The World of Flyfishing; "Tenkara Secrets"

The World of Flyfishing; "Tenkara Secrets"

by Soseki Yamamoto

Published in 1987

ISBN4-257-03226-x c0076

Table of contents

Color pages: Good days of tenkara ...........................................3

“Tenkara for the catching rate of 80%” by Ido Michiya...............16
Catching rate here is “the number of amago you catch/the number of amago that rise to your fly”. The author says more than 80% of catching rate is possible with tenkara. To achieve this, he explains; (1) you have to sink the fly. (2) Use level line. (3) The rod must be fast action. (4) Expect the point where amago would take your fly, and cast your fly 1 m upstream from the point. Then bring your fly to the point with 3 twitches. Amago will rise to the fly at the end of the third twich.
“Seasons of tenkara” by Kuwabara Gentatsu............................28
The author recalls how he learned tenkara, and writes about a fishing trip to the Tanzawa range. The author is a painter, and some of the illustrations in this book were drawn by him.
“Tenkara is the fishing for XXXXX” by Toihara Kenji.....................42
XXXXX is an adjective, which is difficult to translate directly. The word is usually (and originally) used to describe a dead and dried plant. However, the word here is used to describe a person who has mentally matured, lost greed, and free from any uncontrollable strong emotions. The author says this is the virtue a good tenkara fisherman should have.
“No more fly rod” by Kojima Mitsunari......................................56
The author quit fly fishing and became a tenkara fisherman, because he thinks tenkara just fits the culture and nature of Japan perfectly.
“Mastering tenkara” by Takeda Sotaro......................................68
The author has been fishing tenkara for almost a half century, but it was only 25 years after he had first learned tenkara when he truly started to master the fishing. He recalls his first days of tenkara and how he was enlightened about the technique of tenkara.
“Reactions of trout to a fly” by Ishigaki Hisao ….........................82
The author says, fishing tenkara is difficult but because it is difficult, it is fun. He discusses the response of amago to tenkara flies, and tries to reveal how you catch fish (or how you don’t ).
Color photo pages: Flies of tenkara masters ……………………………107

“The mayfly which does not look like a mayfly” by Mori Shigeaki ……........................................................................................116
The author first discusses about the origin of the word “tenkara”. He then writes about some technical aspects of the fishing.
“My friends, can you quench your thirst with cucumber?” by Yagi Yoshimasa …………...................................................................128
The author writes about his experience in mountaineering, when he was a student, as a reporter for the school news paper with the school mountaineering team, when he saw the team member munch cucumber to quench their thirst while walking. He recalls, unlike the mountaineering team members, he took much water and soft drinks and got fatigued very soon. He compares munching cucumber to practicing tenkara without giving way to the temptation to use bait. He prankishly writes about his experiences of chumming with worms before casting tenkara flies, or putting real mayfly larvae onto flies.
“About tenkara” by Ayabe Tando ………………………………………………140
The author first writes about one of his trips when yamame only responded to his tenkara flies and his friend bait fisher caught almost no fish. He then writes about how he learned tenkara.
“A tenkara master in the year 841” by Kirimichi Saburou …………154
The author discusses about the origin of the word “tenkara”. He also writes about the history of fishing hooks in Japan. In his argument, he writes about a master fisherman appeared in an old Japanese literature written in AD841. The author suggests the possibility that he used tenkara. The method that the fisherman used is not clear at all actually.
“Aspects in tenkara” by Yamamoto Soseki ………………………………168

The author writes about his first encounter with tenkara, when he met an old tenkara fisherman having many amago in his creel while the author was fishing with bait, catching no fish. Then, the author writes how he became acquainted with tenkara later.

Techniques of tenkara …………………………………………...183
Fascination of tenkara…………………………………...….……184
Tenkara gear ……………………………………………..…...……..186
About flies ………………………………………………..…......…….190
Tools for fly tying ……………………………………………....…..192
How to tie a fly …………………………………………..……...…..194
Rod grip............................ ……………………………………..196
How to cast …………………………………………………......…….198
How to manipulate a fly …………………………………….…….200
How fish rise to a fly and how to set hook ……..……..202
Related literatures …............................... ……………...205
Postscript by Yamamoto Soseki ……………………………..215

Explanations for the photos and figures.

