Genryu Fishing of Japan #45

Takakuwa-san (Fishing trip with Mr. Shinichi Takakuwa)

The rain, that had begun to fall when we entered into the mountains, eased off. It was 6:30 in the morning, we lifted up our backpacks on our backs and started walking up through the small stream called “Aka-gawa (Red river). "Because I'm very old now, I can't walk so fast. Go ahead and wait in the right place." Takakuwa-san said to us and he went to the end of the group. We were on the route to Obuka-zawa climing over the mountain ridge of Hachimantai mountains spread over the north of Akita and Iwate prefecture.

Hachimantai is a national park with rolling mountains. There are variety shape of peaks of volcanic origin on a plateaus at an altitude of about 1500m, and there are countless swamps and wetlands between them. We went on a fishing trip to the headwaters of Onuka-sawa flowing westward on the Akita side of Hachimantai for 3 days. This trip was special because we had a special guest Takakuwa-san in the group. 

Takakuwa-san is a very famous genryu fisher and stream trekker. 

I first met Takakuwa-san about 5 years ago. When I went to Haide-gawa (Haide River) with my fishing friend Tsuru-chan, we happened to meet with Takakuwa-san's party at the tenba (camp site) by the stream on the first day. Haide-gawa, which has a huge slab cliffs called Gangarashibana at the most upstream, is a popular genryu not only for anglers but also for enthusiastic sawanobori (stream climbing) people. On the first day of entering the valley, I and Tsuru-chan enjoyed fishing a few miles upstream from Temba and returned to Temba in the evening, we saw unexpected bonfire smoke from the tributary stream by the tenba. As we climbed to the tenba, we found a party of 3 people on the other side of stream. When we went to say hello and talk about our schedule for the next, I got to know it was Takakuwa-san and two young women. We did simple self-introduction and told that we always enjoyed reading articles written by Takakuwa-san. Takakuwa-san and his colleagues were visiting Haide-gawa to write an article of Gangarashibana for a mountain climbing magazine. Then, for the next day, we decided to go to Gangarashibana together so as not to disturb Mr. Takakuwa's coverage. 

Since Takakuwa-san and I had common friends like Sebata-san and several other headwater fishing acquaintances, I sometimes met Takakuwa-san at a year-end party and other occasions. We promised to go on a genryu fishing trip together someday, but I was not given a chance. Five years later, this opportunity has finally come. When I talked to my genryu friends about this trip, 4 members gathered at once because we could go with that famous Takakuwa-san. It was Tsuru-chan, Hama-chan, Yagi-san and Ubi-chan who have just returned to Japan. Unfortunately, Tsuru-chan had to cancel the trip at work just before the trip, so it was a trip with a total of five members including Takakuwa-san.

Takakuwa-san is a celebrity in the headwater fishing world alongside with Sebata-san. In my favorite magazine, "Keiryu", there is an article by Takakuwa-san every issue. He also has authored more than 10 books and has appeared on television programs sometimes. However, Takakuwa-san’s style in the genryu world is a little different from Mr. Sebata or Dr. Ishigaki. Takakuwa-san's approach to the genryu world was not fishing, but mountain climbing. Takakuwa-san was one of the leading persons in establishing a unique Japanese sport called “Sawa-nobori(stream climbing)”.

Originally, Takakuwa-san was one of young mountaineers who aimed for the highest peaks in the world, like Everest. Takakuwa-san said that he gradually began to realize that the appeal of the mountains was not only to reach the summits, but also in the forests and valleys at the foot of the mountains and the history and culture of the people who live there. Needless to say, Takakuwa-san likes fishing. However, fishing itself was not always the primary purpose of Takakuwa-san's mountain trips. His trips were from adventures such as perfecting the many impregnable genryu trips and climbing the waterfall that was said to be impossible, to the trips walking through the fading mountain trails with more than 1000 years of history and recorded the history and the culture of mountain dwellers. Before long, Takakuwa-san became known as a mountaineer who did not aim for the summit.

I was particularly impressed by Takakuwa-san's travel writings and essays in the several books that documented the history and culture of those mountain dwellers and intended to preserve them for posterity. I think Takakuwa-san is an excellent folklore scholar as well as an angler and a mountaineer.

When we were planning this mountain trip, I told Takakuwa-san that we planned to go over the shortest route to the headwaters of Ofuka-sawa and fish only the core part of the stream. However, Mr. Takakuwa said, "No, it is not beautiful by simple round trip, we should make a kind of circle trip in Hachimantai. On the first day we will walk through the ridgeline to the downstream part of Oukasawa and descend down Kantozawa and go to Ofuka-sawa. On the 2nd day, slowly fish the best area of the mainstream and go to Tenba at Mitsumata(confluence of three streams) upstream, put the load from Tenba and fish the headwater part. Last day, we will climb through the Kedo-sawa from Mitsumata to the ridgeline.” So Takakuwa-san suggested a circle trip route which we can enjoy both Hachimantai's ridgeline walk and fishing in Onukasawa.

Akaka-gawa was a stream where acidic water was flowing and the riverbed was dyed in red. After a couple of tributaries, the water quickly diminished, it became a very walkable stepped stream. We arrived on the ridgeline trail for about an hour. The rain had stopped completely. After walking for 1 minute on the mountain trail, there was an evacuation hut of Ofuka Sanso. It was a well-maintained evacuation hut, and the inside looked it was just renovated. Ubi, an Italian, was constantly impressed with its cleanliness.

Takakuwa-san told us that after this fishing trip he would work in a mountain hut for two weeks as a hut guard in the Iide Mountains. Mt. Iide, located on the border between Fukushima and Yamagata prefectures, is a mountain of religion for a long time and is still very popular with mountaineers. Everyone thought that if Takakuwa-san is doing a hut guard, we definitely visit him to the hut next year. There seems to be a stream where you can fish iwana if you go down the northern slope from the hut. I also thought it would be a luxurious mountain trip to fish char at the headwaters of Iide during the day and listen to Takakuwa-san at the mountain hut at night. 

We ate light breakfast in front of the evacuation hut and when we started walking through the ridgeline, the clouds started to cut from the south, and the sun appeared from behind the clouds. Before long, the blue sky began to spread, and by the time we arrived at the top of Mt. Ofuka, the scenery of the Hachimantai mountains gently spread under the wonderful blue sky. In the southeast direction, we could see Mt. Iwate, which was particularly high. It was so beautiful exposed in the morning sun.

We enjoyed a three-hour walk along the ridgeline while enjoying the nature of Hachimantai, with mountain scenery, abundant forests, flower fields along mountain trails and dotted ponds. Around noon, we arrived at the swamp area near the source of Kanto-zawa(Kanto stream). "That side." Takkakuwa-san said. As soon as we descended from the point where he pointed, we immediately came out to the source stream. After walking about 10 minutes, the amount of water increased steadily and it became a fine stream. We went down the stream for about 30 minutes and had lunch on a large monolith by the stream. After lunch, at a confluence with a large tributary, Takakuwa-san told Ubi-chan to try fishing. Immediately, Ubi-chan fished a few iwana, but the size was still small. We kept on walking down Kanto-zawa. It took an hour to reach the confluence with mainstream Obuka-sawa from there. I was lack of sleep and exhausted, but it was a great walk. 

The riverside at the confluence was very wide on the mainstream side, and we soon set a tarp at the safest place by mountain side. Hama-chan and Ubi-chan started fishing, but the iwana seemed to be small again. We bathed in the pool in front of Tenba and started preparing for dinner. We made a bonfire, and the dinner was started with toasting with beer. Beer was so good because it was a hot day. We cooked some appetizers and grilled meats, and the main was Ubi-chan's risotto. Since it is the first night, everyone started with a brief introduction of ourselves first and heard Takakuwa-san’s mountain stories. However, we all lay down early under the tarp due to extreme lack of sleep and tired walking on the first day. 

The next day was blessed with good weather from morning. "Let me take a picture of a good fishing today." Takakuwa-san pushed our back, and we left Tenba. We were told that we would arrive at Tenba at Mitsumata before noon. Mitsumata is the core of Obuka-sawa genryu area, and just downstream of Mitsumata there is a big waterfall, a landmark of Obuka-sawa, known as the Niagara Falls.

I did not fish at all the previous day, so I fished first this day. I could catch iwana of about 25cm in a riffle above Tenba immediately. Then the iwana had great reactions and chased the kebari and bent our fishing rods. The average size was about 28cm, but in about two hours to Niagara Falls, we enjoyed fishing in Obuka-sawa enough. 

Climbing over the Niagara Falls, a long slippery riverbed continued for about 300m, but we quickly arrived at Mitsumata. I heard that Tenba was on the left bank in Kedo-sawa, so when I went to reconnaissance, there was a large enough Tenba on the bank just upstream of the confluence on the left bank that looked comfortable. We immediately set up a tarp and made up Tenba. "We slept enough last night and we have physical strength today, so whatever we do, the work is quick." Yagi-san said and laughed. After Tenba was made, Yagi-san boiled soba for everybody. We spread large leaves on the rocks beside the stream, served soba on it and ate all at once. It was delicious. 

We split into two groups from noon and fished upstream from Mitsumata. Hama-chan and Ubi-chan entered Kita-zawa(North stream), and Takakuwa-san, Yagi-san and I entered Higashi-zawa(East stream). Iwana's response was excellent in the afternoon too. As Takakuwa-san had taken enough pictures in the morning, he finally started fishing in the afternoon. Takakuwa-san told us that he was doing bait fishing in the past, but he has been focusing on Tenkara fishing since 10 years ago. Yagi-san and Takakuwa-san caught good size Iwana one after another. 

We climbed over a few waterfalls, and we were happy to have fished well enough. So we returned to Temba. We had enough time even after arriving at tenba on this day. We lit a bonfire on the riverside of Kedo-sawa and toasted with beer early on. Hama-chan made iwana sashimi and kobujime(kelp rolled sashimi). After that, we all made Yagi-san's specialty iwana gyoza(Fried iwana dumpling). Cooking was good fun. Takakuwa-san seemed to have iwana gyoza first time and seemed enjoying them. This evening, Takakuwa-san told us many stories about the mountains and the books.

I told Takakuwa-san that two of Takakuwa-san's books were very impressive. The first book is "Mountain Work, Mountain Life", which I described a little earlier, but it is the book carefully describes the history and culture of the mountain people. It is the record of life that has been supporting and inheriting the lives of mountain villagers for hundreds of years. The stories about fisherman, wild vegetable picker, Kiji-shi(Wooden craftsmen) etc. The stories about the culture of the ancient mountain people of Japan that is almost disappearing in this modern age. Takakuwa-san said, "Because if someone does not write it, those things will be forgotten."

Another favorite book is "Kodo Junrei (Pilgrimage of ancient road)". This book is very familiar to genryu fishermen like us. The book is about the roads or foot paths in the mountains. For example, the ancient roads that have been used for more than a thousand years in eastern Japan and all over the Tohoku region, and old trails that mountain people made, or fishermen’s and mountain plants pickers hidden foot paths, some of work roads that has been cut open in the mountains. Takakuwa-san travelled those rods and trails on foot for this book. It is a book that records such a mountain trip. I occasionally wrote about such old mountain trails and zenmai paths in this blog, and the book includes detailed records of those fading mountain roads. Even if it is called a road, it is not a main road that has been promoted to a road where cars run, such as a national road or a prefectural road, but a so-called back road. Sometimes those roads have been made on the steep mountains or cliffs. Those were the places like the natural fortress that seemed impossible to go through. I really think some roads that Takakuwa-san describes in this book are truly miracle. 

Takakuwa-san has turned 70 this year. "I'm old now," Takakuwa-san said, laughing. I sincerely wonder if somebody who is younger than us inherits the rest of these Takakuwa-san’s records. As the night went on, we slipped into the sleeping bags one after another. It was a calm summer night, with no wind, the moon light spilling out of the gaps between the trees.

On the last day, we chose the most straightforward route through Kedo-sawa to the mountain trail on the ridge. It was a relatively easy route until the end of the stream, but we made a mistake in choosing walking direction in the last bush and struggled, but finally we managed to go on the mountain trail. The superb views of Hachimantai had been spreaded like 360 degrees. It was the splended landscapes, and we could forget all difficulties we had. The cool breeze was pleasant. We went around the Hachimantai ridgeline and the genryu of Obuka-sawa and reached back the head of Aka-gawa again.

I really wanted to come back to fishing with Takakuwa-san and the friends. I asked to Takakuwa-san, "Where shall we go next year?"

