Minimalism is Everything

Tenkara fishing is simple however the skill behind it is not.

This is the process of how I arrived at the way I practice tenkara.

Use a list to prove to yourself what you use and what you don’t need.

My definition of tenkara is more about skill than the equipment I carry.

The skill in reading water, the approach to a stream, the technique of delivering a fly can be honed razor sharp by using only what we need.

I suggest a process of improving your skill by using a written list. Write it all down, every last piece of what you carry in your kit. Go fishing. When you come back, the things that you didn’t use, cross off. The things that really helped you, circle. Carry the same kit next time and when you get back, cross off the things you didn’t use and again, circle the things that helped you. Now remove the things you crossed off and improve on the things you circled.

You carried two rods but only used one?

Next time use one. (You will learn to protect it.)

It’s a process of identification and elimination.

Use the list until you can do it in your head.

Focus on improving what you use, eliminate what you don’t and do that by being honest with yourself.

Filter your outlook on tenkara through this process.

Why choose minimalism?

Improving your skill in fishing is how you will improve over your lifetime.

Do you really need all that extra stuff?

I bet you use very little out of your kit.

I carry one rod, two lines, a few kebari, a nipper, a hemostat, rod un-stick pads in a small bag and sometimes a net, that’s it. The rod I use is versatile and compact. Each component of my kit is designed to be versatile and useful.

I use a zoom rod to handle a variety of stream types. I carry a long and short line to enhance the diversity of the zoom rod. I use a slightly heavier line to handle a little wind. I developed my own kebari, a style of fly that I use on the surface, wet or sink it deeply with the addition of hidden tungsten bead.

Focus on what works, get rid of unnecessary habits or equipment that you do not use. Move away from the comforts of stuff. Rely on your skill. Improvise in difficult moments, what you need to do with what you have. Minimalism enhances learning new skills. Fishing is about skill.

  1. Carry just what you need.
  2. Focus on improving the things you use the most.
  3. Your fishing skill becomes a process of improvement.

Minimalists are constantly sharpening their fishing skill. People that carry a lot of gear become good at shopping.

You only need what works.

Your skill determines your success.

Improve your skill by efficiency.

p.s. I was asked by Anthony Naples to write an article for his web site, "Casting Around" I have updated that article here. If you liked the article, there are more that go with it, "Wrong Kebari" -  "Casting Practice for Accuracy" - "Lightweight Travel Tips"

Genryu Fishing of Japan #44

One miracle day in the valley of Yakuwa.

The Asahi Mountains are a mountain district of 60km from north to south and 30km from east to west across the prefectural border between Niigata and Yamagata prefectures. Ohasahidake (1870m) as highest peak, there are ridge line of Shoujigatake (1482m), Itodake (1771m), Kankozan (169m) etc. are called “Asahi Renpo (mountain range)”. This mountain district is one of the heaviest snowfall areas in Japan, and many snow gorges remain even in the summer. In the area up to 1200m above sea level, a vast primeval beech forests spread, and there are many mammals such as Asiatic black bears and Japanese serows, and birds of prey such as golden eagles and goshawks. In addition, there are big mountain streams such as the Sagae River on the Yamagata Prefecture side and the Miomote River on the Niigata Prefecture side form deep valleys. This vast and untouched virgin forests and deep valleys do not let people go in easily. Yes, Asahi Mountains has one of the deepest forests in Japan. In other words, it is a symbol of nature in the Tohoku region. 

The Yakuwa River is the large mountain stream located in the northern surface of the Asahi Mountains. Along with the Miomote River, which flows in the south surface, it is one of the two major mountain streams that represent the Asahi Mountains. I think it is also one of the most famous mountain streams in Japan and is a sacred place for genryu fishing and sawanobori (river climbing). The flow of the Yakuwa River, which gathers the meltwater of the Asahi Mountains, which is the heavy snowfall area, is deep and strong, and we can not fish or wade at the time of run off or when the water rises after heavy rain.

The Yakuwa River has a Yakuwa Dam (We think such a stupid construction.) in the downstream, and popular fishing area is upstream from the dam backwater. The distance from the backwater to the fish-stop waterfall is about 27 km in distance, with an altitude difference of about 500 m. The altitude is from 400m to altitude 900. Faithfully going through this area doing fishing from the dam's backwater, it takes about 5 days and 4 nights. From the fish stop waterfall, you can go up to the mountain path on the ridge line by climbing an appropriate stream.