P3-5: Yamamoto Soseki fishing with tenkara in Kiyotaki river in Kyoto, early spring.

P6-7: “Fishing in the air” by Kuwabara Gentatsu

Kuwabara Gentatsu, the well known author of the book “How to Enjoy Kebari-Tsuri (fly fishing)”, worked out unique “fishing in the air” method from the traditional tenkara. He modified tenkara rod and hooks based on his experiences and is trying to systematize the knowledge of tenkara. He is like a sniper in streams; His movement is elegant and involves no futility.

(There is no explanation about his method in this book.)

P8-9: “Nikko Tenkara” by Sebata Yuzo

He inherited the tradition of “Nikko tenkara” in Okoro river in Maenikko area, Tochigi prefecture. While many people emphasize the importance of early hook set, he advocates delayed hook set and proving the efficiency of the method through demonstrating it by himself. He says rather than the color or size, the movement of the fly after casting is most important in tenkara. He is famous for his adventurous fishing in headwaters.

(There is no description about what Nikko tenkara is, nor how it is different from ordinary tenkara.)

P10: Ayabe Tando fishes for yamame with tenkara on a day in early summer.

P17: Ido Michiya

A business man. Born in Minokamo city, Gifu prefecture in 1946. Enjoyed playing in rivers or crucian carp fishing when young. Though he liked mountaineering, he stopped it in his 20s because of a disease. He started fishing instead. He learned tenkara from Yamamoto Soseki. He fishes large rivers in early season and enjoys tenkara in small streams in high season. He lives in Inuyama city, Aichi prefecture.

P19: The author handling level line and demonstrating tenkara of “80% catch”.

P20: Feathers of female pheasant, which author recommends best for the hackle of flies.

P21: The author fishes with tenkara in Obara creek, a tributary of the Maze river.

P23: The pool of Mambu in Itoshiro river of the Kuzuryu river watershed.

P24: The author fishing for amago with tenkara in Bingo creek, a tributary of Unokawa river in Kumano river watershed.

P27: The author accompanying Huruta Mankichi fishing amago in Yoshida river of the Nagara river watershed.

Late Huruta Mankichi was a legendary professional river fisherman. He was especially famous for his outstanding skill of bait fishing for amago.

P29: Kuwabara Gentatsu

A painter. Born in Hujiyoshida city, Yamanashi prefecture in 1922. He has been enjoying trout fishing in mountain streams around mount Huji since he was very young. He has practiced Kebari-tsuri (tenkara) hard and has modernized tenkara fishing. The president of “Seven Keiyu Club”. Also leads “Kai tenkara Club”. He is the author of books including “Fishing for Iwana and Yamame”, “Fishing Mountain Streams”, “How to enjoy Kebari-Tsuri”. He lives in Hujiyoshida city, Yamanashi prefecture.

P30: The author casting his hand-tied fly.

P33: Casting a fly, aiming accurately at the intended spot.

P34: The author enjoys tenkara at Shishidome creek in Yamanashi prefecture.

P37: Main stem of the Yuzuku river in the Tanzawa range.

P39: Casting while keeping a low profile; A good example of casting form.

P41: The author drifts a fly on running water.

P43: Toihara Kenji

Born in 1941 in Tokyo. He quit his businessman life and opened a fishing tackle shop selling only traditional Japanese fishing rods. He enjoys fishing mountain streams in spring, fishing ayu (smelt-like fish) and headwater iwana in summer, mushroom hunting in autumn, and fishing bittering (a very small cyprinid fish) in winter. He spends a year according to the annual cycle of nature. He is one of the leading members of “Mountain Stream Fishing Club”. He lives in Utsunomiya city, Tochigi prefecture.

P44: Flies tied by the author.

P45: The “Todoroki-sandan” pool in Nishizawa (Nishi = west, zawa = creek or folk) of the Okoro river in the Omokawa watershed.

P46: Fishing in Higashimata creek of Ooishi river in the Iide range.

P47: The author casting tenkara.

P49: Sebata Yuzo fishes Kuratani creek of Kurotani river in the Inagawa watershed.

P50: Sebata Yuzo from whom the author learned a lot about tenkara.

P53: The Higashiooashi river, which runs through Maenikko area.

P54: The author fishing a pool under a small waterfall.