"Yeah, let's go somewhere again," Takakuwa-san laughed.

Ultra Minimalist Tenkara Equipment V2

Some years ago, I wrote an article on a Nissin Keiryu rod, the Pocket Mini V3. Although the article stemmed from my experiences in using the Pocket Mini V3 Keiryu rod at home for a year to see if it was valid for a focused tenkara genryu trip in Japan, I placed more emphasis on the minimalist direction in putting together the kit. Looking back on using the Pocket Mini V3 keiryu rod, I realized that I was going in different directions with it, minimalism, compactness and a kit that was went inside of my backpack or carry on. A complete tenkara kit that was easy to grab and bring with me while I travelled; to have for a fishing opportunity, especially during non fishing trips.

Perhaps I think too much about my fishing, the above was even difficult for me to conceptualize into words but I'm going through with it because this is fun for me. This is about what I do and I am sharing it because it is fun to compare notes.


Nissin has created the Tenkara Mini rod and it seems they did it from the Pocket Mini V3. I personally prefer a cork handle and although I enjoy a rod in the 4m class, the 3.2m Tenkara Mini is still an acceptable length for the fishing that I do.

My kit has slightly evolved from the first time that I wrote about it, I now use the Tenkara Mini and am in the process of designing a bag that will double as a net holder/water bottle carrier slash entire kit bag.

In all that I do, I try to minimize my tenkara equipment, especially my travel kit. That minimization is a positive attribute to the method of tenkara. It forces me to concentrate just on what works and minimizes things that do not.

Mini Nets

I always look to the Japanese for inspiration.

But I am not Japanese, I am an American.

I practice the simple method of Japanese style fly fishing, tenkara. I don't try to be Japanese, but I do enjoy and respect what they do and I enjoy their style of fishing. That being said, I am fishing tenkara, Japanese style, influenced from my own background of western fly fishing.

I see that the west also has influence on the east, many Japanese tenkara experts also practice western fly fishing. I think it is a good thing to do both. I don't do western fly fishing much, I quit to learn tenkara, I will do it again one day, today is not that day.

My non-tamo tenkara nets are Japanese influenced however they are made by a western craftsman with my direction.

My favorite tenkara net is Japanese yet I use western nets that are Japanese influenced.


It doesn’t matter.

If you want to learn Japanese tenkara, learn from the Japanese.

There are many tenkara and fly fishing enthusiasts in Japan that size their nets to the size of fish they are catching. They also have many styles of nets. For my version of the mini net, I have taken inspiration from them and have had built, small nets which I have also modified for my own use.

I enjoy a small net because they are easy to pack and carry. They also work well to capture a fish while it is hot (not exhausted) and subdue to remove the hook and immediately release. The nets I use in this form are from Sam Lacina.

Here are a couple I use, the small one I sometimes carry in a front pocket. It is amazing, I have used it on much larger fish than it was designed for.

Zippered Rod Case

As with all of my equipment, I looked to the Japanese for examples of what they used. Early on (2012) by chance I noticed in the background of a Dr. Ishigaki fly tying an interesting looking case that he used to carry his rods. During my visit to Japan in 2013, I shopped for equipment at Sansui and Joshuya and purchased a GETT rod case that I use to this day.

I use the cloth rod sleeves that come with most rods when I store my rods inside the zippered case. They prevent the rods from getting "road wear" from vibration and or movement during transit. The cases are easy to open full length and you can keep the sleeves inside while you are using the rods.

For air travel, I use a luggage tag just in case I get separated from my rods. On one flight back to the states from Narita, Japan, I as asked to check my rods as luggage (no extra charge) which I strongly objected to but lost my battle. The rods rode in the luggage hold with absolutely no damage to them. This was the deciding factor in purchasing more cases to hold the varying lengths of nested rods.

The zippered rod cases from Joshuya branded GETT will not be easy to obtain. They are not readily available by mail order. You may find other cases from brands like DAIWA that may be easier to purchase. Each of my cases where less than $20 USD and have been protecting my rods from all the damages of travel by car or airline.

I highly recommend using them for travel to your favorite stream or halfway around the world.

Honryu Tenkara

Photo by Siegfried Forster
The goal of this article is to share my experience and technique with you. I am a tenkara fisher that has taught myself honryu techniques through trial and error. Perhaps I can save you the trouble of not making the mistakes I did. My influences are Japanese anglers such as Kazunori Kobayashi, Koken SorimachiKatsutoshi Amano, Hisao Ishigaki and many others. I have many many seasons of my own experience fishing western rivers and mainstreams with a fly rod, now I am fishing these same rivers with a honryu tenkara rod. I approach sharing my experiences with honryu tenkara as your peer, enthusiast, writer and practitioner.

Let's learn this together and share what we know.

I am drawn to fishing tenkara techniques in big water because it opens up opportunities for catching bigger fish. The allure of large fish on a tenkara rod is exciting! When I sight catch a large trout in thin water, I know I am doing well. Big fish feeding across currents and at depth, educated fish that are line shy and wary of drifting boats with spin fishermen ripping metal through their lane, those fish are now my target. Situations where a fly line laying on the water will ruin a presentation whereas a light colorless gossamer line is held up and suspended without announcement on a long tenkara rod. Honryu tenkara will take far longer to master than catching opportunistic trout in small streams. Honryu tenkara holds much more for me to learn than tenkara fishing mountain streams. Instead of one or the other, I choose both. One is the spice, the other is the meal, both go together.

Photo by Siegfried Forster
Honryu tenkara is a method on it's own. It isn't the substitution of fixed line rod for a nine foot five weight fly rod. I do not use a honryu rod like I would a fly rod in a river. I upscale my tenkara equipment for reach and use tenkara techniques. The attraction is simple, I am able to fish big water by breaking it down into smaller sections and fish a river like a small stream by using longer rods and lines. This is not tenkara vs. fly fishing, it is using longer tenkara rods and lines for their attributes in bigger water, not a substitute of fly fishing. Honryu tenkara is a specialized method. I am a tenkara specialist and I am approaching bigger water with equipment that is longer, 4 and 5m class rods casting 6 to 10m level lines.

Let me explain.

Like most things I do, I just jumped in and started doing it. I used entry level 4m tenkara rods and Japanese books on honryu and then I forgot what I was doing and gravitated to using my tenkara rod for a fly rod. Fly fishing was what I knew from years of experience and I was trying to do that with a tenkara rod on the same water.

It didn’t work very well, I kept trying to go back to fly fishing the river as I knew it.

I tried to use my tenkara rod for fly fishing techniques as I’ve done for many years, extended dead drifting a nymph deep in a fast flow with an indicator using cut back ends of fly lines. It was frustrating to say the least. Throwing slack then lifting the rod to set the hook was ineffective without having a line in my hand, stumbling backwards on greased cobblestones, falling down, dejected, miles from anyone alone. I would yell at the top of my lungs many times listening to the echo across the river on thousand foot cliffs, laughing, then swearing.


Why was my catch rate disappearing?

With the knowledge of my river, why wasn't I catching fish consistently?

I’m not going to let this beat me.

So I went back and started over.

I bought a proper honryu tenkara rod, rigged long level lines for it and began picking apart the river as I would a small stream, keeping a tight line. This was the key to success for me. I used my tenkara techniques in the river. I did not substitute my tenkara rod for fly fishing techniques. Not to say that would not work, it does (Yvon Chouinard's Simple Fly Fishing method) but not as well as fly fishing with a fly rod!

Let's stay focused on honryu tenkara.

I found that if I just looked at the water and utilized the attributes of a tight line, something very opposite of dead drifting a fly line, I could feel the sub surface fish take much better than I could with my fly rod. Water that I could not reach out and utilize effectively with my fly rod, I could feel subtle takes with my tenkara rod. Deep water now was available to me whereas with slack line fly fishing to get my flies down, I could not feel takes, I had to indicate eats with a fly line, I could feel eats with a tight tenkara technique.

With honryu tenkara, I could feel what I could not feel or see before when I was fly fishing.

I can do more with this simple method with less equipment, no sinking line, no throwing slack and drifting with indicators...

In my experience, I have had the luxury of time, the knowledge of hundreds of fish caught in my river. All I have to do is apply the knowledge of tenkara techniques putting the fly/kebari to where the fish are on longer rod and lines.

Let me explain a little about my background and experience in my home water.

For small streams in my area, my favorite is the Little Colorado. I have been fishing this stream for 50 years. Here, I stay out of the water whether I am fly fishing in the old days or like now, with tenkara. The rod I use now is 3.9m and I use a 5-6m line. I only use one zoom tenkara rod for all small streams and I am able to reach trout from behind the bank and I am able to work the whole width of the stream at less than 10’ across and 10 cfs (cubic feet per second.) The Little Colorado headwaters where I fish are at 10,000' in elevation and the stream runs petite yet a strong 340 miles out of the mountains and on through the desert to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

The Colorado River section that I fish is upstream from the confluence of the Little Colorado. My home section there is in Glen Canyon, right below the Glen Canyon dam. Flows of 14,000 cfs are high with an average of 10,000 cfs or so down to a low of 7,000 cfs. I fish 14 miles of this river below the dam to the famous put in for Grand Canyon float trips at Lees Ferry. In this area, the river cuts an enormous canyon 1,000' deep or more. The water ranges from a few inches to hundreds of feet deep, 40 yards narrow to 100 yards wide. It's a big western river and I am enjoying exploring it for the last 25 years with a fly rod and the last few with honryu tenkara techniques.

There are a few things that I find important for honryu tenkara fishing, understanding trout behavior, hydrodynamics, food sources and proper equipment and last but not least, good casting control.

Let's quickly explore each element.

Understanding trout behavior is key to catching them. Knowing where fish are and why they are, where they are is super important. Why are they in the shallows or suspended, fining around in an eddy circulation, what are they doing where they are at? What are they eating? Trout are typically eating all the time in a temperature stable river.

Understand hydrodynamics is important too; trout will position themselves in areas where they will not have to move much to intercept food. Movement takes energy, food is fuel, energy is expended at the cost of fuel and trout do not waste precious energy to feed themselves. They will be found where they can watch for insects, worms, scuds, chironomids, midges and bugs in the flow and simply open their mouths to catch and eat and or move very little to let the current carry them to intersect the food in the river flow. Understand how water moves and flows around objects. Understanding hydrodynamics is important to all aspects of fishing. Remember, fish will capitalize on places where they suspend in the current and use it to dart in and out of opposing currents to feed. Knowing where these areas are, even down to shoebox sized rocks, 6' deep, understanding that fish will utilize areas of reduced or increased flow is important to your catching.

For targeting fish, casting accurately is everything. If you can't get the fly/kebari to the fish, they can't see it to eat it. Practice casting your rod, using a methodical approach at gauging distance and pin point accuracy. Be able to utilizing the reach of your rod and line system across currents. Keep a tight line even when pulsing a fly with the flow. This tight line tactility is where honryu tenkara shines. Being able to feel the take is important to setting the hook and a tenkara rod is faster at setting the hook than a fly rod.

Specialized equipment for honryu tenkara.

Rods designed by the experts are 4 to 5m in length and made to cast long lines. There are many to choose from. I personally choose a Gamakatsu Suimu 5m single hand rod. I pair level lines up to 10m with the Suimu. I make my lines out of clear limp fluorocarbon made for conventional casting rods. I do not use colored lines, the water I fish is crystal clear and sometimes thin. I don't need a color line to see, I'm fine with a clear line. I'm utilizing all the attributes of a tenkara system for a river and feel is just as important as seeing. River trout are much larger than small stream fish. There are times when a large trout will take a dead drifted fly and turn and swim downstream with the flow, in this case, with tenkara, I am not dead drifting, I am moving the fly at the same speed as the current with a tight line and the system will telegraph the fish taking the fly faster than a indicator or bobber. I'm using tenkara techniques in a river, not using a tenkara rod as a substitution for a fly rod.

Photo by Noah Trahan
For my net, I use a tamo. A Japanese round net is ergonomic to moving from spot to spot. I forget that it is there. When it is time to use the net, reaching for it and landing the fish is easy. There is plenty of room to secure the fish with the round shape while removing the hook. The netting is fine and the colors, the aesthetics of a finely crafted Japanese round net are amazing. I choose a little larger net of 35cm or so diameter, a small stream tamo is about 25cm. Your regular fly fishing net will work fine, a round net is not necessary.