The Yakuwa River was famous for being a large mountain stream that flows through untouched wilderness, but it was also the Iwana who lived there that made Yakuwa River very famous. In Japanese mountain streams and headwaters, iwana and yamame are said to be big if they exceed about 30 cm. Unlike North America and Europe, iwana and yamame (Japanese native trout) can not grow that big in the Japanese natural environment. Although there are individuals can be exceeding 60 cm and 80 cm that have fallen into dam lakes, etc., individuals exceeding 50 cm are very rare in a natural mountain stream environment. I have been fishing in mountain streams for a long time. Occasionally I saw a 50cm class iwana that stayed in the bottom of the big pool, but I never caught it. Even under such circumstances, it was said that the average size of iwana in Yakuwa River is about 33 cm, and many of the ancestors of the genryu fishing caught iwana over 50 cm and sometimes over 60 cm in Yakuwa River. One angler said that he saw more than 10 big iwana starting with a 50 cm class at the top were lined up in the big pool.

Even now, every year, many genryu fishing enthusiasts go to Yakuwa River in search of the dream of a large iwana. It is said that the middle stream is most likely to catch the largest iwana. Walk for 6-7 hours along the river to Kakunedaira, the site there was the old zenmai hut (Hut for fern harvesting) that would be the base camp site. From there, the upstream section of Naga-sawa, Oguni-sawa, and Heishichi-zawa is the area where there is a lot of water and the highest encounters with giant iwana. Other than that, the pool of Komas waterfall in the begining of upper genryu area, and the vast pool of Ro waterfall that stands as the largest landmark of the Yakuwa River upstream are the points where the giant Iwana live. Many anglers had seen unbelievably giant iwana in the pool of Ro waterfall and from some day they started calling that giant iwana “submarine of Yakuwa”. It is a place like a legend. Beyond Lo Waterfall, it becomes the most upstream part of the Yakuwa River. This is not the place where many anglers can easily reach. And from there till fish stop waterfall is the last paradise, where large iwana sometimes over 40cm bend our fishing rod. 

Thinking about with travelling time to the river, it would take a week if you want to fish Yakuwa River from downstream to the fish stop waterfall. However, the anglers who can only take 3 to 4 days holidays like us can only enter the upper part of the river directly using the aforementioned mountain trail. In recent years, the most popular route to the upper part of genryu area is the route via Mt. Tengusumoutori down along Iwaya-zawa to the Yakuwa River, using the mountain trail from Oizawa, Nishikawa Town on the east side of the Yakuwa River. (By the way, this Tengusumoutori mountain is named after the legend that Tengu (Long-nosed goblins) made a dohyo (Sumo wresling ring) near the top of this mountain and played sumo, and there is still flat dohyo like place near the summit.) It takes about 8 hours for a healthy person to enter the Yakuwa River using this route. By the way, there is also a route that walks further down the mountain trail along the ridgeline and descends to Yakuwa River, which is a little upstream after climbing down through a small stream called Ushi-zawa. It is a route that you can go directly to the downstream of Hirogawara upon Komas Falls, making it easier to approach the Ro Falls.

This year, on the weekend of mid-July, I challenged this Yakuwa River genryu with 5 friends, Tsuru-chan, Yagi-san, Hama-chan, Fuku-chan, Matsuzawa-san. The route is via Mt. Tengusumoutor. I had fished the downstream part a long time ago, but this was the first time I went to the core genryu part. However, the rainy season was prolonged this year, and there was not much rainfall, but it was a rainy forecast during the schedule. Once the Yakuwa River is hit by a high flow, we can not do fishing or even wade the river. On Thursday night, we split into two cars and headed for Oizawa. It was already raining by the time we arrived at the gate of climbing trail at midnight. We parked the cars in the near-by museum parking lot and slept under the roofed entrance.

It continued to rain in the morning, but we prepared for departure, wore rainwear and drove to the trailhead by cars. Anyway, we decided to leave, and after 6:00 am, we started walking. The mountain trail first continued with a gentle climb in the forest, but suddenly it became steep climb after 30 minutes of walking. Rainwear has been soaked in the rain. On top of that, a sudden climb made a lot of sweat and my body became totally soaked. As the altitude increased, the temperature decreased. We took short breaks taking care not to cool down our bodies too much and kept on climbing. After 10:00 am, we finally passed through the forest zone and went into the low shrub zone, but we couldn't see the scenery because of fog. 