P55: A fly tied by Sebata Yuzo of Nikko tenkara.

P57: Kojima Mitsunari

Born in 1957 in Hannou city, Saitama prefecture. He has been enjoying playing or fishing in streams since very young. He was a western style flyfisher but now he only fishes tenkara. He is a reporter for the Tokyo branch of “North Country Angling”. He is a member of “Enhancing-Fish-Population in Naguri Rver Club”. He lives in Hannou city, Saitama prefecture.

P59: Headwater of the Tama river. The author was once very enthusiastic about yamame fishing there.

P60: Headwater of the Tama river. In a warm, quiet day before the rainy season, yamame used to rise to a fly everywhere in the main stem of the river.

P63: You can enjoy tenkara in such a small stream in a mountain village like this one.

P65: Shirame; smolt of amago. There are many regional names for amago smolt.

P66: The Yoshida river close to the confluence with the Nagara river, which is the main river. The Yoshida river is famous nationwide for its excellent fishery of ayu and amago.

P67: The Nagara river. Below the confluence with the Yoshida river.

P69: Takeda Sotarou

Born Hanada Kenji in 1911 in Shizuoka prefecture. He has been working for aviation-related business and now a corporate manager. He has many hobbies including metal chasing, wood carving, Japanese-style painting, and western-style painting. Among them, he has been enjoying tenkara for almost 50 years. He lives in Kagamihara city, Gifu prefecture.

P71: Fishing for iwana in the Toga river in Shogawa watershed. The Toga river originates in the Shirakimizunashi range and joins the Shogawa (Sho river) to the south of Yutani hot springs.

P72: The Yoshida river; a major tributary to the Nagara river. The fisherman is Huruta Mankichi.

P75: A picture of yamasemi (the name of this bird) painted by the author. The bird is familiar to fishermen who fish mountain streams.

P77: The author casts a tenkara fly in the upper part of the Mana river, which is a tributary of the Kuzuryu river.

P79: The painting of the headwater of Nagara river, by the author.

P80: A Gujo creel and a Gujo net that the author favors. 

Gujo is a place around middle to the head water of Nagara river. There used to be many professional freshwater fishermen there, and they developed various fishing tools unique to the region.

P83: Ishigaki Hisao

Born in 1947 in Shizuoka city, Shizuoka prefecture. He has been enjoying fishing in the Okitsu river and Suruga bay since very young. He still enjoys various types of fishing. He is also called “Dr. Tenkara” after he demonstrated experiments to measure how long trout holds a fly in the mouth until releasing it (It ranged from 0.2 to 1.1 sec. when fish took the fly underwater), in an NHK TV program. He is an assistant professor of Aichi Institute of Technology. He lives in Toyota city, Aichi prefecture.

P85: The author’s tenkara rig. Rod, Nisshin Seikon tenkara 1 gou 3.3m. Line, nylon monofilament (Unitika Stark U #5 0.37mm in diameter, 4m). Leader, nylon monofilament (Unitika Stark U #3, 0.285mm, 70cm), Tipett, nylon monofilament (Unitika Stark U #1.2, 0.185mm, 30cm). The author modifies the grip using balsa wood by himself. His fly is made of peacock herl body and white cock hackle.

P86: The author’s fly.

P87: Responses of amago to a tenkara fly.

P88: The author enjoying tenkara in the Yahagi river watershed.

P91: Amago holding a fly.

P94: A professional fisherman fishing with tenkara at Nanakama of the Kamikoshi river in Yahagi river watershed.

P96: The author fishes for amago with tenkara. Amago showed very fast response to flies in the author’s experiments.

P99: Kawashima Washio, a professional fisherman, fishes the Kamikoshi river in Yahagi river watershed with tenkara.

P100: Iwana that took an author’s fly. Iwana holds a fly longer than amago.

P103: Kawashima, a pro fisherman, and Sebata Yuzo, Nikko tenkara, compete with each other for their techniques of tenkara in Dando creek in the Yahagi river watershed.

P105: Kawashima Washio, who fishes traditional flies of the Okumikawa region for amago. He fishes amago and ayu from spring through summer as the source of livelihood.

P106: The author says “you cannot catch many fish with tenkara but it’s fun.”

P107: Flies of tenkara masters.