Wading equipment should match the water conditions. Most rivers will have rounded rock bottoms of various size stones that are slick with moss. Without getting into a debate about felt vs. rubber, choose what ever type boot you like. I use a rubber sawanobori (Japanese shower climb) boot sole with neoprene socks and spats when I am shallow wading. If I am probing deeper into the river, I use a chest wader with a felt sole bootie. When I am honryu fishing the Colorado River, I am back hauled upriver and set up camp. I fish the area and then packraft back downstream however many miles to my car. Equipment must be chosen carefully in order to be compact enough to fit in a 65 liter waterproof bag, that includes my camping, sleeping, personal effects, fishing gear and the kitchen.

I am a minimalist on the river just as I am on the stream.

My honryu tenkara can be grouped into two types of adventures. One is up canyon to areas that can only be accessed by boat, camping, fishing and floating back to the put in. And two, drive up or hike to river fishing. Both are exciting yet I find the river camping, honryu fishing and packrafting back much more stimulating and focused, honryu tenkara + packrafting is my favorite.

My experiences are foremost yet I study Japanese media and speak with expert anglers on the subject in order to learn more about how other anglers practice honryu tenkara.

Photo by Noah Trahan
Recently, I have found the resource material by Discover Tenkara very similar to my own undertaking. Paul Gaskell and John Pearson are working directly with the honryu anglers in Japan to teach and share this technique. By far, the Discover Tenkara resources are easier to obtain than the Japanese material that I have spent quite a bit of time and effort requesting from friends and purchasers in Japan. My experience of fly fishing, then learning tenkara, then trying fly fishing techniques with a tenkara rod, then tenkara techniques with up scaled tenkara equipment was a long road of failure and then success. You can quickly and efficiently learn honryu tenkara by focusing on the English language Discover Tenkara tuition.

As I approached writing this for Michael Agneta's "Tenkara Angler" I wanted to expose what I consider some of the best multi-angler resources and I thought to myself, I'll just ask Paul Gaskell what his approach to honryu tenkara is.

What follows is a verbatim communication between Paul and I.

Adam: Paul, I’m writing a piece on Honryu Tenkara. I think your stuff on the subject is good. I’m of the opinion that honryu tenkara is not fly fishing in a river, it is tenkara in a river with up scaled (longer rod/line) equipment, not fly fishing, tenkara. 

“What do you think? Is it tenkara or fly fishing with a tenkara rod or both or ?” 

Can you give a few words to be included in my article? I like your contribution to this method, I would like to include your thoughts as well as references. Thanks.

Paul Gaskell: I think the best overall resource of ours is the article on this link:

Honryu Tenkara: Tackling Big Rivers with Big Fish
Tenkara is only for little fish in tiny streams right??

There is an earlier article (from 2014), where (as far as I can tell) we first introduced the term "Honryu tenkara" to English-speaking tenkara anglers, but that is (necessarily) less detailed than the article above where we benefited from 5 more years of experience.

The honryu tenkara tactics that I've been shown in Japan - and then practiced in Japan, Italy and in the UK - have a really different "flavour" or gut-feeling compared to "fly fishing with a tenkara rod". I think that distinction is a result of the strong background in "regular" Japanese tenkara that the people who have worked on developing Honryu tenkara in Japan possessed. Already being on a particular track tends to control the destination and you certainly feel the extension from a very distinct "Japanese" base when you see great honryu anglers in action. Some of those elements are the fly first delivery (even on long casts) the high rod fishing position - with the associated diligent holding of as much casting line off the water as possible, but you could argue that those are present in other styles of fishing too (Italian styles of fly casting can concentrate on fly-first delivery of dry flies - and competition nymphing with long leaders or traditional soft-hackle wet flies fished upstream emphasis "line off" tactics).

So I think it is the level of attention to detail - such as the subtlety of manipulation of flies (when they are not being fished dead drift) and especially the development of the skill of feeding slack down the line between each pulsation of the fly. This last point relies on a great sense of touch and a well-balanced rig of rod and casting line. It is the angler's ability to control the rebound of the rod blank during the loading/unloading while you "pulse" a kebari that is key. Done well, it creates an almost elastic-band sensation as the line draws tight and then little coils of slack travel down the line during the pause between each pulse. 

Level line is, I think, the best tool for this. I'm sure that terminology will develop over time as techniques and understanding continue to mature - but I have a personal hierarchy of terms that help me keep things straight in my own mind. I like to think of "tenkara rodding" as a useful term for using tenkara rods to tackle species or waters that are outside the rapid coldwater streams and salmonid fish that are the home turf of tenkara. This also nicely captures the use of western fly lines/rigs attached to tenkara rods - for example fishing poppers for bass. Basically, this gives people a good clue as to what's effective in different situations. So, I can be "tenkara rodding Euro nymphs" one day or I can be "tenkara rodding poppers for bass" another. That is really helpful to other people wanting to recreate the sport that you had. 

I think it's important to keep "Fixed line fly fishing" as a top-level category ABOVE tenkara. This is because there are many traditional methods of "fixed line fly fishing" around the world (tenkara is one). In Italy alone you have Pesca a mosca Valsesiana as well as "Scurriazzo" and "Frusta Fiorentina". That last fishing style has at least a little bit in common with Honryu tenkara but with even longer rods (around 6-m) and multiple flies used to tackle big river terrain and chest-deep wading. Tenkara (as distinct from tenkara-rodding) has a connection to the landscape and the culture of mountains and you definitely feel that coming through in modern Honryu tenkara. That feeling is what makes it a different experience from the (equally fun) fishing of western rigs and tactics on a tenkara rod. They are each different - but not less.

It might be handy to point people to the "Apennines" section of this article for more on Italian traditional/fixed-line fly fishing:

Fishing in Italy is Paradise
Whatever your style of fishing, Italy has it all

Adam: Thank you for your contribution Paul, I appreciate it.

In closing, if you are looking for more in your tenkara, you might want to try fishing in rivers with specialized longer tenkara rods and lines for catching, playing and landing the larger fish there. Many people have helped me with the Japanese techniques in learning honryu tenkara. I want to share what I've learned by passing it on here.

I hope you find this article useful, good luck and take care.


Further Resources
Hiroshi Watanabe:
Kazunori Kobayashi:


First of all, I want to thank all of my friends for participating.

Wikipedia describes the word as a container for arrows. A quiver is an English word of old French descent, the Japanese word for quiver is yebira but here, I use the single word to briefly describe the whole kit that you chose from for your tenkara.

A quiver is often used as a slang word for a collection of boards that surfers choose from when they go surfing.

You put together a collection of tenkara rods as you gain knowledge but you only use one at a time depending on the day’s conditions as you go fishing.

This survey will consist of a form letter (e-mail or message) sent to tenkara fishers across the globe so that we can learn about the diverse choices while comparing notes.

As you fill out the form, please consider sending in one or two pictures that show your quiver preferably at home or however you want to present it.

Below is the template for your submission. Write as little or as much as you want. A few sentences for each section is what I used for mine.


Name: (include your web site, company, experience, anything you want)

Rods: Write about your collection but focus on the rods you use.

Lines: Describe the lines that you use.

Kebari: Write about the kebari/fly you chose.

On stream: Describe your wading equipment and what you choose to carry it.

Notes: What inspires you? Your approach to tenkara and anything you want to say about the equipment you choose.


List of Participants

David West Beale - Russell Austin - Go Ishii - Chris Theobald - Brent Auger - Peder - Paul Gaskell - Rob Ruff - Daniel W Galhardo - John Sachen - Keiichi Okushi - Christopher Laurent - Stephen Boshoff - David Walker - Isaac Tait - Michael Agneta - John Geer - Jason Klass - Anthony Naples - Toshirou Todoroki - Chris Stewart - Scott Anglin - Tom Davis - Adam Trahan


David West Beale

Web Site:

Lines: These days I mostly use level #3 Yamatoyo fluorocarbon on my modern ‘sport’ rods, usually set to about the same length as the rod I’m using. I prefer green casting line as it shows up best in most UK conditions but doesn't spook the fish too much. If I’m fishing with bamboo it has to be horsehair casting line, which I build myself, sometimes on stream. I like level, four-strand horsehair, dark in colour but with a light coloured front section. Tippet is normal nylon though I’m experimenting with hand furling silk tippets.

Kebari: My preference is for stiff hackle Futsū kebari. I feel that for my kinds of fishing I can do more presentations with these than with a soft hackle, but when I do fish soft I like a swept back hackle, sometimes with a small copper bead. My ties are pretty scruffy and buggy looking and must be quick and simple to tie. I rarely use more than three ingredients - thread, hook, feather, and don't use glue or varnish if I can help it.

On stream: For genryu style tenkara I mostly wet wade with Little Presents neoprene gaiters, Simms wading socks and Soft Science Terrafin wet wading sneakers. For Honryu I’m more likely to use full chest waders and studded boots. Otherwise, one rod, a small scoop net, one box of flies, haemostats and a spool of tippet - that’s about it, unless I’m hiking of course.

Notes: What inspires me? Nature, places and fish, and anglers from any discipline who show a deep connection and respect for the natural world. These are the people that I have learned the most from, and not in any technical sense but more in terms of developing an instinctive approach to fishing.

In terms of equipment - that is tenkara rods, I’m inspired by good design, quality manufacture and rods with a story. Mass production and brand is increasingly less attractive to me, probably why I love mu Wazao and Karasu rods so much. My rod collection is small but carefully chosen - both iterations of the Karasu rod (360 & 400), DragonTail Hellbender, Esoteric 245 - 206 zoom, and my beloved 3m bamboo rod - beautiful to hold and behold, to cast with and to catch with. It is made by master craftsman Masayuko Yamano in a process staged over several years. 


Russell Austin

Professional: Designer / Creative Director

Personal: Collector of Jamaican music for over 25 years (mostly 7", 10" and 12" 45rpm singles), builder and owner of a vintage "of era" sound system playing (rock steady, reggae & dancehall from @ 1968-86).

Discovering Tenkara: Late one evening in 2016, I stumbled on a YouTube video of a young thru-hiker (Joe Brewer) who was about to complete the "Triple Crown of Hiking" (AT, CDT & PCT) and began watching all the videos on his channel while living vicariously through them. In one video he comes across a gorgeous little alpine lake just above the tree line, stops and extends this telescopic rod with no reel and a line already tied then begins plucking trout from the water. Immediately a lightbulb went off for me – hiking to remote places, a highly portable / minimal gear set-up and a fishing method that emphasizes simplicity and presentation – I wanna do that, sign me up!

Rods: My first rod purchase not coincidentally, was the one used in the Youtube video – the "Sato" from TenkaraUSA. This is the rod I learned to cast on and still own today.

I later picked up a used "Ebisu," also from TenkaraUSA because I had heard positive reviews plus it was no longer in production at the time and a Nissin Air Stage 240 for seeking out panfish/sunfish during the warmer months here in Austin, TX.

As for the rods I currently use the most, there are three:

Suntech Keiryu Special 27 (@ 9.5 ft / 2.7 m)
for use on small alpine streams, or where there’s lots of overhanging trees & vegetation to contend with

Oni Type III (@ 11ft / 3.4m)
for anything and everything

Nissin Zerosum ONI Honryu 395 (@ 13ft / 4m)
for use on large rivers or where there's the possibility to connect with anything over 16 inches

Lines: I pretty much use the size #3 Nissin ONI Ryu Orange level line with all three rods under most conditions. If there is little to no wind I'll keep a spool or two of the #2.5 to use with my Suntech and Oni rods. Like many others I just prefer the way level line "turns over" on a proper cast and the minimal amount of drag it exhibits once the fly hits the water.

Recently, I have been enjoying the hand-tied, furled nylon "Sebata Yuzo Line" with my Oni Type III and Oni Honryu rods. Although they are more expensive, they are apparently made by "Tani no Okina (Old man of the valley)" the man himself and I'm a big fan of Mr. Sebata.

Kebari: This is an area I'd like to simplify and refine. Right now my approach is based on a foundation of style, color and weight on either a size 14 or 16 hook (strictly barbless).

For style, I have simple versions of traditional Sakasa Kebari (reverse, soft hackle), Jun Kebari (forward / western direction, soft hackle) and Futsū Kebari (stiff hackle).

For color, I usually stick with a black, white/cream and beige (Zenmai works great) version for each of these styles.

That's pretty much it, but that's more than enough for me to work with. Also, I've had great results adding a tungsten bead to all three of these styles but especially with the Futsū Kebari!