It was already around 12 o'clock when we continued to climb the mountain trail that continued from there and finally reached the top of Mt. Tengusumoutori. Although it was not strong, it continued to rain, my body was cold, and I was exhausted considerably. From there, if we walk along the ridgeline and descend Ushizawa, we may arrive at Tenba around 17:00. The weather was bad and the time was tight. Besides, spending the night just under the tarp in this bad weather would be hard. After a short discussion, we gave up the descent and decided to stay in an evacuation hut right below the peak. We walked about 30 minutes to arrive at the Tengu hut. The hut was a surprisingly beautiful mountain hut. The interior was just renovated with flooring, and a wonderful and comfortable space promised us a night where you can sleep with peace of mind.

From early afternoon, we had drinks and cooked small meals for drinks one by one. It was a hut on a minor route at the timing just before the mountain climbing season, so there were no other guests and we were in a state of chartering. At night, when I opened the hut window and looked outside, the rain was not so strong, but it was very windy like a storm. I thought in my heart that it was right choice not to go down into the river.

The next morning, I woke up after 4 o'clock with the sound Yagi-san cooking rice. The day before, I was able to have a rest enough on the day before, so I was very fine. I tried opening the window, but it was still raining and the wind was strong. To be honest, the weather looked difficult to decide going down to the river, but when a friend looked at the weather forecast on a smartphone (the hut was near the top of the mountain, the smartphone could catch radio wave.). It was saying “The weather was fairly stable today.” When we heard that, everyone suddenly got well. Then, we finished breakfast quickly and packed our backpacks. By the time we left the hut around 5:30 am, the rain and wind stopped, and a thick fog began to spread. But morning fog is a sign for good weather. We climbed from the hut to the summit and walked along the trail on the ridgeline, aiming for the descending point to Ushi-zawa. 

Occasionally the fog cleared partially, and we could see a spectacular view of the blue sky and the majestic Asahi Mountains. Our feelings became high. “This was the most regretful pattern if we gave up and went back home.” I told Tsuru-chan. Tsuru-chan laughed and nodded many times. Following the footsteps in the bamboo grass bush for 10 minutes from the descending point, we reached the head of Ushi-zawa. However, we were able to stand on the Yakuwa River for about 3 hours after repeating the zile works and climbing downs. Although water was a little cloudy due to rain for a few days, it was not bad that we can not do fishing or wading. We were relieved and immediately went over Komas Falls to the tenba.

The Tenba above Komas Falls were located on the terrace that is one step higher than the river and provided the comfort and spaciousness for six people to sleep. We quickly set up a tarp, made up a temba, and started to cook an early lunch. Around that time, suddenly the clouds disappeared, and a deep blue sky began to spread in Yakuwa's sky. The river and the valley began to shine in the sunlight. 

In that spectacle scene, we ate Udon cooked by Yagi-san in the riverside. It was so delicious.

At 11 o'clock, we prepared for fishing and went upstream. Iwana was fished from immediately upstream of the tenba, but average size of wana we fished was a little dissatisfied, because the size was 27cm up. In recent years, Yakuwa river has a lot of anglers during the season. After all, I think the fish had become sensitive to anglers. We saw some large iwana on the bottom of the big pools, but they were not atructed to our kebari. After a small hour of fishing and walking upstream, the valley suddenly opened, and a surprisingly wide Hirogawara (wide flat stream) appeared in the depths of this mountain. “Oku no Hirokawara”. It was very famouse area of Yakuwa River. Around that time, a perfect cloudless summer sky spread, and underneath it, the Hirogawara that shimmers in the sunlight was like a fisherman's Togenkyo. “This is a miraculous weather, a mountain god gift,” I told my friends. 

Hirokawara is dotted with the best points for kebari fishing. I was so happy to watch friends who cast the kebari against the current, backdrop of the rich forest and beautiful mountains. As I walked upstream, there were 4 or 5 of iwana in a big clear pool. I cast kebari as far from the downstream as possible and quietly. The largest iwana came surface and bit the kebari. It wasn't very big iwana, but I enjoyed a small fight and released him tenderly. He slowly disappeared into the depths of the pool. I was satisfied and felt I had enough today. I lay on the white sandy riverside next to the pool and looked at the mountains of Asahi and the blue sky. 

When Hirogawara continued for a while and the valley turned to the right, a big waterfall with a huge pool appeared. “It's Ro-taki (Ro Falls).” It was a much larger waterfall than I had seen in magazine photos. The waterfall that dropped a large amount of water and the deep blue pool were picturesque scenery with mountains in the background. Yagi-san caught a splendid iwana about 35cm in the pool just downstream of the waterfall. And we challenged the pool of Ro Falls, which seems to be 30m in diameter, by bait fishing. I felt that we could not catch iwana with kebari fishing in that too deep big pool. Unfortunately, Iwana floating in the upper layer could not be confirmed too. Yagi-san struggled for about 15 minutes, but the waterfall remained silent. We were just amazed and satisfied by that magnificent scenery.

