful of small flies.

“Smaller creeks are the perfect venue for tenkara rods,” Sagara said.

They also work well in high mountain lakes and small farm ponds.

Daniel Galhardo, CEO of Tenkara USA, told the Denver Post that tenkara is perfect for fishing mountain streams.

“Mountain streams, that’s really where you see tenkara shining,” he said. “You have this long rod and you are casting across a bunch of currents. But the line stays off the water entirely, so there’s no need for mending, and the drifts are perfect every time. I don’t usually talk much about limits on the size of fish, but it is kind of ideal for targeting that 8- to 20-inch mountain trout. That’s really what it’s designed for.”

More info

For a tenkara blog, information on the history of the sport, and various products, check out Tenkara USA at www.tenkarausa.com or www.tenkarabum.com.

Talk to us

More in Life

Classic cars make the loop during the newly restored Cruzin Colby Sunday afternoon in downtown Everett on May 28, 2017. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Vintage cars will rule the road at Everett’s Cruzin’ to Colby

The annual show this weekend makes downtown “the place to play on Memorial Day.”

Close up Beautiful pink Rhododendron
Last chance to prune spring flowering shrubs and perennials

If you wait and prune these spring bloomers in the fall or winter, you will cut off all of next year’s flower buds.

Art Alexakis of Everclear performs during the 2012 Summerland Tour at Riverbend Music Center on July 11, 2012, in Cincinnati. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Art Alexakis and Everclear joins fellow 1990s alt-rockers Tonic for a show May 28 in downtown Everett.

A featured exhibit at the show will be a 500-pound Elestial Amethyst specimen from the Bahia Mine in Brazil.
Gem show this weekend in Monroe offers family fun

A featured exhibit at the show will be a 500-pound Elestial Amethyst specimen from the Bahia Mine in Brazil.

What is diverticulitis and what can I do about it?

People older than 40 should have a screening colonoscopy to determine whether they have this intestinal condition, which can lead to serious medical problems.

Photos by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times 

The Jacob and Sarah Ebey House will open to public visitors Memorial Day weekend.
A landmark steeped in 19th century history reopens on Whidbey

Beginning May 28, you can venture inside one of the state’s oldest buildings: The Jacob and Sarah Ebey House, which dates from the 1850s.

Caption: Incorporating frozen vegetables into your menu plan is a fast and cost-effective way to save money on rising food costs.
The secrets of cheap meals: frozen veggies and slow cookers

They not only stretch your food budget, but also timesaving godsends for busy parents. Here are three recipes to try.

Navigating the rough, often scary seas of a hospital stay

After helping a friend who underwent major surgery, Paul Schoenfeld reflects on ways to cope for patients and their loved ones.

The Chinese fringe tree is an excellent choice for the small garden. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Chinese fringe tree

This reliable and easy to grow small tree is covered with clusters of fringed white flowers in early summer.

Photo Caption: This unconventional table was made in the 1980s by an unconventional artist, Jeff Lederman. It sold for $4,750 at Main Auction Galleries in Cincinnati.
Unconventional Ohio artist designed this unconventional table

Plus answers to questions about antique samplers, Herman Miller furniture, doorknob collecting and more.

Melissa Batson unfurls a Groundhog Day flag designed by her niece Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at her home in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Flags tell Monroe woman’s transgender journey — and more

The flagpole in her front yard is a visual for Facebook posts about who Melissa Batson is and how she got there.

The 2022 Kia Sorento Hybrid has three rows of seats, including middle-row captain’s chairs, for a total capacity of six passengers. (Manufacturer photo)
Kia Sorento Hybrid SUV adds appealing new features for 2022

The compact crossover is now available with all-wheel drive, and there’s a new plug-in hybrid model.