Last thing I'll add is that I'm also learning to tie my own flies so the three styles listed above keep tying both interesting and challenging for me.

On stream: Describe your wading equipment and what you choose to carry it.

If I'm a decent hike away from the car I always bring my Zimmerbuilt Dead Drift pack since it can hold everything I need (first aide kit, extra rod, flies, line spools, lunch & snacks, water, etc.). If I wanna go super light, I'll take my little X-Pac from Yonah packs (just enough room for fly box, lines, tippet and other small necessities).

I have a strong appreciation for quality, hand-made products and can't say enough good things about both Zimmerbuilt and Yonah Packs, support those guys they're good peoples.

Either way, I always carry a pair of nippers + hemostats, solarized glasses and lightweight fishing gloves + hat/bandana/tenugui for sun protection.

Most of the time I'll also bring a net or Tamo, I personally just find it easier for me to remove the fly and less stressful for the fish so I can get 'em back in the water and on their way.

Notes: The complete experience of Tenkara for me is about achieving balance. As a designer by profession, the concept of balance is also vitally important so I'm highly inspired by simplicity, efficiency and the pursuit of honing a practice. This is where I personally feel Tenkara really delivers and has been tremendously rewarding for me through my journey so far. I'd say the equipment I choose also adheres to this criteria as well, although as a visual person I'd be lying if I didn't mention that aesthetics plays a significant role.

Spending more time outdoors, appreciating the beauty that an experience in nature provides is food for my soul and a reset button for my mind. As for an approach, there are many individuals and sources I get inspiration from but none more than that of the life of Mr. Yuzo Sebata. Not only his approach to Tenkara, it's bigger than that – his appreciation for what nature provides, self-motivation and challenging experiences no matter what age and ultimately as a result living a more balanced life.

I'm still very much a student in Tenkara but I'd say that's my goal: to achieve more balance. I'm not nearly there yet but continuing to learn and work my way in that direction.


Go Ishii

I grew up in Japan, spent much of my teens and 20’s living in the US and the last 10 years in Tokyo. I have recently (August, 2019) moved to Hawaii to obtain my permanent residency in the U.S. and hope to spend the rest of my life traveling back and forth fishing in the mountains of Japan and trying out any other waters I may encounter elsewhere.

Rods: This is a tough one. While I may prefer long and light rods that allow me to have the vertical advantage for good fly manipulation, I also choose my rod case by case, depending on the environment of the destination.

If I know there’s plenty of casting space, I’ll always pick my Daiwa Rinfu 4.5 SR (discontinued). Even if the stream is small, this rod allows me to cast light lines effortlessly and the 4.5 meter length allows me to have very nice control over my flies (kebari), allowing me to utilize all of my manipulation techniques. It’s important to me that the rod allows me to turn my tippet in 3 directions; right, left and the regular turn over. In other words, it allows me to control the landing direction of the tippet to kebari (don’t think this will make sense unless you’ve fished with me). The only down side is, if I don’t have the space to cast with rods of such length, I just won’t have a good time or success out there.

In situations where I know the casting space will be rather tight, I’ll go with something around 3.6 m. I have an old Daiwa LT 3.6, or Karasu 3.6. Daiwa, I know is more durable, while Karasu allows me to make tighter casts. There are days when fish are under pressure you really have to be able to make pin-point cats when fishing in Japan. Gradient streams there don’t allow much room for error casts, or your fly will be swept away too quickly for fish to take it.

I’m a little bit against fishing tiny headwaters since (at least in Japan) it has been scientifically proven that those small waters help sustain trout population of waters below, but there are exceptions. Often times you find a short, tiny current coming through a ravine into the main current and you can bet there has be to be some trout that climbed up, especially when mainstream water is high. In situations like that I pull out my little 2.4 m hand-built bamboo rod I built under supervision of a whole-cane-bamboo-rod (wazao) builder, Yamano san. High quality bamboo he’s able to harvest, age and temper provide fishing experiences like no other. Catching as many fish as possible just isn’t as fun as it used to be for me, but I enjoy the challenge and the return I get from any success fishing with traditional gear.

Lines: I always have a #3 nylon line in case there’s no wind. You couldn’t cast this line at all if there’s even some moderate wind but when you’re able to cast with it, it’s like a big bonus day. I have had some amazing experiences fishing with light nylon lines. The usual line I fish with is fluoro carbon #2.5. I could effectively cast up to 6 meters but I usually keep it about 1 meter longer than the rod. Then I’d have my tippet between 1.2 m to 2.5 meters depending on what the water looks like. You’d have to be on a river with me to understand the difference there.

Kebari: I used to tie a lot of them. All the time. But with studying maps, routs, gear, training for genryu and all, tying has become a bit of a painful task for me. So, I mainly rely on my fellow anglers and new friends I meet. The trick is to ask for the kebari they use or like to tie and when they pull them out, give a whole lot of complements. Talk about details and sound real about your appreciation for them. Most of the time I end up with a few of their kebari in my hands! The challenge is to try to bring out the full potential of the kebari you didn’t tie yourself. Sometimes you get it, and sometimes that kebari just remains a mystery… but do know, that people like what they tie, so as long as they feel flattered, you won’t have to tie kebari…

On Stream: If it’s a day trip, it’s fairly simple. A backpack with lunch and water, or even some beer, and what little you need for gear. Tenkara is a simple method of fishing for a reason, I think.

Notes: Those professional anglers who fished tenkara had to carry a lot of other gear, to spend days, or even weeks up in the mountains fishing. We carry the same tradition today, when we fish deep in the mountains. We have to carefully select what gear and food we have to carry, the weight of it all depending on which route we take, the destination, etc . That time you spend with your buddies sitting around a fire after a long day working up rough terrain in the mountains, drinking and cooking is sometimes better than the fishing experience itself. I love tenkara because it allows you to do so much more than just fishing. With that said, the gear selection becomes a whole lot more interesting when you take it deeper into the mountains, and we all love that don’t we?


Chris Theobald

I am a carpenter from Ketchum, Idaho. 

Rods: I have two Tenkara Rods, both are in the four meter range. One has a smooth forgiving action which I find perfect for small to mid sized streams. The other has a fast and strong action that works perfectly on larger rivers that hold potentially huge trout. Both are suitable for fishing the high alpine lakes I like to hike into with my family. However, I tend to prefer the more forgiving rod for this. The smooth action tends to blend perfectly with the serene setting of alpine still water. 

Lines: All of my Tenkara lines are Constructed with fluorocarbon level line. For small to mid sized streams, I tie two high vis main lines: 4 meter#3 tied directly to tippet ring for small streams. 5 meter #3.5 tied with 30 centimeters of clear tip and tippet ring. For larger rivers I tie a 6 meter # 4 high vis main line with 45 centimeters of clear tip and tippet ring. For alpine lakes I tie clear 6 meter# 3.5 main line tied directly to tippet ring. Tippet for all lines is generally 5 X fluorocarbon in varying lengths for different conditions. I will occasionally use 4 x for large fish. 

Kebari: I am a true fan of Zennmai Kebari. I tie mine on a traditional Japanese bait hook with a bead cord eye. I use Hungarian partridge for the hackle. I prefer itʼs action even though itʼs less durable than other hackles. If I need weight, I add 4 turns of copper wire to the tag end of the hook. 

On Stream: I carry a cup of flies in a pocket, nippers hanging on my neck, forceps for fly removal, and a fish whistle. For long sessions,I may wear a fanny pack for snacks and water. My footwear is wading Sandles for small water and wading boots with neoprene socks for larger water. 

Notes:  I love the simplicity of Tenkara. The lack of Unnecessary equipment and overwhelming boxes of flies allows me to focus more on my fishing technique and the beauty of my surroundings. Nature is more fulfilling to observe with a relaxed mindset.


Brent Auger

Co-Owner of DRAGONtail Tenkara
Web Site:

Many people have a great place in their house where all their fishing gear resides. Mine lives mostly in my car or sometimes in a tub in my garage ready to go. That may change as I get older but for now it is ready to go fishing on a whim. My extra gear sits on an industrial shelf at our DRAGONtail office, nothing glamorous.

Rods: There are 2 Tenkara style rods I use most of the time, the NIRVANA 400 Tenkara rod and the DRAGONtail HELLbender 390 rod. I love 13ft Tenkara rods and use them anywhere I can get away with it on small streams, small and medium rivers. I probably use the NIRVANA 400 Tenkara rod 70% of the time as I like it for small fish and medium-large fish and the casting action is perfectly to my liking. I use the HELLbender rod when I am fishing non-traditional Tenkara for large trout with heavier flies, I do a lot of this in the late fall and winter months.

When the small stream overgrowth is too tight I am forced to use shorter rods I like to use the Tanuki 325 or the new DRAGONtail MIZUCHI 340z Tenkara rods. I have also been a big fan of all the NISSIN Royal Stage Tenkara rod series.

I also have about 25 different Tenkara rods currently that I use from time to time, as a Tenkara rod company I feel that using many different rods from the US and Japan helps me develop a better understanding of what I like and dislike in many different situation. 

Lines: I use both Tenkara level lines (#3.5 orange color) and Tenkara furled lines (mostly yellow or chartreuse color).

For small streams I like to use level lines that a little shorter than my Tenkara rod but if there is much wind I like to go with my Shogun Light Furled Line or, for really windy days, the Nodachi Wind Casting Furled Line.

For small rivers I like to go with my Shogun Light Furled Line that is 1-3 feet longer than my Tenkara rod. If I plan on using a longer line than that or if I am casting larger flies I like to use the Nodachi furled line because of the ease of casting it at long lengths or with weighted flies.

Kebari: I only use the iconic forward-facing kebari soft hackle flies in mountain streams and creeks; this is where I find they are most effective. I probably use them 20% of the time and my favorite is the Grave Digger Kebari.

I tie a small stiff hackle kebari fly with a feathered tail that I fish anywhere. I fish it in the top surface, just below the surface or 3-5 inches deep. I like this fly anytime the fish are feeding top water. I probably use this fly 40% of the time lately.

My favorite fly the past 2 years is the Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle size 12. It seems to work anywhere any time. I usually use it whenever the fish are not feeding top water. Probably use this fly 30% of the time.

During the fall and winter months I am chasing larger trout in untraditional-Tenkara methods. I sometimes use leach patterns (size 10-4) for these situations. You would be amazed at how affective a leach patterns are when dead drifted with a Tenkara rod or with some small timed twitches that is so easy to do with a Tenkara setup.

On stream: I wear waders most of the time. I don’t like to have to change clothes after fishing so I take the time for waders. I like light SIMMS waders currently for the summer months but I have a pair of Caddis waders that I love for the colder months or for walking through brushy areas, Caddis guide series waders are tough and low priced. Both of these waders have been great and don’t leak for many years, I can recommend them both to anyone.

I also carry my gear in a medium sized sling pack with the normal essentials, I have a larger sling pack from Moonlit that I love but I have been liking the sling pack from Yohan Packs as well. I don’t go real small because I like to take some extra gear or a lunch from time to time.

I usually carry 6-8 different lines on the NIRVANA Tenkara Line Holders in the medium-thin size. I also like the clip-on line winders for going from spot to spot through the brush.

I use small cheap plastic compartment fly boxes, I like that I can see what is inside, they are super light, and they don’t matte my flies hackle.

I have 2 nets, a small wood net and for big fish Tenkara I use a large carbon fiber Fishpond Nomad Emerger Net.

Notes: I am always interested in what the experienced Japanese Tenkara Anglers use and why they use it and sometimes incorporate that into my own Tenkara path. Having said that, I also like my fishing hobby to not be that serious and I color outside the lines quite a bit because I like to. For example, If I see a fly (kebari or not kebari) that in the moment interests me I try it out (or my version of it) and learn how to use it effectively. I like my Tenkara hobby be influence just as much by a whim of the moment as it is by the common Tenkara style (or gear) that comes out of Japan. This is what makes me happy.



Rods: I have owned about 15 different rods. With the exception of one rod, all of them were from Japanese manufacturers. I think the most I've had in my quiver at one time was 6; rotating them out as I experiment and figure out what I like and do not like. After almost seven years of experimenting, I've started to narrow down my selection to just those that I like and fit my fishing style. My rods of choice are now the Karasu 360 and 400, Oni Type 1, and the Daiwa Sagiri 45MC.

