This blog is written by the tenkara anglers and for the tenkara anglers.
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Casting the line with a Tenkara rod is in many ways a paradox. Some people can cast a line the length of the rod fairly well after only a few casts. Other people struggle to cast the line and have the line extend more than one meter beyond the end of the rod. The paradox is the harder they try to cast the line the less success they have.
This summer will be my sixth year Tenkara fishing. I am completely self-taught. Learning on my own how to cast by watching YouTube videos, trying to duplicate their casting motion and timing, reading what others have written about proper casting, and by trying to analyze what I think happens during my casting, and what should happen. What works and what does not work.
Some of my conclusions may help you improve your casting skills. I believe you can cast a short line fairly well with poor casting technique. But you can only cast a longer line by using proper casting technique. I recommend that as soon as you can cast a short line fairly well, that you spend a few minutes, 15 to 30 minutes, trying to cast a long line, that is a line that is 1 to 2 meters longer than the rod. I believe it will reveal weaknesses in your casting technique, and it will help you to develop sensitivity to the rod loading caused by the line, which will improve the timing during your cast. And it will help prevent you from learning poor casting technique that will be difficult to unlearn. I found that if I practiced casting a long line for a few minutes, then immediately switched back to casting a shorter line, that my casting technique of the shorter line had improved.
Look at the bottom diagram on the below webpage titled テンカララインの軌道, Tenkara Line Trajectory. (Sorry but I am not aware of any similar diagram with English text) There are 8 steps in the basic overhead cast.
Step 1 is the start of the back cast. Note how the rod tip is loaded or flexed forward, as the line is dragged from the water. The rebound of that flex will help throw the line back and up at about 45˚. Stop at about 12:00 then pause for a moment. That is where the timing comes in. You pause at 12:00 to allow time for the rearward moving line to extend. Ideally you want to learn to sense when the rod tip has flexed rearward to it’s maximum amount of flex, and start your forward cast just an instant sooner. That way the rod tip will add the most energy into the line during the forward cast. It takes a lot of practice to get this timing perfect. Stopping the back cast at 12:00 position will also position the rod to put more energy into the forward cast. Note that in Steps 1 and 2 the text mentions 12:00 ( １２時).
While the rod tip is flexed rearward you start the forward cast. It might help if you try side casting, with the rod tipped over just enough, about 45˚, where you can see the line position and the rod tip position. Don’t start the forward cast to hard or fast. I think if you do you will find the line tends to belly down toward the ground.
During Step 3 your goal is to move the rod forward at the right speed to be ahead of the rod tip rebounding forward. At Step 4 you stop the forward cast at 2:00 (２時). That is where the rebound of the rod tip adds its energy into throwing the line forward. The rod tip will have added it's full energy into the line when it has flexed forward as illustrated in Steps 4 and 5.
The rebound of the rod tip rearward at Step 6, will tend to draw the line back, but this whipping action will help the line to continue to uncurl, and continue to extend the line forward. In Step 7, if you’re not holding the rod too tightly the rod tip movement will quickly dampen out, and not oscillate too much, as the line continues to uncurl and lie out straight and ideally gently land the fly on the water at Step 8. Some people raise the rod tip just slightly just before the fly lands.
To long an explanation I know. But maybe that will help you understand the fundamentals of casting, or at least my theory of what happens.
Try to understand what the diagram is trying to illustrate. But when casting don't think about the steps too much. I find it helpful when casting to replay in my mind a video showing proper casting. Keep the principle steps in the back of your mind, and the video replay in the front of your thoughts. Let your subconscious mind figure out the mechanics from an understanding of the fundamental casting principles.
The narration is in Japanese, but the video quality is good, and you can see the line fairly well. The graphics put on top of the video shows the casting angle of the rod you should be aiming to duplicate. The narration is in Japanese. If a picture is worth a thousand words then a moving picture is worth a million words.
The video is an introduction to Tenkara, and how to get started Tenkara fishing. You can skip the first 2 minutes that just point out you need Rod, Line, Tippet aka Leader and a fly. The casting instruction is only the last 2 minutes of the video.
The instructor in the video is Katayama Etsuji-san ( 片山悦司さん). He is a Field Tester for Daiwa, and it is my understanding that he develops the Level Line Tenkara rods for Daiwa. The Tenkara tackle set up he recommends is shown in the first half of the video at about 53 seconds. He recommends a 3 to 4 meter rod. Connected to a level line length 1.5 meters longer than the length of the rod, + about 1.8 meters of tippet. That tippet length is a little long for my taste, I would recommend a tippet of only 1 m. This video is also an example of a recommendation to start with a line that is considerably longer than the rod.