Yagi-san and Hama-chan went over the waterfall saying they would fish upstream of Ro-taki, but we returned to Tenba. When we arrived at Temba about 15:00, a party of two people was making bonfire by the stream. They were the anglers from Sendai that Fuku-chan met at Yakuwa River at the same time last year. We exchanged greetings and talked sitting around the bonfire. When we were preparing dinner, Yagi-san and Hama-chan came back around 17:00. They said that they had better fishing above Ro-taki. They talked with a full of smile despite being tired. Then, in the evening, we started the party with guys from Sendai together. About mountains, fishing, stupid stories, we talked a lot until late. The calm night of Yakuwa valley, which changed from the previous day, went on. 

The next morning, when I woke up, it was raining. The sky was covered with thick clouds. The weather returned to the original rainy season sky in one day. I really wonder if yesterday was only one-day gift from the mountain god. Yagi-san cooked rice and Tsuru-chan made Iwana Kabayaki-don (grilled iwana rice bowl). We cleaned the tenba, packed our backpacks, and were sent off by Sendai guys about 7:30 to leave the tenba. Then, we had a long long climbing way of Ushi-zawa to the ridgeline. “It's three and a half hours,” someone said. "Then, the mountain trail to the cars for about 5 hours." I whispered in my heart and started climbing Ushi-zawa in the rain.

Making a Wading Staff

Two coats of spar varnish, one more coat and add in the grip wrap and leash, done like dinner

I used a simple lightweight hiking stick for fishing in Japan the last time I was there. It helped me nurse a an old sore and recovering ankle injury but the truth of the matter is, it helped me immensely on multiple water crossings we did. It also served as a third leg when traversing or descending a slope.

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When hiking, I use a set of poles that helps tremendously with stability and it actually helps ascend and descend at faster pace. I use the poles as I would if I was skiing. I plant the pole in front of me steps, plant the other, steps and I use the pole plant as a pivot point when I am turning on steep paths with hairpins.

The streams in my home area basically fall in to two categories, steep gradient with lots of rocks and shallow gradient with grassy and undercut banks. Both types of streams can benefit from the use of a wading staff.

During my fishing season, winter allows me to focus on the Colorado River in Glen Canyon. This is a classic big western river with heavy flow and a slick bottom. In my approach there with honryu tenkara, a wading staff will help as I am often moving from one place to another in deep water sometimes walking on "greased bowling ball" type rocks on the bottom.

My inspiration to make a wading staff comes from the fact that my travel hiking and wading pole is petite. It will not support my weight. Many times I've had to lean on it heavily and felt the shaft bow and was thankful that it did not give. I've stuck it between rocks and always have to let go, if I held on, it would break. I need stability, I don't need to get additionally hurt if my petite balance pole breaks.

Dr. Tom Davis from Teton Tenkara has been using a wading staff for some time now and swears by his. Chris Stewart uses one and his is similar to Dr. Tom's. Jean Santos and friends also use a hiking staff. Their staffs are made of wood and one piece, they will not break under normal conditions of hiking and wading.

So I decided to build one and this is my story.

image by permission of Jean Santos 

image by permission of Jean Santos 

image by permission of Jean Santos 

image by permission of Jean Santos 

image by permission of Jean Santos 

Further information on wooden wading staffs

Hardwood dowels
Ace Brand Wood Leaf Rake Replacement Handle
Elmers (waterproof) Wood Glue
Minwax Tung Oil Finish
Epifanes Spar Varnish
15/16" Flat Boring Drill Bit
Gear Keeper Retractors - TenkaraBum: Gear Keeper info on Wading Staff
Wrapping a Staff with Paracord

Teton Tenkara: Making a Human TripodMy Most Important Tenkara Item...
Discourse10ColorsTenkara: Wading Stick for Tenkara

Tenkara Videos of Wading Staffs in Use

Three blanks made, attaching the T-Handle with a stainless steel screw and wood glue

Tung Oil finish on the lower section is done and now I'm starting on the Spar Varnish finish

The handle is fit and tight with a oversized stainless steel screw to keep things together. Next session I will sand and glue the T-handle on and then varnish/tung oil finish. After that it's balance then wrap with paracord and grip. They are coming out nice and each one has some character but is bomber. I'm making one for my fishing buddy, I need to order some nice pink paracord for him so he will stand out nicely on the stream. I don't want him to lose it. If you are interested in purchasing the last one, let me know, look at the site and tell me what ever color you want and I will wrap it with that.