P108-109: Flies by Yamamoto Soseki

The body color is mainly cream, yellow, or pale yellow green. He uses Plymouth Rock exclusively for the hackle. The fiber length of the hackle is 8-12 mm. He doesn’t tie the hackle very thick. He has fished from northern part of Hokkaido to Kyushu with these flies; His flies were effective regardless of the regions or rivers. His flies are “the master key” in the streams in Japan.

P110-111: Flies by Kuwabara Gentatsu

The body color varies, cream, yellow, red, dark brown, and black. For the hackle, he uses the neck or breast feather of female pheasant or owl, tail or wing feather of sparrow, or cock neck. He changes flies according to the season and condition; light colored flies in early spring or in the mornings or evenings so that the visibility of the fly would be high, dark colored flies in the middle of the day, or brown or black flies for larger fish in mid summer, etc. His flies are also commercially sold as “Kuwabara’s tenkara flies”. The picture below shows the tenkara rod “Yamame”, which was designed by the author.

P112-113: Flies by Takeda Sotaro

He ties flies as dry flies, and manipulate the fly on the water surface. His flies rather look like imitation flies. The picture above shows flies with wings for amago. The picture below shows streamers and “butterfly hooks” for satsukimasu (the sea-run form of amago). On the left are the flies for amago and shirame (smolt amago). In particular, the three flies in the center of the left imitate midges. There are also some mayfly nymph imitations.

P114: Left column, from top to bottom: A fly tied by Sebata Uzo, A fly by Ido Michiya, The traditional fly in Kyoto region, Morioka Kebari (The traditional fly in Morioka region. Kebari means fly.), A fly by Ayabe Tando.

Right column, from top to bottom: A fly by Sebata Uzo, A fly by Ido Michiya, A fly by a professional fisherman in the Nagara river, A fly by Suzuki Gyoshin, A fly by Kirimichi Saburo.

Soseki Yamamoto and Gyoshin Suzuki

P117: Mori Shigeaki

Born in 1941 in the red-light district in Miyagawa-cho, Kyoto. Dropped out of the graduate school of philosophy in Ritsumeikan University. He opened a fishing tackle shop in Shimokamo, Kyoto, but in 1976, moved to Miyama-cho, Kitakuwata-gun, Kyoto, with his family, and started as a farmer. In 1983, he moved to the current place and began an inn. He wrote the book “Finally a Village member of Tamba”. He lives in Miyama-cho, Kitakuwata-gun, Kyoto.

P119: The author’s tenkara rig.

The rod: 3m

Tapered line made of braided nylon monofilaments: 3.4m

(1) #3(0.285) x 5 (5 nylon monofilaments of #3, the diameter of #3 mono is 0.285mm)….40cm
(2) #3(0.285) x 5 ….40cm
(3) #3(0.285) x 4 ….40cm
(4) #3(0.285) x 4 ….40cm
(5) #3(0.285) x 3 ….40cm
(6) #2(0.235) x 3 ….45cm
(7) #2(0.235) x 3 ….45cm
(8) #1.5(0.205) x 2 …50cm
Tippet: #1.5, 1.6m

Fly tied by Suzuki Gyoshin

P121: The author fishing iwana at the headwater of Sai river Ishikawa prefecture.

P122: Yamame close to 12 inches. These were caught by the author with tenkara in the Kuzuryu river.

P123: Yamame caught by the author are broiled around fire in the fireplace of the author’s house.

P125: The author believes the silhouette is more important than color for tenkara flies.

P127: Dinner of broiled iwana at a camp site in the head water of Kitamata creek of the Kuronagi river. The man holding iwana in the right is the author.

P128: Yagi Yoshimasa

Born in 1941 in Osaka. Established “Doshisha University Fishing Club” while he was a student there. Worked as the editor of “Fishing in Kansai Area”. Currently, he is the director of “Seidokikaku Publishing”. He is the author of “Fishing Guide in Lake Biwa”, “For the Beginning Anglers”, “Everything for Fishing in Mountain Streams”, and others. He lives in Toyonaka city, Osaka.

P129: Spools and a rig that the author uses.

P131: Eboshidake (“dake” means mountain; Mount Eboshi) (2627m) in the Northern Alps. The Tateyama/Tsurugi mountains in the background.