The section of interest starts at 2:00. Titled 投げ方, throwing or How-to throw (the line).
Notice that he holds the rod at the top of the grip, the same hold that is shown on the Honda diagram, but that is his style. Some people prefer it. Others prefer to hold the grip in the middle or at the butt end of the grip. Try it or just hold the rod the way you prefer. However, that hold position does help control the correct casting arc. The important thing is to observe the angle of his cast. Where he stops the rod on the back cast and the forward cast. If you watch closely you can see the slight pause at the end of the back cast before starting the forward cast. You might also notice the slight wiggle of the rod during the pause period of the back cast, which is caused by the rod tip flexing rearward and the line loading the rod tip.
Also observe the rod angles to avoid. Not to far back, not to far forward. Stop about straight up at 12:00 for the back cast or only slightly past that position. Stop at about 2:00 to 2:30 on the forward cast. If you stop to low the line is thrown toward the water. Try to notice the total time of the cast. The pause. And the speed he moves the rod. He stops the back cast at a point just a little bit past vertical. Which is ok for longer lines. Not needed for shorter lines.
Each combination of rod and line will require a little bit different timing. Depending on whether the rod is soft or stiff, a 7:3, 6:4 or 5:5 rod, weight and length of the line, etc. Another video I find useful to think about when casting is this 10-second video of Masami Sakakibara (榊原正巳) casting, aka Tenkara no Oni or just Oni (鬼). Notice how relaxed and unhurried his casting motion is. You might have to over emphasize the pause time at the end of the back cast while learning. Just start the forward cast before the line has time to start falling to the ground.
Why I believe practice casting a longer line will improve your casting technique.It wasn’t until my third summer Tenkara fishing that I first tried casting a 5 and then a 6-meter line. I wasn’t very good at first casting a line that long. But I found that if I practiced casting these longer lines for 30 minutes, then switched back to casting a line that was only the length of the rod or .5 m to 1m longer than the rod my casting of the shorter line had improved. Practicing with the longer line slowed down my cast, taught me to improve my pause time at the end of the back cast, and more importantly it helped me to begin to sense the rod tip flexing rearward due to the heavier line loading the rod tip by tugging on rod tip as the line moved rearward.
It’s a little bit like learning to balance and ride a bicycle. At first you’re not sensitive to losing your balance, and you fall over. But over time you become more alert to sensing you are going off balance, and you correct it sooner. Pretty soon you have learned to keep your balance and you no longer fall over. Yet consciously you are not aware of it or how you do it. It’s the same thing with casting. You begin to sense the line loading the rod. After some time practicing with the longer line you begin to sense this and to sense it earlier. And you will begin to sense the line loading the rod or the rod flex when using a shorter lighter line with out really being conscious of it.
I recommend you try the following: Connect a line that is about 1.5 m longer than the rod with 1m of tippet. Tie a short piece of yarn to the end of the tippet. Start with the line laid out straight on the ground and just do the back cast. Letting the line fall to the ground. Try to notice the line tugging on the rod tip at the end of the back cast or the rod tip flexing rearward.
Then turn around and do the back cast in the opposite direction. After doing that a few times, start adding the forward cast after a short pause at the end of the back cast. Experiment with the speed of the casting stroke. Try a fast abrupt start to the casting stroke. Then try it where you start the casting stroke a little slower before increasing the speed of the rod motion to the stop position.
Experiment with starting slow then increase the speed only a moderate amount, then by increasing the speed a lot. I think you will find if you accelerate the rod motion too fast the line will tend to drop down in the middle toward the ground. But when your increase in rod speed is a little slower the line will not belly down in the middle, it will curl out straight and lie out farther, extending how far you cast the line. I have found when fishing if I try too hard to cast the line farther, my cast is poor. I have to remind myself to relax my cast, slow down, and let the flex in the rod throw the line.
Generally when casting you will pause at the end of the back cast long enough for the line to nearly fully extend rearward and upward before starting the forward cast. However, when casting an extremely long line or after your casting skill has improved your forward cast will start when most of the line is still moving rearward. This next video shows Masami Sakakibara casting an 11m tapered salt water line. By careful observation you will see the forward cast starts when the end of the line is still forward of where he is standing and still moving rearward. That is easiest to see at about 1:15 into the video. Also notice that his casting stroke is still very relaxed, and he cast by pivoting his arm from the shoulder. His elbow height above ground is rising and falling. However, with shorter lines it’s ok to pivot the arm motion more from the elbow combined with a slight wrist motion.