Lines: I only use level line. Mostly use #2.5. If it is windy, I will use #3.5 and recently started trying a #4.5. When the weather is perfect (or close), I will also use a #2.5 nylon line. I mostly use 5 meters of line plus about 1.5 meters of tippet. For tippet I use TroutHunter 5.5x and 6.5x.

Kebari/Flies: There are too many to talk about here. I have been tying flies for 35 years - something I love to do. I love to experiment and try new patterns and materials and am certainly not a "one fly" kind of guy. I would say that 70% of my fishing is with wet flies/kebari (both soft and stiff hackle) and the other 30% is with nymphs/bead heads. I don't use dry flies, it's never been my thing.

Wading equipment: I've been wet wading since I started fly fishing 34 years ago. I use a pair of Korkers Darkhorse, neoprene wading socks, and Little Presents gaitors. I occasionally carry a wading staff with me, but not always. If the day is short (4 hours or less) I carry a sling from Vedavoo with fly boxes, line a few tools, and water. If it's a longer day I will carry a pack and also include food and sunscreen and possibly a rain jacket if needed. Last but not least, I carry a net from Dragontail.

Notes: I'm mostly inspired by the Japanese form of tenkara, primarily through what I learn online (unfortunately, I've never been to Japan - one day). I fish freestone, fast flowing mountain streams for trout in New England.


Paul Gaskell

Rods: It is probably no surprise that the two main rods I currently use on stream are the Karasu 360 and the Karasu 400. Of course I also own a range of rods (including a Nabeya 4.5m, Shimano ZL 34-38, Oni Type 1, 2 and 3) that I also fish from time to time. However, some rods I save for certain occasions and these give me special enjoyment too. They include my home-made lacquered bamboo rod as well as a lovely bamboo rod made by Shouichi Saito. Perhaps slightly left-field - but also extremely enjoyable - inclusions would be the $10 shrimp fishing fixed-line rods that I brought back from Japan for my sons to use. I even have a soft spot for “Lucille” my self-confessed “worst rod in the world” that I made very roughly and fished with for almost a full trout season a few years ago.

Lines: The vast majority of my fishing is done with level fluorocarbon tenkara lines – most often in a pale milky/olive green (Valcan) in sizes #2.5 to #3.5. For my bamboo rods, I really like using horsehair lines. I have several home-made ones as well as prized possessions of those made by Hisanobu Hirata of Shirotori and Kazuyuki Yamada of Akiyamago.

Kebari: Most of the time you will find me fishing either a stiff-hackle (black thread body, ginger hackle or black hackle) kebari (as a wet fly) or my favourite long/soft hackle kebari with a purple thread (or strands of purple dubbing) head – adapted from Masami’s pattern that uses brown thread. I choose and vary the sizes of my flies using the methods I designed and published in the book “How to Fool Fish with Simple Flies”.

On-stream: In warm weather I wet wade using quick-dry leggings (with mountain biking shorts over). The neoprene socks I use are either long ones made by “Water Climb” or, more commonly when I’m travelling, the Palm Index kayaking socks that John Pearson put me onto. The shoes are 5:10 water tennies or “Zone” sawanobori shoes and I prefer the gaiters with the integral knee pads also made by WaterClimb for sawanobori. In cooler weather – or just when the water is mainly over waist-deep – I use regular fly fishing stocking foot/breathable waders (in common with most of the well-known Japanese tenkara anglers as it happens!). However, I still use water-tennies (sized larger) over waders and I also tend to add my gaiters over the top to protect the fabric of the waders when kneeling.

Notes: I think what I get most enjoyment out of is the appreciation of all the gifts (whether of experiences or of physical “gear”) from all the inspirational tenkara anglers I’ve met. For instance, I love to use the fly box that Kura-san made – as well as the bamboo rod or horsehair lines made by other great anglers. In the same way, I also carry the weight of all the knowledge, culture, stories and tactics that the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet have been kind enough to pass on. The tenegui (headscarf) given to me by Sebata-san has his Japanese Kanji slogan on the importance of respecting mountain culture. All these things are extremely personal and give me a huge amount of joy. I probably own more tamo (nets) than I strictly need…


Rob Ruff

My name is Rob Ruff, I grew up in NJ and I have been fishing ever since I was a kid. I fished with various methods including baitcasting and spinning gear. I have fished both fresh and saltwater. In 2015 I was looking for a method for fish the spring creeks in southeast Minnesota without being encumbered with traditional fly fishing gear. I stumbled upon tenkara and that was the ticket.

I have gone through several different rods and brands since 2015. My current lineup suits the areas I most frequently fish: Tenkara USA Iwana 360cm, Tenkarabum 36, Daiwa Sagiri 39 and 45 MC, Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39, Sakura Seki Rei and a Daiwa X54. With this group of rods and lengths I can cover various types of water from small creeks to larger rivers.

I started out with furled lines but in time I have switched exclusively to level lines only. I generally stay in the range of #3 to #4 and my general use line is a #3.5. I keep the line rod length or slightly longer but I do have a 16 foot line if I encounter fish that are spooking easily. The tippet is normally 5x but I keep 6x on hand just in case.

With regards to flies, I use the traditional kebaris but I keep on hand some of the more typical flies one sees when western fly fishing such as, elk hair caddis, parachute adams, midges and beadhead nymphs. I focus more on color than pattern and the most often used color I find at the end of my line is black. I feel that color provides a great deal of contrast while it is in the water and therefore, it’s easier for the fish to see.

I don’t like wet wading so when I am in the water I’m always clad in some type of wader ranging from hip to chest. Hip waders are Chota Hippies, I have Frog Toggs waist waders and some nice Patagonia chest waders that I’ll used during the winter months. Wading boots are Korkers because I like the ability to replace the felt soles when they wear significantly or if I’m fishing in a place that discourages the spreading of invasive hitchhikers.

The tenkara technique is outstanding because it allows me to get into the outdoors, in areas with exceptional beauty, to enjoy the wildlife and get away from the day to day grind of life and it can be done with minimal equipment. Traveling light in the backcountry is key to having an enjoyable outing. I hate lugging around unnecessary gear if there is no need to in order to enjoy a hobby. I have traveled to several western states and used tenkara exclusively. Being able to bring all of my gear in a day pack and 3 to 4 rods in a single cardboard mailing tube makes airline travel super easy. I have never had an issue getting through airport security either.


Daniel W. Galhardo

Founder of TenkaraUSAintroduced tenkara outside of Japan in 2009

While one would think I’m a tinkerer when it comes to rods and other equipment, the reality is that what attracted me to tenkara, simplicity, is exactly how I continue to practice it and how I approach my usual quiver. Sure, I do have a large “collection” accumulated over the years in the forms of gifts and collectibles, and once in a while I do focus my time on testing and playing with different gear for my business. But, the reality is that 90+% of my fishing is done with the quiver I will describe below. It doesn’t change much, it does what I need it to do in a variety of conditions, and it keeps things simple.

Rods: I have a large collection of rods at home, everything from all the prototypes I have played with over the years, to some beautiful gifts received and some collectibles. One of my favorite items, that sits on the “tenkara museum” here, is a Tenkara USA Ito rod with a bamboo handle. Adam Trahan made this for me years ago, and it was beautifully done. I have fished with it 3 times now, but mostly I want to keep it in good condition at the museum here. It shows what a combination of modern production and craft looks like. For most of my fishing I estimate that use the Ito for some 80% of my fishing, be it relatively small streams close to home or bigger waters. Another 5% of the time I like taking the Sato, which is a bit lighter and fishes well in some of the tighter places here, a further 5% of the time I will carry the Hane, which is more compact and fits with my mountain bike kit or mushroom foraging basket more nicely, it is our adventure rod and I use it as such. And the last 10% of the time I’m playing with prototypes or unique rods, and I go through phases. Recently I have been enjoying using our anniversary edition of the Ebisu, which was one of the earlier rods I developed and this iteration has been a lot of fun and a bit nostalgic for me.
Lines: I have two Keepers that I have pre-rigged with the following lines, which I use almost all the time with the exception of when I’m playing with prototypes: Keeper 1, which is what I pack for fishing the local smaller waters: a short line of about 11’6”, this is our nylon tapered line, and a 15’ level line 3.5. Keeper 2, which is usually pack for when I know I will be going places that have larger waters: 14’9” nylon tapered line, and a 20ft level line 3.5. This is basically what I use all the time.

Kebari: My fly box has primarily the 4 fly patterns we carry at Tenkara USA, and occasionally you will also find flies that people give me along the way or that I may find on trees, and the oddball that I may tie during a fly-tying gathering. I fill my box up with several Oki (a fly I designed that is larger and combines several elements of flies from teachers of mine in Japan), it also contains several Amano flies, Ishigaki flies, and Takayama flies. When people give me flies at shows or gatherings, those will go into my box and I will use them until I lose them. I don’t feel super strongly about the fly I am using, but I generally like the Oki or the Amano flies best, they seem to move nicely in the water. 

On stream: What I carry on the stream varies a bit depending on conditions, length of time I will be staying out, air temperature, etc. During the summer I primarily wet wade. If I am going somewhere with the focus of fishing and it is warm out but I will spend a lot of time in the water, I will wear wading boots, really like the Orvis and the Korkers boots with the BOA system, and neoprene socks to keep my feet warmer. If I will likely be hiking primarily and can spend more time on the shore or skipping rocks, I will just use some water shoes such as those made by 5.10, such as the Access. If conditions get a bit colder, or perhaps I know I will have to spend a lot of time in the water or crossing streams, then I will wear waders, and am very partial to those made by Orvis these days, good fit, good durability and flexibility.
Notes: As mentioned above, I am mostly inspired by the simplicity provided by tenkara, and I enjoy taking advantage of that and not complicating my fishing or my quiver. I stick with simplicity because that’s what I was looking for when I discovered tenkara.


John Sachen 

As a native Arizonan I grew up bait fishing in local ponds, high mountain streams and lakes for panfish and trout but ironically after living in Japan for nearly 30 years I returned to my home state and was introduced to Japanese style fly fishing by you Adam. Ever since that first outing at Clear Creek in 2015 I have taken a Pit Bull approach and latched on to tenkara and believe I am hooked for life.

Rods: My primary quiver consists of three rods which cover most conditions where I fish. I also have a couple other rods which I rarely use and keep around as spares and as loaners when taking out first timers. All of my primary rods are manufactured in western Japan by Uzaki-Nisshin, a major rod manufacturer that started up in 1948. In most places I fish, I use either the Nisshin Zerosum 6:4 360 or Zerosum 6:4 400, and I have to say that though I have not tried a lot of different rods, the Zerosum are lightweight, balanced, accurate and are a pleasure to cast all day long. The rods weigh 65g to 75g respectively (2.29 to 2.65 ounces). I almost always have both rods with me since I am hard on my equipment, have over aggressive hook sets (driven by pure excitement) and admittedly this has resulted in broken sections as I push the rod’s limits and go after fish much bigger than the rod was designed for. Thank you Chris Stewart for your quick turnaround service on getting me replacement parts! Don't get me wrong, the Nisshin rods are of the highest quality and most breakages are due to the user who needs to work on his muscle memory and be more careful as to what I wish for when targeting strong fish in the 20” plus range in tail waters and big rivers. These rods are not designed for large fish or big water but at the same time they are very capable. In any case, these two rods are such a pleasure to use for what they are designed for, i.e., targeting fish in mountain streams. My third Nisshin rod is a 3-WAY Keiran that is designed as a Keiryu bait rod. It can be fished at three lengths, 5.2m, 5.8m and 6.3m which provides me with extra reach on big water and allows for unbelievable dead drift capabilities given the length. The rod weighs 160g or 5.64 ounces and therefore is a two handed rod. I never fish this rod on streams but keep it for use on big rivers and tailwaters where I fish it tenkara style.

Lines: In most conditions I use fluorocarbon level line #3 in pink for my two tenkara rods and depending on conditions and location, I will generally set the line length to just above the top of the cork handle or approximately 12 inches shorter than the rod length. I use fluorocarbon tippet number 0.8 which is 5x and start out with attaching three to five feet of tippet to a stopper knot at the end of the level line. I find this system is most effective for highly accurate casting and drag free presentations. I do however use other line lengths depending on conditions and sometimes use Yuzo Sebata’s 7m (23 feet) hand furled taper line on both my tenkara rods and the longer keiryu rod which is a line that casts very nicely.