Designing a Level Line for Your Tenkara Rod

My line spool, from Sansui in Tokyo, #3.5 5.5m, 70cm #3 clear tip to tippet ring.

In designing a level line for my rod, I have quite a bit of experience behind me researching all the different tenkara "schools" in Japan. After a lot of experimentation, I landed in the level line camp and have been designing lines for all my tenkara rods this way. I think it will be fun to look back where I have been to get to where I am at in my craft.

My first custom tenkara line, a 00-weight fly line back end cut to length

In 2009, Daniel Galhardo started his company, Tenkara USA and I gave him a call and we decided on a rod for me. He told me which lines he sold and we decided on a furled taper line which I initially used but really didn't like it. Chris Stewart (of TenkaraBum) was selling custom lines for Tenkara USA rods and I bought a couple, I think it was my first level line. I gave those level lines a workout but it was so strange compared to a fly rod, I could not feel the rod load and I much preferred my cut 00-weight fly line. I used my floating fly line for the first year until I found out about the Japanese and their rich history of tenkara. I approached Sakura and they made me the North American distributor. I started fishing their unique braided tapered lines matched with the Seki Rei and Kongo.

Various furled and braided tapered lines

My interest in researching Japanese tenkara all types of lines took me to the different schools. I immediately took to the school of Kazuya Shimoda and his cut floating fly lines. He had many videos and Shimoda san is one of the heavy influencers of my early tenkara. Continuing my search, I started conversing with Eiji Yamakawa and he introduced me to the multi-strand custom made tenkara lines that were from the school of Hiromichi Fuji.

I built a line furling machine and began to construct my own custom made step down taper tenkara lines. More often than not, the type of line used was what differentiated the teachers. Tenkara anglers outside of Japan by and large are not aware that within Japan, there was so many different types of lines used.

Further into my interests, I learned about Hisao Ishigaki and his tenkara; he was teaching by using a level line for his style of tenkara. His approach to using the attributes of a tenkara rod for casting a fly/kebari was more to my style. It took me time to be able to feel the rod load with a light level line, I was so used to a heavier fly line but after a few weeks, I really liked it. And besides, you can quickly make a level line and be fishing in a few minutes, it takes very little rigging.

Multi strand furled lines from Yuzo Sebata and Eiji Yamakawa's Hiromichi Fuji style lines

It was a complete education in learning all the different lines used in Japan. More often than not, the type of line was all that differentiated the tenkara angler. Much of my Japanese tenkara library had dedicated sections on "how to make" your own custom lines. My favorite Japanese author, Soseki Yamamoto introduced me to a young Yuzo Sebata and the custom multi strand lines that he made and used in his area. Later, I was introduced to Sebata-san by Keiichi Okushi and even Okushi san had his own tenkara line secret.

At the time of my second visit to Japan in 2016, I had settled on to a level line configuration that had all the qualities that I wanted. I took those lines to Japan where several experts checked out my rod and line combination to their approval, "Adam san, this is a nicely balanced system." I developed my lines to what I wanted in my fishing. The Japanese didn't configure or use some of the materials that I used. In comparison, my fish count was in line with what they were doing in thin, clear and difficult streams.

I will share with you, the method that I use to create my own level type.

Level lines promote the attributes of a tenkara rod. Attributes being the ability to cast a very light line which is a plus for a stealthy presentation. A light line will not splash, if presented correctly, only the fly will light on the water surface or punch through the meniscus. There is no line slapping on the water running towards the fly to announce it's presence. When cast at distance, a light level line will allow very little "drape" or sag. When you can not see the fish take the fly/kebari, the line becomes an indicator and telegraphs the feel to the angler. The line is important to the system and should be created with assisting you in catching fish, not just to deliver the fly/kebari.

There are a few terms and line types that you should know when you are making a line or talking about them with your friends.

The lillian is the little hollow braided string on the tip of the tenkara rod.

A slip knot is used on a level line to attach to the lillian. The lillian wrapping through the slip knot loop twice before tightening.

To join the mainline to the smaller tip section, I use a surgeons knot. It is excellent when tying two sections of line together if they are not equal in size.

The level portion of the line from the slip knot to the stopper knot or tippet ring is called the "mainline."

stopper knot is often used to prevent the tippet from slipping off the mainline or the tip section of a level line.

There are many types of line you can use when configuring a level line.

Nylon lines are typically lighter in mass. Given the same size, nylon will present more surface area when casting and in wind. Nylon has a little more elasticity and generally floats. Clear Nylon has a higher refractive light index but it is still nearly invisible in water.