I can cast a 7m line ok with a 4m rod. I find it beyond my skill to cast a 10m line. It takes a long time to develop the skill to cast a line that long. I never fish with lines that long. Preferring, most of the time, to fish with a line that is at most 1.5 m longer than the rod. I believe practice casting longer lines has improved my casting technique. I recommend you try it once in a while. It doesn’t matter if in the beginning you cannot cast a 5m or 6 m line very well. Try it for a few minutes, and then switch back to a shorter line. Some people disagree with my theory that this is a useful exercise.
However, Matt Sment from Badger Tenkara wrote an interesting post about the Oni School in Utah last summer. Where Oni demonstrated casting a 10m line with a 3.6m-rod. Writing – that on the water Oni fishes with more practical line lengths of 4m to 5m. But explaining that training to cast long lines serves as excellent training for casting and learning to control more normal lengths of lines in the range of 3-5 meters. Here’s the link to Matt’s post.
I wouldn’t recommend you increase the length of lines you fish with in large steps. Only increase your line length little by little. What you feel comfortable with. Making a big jump in line length is just for practice that may improve your casting technique.
In many places I have read that when learning to Tenkara fish the priorities are; first you learn to cast, and then learn to cast accurately to a small point. One game to improve your accuracy is casting to a small bowl of water as demonstrated in this video.
In the video he is casting with a 4.1m rod, with a 5m line + 1.5m tippet.
Adam at Tenkara-Fisher made an excellent post - a translation from 桑原 玄辰 Gentatsu Kuwahara’s book,毛バリ釣りの楽しみ方、How to Enjoy Fly(kebari) Fishing. Casting Practice for Accuracy.
Gentatsu Kuwahara sets a high standard. First you learn to hit the pan of water with 50% success rate. Then you learn to hit the pan of water without splashing water out of the pan. You might want to try this with the length of line you normally fish with. It takes a lot of practice to get to the beginner level. I don’t yet meet his standard. Learning to land the fly gently helps trigger the fish to hit the fly, not spook the fish to hide.
Maybe my conclusions about casting are correct or maybe not. But this is the way I think about casting. Oleg had read a couple of my forum post on this topic and found it matched his experience, and asked me to write something for his blog. I hope you find this useful in improving your casting technique.
I like to fish with dry flies. Even being an avid tenkara angler that focuses on fishing subsurface kebari flies in pocket water, I still enjoy seeing a trout take a dry fly off of the mirror smooth surface of a pool.
Tom Bell from SunRay contacted me this summer with his line material samples: super thin mono core PVC coated lines initially designed for conventional western fly fishing. Previously I’ve tried 2-weight and 3-weight conventional fly lines and found them too heavy for tenkara. I’ve tested all the samples and chosen the white floating for fishing with dries. It is light enough to hold almost all the line length off the surface. It floats well and when picking up the line off the surface at the end of the drift it is quiet and does not spook the fish. The line energy transfer is enough to roll over the 1 meter tippets with the size #16 dries I normally use.
I’ve fished a lot with this line combined with dry flies with great pleasure and now I am issuing prepared lines for sale. The line is completed on the rod side with a girth hitch loop (for lilian attachment) and a mono line section with tippet ring at the other end for tippet.
Just in time: the autumn grayling season starts! It is so fun to fish grayling with dry flies.
One day my son and I went out on a fishing trip. He is new to the world of fly fishing but very interested in tenkara and learned a lot very quickly. But it happened twice that I was catching a lot more fish the he was. Although he put a lot of effort into his fishing and was doing everything right. We also read the water together and he can almost read the water completely by himself. So he knows what to do. So as a lot of people do, we had the same rod, line and fly rig and we were reading and discussing the water we would fish in together so we were able to eliminate as much as variables as possible. But still, I was catching a lot more then he was doing. And yes I know experience matters a lot but a difference of 15 fish to just 1 fish is too big and quite disappointing for a 14 year old.
So I told him to fish on and I would take a break on the bankside of the river. I watched him for a while and then I figured it out. He was lacking a system. A system that provides structure in the way he fishes and provides fish in the net. As soon as his catches will increase so does his confidence and he will start to use this system and hopefully his catch-rate will increase. This will eventually lead into a circle-motion of more structured fishing, a higher catch-rate, a better understanding how a fish thinks and behaves and most important of all; AN INCREASE OF FUN!