Kebari: I mostly tie my own flies using Firehole hooks in sizes 12-16 and though I enjoy experimenting making different types of flies, nymphs, streamers, when nothing is working for me I almost always have success when I go back to the basics, put on a dark colored reverse (soft) hackle fly
 and put emphasis on technique and enticing fish rather than just presenting some pattern the fish are not interested in latching onto. I always have two fly boxes, one for dry flies and nymphs and the other for simple kebari patterns.

On stream: My gear and outfit is fairly simple and what I pack largely depends on the destination and how far and long I will be away from the car. When going out for the day, usually off the beaten path I always carry two rods, two spools of tippet, two to three line lengths (level and furled), a lanyard with nippers and forceps and two fly boxes as described above. On big rivers, tail waters and lakes I will also bring some streamers. I use a Tenkara USA Tamo for most conditions and a larger net when targeting bigger fish or wet wading in deeper water. I always carry a pocket knife, Sawyer water filter, bear bells, whistle, lighter, a flattened roll of 12 feet of duct tape, bear spray, waterproof bag (wallet, keys), waterproof phone case and small tube of sunscreen. All of this fits into a medium sized Montbell shoulder bag that I sling on my backside. On occasions where I need more space to carry a small rain coat or compact down coat or vest, I will use an Osprey backpack and sometime use both where the Montbell bag can be adjusted and worn as a chest pack when wet wadding. My standard outfit includes neopreme socks, Astral wet wadding shoes, neopreme knee high gators, quick dry tactical pants, quick dry, long sleeve UV fishing shirt, UV buff, cap, gloves and Maui Jim polarized sunglasses and strap. I do not have a wadding staff but will pick up a fallen tree branch on occasion to get me through slippery territory on stream. I usually keep the food and snacks simple (nuts, energy bars, PB&J) and rarely take alcohol on day trips.

Notes: Now into my fifth year of fixed line fishing using tenkara gear, I am grateful for everything you taught me Adam as I set out to develop my own style of catching fish. On my path to learn more, hone my skills and adapt to different conditions, I find it important to remind myself from time to time that it is not about the destination, number, type or size of fish but more so the impressionable moments and fellow fishers I meet along the way that I need to appreciate while exploring the beauty of the great outdoors. I fish most weekends year around and my work takes me all across the US so I get to explore and fish big and small water using tenkara equipment not only here in Arizona but also in California, Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, Massachusetts and beyond. My three primary rods fit nicely in a Japanese made Gett rod bag (Joshuya Fishing Store original) and is perfect for airline onboard travel. Being fluent in Japanese language (spoken, written) allows me to do a lot of research on Japanese websites, read books and journals published by the masters and communicate with fellow anglers in their native language. I have family in Japan who I visit two-three times a year but have yet to fish there so that is something I am really looking forward to on a future visit where I can explore the waters where tenkara originated and broaden my experiences and knowledge of fixed line fishing.


Keiichi Okushi

Web Site: Tenkara-ya - Genryu Fishing of Japan

Doing genryu fishing for 25 years (Tenkara and Fly Fishing)

Rods: Write about your collection but focus on the rods you use.

Saoshosaku Traditional Bamboo Tenkara rod 3.1m

Daiwa Expert Tenkara LL36

Nisshin Zerosum Tenkara 360(7:3)

Daiwa Sagiri 39 MC

Nisshin Pro Square Super Tenkara 360 Level Line

I mainly use the bamboo Tenkara rod and Zerosum Tenkara 360(7:3)

Lines: Describe the lines that you use.

Basu (Traditional horse tail hair furled taper line) for the bamboo Tenkara rod.

Furled taper lines and taper lines for Zerosum Tenkara.

Kebari: Mainly dry flies, sometimes traditional kebari.

On stream: I basically use like ultra-light fishing tackles and camping gear.


Christophe Laurent

Web Site: Tenkara Enso

I have been fishing trout since I was a kid. Now my freshwater fishing is exclusively tenkara.

Rods: After testing a very big number of rods I have kept only a few that are those I really fishing with such as Tenryu Furaibo TA, Shimano LLS 36 and Shimano Honryu 44NP and Nissin Fuji-ryu Airstage. I still hesitate to prefer the Nissin Mini 32 to the Nissin Ramon 290. Both are great rods.

Lines: What I have understood with experience of my own and studying seriously those of Japanese tenkara rod designers is that you have to use a rod with the line it was designed for.

For the Tenryu rods I prefer using Sebata furled lines. I was very lucky to have lines made by Sebata-san and offered by him at the Tadami bansho during a stay in Japan. These lines are so high quality that I still use them four years later and they are still like new! Definitely not the same league than not-tenkara lines from Europe, USA or China.

Shimano tenkara rods, and especially those designed by Hisao Ishigaki aka « Tenkara Daio » are designed to reach maximum performance with #3.5 or 4 level lines. This makes casting very easy and comfortable. Having tried them with lighter level lines the casting was really more difficult.

Ishigaki knows what it is all about to bring people to tenkara as he has taught it to thousand people for forty years.

During a stay in Japan I was very lucky that some friends arranged a visit to the father of modern day tenkara Hiromichi Fuji. I visited his workshop in Kyoto and he explained me his furled line design, demonstrated his unique furling machine and offered me some. They are perfect for easy casting and pinpoint accuracy.

The length can vary from 11 ft to 25 ft and they are equally performant, incredible lines that Nissin offers that anyone should try.

Kebari: I generally carry a small quantity of kebari, very rarely over a dozen.

My own kebari developed by my experience of tenkara is a zenmai-dou, very simple pattern with stiff grizzly hackle in hook size 12.

I also carry a few Sebata kebari, his own zenmai-dou or the famous black stocking thread sakasa kebari.

Extras can be some Ishigaki sakes kebari and Fuji kebari.

On stream: My wading gear is a pair of sawanobori boots, a pair of neoprene spats and that's it! I carry a keiryu tamo.

My non-fishing gear (stove, food, fire, etc.) is carried in a sling pack or in a minimalist quiver if I only have a little bit of time for a few casts.

Notes: With my tenkara experience I have learned that only the Japanese gear was truly adapted to this fishing style.

Tenkara to me is not fly fishing as we know it in the West. Tenkara has its own history, culture, skills, and one truly important thing to me: its own state of mind. Tenkara is anti-competition, it is on the contrary the simple pleasure to go fishing with friends or alone and only for your own enjoyment.


Stephen Boshoff

I am an urbanist and bamboo rod maker from Cape Town, South Africa. I do not have a web page but can be reached via Facebook. 

Rods: I use a 3m Sakura Kongo. It packs small enough for carrying in a backpack (most of my mountain stream fishing involve overnight hiking into rugged “kloofs”). I like this rod so much that I bought a spare.

Lines: My lines, ranging in length from 3 to 3,3m, are hand furled from sections of Stroft tippet loosely following a pattern from a Japanese book (paragraphs of which were translated by tenkara-fisher). 

Kebari: For the past season I have almost exclusively used a simple extended body dun inspired by Gary Borger’s Hair Wing Dun. I tie the two material (thread and hair) fly on barbless hooks ranging in size from 18 to 12.

On stream: Depending on the length of trips I will use a small Richardson chest box, a Japanese style tenkara fish basket that I made, or a South African made waxed canvas and leather daypack by Brothers and Son (reminiscent of US Frost River packs). I make my own nets, sometimes with longer handles than the traditional Japanese tamo. My knee and shin wader guards were made by a local surf shop.

Notes: I am inspired by what I observe and read. My “way” is minimalist and making as much of what I use myself.


David Walker

Ninth year tenkara fishing, which got me back into fresh water fishing. Probably better at fishing for odd tenkara fishing trivia than at fishing skill. I mostly only go fishing for 1 ~ two hours at a time. At the most convenient river to get to from where I am. I no longer bother driving two or more hours just to fish a different stream as I did when I first started tenkara fishing. I am just as happy catching a fish 10 minutes away as catching fish a few hours away. That being said, I do little fishing near my home, fishing is not that good near home. Most of my fishing in on streams near the family vacation house, which is four hours from home.  Most of the rivers in the state  originate in the same county. I am almost 100% C & R.  Prefer stream fishing, but sometimes fish in lakes.

Rods: Mostly I prefer fishing wide open area rivers. Therefore a preference for fishing with 4m rods: Suntech Tenkarabum 40, Karasu 400, Oni 1, Tenkara Times Watershed 400. Less often Nissin Air Stage 450 or 3.9 m rods; Nissin Royal Stage 390, T.T. Try 390, TUSA Sato or Ito at shorter length. When fishing narrower rivers, where tree limbs extend over much of the width of the river I will fish with 3.6m rods; Daiwa LL 36, Nissin ZS 360, Nissin Pro Spec 360. Only very rarely (not in a couple of years) fishing narrow tight streams with shorter rods such as; TUSA Rhodo, Nissin ZS 320, Tanuki 275. But this summer I have only fished with the 4 m rods.

Lines: Most often I fish with a line that is 0.5 m ~ 1.0m longer than the rod I am using. Less frequently a line same length as the rod or longer than RL + 1m. I do a bit of experimenting with different types of lines; braided lines, horse hair lines, etc. Why take someone else's word for line characteristics? Try them and see if you agree. In general I prefer FC LL as light as I can get away with. YGK Ultrasight 2.0 or TUSA 2.5 or various other lines of 3.0 or 3.5. I like the Fujino or TUSA tapered nylon lines and some tapered lines made by different sizes of FC LL. And Fujino Straight lines or similar, no coil memory. I also like the Sunline FC Sniper BMS lines, size 2 & 3.5 Generally I like to use larger diameter line spools, ~ 90 mm, fewer turns required to wrap on the line, especially longer lines.

Kebari: Mostly I fish with kebari I tie myself using only two or 3 materials. Or kebari tied by friends. Some I have purchased, mostly just to study how more skillful tiers tie their kebari. Preferring size 12 or 10 barbless hooks or barbed hooks with the barb crushed, often they seem to hold better than some barbless hooks, but still easy to release the fish. I tie a few size 14 never smaller, more often than size 14 I will tie a few kebari with size 8 or six. Which seem to also be readily taken at different times during the fishing season. Sometimes copies of old kebari patterns in old Japanese books.

On Stream: I don't wade unless I have no other choice. Chota Outdoors Hippies, chest waders & boots. Recent addition of Korkers boots with changeable soles. I do not carry much on the stream: one rod, an extra line or two, tippet, and fly box in a Gossamer Gear backpack hippocket with an added shoulder strap. With attached dual gear keeper with forceps and small nail clippers. An old mesh fishing cap with extra long bill. Flip-focal magnifier ( I can't see as well as I used to). I have a Simms vest my son gifted me, I wear it sometimes in spring or fall when the weather is cooler. I have a tamo net, hand made by a friend, but do not often take it with me.

Notes: Learning a bit more about Japanese culture in general and more specifically their tenkara culture. And what I call the joy of casting. Not that I am very skilled at multiple casting techniques. But I just find it fun when the line lays out in a pleasing way and lands the fly first precisely at the target point. I don't like to be skunked and not catch any fish, but as long as I catch at least one fish, the fishing day is a success when I like my casting and enjoyed the time outdoors. Different combinations of rod and line require different casting rhythms so I enjoy developing the skill to cast each combination well. And playing around seeing if I can discover some new fishing technique that works that maybe are not taught by other people.


Isaac Tait 

Website: Fallfish Tenkara

Rods: I own two tenkara rods: Tenryu Furaibo TF39-TA - DT Karasu 360

Lines: I use Fujino tapered lines in the 4.0m and 4.5m lengths. I also really like to use nylon level line, when it is not too windy though. I keep coming back to fishing long tippet usually at least 100cm sometimes up to 120cm. My presentation and action increases exponentially when I use extra long sections of tippet (5x or 6x).

Kebari: I tie my own and I have a lot from friends too. I am not really attached to any one patterns but I do really like the presentation afforded from eyeless hooks using a loop of thread to replace the eye.

On stream: I carry a Zimmerbuilt Tailwaters pack and my Simms G3 Guide jacket for warmth and rain protection. I wade normally in my Montbell Sawanabori shoes from Japan along with neoprene socks and shin guards.

Notes: I believe that the raison d’être of tenkara is to catch trout/char in a mountain stream.

Furthermore, the ineluctability of tenkara is found in the opportunity it affords to immerse oneself in creation and experience the rejuvenation and connection of being in an ever changing environment of a cold mountain stream.

I would be remiss to not also mention my appreciation and enjoyment of the camaraderie in the community of tenkara that spans generations, culture, and politics.