Fluorocarbon lines are heavier in mass and sink. Smaller lines can be used and presents a smaller surface area when casting and in wind. Fluorocarbon does stretch but has less elasticity and will sink slowly. Clear Fluorocarbon has a refractive light index that is closer to water rendering it close to invisible.

Braided level lines are multi-strand lines made of various materials such as dacron, kevlar and spectra. The properties of this line are all typically heavier, larger in diameter, present more surface area when casting and in wind, soak up water and become heavier, less stealthy and are more visible.

Because the level line is so small, it is easier to see when the line is colored, there are many colors to choose from when configuring a line.

I've used pink, green, orange, yellow and clear. I often fish in lush alpine streams that are low light with green foliage along the stream. A pink line is my preference for ease of seeing the line. I have also read studies that pink is a color that fades out first in water. A pink line is easy to see in low light and after using many colors, it is the color of my choice. Orange also works nicely but it is my second choice. For honryu tenkara, I choose a clear fluorocarbon for the full length of my line due to the rivers I fish are ultra clear and any odd color or color movement will distract the fish from feeding. I do not choose clear for tenkara because much of my fishing is by sight, for honryu, my fishing is primarily by feel.

The design of my level line.

  • For the lillian connection I use a slip knot with a .5" tag end with a knot on the end.
  • To join the #3.5 to the #3 clear fluorocarbon tip I use a double surgeons knot.
  • To add in the tippet ring I use a four turn clinch knot (not improved)
  • All knots locked with UV Knot Sense.

I choose fluorocarbon lines for their stealth in casting and handling qualities so I will focus on this material and the qualities of it.

Fluorocarbon level lines come in various colors and different "stiffness." I have used many colors and have found that I like pink, I can see it best against the background of my streams and I think it is the most stealthy of all the bright colors that I have used except *white. I like a relatively soft line that I can stretch and straighten out the coils to leave a line that is nearly straight. For the mainline connection to the lillian on the rod, I use a simple slip knot with a knot end tag to be able to pull and remove from the lillian when I am done fishing. 

Depending on the length of the rod that I am fishing, I like a formula of 1.5 - 2m longer than the rod mainline. So once I attach the line to the lillian, if I lay the rod down, and stretch the line back towards the butt end of the handle, 1.5 - 2m of line are past or longer than the rod. At the end of the line, I use a tippet ring, a small metal ring that I tie on to the mainline.

For casting ease and accuracy, I like to use the shortest section of tippet that I can.

This is the primary reason I create a clear tip on my mainline. The smaller diameter tip also serves to transfer energy to the fly much easier for accurate casting and it also loosens up the fly for presentations as well as serving as a depth indicator.

I choose a #3, #3.5 and #4 level mainline for over all usability and I configure them with a clear tip section with 50 - 70cm of #3 fluorocarbon. The stepped down clear tip is terminated with a small tippet ring. The tippet ring is nearly invisible and imparts no detectable handling qualities on the line. It serves to attach the tippet and gives the tippet a uniform place to break if your line is stuck in a tree or on the bottom. The clear tip of the mainline also serves as a depth indicator in that I know if I have a 50cm length of tippet and the pink mainline knot is on the surface, my fly/kebari is 1m deep or away from the mainline knot. I also use that knot as an indicator. For casting, this configuration serves to deliver the greatest energy of the cast carried farther toward the fly/kebari.  Using longer and over all lighter tippet lengths does not promote this accuracy, the stepped down clear tip has many attributes and mimics the gentle presentation of a tapered fly fishing leader.

This type of line configuration is durable (lasts many seasons) accurate, handles well, gives the tippet a uniform place to break, serves as a depth indicator and conserves tippet.

I have experimented with many different configurations in designing the tip end of my tenkara line. I have used heavier and lighter gauge fluorocarbon tips. A heavier section will cast nicely but is less stealthy, a lighter section serves to deliver the fly/kebari with less disturbance. I suggest trying heavier and lighter gauge fluorocarbon with longer and shorter tip sections till you find the style that casts and presents to your choosing. Start with a heavier and longer tip section and work your way shorter, then go lighter and long and trim shorter. Go beyond why you like to get a feel for the "sweet spot" in the configuration of your line.

I choose a #3.5 mainline for ease of use in all conditions.

Although I like the way a #2.5 presents a fly/kebari, I do not enjoy the way that it casts, especially at the end of a long day and more than anything, in dealing with the wind. Although a #3.5 seems to be a "heavy" gauge level line, I have found that even with the (rod length +1.5 - 2m mainline) length that I use, the drape of the line is acceptable. In short, I design my lines for "all conditions" instead of carrying additional lines for each situation.