Now what is the system that I told him to use? First of all you need to understand that I do not fish Tenkara with just one fly; I use nymphs, wet flies, dry flies, and often two flies. As long as it works to get me on to the fish I will do so. In the Trysil Elva there is always insect activity. That means not always hatches but we have a rich variety of insects in different stages. So first of all we fish always with two flies, a dry fly with a dropper. This will increase your chances of guessing right and finding out what is going on in the water column.
Second of all The Trysil River is used a lot for timberfloating and they have removed a lot of the bigger stones. So the trout has drawn itself back into the faster flowing parts of the river or the surrounding tributaries. But our grayling population is excellent on both the rivers and the tributaries. We have an average size of 35 cm when it comes to the grayling, and 40+ are no exceptions at all. But grayling lives in schools that you have to locate. So you need to move a lot.
Third of all, presentation, presentation, presentation and a variety of your presentation. Presentation is the key to success. It begins with aiming, landing the fly and, here is where the variety kicks in, movement of the fly.
So in short:
- Two flies
- Move a lot
- Right presentation
- Variety of your presentation
The trick is how to combine this into a structural system that you use the whole time so you can systematically fish a piece of the river.
You see the water and you read it and choose where you want to start to fish. This can be a small part or a riffle from several meters long or several small parts in the river. Choose your route carefully because as you wade you will stir the bottom up and sand and insects will go freely, this can attract fish but also spook fish.
So let us say there is a stretch of 10 meter long 5 meter wide. Downstream of the 10 meter stretch you can cross the stretch and fish your way upstream. I choose to fish on the side of the ten meter stretch downstream. I divide the stretch in pieces of 0,5 meter wide, which are each 3 to 4 meter long. This way I can systematically start fishing and knowing that if I do not catch any fish in the first 0,5 meter that I only need to take one small step forward or cast just a little bit longer to fish the next section of this big stretch.
So I basically fish from the edge inwards and so work my way downstream. When I cross the river, I will work my way upstream in exactly the same manner. This way I fish the whole stretch very systematic. And the chance that any spooked fish has returned is bigger and they are now targeted from a different angle which offers you a new chance to catch them
Now this is my system:
Each section gets a maximum of six casts / drifts.
The 1st and 2nd drift are free drifts,
The 3rd and the 4th drift are a small part free drift, then a movement, so a small part free drift, so a movement and a small part free drift. This is imitating an egg-laying insect or an insect that is trying to fly from the water surface. This movement is also moving your nymph or wet fly, which imitates swimming movements or efforts to get in a higher water column before hatching. So the movement has two triggers, visual and vibration-wise. Both make the fish more aware of the offering present.
Now what is this movement? The dry fly needs to make some kind of a jump or twitch of a cm max two cm. This movement is very easy created by tipping with your index finger to the rod. Yes, that’s all you need, this means that you need to have all the line of the water off course.
During the 5th and the 6th drift I will use a lot of movement. Here is almost no free drift present or there are very small free drifts present and you present a lot of movement in the total drift.
In my practice, I catch most of my fish in the 3rd and 4th drift, normally after the first movement. But I have to be sure and start out carefully with a free drift not to spook any fish. It is all about locating the fish and finding out which presentation works best. As soon as you find the fish stay put and fish the spot empty. Do not move before you are sure that the fish is gone ore spooked.
If you catch no fish by this system in the Trysil Elva then you move to another section of the stretch that you are about to fish. If you have fished through a couple of sections and haven’t caught any fish, change your rig. Maybe your dropper needs to go deeper or maybe higher in the water-column. Maybe it is necessary to start nymphing. But at least you have a system to go by to figure this out in an efficient and quick manner.
As soon as my son started to use this system in his fishing and moved a lot more he was also catching more. Still not as many as I do but a lot more than just one fish in two to three hours. And most important of all, he was fishing with a lot more enthusiasm, he now knew what to do to catch more fish, he was catching more fish and had a lot more fun fishing!
This is off course not only important for kids. But fishing with a system and knowing that you have covered the water properly makes it easier to find out what works that day.
So to sum it up:
- Read the water and plan out a route where and how to fish the stretch.
- Take in consideration the factors mentioned above; two flies, presentation, a variety of presentations and move yourself through the water.