I've been a tenkara enthusiast since 2009, hard to believe it's been that long. Tenkara has been my gateway to explore nature and meet new friends. I picked up the tenkara bug while I lived in Pennsylvania, and even though I now live in Florida, I still make it a point to make it to the cool retreat of the mountains often to pursue trout in their native range.

Rods: Oh, I have way too many rods (currently 13), and I tend to cycle through them over time, selling off one or two to pick up a new one every now and then. Ideally I'd like to get down to four or five, but I'm not quite there yet...

My first rod was the Tenkara USA Iwana 11' which I rarely fish anymore, but hold on to for sentimental reasons, and my current favorite is the Oni Type III, camo handle (of course).

That Oni... man, it's legitimately like a magic wand. So light in hand and effortless to cast. I feel like I just need to point it in a direction, flick my wrist, and the kebari drops with pin-point precision each and every time. It's also the perfect rod for my favorite kind of fishing, in cold mountain streams, under the shade of canopy, casting to small, native trout in pocket water, pools, and eddies.

Since I live in Florida, I do like to do a bit of fixed-line fly fishing for bass and bream in the local ponds when I can't head north or west to the mountains. The Dragontail Hellbender is my rod of choice for warmwater. I enjoy the balance of sturdiness and light weight in hand. It's a zoom rod, but I fish it fully extended.

Lines: I started with furled lines (and still use them for the aforementioned bass & bream), but have moved to and been fishing level lines almost exclusively in mountain streams when targeting trout. I'm not going to lie, I'm not a line snob, but I think (particularly for the Oni Type III) that a 2.5 or 3.0 level line seems to work best. No matter what the line, I fish a length approximately a foot to two longer than the length of the rod.

Examining the sections of level line I currently have stored on spools, I see some Sunline 3.0, a few different sizes of Dragontail branded line, Nissin PALS 3.5, and some Tenkara USA 2.5. For no reason whatsoever, it seems I like orange lines over pink or other colors.

Kebari: I'm probably what you'd call a "one fly" angler, although that one fly comes in a lot of different variants. The fly I fish most often is what I call my Road Kone kebari, a simple orange thread bodied fly with a bit of white hackle and a collar of peacock herl. I like the white hackle simply for better visibility of in-water manipulations.

The reason why I mention the variants is that I'll tie more or less the same fly, but sometimes with stiff hackle, sometimes soft. Sometimes with a beadhead, sometimes without. I mostly tie size 12s, but have been known to go larger or smaller. It's all about what I want to do with the fly in the water.

I've just started toying around with Shetland Spindrift yarn as a tying material, but killer bugs and the like haven't made significant inroads into my fly box (yet).

On stream: I'm definitely a wet wading convert. Caravan keiryu spats paired with NRS wet socks keep the cold out, and either Five Ten Water Tennies (discontinued) or Orvis Ultralight wading boots help with my footing. Simple quick-dry shorts or pants and that's about it.

As far as the rest of the gear, I try to keep my on stream "kit" somewhat streamlined, but not spartan. Outside of the stuff previously mentioned, you'll typically find (in no particular order) the following items on me: a Tacky "day pack" fly box, Rising Nippa & ultralight pliers, Orvis or Rio 5X & 6X tippet, Nirvana Line Holder, a small Measure Net, an extra universal tenkara rod cap, a Buff, Sawyer picaridin bug repellent, a Squeeze water filter, and a snack (Clif bar, etc...). My phone serves as GPS and camera. I will say I rarely go fishing without a Zimmerbuilt pack of some sort. Large or small, they are a perfect companion to carry whatever amount of gear you think you may need.

Notes: Tenkara can be as simple or advanced or (dare I even say) complicated as you make it. So can your quiver of rods and accompanying gear. In the end, I look forward to reading what everybody else has to say in this compilation, comparing notes, and learning something new. Because even when you think you have it "figured out," somebody's going to come along and show you that new angle you just hadn't considered. Diversity like that is what makes our tenkara community awesome, and stokes my flame for fixed-line fly fishing.


John Geer 

Works for Tenkara USA

Rods: I have pretty much all the rods that have been offered by Tenkara USA and one Sakura rod. They all have their place, but I mostly fish the Ito and Sato, although our Anniversary Edition Ebisu has been taking some time from the Sato.

Lines: I try to get some time in with all of the lines we offer so I can speak from experience to customers when they ask about them. They all have different pluses and minuses, but for my personal fishing on mountain streams large and small here in Montana, I’d be mostly happy with just a 3.5 level line in 12, 15, and 20 foot lengths. If I’m fishing western dry flies, I might use one of the tapered nylon lines, but even then I usually use a level line. That’s not the line I always recommend to beginners, though. I think a big part about finding “your tenkara” is figuring out what line or lines work best for you.

Kebari: I usually use black or grey kebari in a size twelve. Sometimes I tie a big size 8 Takayama style with orange thread, usually fished with a pulse presentation. Sometimes I’ll fish smaller sakasa flies, especially in the early or late seasons. I like fishing kebari/flies that people give me almost more than my own. I get really bad cracked hands, and that slows down my tying. The hands were ok at the recent Tenkara Summit, so I was able to sit and tie with friends and trade for a lot of different flies. I’ve been fishing a lot with the flies I traded for since the event, and my friend Daniel Pierce sent me a bunch of flies after I was complaining to him about my bad hands, so I’ve been fishing those a ton, too. He uses turkey leg feathers for them and they fish great. I will fish western dries in certain situations, especially if I’m working with less experienced anglers or there’s a really exciting event going on.

On stream: I usually wear Simms Waders and Korker boots when it’s cooler. I like the interchangeable soles on the Korkers, but usually just where rubber or rubber with studs. I do wet wade a lot in Summer, all two weeks of it here in Montana.

A lot of times I’ll just put a small puck of flies and tippet in my waders or shirt pocket, but if I’m carrying a camera, or western flies, etc. I’ve actually gone back to wearing a vest quite a lot. I try to keep it pretty empty and light, but like how a vest sort of keeps everything at my fingertips, especially a camera. I want fast access to that if I’m taking pictures of fish so I can release them more quickly. If I’m traveling, I usually just have one of our strap packs, which will hold all the fishing gear I really need. A vest is also nice if you’re carrying a net. I usually don’t, but when I do it’s usually kind of a big one so it’s nice to hang it off of my back as opposed to my belt where it could drag.

Notes: There’s a lot to love about tenkara, the places you fish in, the aesthetic of the method and all the accouterments, of coarse the fish themselves, but the big thing for me now is the friends I’ve made, from Maine and New Jersey to Texas and California and lots of places in between. From a professional standpoint, I’m inspired when I talk to people that are just really enjoying our equipment, especially if they’re using it to get more of their family involved. That really strikes a cord with me as I get older. 


Jay Johnson 

I run the Facebook group “Headwaters” and I’ve been fishing tenkara since 2013.

Rods: In the past, I have used rods from Shimano, Nissin, Oni, Suntech, Tanuki, Tenkara USA, and Tenkara Times. As of right now, I am fishing with Discover Tenkara Karasu 360 and 400 rods. Only having a couple of rods helps me focus on casting consistency and performance on stream.

Lines: Describe the lines that you use.

For extremes in wind conditions, i use 5.5m of #3 nylon level line and 4m-5m of #4 fluorocarbon level line. The nylon line is extremely delicate, easy to keep off the water, and helps improve my casting. It can, however, test my patience in a breeze. The heavier fluorocarbon makes windy days a bit more tolerable, but isn’t the best at keeping line off the water.

A majority of my fishing is done with 4m-6m of #3 fluorocarbon level line. I like to fish fluorocarbon level line down to size #2, but it can be difficult to see these smaller lines in certain lighting conditions. #3 fluorocarbon is easy to see and light enough to avoid too much line sag.

Kebari: Most of my fishing is done with either a size 12-14 stiff hackle kebari or a size 6-10 soft hackle kebari (not sakasa). I prefer to catch fish as close to the surface when possible but if I need to get a little deeper I’ll use a beadhead kebari with stiff hackle. It’ll sink a bit faster, but not like a rock, and the hackle still allows the fly to catch currents to use with various techniques and presentations.

On stream: I prefer wet wading for 95% of my fishing, using lightweight wading shoes, neoprene socks, and neoprene gaiters. I’m usually carrying a daypack and a small net. My lines and fly box fit in a Zimmerbuilt strap pack.

Notes: I am heavily influenced by Japanese genryu anglers. I love mountain stream fishing and Japanese anglers seem to take it to the next level. Yuzo Sebata is a legend, while the current generation of genryu anglers are just as inspiring.


Jason Klass

Website: TenkaraTalk

I’m Jason Klass, author of TenkaraTalk, the oldest English-language tenkara blog. I’ve been fly fishing since I was 13 and tenkara fishing exclusively for trout since 2009. While I respect the traditional methods of tenkara from Japan, I do not take it as dogma and unapologetically practice my own version of tenkara, which includes techniques and flies that many purists might not consider “true” tenkara. What some call “appropriation”, I call “assimilation”, and I embrace the evolution tenkara has taken in the West. I think it honors the tradition rather than insults it.

Rods: I currently own about 50 tenkara rods, mostly because companies send them to me to review on my website or to help test new prototypes. There are a lot of good rods available today (almost too many), but I typically ending up using one of a handful of favorites, depending on the type of water I’m fishing (and my mood).

General Trout Stream Fishing: Hands down, my favorite all-purpose tenkara rod is the Oni Type I. Its 13’ length and crisp action fit my casting style and it’s the perfect choice for most of the streams I fish in Colorado.

Small Streams/Small Fish: When I feel like going a little more UL, I like to use my Oni Type III or Tanuki Snow 325. Both are shorter, lighter rods that are more suited to smaller waters and smaller fish.

Lake Fishing for Trout: For high alpine lakes, I prefer my Tenkara USA Ito. That might seem like a strange choice for a stillwater application since it has such a soft tip and it’s often windy, but when zoomed out to its full length of 14’ 7”, the extra reach is a great advantage in stillwaters when you need more distance. Plus, the action stiffens up at full length.

Warmwater: I rarely use a fixed-line rod for warmwater fishing, but when I do, I use my Tenkara USA Yamame if I’m tossing larger streamers, or my Tenkara USA Amago if I need more reach. Both are relatively stiffer rods that can handle longer lines, larger flies, and levering bass out of the weeds.

Lines: Over the years, I’ve tried every type of line out there, yet always come back to a simple, level fluorocarbon line. I use Tenkara USA orange #3.5 line almost exclusively since it casts easily across a spectrum of rod actions and the color is the easiest for me to see (I don’t use strike indicators). A rare exception is that I might use a long floating PVC level line for stillwaters. But the #3.5 line handles 99% of my trout fishing.

Kebari: I love fly tying too much to susbscribe to the “one-fly” approach. So I use a wide variety of flies. However, my most effective is the double glass bead Takayama Sakasa Kebari. This fly has everything that makes a pattern great: The red abdomen catches the fish’s attention since red is one of the colors trout can see best, the glass beads add flash and weights, and the forward-facing hackle gives the fly a lot of action when manipulated. Plus, it incorporates peacock herl, whose iridescence has legendary fish-catching properties. It’s also a versatile fly. I can fish it in a variety of presentations: upstream dead drift, downstream swing, side-stream pulse, etc. I have yet to tie this pattern on and not catch anything on it.

On stream: When possible, I prefer to wet wade, so I wear my Chacos. But I own hip boots, wading pants, and chest waders which I switch between depending on the water temps and locations I’m fishing.

I’m a minimalist when it comes to what I carry on stream. I’ve distilled my entire kit down to a simple Yonah chest pack with just one fly box, a few tools and a couple of tippet spools. Aside from that, the only other piece of gear I carry is an old Tenkara USA tamo—the one Daniel Galhardo gave me back in 2009.

Notes: What inspires you? Your approach to tenkara and anything you want to say about the equipment you choose.

How do I choose my gear? Whimsy mostly. Sometimes, I’ll choose to take a rod to a particular water that isn’t necessarily the most logical choice, but I just feel like using that action that day. It’s kind of like waking up in a certain mood one day and deciding to spend the day with a friend who has a certain personality that is just right for you that day. Each rod has its own unique personality.


Anthony Naples

Website: Castingaround

I write about my fly fishing and tenkara experiences on my blog My home streams are the streams of western and central Pennsylvania from my home base in Pittsburgh PA.