This method has worked for me as I have filtered it through the minimalist system I use described HERE.

In using a level line, there are a couple of other little tips that I would like to weave into this article. I often use the whole line as an indicator. I will look at the drape sag for indications of movement. Whether I am working the fly/kebari or drifting a tight line, I will watch the shape of the curve for any movement that I have not imparted by the rod. I also look at the lillian for movement. Most of the time, when I can not see the fly/kebari, I am looking at the end of the pink mainline, the knot where the pink mainline joins the clear tip. I'm looking for that knot to "go down" to the water or have any movement that I have not placed on the line.

I set the hook by simply lifting the rod.

I hope at a minimum, you are able to compare your own line utility against mine.

Have fun with tenkara and most importantly, practice tenkara your way.

Level line making from years gone by...

Nylon line making

My line cards and holder
My Line Box that holds all my Line Making supplies, that's my line rigging and rod repair kit.
Early on I have created a line rigging and rod repair kit that I use extensively for all of my tenkara. This kit works well as I use it for every line I create. It also serves second duty for having a few items that I can repair a tenkara rod if I break the tip section. I am fortunate in never having broken a tenkara rod and needed to continue fishing.

Readying to tie in a tippet ring on the clear tip.

Tippet Ring on #3 clear fluorocarbon, locked knot with UV Knot Sense
* I have used a white Nylon line which I really liked the color but did not like the handling qualities.

Making a Tamo

Always in my pack, gloves and my pocket saw
Making My Own Tamo

Since finding out about tenkara, I’ve always been interested in the round nets that the anglers in Japan used. For me, they are iconic much like the sakasa kebari. Many of the nets or tamo are made out of a tree branch. They are made by selecting, bending, curing, splicing and finishing. I own two that are from a shop in Japan. I like the fine monofilament net bag that are color blend on the Mankyu Net makers shop.

The traditional nets are not perfect, the flaws, whether they be knots or bends in the branch are accepted and worked with. I really enjoy this aesthetic, it is one of my favorite aspects of the tamo.

Recently, I’ve decided to make my own.

I will detail my study and progress at this thread.

I hope you become inspired to possibly make your own...



August 29, 2019 Ordered a 35cm akane (red to yellow fade) net bag and thread mounting kit


Supply List

Curing: Parafin Wax, Zip Ties, Twine

Splicing: Fine Pull Saw, bamboo toothpicks

Miscellaneous: Mineral Spirits


Tamo Making Links

Japanese Tamo Construction: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13

Japanese Tamo Google Resource Search 1 - 2 - 3 - 4

Tamo Shop
Mercari search

YouTube Videos


Adding in Sebata san kebari...

I've always had an interest in Japanese culture. The Japanese way make sense, their architecture is aesthetically pleasing, their community acts appropriately. The Japanese markets in my area are always affordable with products not found in American markets. 

I bought my first sugegasa in the 80's, I believe I got my first one from an International market place. It was made of straw like the one I use now. I have always had at least one rice farmer hat somewhere in the house. I used them for working outside and I remember one of them getting away from me, lost in a dust devil, the thermal literally carrying it into the sky, I watched it for a while thinking I'll just follow it and it will come down but no, not the case, it was lost in someone's back yard or out in the desert... That's ok, I'll get another one, they don't cost very much.

Ever since Kavu offered a version of their sugegasa, the "Chillba" I've owned one. They are made of cloth and foam, they float and you can stuff them for short periods of time so you can travel with them. Kavu is a progressive company and they do a good job with their rice hat. If you want to get fancy, they have many different patterns to choose from, I have always stuck with the basic colors.

In the nineties I started using them for small stream fishing. Back then, Yoshikazu Fujioka and I were making Internet sites on small stream fly fishing, his site tailored to his area, my site focused on the places I fished. I was always reading and looking at the pictures of Japanese stream anglers when making my own site. It is amazing, I knew about tenkara, sawanobori and many other Japanese things but it was so far away. I was fishing a zero weight in small streams and doing so well with it. Yoshikazu and I have been doing this for a long time. I learned about tenkara first from him but I had no idea.

How could tenkara be so much better? 

That was like going backwards to fishing when I was a kid.

I knew about a lot of Japanese fishing things but had no idea the tenkara rods did what they do so well.

I did use a few Japanese items and sugegasa are functional in Arizona. In my area, the sun is hot and relentless. They work well for keeping the UV rays off your head. I also wore them when I was fishing in Glen Canyon fly fishing for river rainbows. When it got windy, I would switch to a ballcap or some other sort of hat.