- A variety of presentations; 2 total free drift, 2 drifts with a little movement, 2 drifts with a lot of movement.
- No fish? Move on to the next section.
- Still no fish after fishing through several sections? Change your rig.
I hope this was of some use for you and if you have some questions please do not hesitate to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I have played around searching the Internet for Japanese language Tenkara websites or videos using Japanese phrases for several years. I do it because I find it fun and challenging. It is a language I do not speak or read. Or only read a little. Over time I have learned several words, learned a little about Japanese sentence structure that helps me translate, more or less correctly, what I find with the help of Google translate. Sure ever now and again I search for Tenkara website in English. But that is a little boring and not much of a challenge.
It has come to my attention that at least a few people would like to do this too. But aren’t quite sure how to go about it. I have learned a few tricks that help me do this that might help others. Like most people I started out by collecting a list of Japanese phrases that I could later copy and paste into the Google search window. I started out by only knowing one Japanese word. テンカラ. Using that as my search term I soon found other Japanese phrases to save and use again later. I rarely do this any more. It is much faster to just type the phonetic of the Japanese terms I want to use into the Google translate window to get the Japanese terms I want to search with and start the search for the topic that I am interested in.
Finding Japanese language Tenkara websites is the easy part. You can learn a lot just by looking at the pictures or diagrams. Translating the Japanese to English accurately is much more difficult. Google translates some words or phrases in a very weird ways. Some pages translate fairly well. Others are almost impossible to figure out. The only conclusion I have arrived at is that it has to do with the writing style of the author. That being said, learning a little about Japanese sentence structure can often help. And I have a few tips for common odd translations that may help and a few tips about Japanese that may help some too.
It will really help you a lot if you learn hiragana. And later learn katakana. Along the way you will learn a few Kanji. Maybe not how to pronounce it but know what it means. I think being able to speak Japanese is a different skill from knowing how to read it. Though of course if you know how to say it that will help you to remember it.
Basically hiragana (ひらがな) is the Japanese text for native words. Katakana (カタカナ) are a second set of text for the same syllables that are mostly used for non native words. Though there are exceptions. One of the mysteries is why Tenkara is more commonly seen written with katakana. Kanji (漢字) are basically Chinese text or pictograms adopted into Japanese. If you know the Japanese kanji it will mean the same thing in Chinese, or Korean or Vietnamese. Only the spoken word will be different. Many Japanese are uncertain how to say a given kanji. Furigana (ふりがな) are text in hiragana or katakana written in small font above the kanji to help you know the meaning of the kanji or now to pronounce it. Lastly there is romaji (ろーまじ) Roman alphabet for the Japanese word. Close to the phonetic for the word but not always the same. Later I will give some recommendations for learning hiragana or katakana.
I use Google translate. There may be better options, but that is what I use. This web page: https://translate.google.com/
Open the web site and set the left side window for Japanese from the drop down menu. Set the right side to English. Or whatever your native language is. It will look like this:
Please notice the little icon in the lower left corner. It looks like the hiragana for “a” あ. And also notice the little down arrow just to its right side. Later this will be very useful to free you from having to keep a list of Japanese words or phrases. If you click on the down arrow you get a drop down menu with two options. You will be able to type the phonetic for the Japanese word and if before you hit enter, if instead you touch the space bar, you will be given a list of several Japanese characters to choose from. If you have learned the Japanese word you want to use you can click on it and that word or phrase will be written into the left side window. The Google translation into English will show up in the right side window.
This is what it will look like when you click the down arrow next to あ.
Or you can choose the other option. It is an icon that looks like a small pencil next to Japanese -Handwrite. Click on it and a popup window will open and you can use the mouse to draw a Japanese kanji that you don’t know. This is useful for simple kanji. Not so good for the more complex kanji. It is also useful for a kanji that you remember what it looks like and what it means, but you don’t remember its phonetic spelling that would permit you to write the kanji into the left window by typing it.
Actually the above screen shot shows a hint of some of the other useful functions that you can find on the Google translate window. If you clicked on the down arrow and the left side screen was empty or didn’t have any of the characters already written in that window you would only see the drop down menu. But in the screen shot you can see several Japanese characters printed below the drop down menu.
When I took the screen shot I must have had the word Maki , (巻き) written and highlighted in the left side screen. Maki is one of the Japanese words meaning to Wind a fly. If you highlight a Japanese word or phrase written on the left side of the screen in the lower right corner you can see Translation of 巻き. Below that it states it is an adjective, curly. However in this case it is really a verb, to wind the kebari.