Rods: I had amassed a large number of rods and have been working on thinning that down to the few rods that I actually use often. Right now the rod I’m most likely to use is the 3RT Confluence 2 way zoom rod which can be fished at 12 feet or 10.5 ft. I had worked with Oleg of Tenkara Times to produce that rod as a good and very affordable all-around type rod and I sold it for a few years (it’s no longer in production). My attitude was that if I’m going to sell something then I ought to use it - and so that’s what I did. Even though I had much more expensive and high-end rods, that rod become the go-to.

After using that rod so often I am just used to the way it fishes and it’s so familiar to me it just feels right. Mostly these days I’m fishing the limestone spring creeks in Pennsylvania and I know that rod can be fun with small fish but also handle the big ones pretty well and it casts the dry-dropper and nymphing rigs that I’m using on those streams. The Tanuki Ninja and Nissin ONI Honryu 395 are the two other rods that I might take on the limestone streams for use with western flies, nymphs and techniques.

If I’m going to be fishing a small mountain stream with small fish and I’ll be using more traditional unweighted kebari then the ONI Type-III rod will come along. The ONI-III is a soft, slow action 11-ft Japanese tenkara rod that is fantastic for small stream tenkara.

Lines: After messing around with all types of lines I have settled almost exclusively on orange #3 Nissin ONI Ryu Fluorocarbon Tenkara Level Line. I like the color and opacity of the orange ONI Ryu line, it seems to be the most viable for me personally and against the color background on my streams. My line lengths will vary based on fishing locations and techniques.

If I am fishing a large river and casting larger flies I may also use a floating level line made from a competition style mono-core euro-nymph fly line (0.022” diameter).

Kebari: Lately I’ve been focusing on brown trout in limestone streams and so I have been almost exclusively fishing small tungsten bead-head nymphs. Usually that will be a size 14-16 bead-head Sexy Walt’s Worm or a 16-18 bead-head pheasant tail nymph. I like to add a peacock thorax, white antron wing bud, and hot orange thread collar hotspot to the pheasant tail nymph. Mostly I’m using 2.5mm and 2.8mm tungsten beads. I like to fish dry-dropper rigs and for the dry fly I usually use a size 12 deer hair caddis. Throw in some size 12 peacock body Pass Lake wet flies and size 8 peacock body, bead-head black wooly buggers and that would be typical of my limestone stream fly box.

If I’m fishing mountain streams and doing a more traditional tenkara thing then I like size 12 red Takaya Sakasa Kebari as my tenkara kebari of choice along with deer-hair caddis dry flies.

On stream: For wading gear I use waist-high breathable waders and rubber-soled, cleated boots. On larger or difficult-to-wade streams I’ll make sure to have my wading staff too. I do not generally use a net, I’ve gotten used to landing fish without one. Without a net the real big ones will occasionally unhook themselves before they’re fully in hand - but that’s okay by me.

I generally just take a small waist-pack on stream with a single fly box, Loon Payette floatant and tippet (5X and 6X fluorocarbon). As for on-stream tools it’s just a pair of nippers and a locking set of needle-nose fishing pliers for those difficult hook removals. Though with barbless hooks most hook removals are easy to do without any additional tool.

And I always have a bottle of water in a bottle holder on my belt.

Notes: I guess I would just add that it can be tempting for me to wax poetic about tenkara and come up with philosophical and “deep” reasons that it continues to inspire me. I’ve certainly done that before. But if I’m really honest, there are two reasons that I’m still fishing with tenkara gear 10 years after picking up that first rod. Firstly - it works. Plain and simple. I am more successful that I was before. And secondly - tenkara gear has very little start-up inertia. I’m not a very organized guy - so the fact that fly fishing with tenkara gear is so very uncomplicated means that I do it more often and with less headaches and with more success.


Toshirou Todoroki 

Website: Kebari and Fly

/ I am a very old type of “ Tenkara-angler”

・・・It is more old "Kebari- angler " if perhaps・・・毛鉤釣り

And FB “Toshirou Todoroki”

I live in Nagano, the central mountainous area of Japan

Rods: First choice Glass fiber rod DAIWA “琥珀” 4m. Currently using "DAIWA-Tournament" 3.6~4m zoom tenkara rod ・・・For fishing in mountainous areas, bring a spare Tenkara rod.

Lines: “Fuji-ryu tenkara line” 3.6m~4.5m and 6m Twisted taper line Use properly according to the river width

Kebari: Use “Kebari” from the very old type to the latest type. I think that you can gain an understanding by visiting my website. ・・・Looking for old Kebari materials and reproducing
The classic “Kebari” from the middle mountains of Japan is a memory for me Depending on the mountain stream I visit, I will use it properly. 

・・・Donated “Old-Kebari” to Montana State University・・・

On Stream: I hope you can see the photos. 

Notes: I met friends all over the world at “Kebari” and “TENKARA”. That is the happiest thing for me. "Kebari" made with old technology and materials is rediscovered and reproduced with current technology and materials, and I think that it is to link old traditions to now ・・・I collect old materials and literature This is what I enjoy by kebari tying.

Thank you for reading.
I pray that you can safely enjoy Tenkara-fishing together.


Chris Stewart

Website: Tenkarabum

Started fixed line fishing in 2007. Started TenkaraBum LLC in 2010.

Rods: I don't know how many tenkara rods I own (personal ownership, not business inventory). More than ten. I probably have more keiryu rods than tenkara rods, though. I fish with five tenkara rods - the three TenkaraBum rods and the two Tenryu rods. I probably fish the TenkaraBum 36 and 40 the most.

Which rod I use on any given day is driven primarily by what I want to write about next for the website.

Lines: I like to experiment with lines. I'm a line guy much more than a rod guy. I fish from a 1.5 level line to a 4.5 level line. Occasionally hand tied tapered lines, occasionally horsehair, rarely furled. Latest favorite: size 4 white nylon line.

Kebari: Lately I have been fishing a kebari with a bright red head, hen pheasant hackle, peacock herl thorax and black or green floss body. I do a lot of experimenting with flies. For the last couple years, I've probably tied more flies without a vise than with one. I don't just fish kebari, though. I still fish a Killer Bug or an Overhand Worm quite a bit.

On Stream: For years I fished with a backpack. Lately I have switched to a ZimmerBuilt Guide Sling. I wet wade in the summer, chest waders in the winter.

Notes: I don't fish exclusively for trout. I don't fish exclusively in the mountains, I don't fish exclusively with Kebari. Thus, for me tenkara as practiced in Japan is just a starting point. However, I fully recognize that with respect to tenkara, you either learn from Japanese anglers or spend scarce fishing time constantly trying to reinvent the wheel.

No photo. The apartment is too much of a mess.

Best regards,



Scott Anglin

I fish mostly for wild trout in the Ozarks. I have been a fly-fisher for 25 years and a tenkara angler for the last 5 or 6 years.

Rods: I currently own and fish three tenkara rods. I have a Tenkara USA Iwana, a Tenkara USA Ito, and a Nissin Royal Stage. I usually prefer fishing the Ito, as I love the reach it provides.

Lines: I generally prefer to use fluorocarbon level lines. I like to use the lightest line I can get away with when fishing. There are times, however, I choose to use a very small diameter pvc-line when specifically fishing dry flies.

Kebari: I use an assortment of flies. I frequently fish nymph patterns. I rarely do the “one-fly thing” but admire anglers who do.

On Stream: I use waders and wading boots typically used by western fly-fishers. I currently use Redington Pro waders and Redington Prowler wading boots. I use a smaller size Fishpond waist-pack. I usually carry 2-3 spools of pre-rigged tenkara line. I generally fish 5x or 6x tippet. I really like Rio brand tippet. I try and stick with one small fly box with an assortment of flies. I usually carry one of my tenkara-style landing nets that I have built.

Notes: I am inspired by simply getting away for the day and the challenge of catching wild trout. I love the scenery of where wild trout takes me! Tenkara provides another way for me to enjoy being outdoors.


Tom Davis

Website: Teton Tenkara

Interests: Small stream tenkara, Japanese style preferred. I also like equipment reviews, especially rod reviews and analysis.

Rods: I've tried to get at least one rod from the major tenkara manufacturers.
  • Shimano: Mainstream ZE
  • Daiwa: Master Tenakra L LL36
  • Shimotsuke: Ten
  • Nissin: Air Stage Fujiryu 360 5:5, Air Stage Fujiryu 360 6:4, Air Stage Fujiryu 330 5:5, Air Stage Honryu 380, Zerosum Oni Tenkara Honryu 395.
  • Anglo & Co: Wasabi 36, Wasabi 40
  • Sakura: Seki Rei 360
  • Gamakatsu: Multiflex Suimu EX 4.0
  • Tenryu: Furaibo TF39TA
  • Oni: Oni type-I, Itoshiro.
  • Tanuki: XL-1
  • TUSA: Ebisu (original pine handle)
  • TenkaraBum: TB36, TB40.
  • Discover Tenkara: Karasu 360
  • Zen: Suzume
Rods I use the most (in order of preference, per stream type):
Headwater tight canopy (genryu): Zen Suzume.
Headwater open canopy (genryu): Air Stage Fujiryu 330 5:5, Oni Itoshiro.
Medium streams (keiryu): Unweighted kebari - Air Stage Fujiryu 360 5:5, TB36. Weighted or bead head flies - Air Stage Fujiryu 360 6:4, TB 36.
Larger streams (honryu): Oni type-1, TB40.

Lines: For the Suzume, Air Stage Fujiryu 360 6:4, TB 36 and TB40 I prefer a #3 fluorocarbon level line (orange with green sighter) to match the length of the rod.
For the Itoshiro, Air Stage Fujiryu 330 5:5, Air Stage Fujiryu 360 5:5 and Oni Type-1 I prefer a #2.5 fluorocarbon level line (orange with green sighter) to match the length of the rod.

Flies: For kebari style I prefer wool bodied flies in jun, futsuu, and sakasa kebari hackle styles. For bead head flies I prefer euro-nymphing style flies.

Tippet ring, yes or no: yes, I use them.

Knots: lillian to line - slip knot, line to tippet ring - clinch, tippet to fly - clinch.

Sorry for the quick response but I've got to go. I hope this helps with the survey. I can be reached electronically for the next year and a half.

Best regards and thank you for your friendship,


P.S. Adam, I forgot to include a couple things. On stream I rarely carry a net. I am trying more and more not to touch the fish. I’m using a Ketchum Release mostly. I have a small chest pack that I use and carry one fly box. I typically use 6X or 5.5X fluorocarbon tippet. I wet wade if the air temperature is above 65°. Otherwise I will use waders. I always have a wooden wading staff with me, regardless of what type of water I am fishing. I think that’s all I forgot from your questionnaire. Again, thanks for including me!


Adam Trahan

Website: Tenkara-Fisher

I’ve been fly fishing small streams since I was a kid. I also enjoy river, lake and salt water fly fishing. I make bamboo fly rods and enjoy crafting much of my fishing kit. In 2009, I put fly fishing on hold to learn tenkara...

Rods: I own three tenkara rods. This restriction is by design so that I can know the rod completely and understand totally what I can do with it. From longest to shortest I have a 5m honryu tenkara rod that I use for fishing rivers and mainstreams and at the Colorado River in Glen Canyon at home. I also use a 3.9m triple zoom tenkara rod for the various mountain valley trout streams I love. This is the one rod that I use for all of my tenkara. The third rod is really an extra rod that I allow myself just for fun. It is a Japanese made mini rod at 3.2m. It overlaps my tenkara rod and it will hardly be used for anything except throwing in a travel bag to take on a trip where there is really no chance of fishing.

Lines: For honryu I use 7 - 10m clear 15lb fluorocarbon with a tippet ring. For tenkara I use a #3.5 pink color fluorocarbon line with a 70cm fluorocarbon clear tip with a tippet ring.

Kebari: I primarily tie my own hooks and a favorite is my Wrong Kebari. If I want to sink it, I use a 2mm bead tied on the hook bend. I also use various Japanese Kebari in a box that I designed with the help of friends.

On Stream: I use a small fishing bag to carry my things, a tamo (net) by Mankyu, a small daypack, Japanese boots and spats (neoprene lower leg covering) and pin soles to wade. From time to time I use a wading staff.

Notes: I am inspired by the Japanese in choosing my tenkara equipment. I will not hesitate to experiment a little with different flys but my one fly, the wrong kebari is the primary fly I typically choose where ever I go. I have caught trout in so many watersheds in the Western USA and many in Japan. For my tenkara, my one sentence for my direction is,  "My aim is to travel and learn from my equipment while chasing trout."