In 2009, I quit fly fishing to learn about tenkara and at that time, even more Japanese culture and fishing were my interest. I knew I wanted to find out about Japanese tenkara rods and equipment. I found out about Yuzo Sebata and it was pleasing to me that he was iconic with his sugegasa. I finally ended up visiting Sebata san and was able to see his laying there in the bansho. Funny, it was just a part of what I understood as functional equipment and I didn't even give it a second thought.

That was my problem, I got home and realized, it was my second trip to Japan and I did not buy one while I was there. Sugegasa are large and unless they are made to fold or crush down, they are big and cumbersome for travel on a plane. They are farmer's hats, not a travel item. I just didn't pick one out because I didn't want to carry it. I meet a new friend at the bansho, Isaac Tait and he also wore a sugegasa. Probably the only other American tenkara fisher that wore one with any authenticity in Japan. 

You see, Isaac san lived in Japan and his wearing one was a tribute to the old ways and it is quite functional. I have seen many people wearing them because it is Japanese and it is...ahh,  nevermind. I asked Isaac san to join us at the bansho, Sebata san telling me, "invite your friends, this is a fishing party." You would not believe the friendships I help foster with my own invitation to visit Sebata san. One day I will tell the story of that but today isn't that day.

This is the story of my own sugegasa from Japan. 

I asked Isaac san if he would help me pick up one and send it to me. He told me, "Of course Adam san, lets pick one out together for you." And we passed back and forth, comments on the different ones that he had available in the markets in his area. We finally decided on a humble one that didn't cost much. It arrived in a big box and it had a couple of bands to attach depending on the size of my head. I just used a couple of tie bands. I could have used some string but I wanted it simple and it took literally two minutes to band it on and cut the tag end. If I needed, I could cut these and replace the band with another one.


I always liked the way Sebata san carried a few flys in his. It wasn't that important at the bansho to look at his and ask him. He did hand his sugegasa to me during my visit and I did see the piece of wet suit neoprene material but I didn't put too much thought into it at the time. It wasn't time for that. But now I wanted to kit mine out that way and I didn't want to re-invent the wheel so I remembered that Danial had taken a video of Sebata san and it had a close up of his flys stuck in his hat. I found the video and in short order, I had my picture so that I could fix mine the way Sebata san did his. 


I get a lot of my stuff from eBay. It's just this place where I can pick and choose. It took me a while to find a small piece of neoprene that was reasonable. I looked now and then for a piece and couldn't find one. The other day when I look, I found a place where they offered the right thickness and at a reasonable price. It was an 18" square piece too, enough for the rest of my life so I purchased it and in short order it arrived.

It's always fun for me to figure out the best method to do things and I thought a little bit about how I was going to attach the neoprene piece to the straw. I thought first I would tack it on with some silk thread, no, too much work, how about glueing it on? Yes, that's what I will do. What kind of glue and I thought for a while, really, what kind of glue? 


Glue tech is important to me. When I was making bamboo fly rods, I would have lengthy discussions with many other makers on what glue they used for binding their bamboo rods together. My teacher used Nyatex so I ended up using it too. Nyatex is a glue that General Motors uses for flocking the rubber window trim on car doors. It is some serious stuff and I really like it but difficult to buy and in small quantities? It's a two part glue and not all that many makers use it. I'm not going to ask one of my old friends for some so...


I'll use Pliobond, it has an interesting story behind it. It was developed and used for plywood bonding to metal. I had used it on a couple of beautiful bamboo rods I made to glue the metal ferules to the bamboo blanks. Really interesting stuff. I've got a little bottle of it but it's getting old. It is sold at hardware stores, so I took Noah and we went off to our local Ace Hardware and found out that they were not carrying it anymore but there was a single tube of it available in the discontinued bin. I didn't know it came in a tube, I've always purchased it in a little brown bottle. I bought the tube and some blue masking tape so that I could mask off where I was glueing and do a nice job. I really like Pliobond and it works well for bonding rubber to wood, wood to metal, all different kinds of applications.

I like the back story.

I always have a few kebari for myself that Sebata san gave me. I also have a bunch that I give to friends that I am helping orient or turning on to tenkara. Sebata san's kebari have saved the day more than a few times, enough that I will always carry them with me. 

They are my magic kebari.

I'm going to keep a few under my hat just like Yuzo Sebata.

I think I will also add in a few flys from Jun Maeda, Toshiro Todoroki, a few of my wrong kebari and well, I'll pick out a few kebari from other special friends to keep with me under my hat.