Notice also on the left side it says See Also – followed by a list of alternate words. You can highlight them and then copy them into the left side Japanese text window and see what they translate into in the right side English translation window. Mostly hidden behind the drop down menu are other Japanese words that were written into the left side window. You can see Kebari-m just to the left of the drop down menu. Which indicates that I had kebari maki written in Japanese in the left window when I clicked on the drop down menu arrow and made the screen shot. This gives a hint of the useful options you can find to use on the Google translation page.
If on the drop down menu you choose the top option - あ konnichiwa à こんにちは
You will be able to type the phonetic to get the Japanese word you want to use. As an example if you type in “ tenkara” it will appear in hiragana characters as てんから.
After you type in – tenkara – you can just hit enter and enter てんから on the left side screen. Below the left window on the phonetic line you will see the phonetic Ten kara. Below that you will see written - Did you mean: テンカラ. You can click on テンカラ and it will be move into the left side screen and replace てんから . The phonetic below the window will change to tenkara. The English translation in the right side window will stay the same and say Tenkara. Alternately, if after you type in てんから if you don’t hit enter and instead touch the space bar. You will get a popup window giving you 9 optional Japanese words to choose from. Click on the word you want and it will be written into the left side window. From experience I know that Tenkara can be written in at least 3 ways. As option 1, 4 or 6. Unfortunately I cannot capture a screen shot of what this popup window looks like. Hitting the keys to make the screen shot makes the popup window close. But the list on the popup window is printed below.
Here is a short list of Tenkara related words to play with. They are listed in this order – Japanese (phonetic) the default Google English translation in the left side window. Later I will provide more Japanese words, and other hints on how to use the Google translate window. I don’t want the blog post to be to long and this is already at 5 pages. I may have to submit two, three or four post. Try typing in the phonetic without spaces to get the Japanese word or phrase you want to do a Google search with.
テンカラ, (tenkara) Tenkara
竿 , (sao) Pole
レベルライン, (reberu rain) level line (a hint, when you type in rain, type the n 2x)
けばり, (ke bari) Fly
毛鉤 , (kebari) Fly
毛バリ, (kebari) Bali hair
毛針 , (kebari, sometimes kehari) Fly
逆さ毛鉤,(Sakasa kebari) Upside down fly
花笠毛鉤,( hanagasa kebari) Hanagasa fly
毛鉤巻き,( Kebari-maki) Fly winding
ライン巻き仕掛け,( Rain-maki shikake) line winding mechanism(trick)
キャスティング, (kyasutingu) Casting
釣り,(tsuri, sometimes dzuri) Fishing
結び目, (musubime) Knot
自作, (jisaku) Self made, homebrew, own.
源流, (genryū) Head waters
渓流, (Keiryū) Mountain Stream. But 渓 流 (Kei-ryū) Mountain Flow.
本流, (honryū) Main Stream (hint – when typing in ryu, type the u 2x to make the u into ū.
Try combining terms to do your Google search. Google may give you a drop down menu of optional phrase choices that it likes better. Have fun experimenting. More information will be in the next post.
MOTIVE 390 tenkara rods are back in stock and they even have some improvements.
Firstly, the purple trim is gone. Secondly, new chunky grip with rubberized cork ends is used. Thirdly, the butt cap is now universal and compatible with all other Tenkara Times rod models.
We had not changed the blank, so the strength and the action is like it was: the best choice for bigger fish and large waters.
We’ve upgraded very popular TRY390 tenkara rod. Some cork value is added to the handle in order to make the grip more comfortable, also the painting do not have trims. We had not changed the blank and the action.
Special thanks to Robert Worthing for critics and advices considering the handle shape.
I have fished more with tenkara than western-style this year, and much of it has been a hugely satisfying revelation. It has been an extreme range of rivers; after the winter grayling on the Eden, in Cumbria, I spent most of the spring and summer fishing the chalk streams of the Artois region of northern France. A brief foray to the Tatra mountains in Slovakia, and the magnificent San in south-east Poland, finally brought me back to the rivers of northern England and the autumn fishing for grayling, though the wild brown trout are currently super-active among the heavy hatches of pale wateries we always have at this time of year. The rivers have varied from tiny carriers and feeder streams, often not even two metres across, to the expanse of the San tail-water at over a hundred metres.
Target fish have been almost entirely wild brown trout and grayling. I have had no real giants on tenkara this year, but have managed almost fifty grayling from 38cm to 47cm and trout up to 50cm. I think that my average size of fish caught has been lower than the last couple of years, but not because of the use of tenkara and any change in targeting; more that the Eden, and I think the San, are at those stages in their population cycles, for both species, when there are large numbers of younger fish. This was echoed in Slovakia.
While the fishing in France has been remarkable, and has utterly consumed me, it is the time spent with tenkara on larger rivers that I want to report on here. I have long been of the opinion that we are often tempted to use this wonderful approach on waters where it is inappropriate, even irresponsible. I am still firmly of this opinion, although I have learned that the ‘boundary conditions’ for any river making tenkara a suitable method can be expanded considerably to the thinking angler. We all – should – be aware of the problems: the fine tippets we use are just not up to the job of dealing with large, fast-moving trout in open water. We simply cannot move fast enough to follow such fish and breaks are inevitable, and I think this is a great sin in our sport, even with the use of barbless hooks. Also, dealing with fish by hand-lining tippet, which is always necessary when fishing over rod length, is inelegant, at best, and fraught with hazard, often leading to a break, at worst.
Most western-influenced fly fishers will allude to another problem - that of tenkara’s reduced range compared with what is possible with fly line and rod guides. This, however, has been one of the best revelations, because in practise I feel that almost invariably there is no disadvantage in this sense at all. Western-style allows us to stand off from target fish, but no matter what the claims of some, this usually has dire implications on presentation, of both nymph and dry fly. For wild fish, this matters. A lot. For ideal presentation, we need to get down to tenkara ranges, completely negating the issue. It also teaches us to be much more considered in our approach and, where appropriate, wading technique. The clear waters of French chalk streams has taught me this more than anywhere else, but I have taken the lessons learned with me onto the big river.
Daunting though broad rivers can be to all anglers, the great trick is to be able to break them down into collections of smaller flows. This develops with experience until the time comes when one does this instinctively. One sees the separate flows, the carriers, the boulders and islands, the micro-habitats, the feed lanes, and manages to shut out the enormity of what truly surrounds us and focus on a very small part of it, until all the possibilities have apparently been exhausted, at which time we re-focus on fresh potential. It is a joy to fish like this, learning all the nuances and special circumstances of the ‘reduced’ river environments we discover, and it makes us better fly-fishers as a result. Without a doubt this approach allows vastly greater reward than any attempt to take on the entire river at our disposal, and tenkara is brilliant for this, because with a fixed line we are actually forced to compartmentalise in this way, and also because tenkara allows comparatively gentle, disturbance-free presentation, so crucial at short range. Let me give you an example.
San river, at the tail of the enormous glide at Baclawa: it is late morning and the pale wateries are trickling off. Trout and grayling are rising all over the glide. Three of my companions excitedly wade out onto the glide, while others head-off to the pockets and pools in the rougher water towards the confluence of the Hochewka river, a kilometre downstream. I am last into the water, and the only one fishing tenkara, a 3.9m Motive, 6:4, with a rod length fluorocarbon leader, two metre tippet of 0.12mm copolymer, and the inevitable size 19 plume tip. While my companions set off I watched the river immediately by the entry point where we had all stood and set up our kit. It lies immediately on the left hand bank at the base of the vast glide, formed by a broad, gravel rapid which angles off the main river, towards the bank, to form a glide of perhaps 50 metres in length and a maximum of ten metres in width. I have fished here many times. It is always a surprise, just how many fish, of both species, it holds; although this is the first time I have fished it with the fixed line.
I wade around in a wide arc so that I can approach from downstream and I see several rises on my way into position. I ease into the fast water at the tail so that I can cast the plume tip up onto the sill – the accelerating water of the tail – and keep all the tippet off the water so as to avoid drag; only really possible with a long tenkara rod and low mass leader. I pick off fish immediately – two fat 30cm grayling – that appeared from the fastest water no more and a few inches deep. Then a trout of similar size wolfs away the plume tip. Just a little beyond, upstream, in slightly slower water, I can now pick out the very subtle rises of grayling and the occasional splashy signature of trout, all among a steady trickle of pale watery emergers. Just a single step up and I find I can access several of these fish, all with the zero disturbance of the tenkara. Two small trout come to hand and then, from the tiniest, kissing rise, a lovely 40cm grayling. While I am playing this fish, keeping it upstream, away from the rapid, I notice at least two other rises between where I am standing and where I had hooked the big fish. I keep as still as possible and finally ease the grayling to hand, a little annoyed that I have to hand-over-hand with the tippet while the big grayling turns on its flank, until I can reach down and twist the hook free. I am relieved and excited to see the fish continue rising, apparently oblivious to my presence and the commotion of what has just happened. These fish are only a rod length from where I am standing!
I rise one, and prick it, and catch another, and notice that other risers within range have disappeared, while fish continue to show farther up the glide. Had I been fishing western-style, without a doubt I would now be increasing casting range while also wading farther upstream; but right now, I hesitate. I have a feeling that there is so much more potential in the water near at hand. I think it has been less than two minutes before I notice a tiny rise at four metres. I pause, anticipating the grayling’s rhythm, before setting the plume tip a metre upstream of the rise. A similarly, almost imperceptible rise, with the plume tip simply disappearing, and I’m into another big grayling, and this even as yet another fish shows again at very close range!
For the next two hours it continues like this and by the time my companions return for our mid-afternoon meeting, I have waded up less than half of the glide and have caught forty grayling and a dozen trout. I try to explain that I am utterly convinced that nothing like this result would have been possible with a western rig. There would have been too much disturbance, even if I had resisted the temptation to move too fast up the glide as rises temporarily dwindled close by. I know this is the case, and so do my companions, because I have fished western through here so many times before, in similar rise conditions. Two of my friends have also caught in similar numbers to me, though their balance has had an emphasis on trout and they admit to covering much more water than I have done with the tenkara.
After our break, I cross the river to where there is a thin island concealing a 100 metre side-stream. It is a favourite place of mine (among a wealth of favourite places on this river of dreams), consisting of a series of five pools, with racy little run-ins. I always manage to find several trout in these pools as I work up it, but again, I have formerly fished it only with western. The tenkara rig repeats the revelation by taking from each of the five pools, consecutively as I move upstream: five, three, four, three and five trout, in less than an hour, with three of the trout between 35 and 40cm (the others averaging 25cm).
I did not really go into too much detail with my friends that evening. It is not really to do with the numbers. It is accessibility and realising greater potential, made possible with the stealth approach and presentation possible only with tenkara, and seeing the big river as a compartmentalised series of connected streams. Of course, it doesn’t help with the hand-lining tippet issue, and neither with the problem of a big trout running in open water; but I never broke on a single fish that day on the San in spite of a few testy moments with biggish fish coming to hand downstream.
When issuing the TRY rods series last year, we focused on the casting properties. Considering that many tenkara anglers are new to tenkara and are coming from a western fly fishing background we created the TRY rods to be easy to cast for them. That is reason the TRY rod is slightly stiffer than what we consider to be characteristic for the classic tenkara rod. It is obvious today that tenkara is not a fad. The number of tenkara anglers in Europe has doubled this year. So now is the time to release a premium tenkara rod just for them, one that is targeted at experienced tenkara anglers - it is The Tenkara Times WaterShed Series. The most important difference is the rod’s action. The new Watershed Series blank is softer and the action is slower than the TRY Series. This gives very clear tactile feedback to the caster so it is very intuitive when the rod is loading and unloading. At the same time, the rod retains the high sensitivity of the TRY rods. The blank action is optimized to cast #3 size fluorocarbon level lines with the line length equal to the rod length.
The firstborn WaterShed 400 6:4 model is a 4.05-meter long rod - which makes it is little longer than the TRY390. This allows it to have good reach and so makes it useful on the larger rivers. Based on angler input we created a new softer blank and also added a larger diameter handle for the Watershed. And of course, the best possible cork is used for the grip. The butt cap is universal and fits all the TTT rods and following the TTT rods user’s feedback it is knurled. The finish is also improved and we did not trim the segments with purple more. The Watershed rods are supplied with our popular stretch rod socks and attractive, lightweight carbon fiber rod cases.
Special thanks to Anthony Naples for the advices and ideas helpful for this rod series issue.
We are grateful to our customers who appreciate the TRY360 tenkara rods. Unfortunately production was delayed with the latest batch of TRY360 rods and so for a while they were out of stock. Today however, we are pleased to announce that they are back in stock and they even have some improvements.
Firstly, the purple trim is gone. Secondly, the ends of the cork grip are reinforced by small segments of rubberized cork. And thirdly, the universal butt cap is now knurled for easier use.
However the rod’s excellent action, light weight and superb balance remain unchanged.