P132: Mitsumatarengedake (2841m). One of the mountains of the Kurobe river headwater. In this area, there were huts where they fish iwana in the Kurobe headwater and serve them for mountaineers.

P135: The author fishing Matsunaga creek in Wakasa region (near Kyoto).

P137: A spool and a tenkara rig that were presented to the author by his fishing friends.

P138: Tools that the author uses to tie flies.

P139: A fly the author has tied using a hand vise.

P141: Ayabe Tando

Born in 1943 in Ehime prefecture. A machine designer. His real name is Ayabe Keiji. He enjoyed mountaineering since he was a junior-high student. Later he has become an enthusiastic, mountain-stream fisherman. (In Japan, “mountain-stream (keiryu) fishing” almost equals “trout fishing”.) The president of the committee for mountain-stream fishers. He is the author of the book “Fishing in Mountain Streams.” He is also a reporter of angling for a sports news paper “Sports Nippon.” He lives in Taito Ward, Tokyo.

P143: The headwater of the Tone river, where the author repeatedly goes fishing every year.

P144: The author fishing with tenkara in the Shishidome river, Yamanashi prefecture.

P145: The author in the headwater of the Tone river.

P147: Catching fish with tenkara was his admiration since he had started trout fishing.

P148: The author casting tenkara at the Waga river in Iwate prefecture.

P151: A mountain stream in the headwater of Tone river, where the author goes fishing at least once a year for big iwana.

P153: Iwana caught by the author at the headwater of Tone river. The dinner for the day.

P155: Kirimichi Saburo

Born in 1943 in Nagoya. Graduated from Waseda University. His real name is Ohmi Atsushi. An editorial director and an essayist. His hobby of butterfly collection prompted him into mounteneering and trout fishing in mountain streams. He now enjoys various types of fishing. He has planned and produced many books including books about fishing, such as “Everything About Fishing Gear”, “Encyclopedia of the Fishing Equipment in Japan”, “Mountain-Stream Fishing”, “Stories of Mountain streams”, “Ecology of Yamame”, “Ecology of Iwana”, etc. He lives in Kamakura city, Kanagawa prefecture.

P157: The headwater of the Kuma river, the upper stretch of Umenokizuru. 

If you follow the creek upstream and go over the ridgeline of Yamaingiri, you will come to Gokanosho, a famous small mountain village mythically said to be established by surviving soldiers of Heike, one of the two major samurai clans that struggled for control of Japan at the end of the 12th century and lost by the other (Genji clan).

P159: Wooden trail in the upper reaches of Kamo river in Kitayama region, Kyoto. You cannot see life in mountain villages like this any more, although it used to be commonly observed in mountain villages in many places.

P161: Hudono creek in the village of Shiiba, a tributary to the Mimi river, Miyazaki prefecture. This area is also known as the village of Heike soldiers escaped from Genji clan.

P162: Some of the author’s flies. 

Since he doesn’t have very good eyes, he considers visibility as most important for his flies.

P165: The upper stretch of the Ibi river, in Toiri region of Tokuyama village. This mountain village is going to become the bottom of a reservoir by construction of a dam.

P167: Ancient fishing hooks excavated from various places in Japan. From “Fishing hooks” by Naora Nobuo.

P169: Yamamoto Soseki

Born in 1919 in Shiga prefecture. He entered various schools but he has not graduated any of them. He has done various jobs, but has never held down a steady job. He is a self-employed professional. He is an enthusiastic mountain-stream fisherman. He has fished from the northern end of Hokkaido to the southern part of Kyushu. He has even fished northeastern part of Korea. He is currently the head of Jikyo branch of Tenrikyo (a religion). The president of Notarin (meaning stupid) Club. A member of the board of directors for Japan Sportfishing Association. A member of Japan Essayist Club. He is the author of many books including "Mountain Fishing in Western Japan”, “Run, Tsuchinoko" (which is a strange, imaginary snake, though some people including the author believes the actual presence of the snake.)”, “Fishing in Far-Away Mountain Streams”, “Fishing Silhouette”, etc. He lives in Ukyo Ward, Kyoto.

P171: The author fishing Irikawa creek in Gaikaihu region, Sado Island.

P173: The author fishing for yamame in the Tomari river in Akita prefecture.

P174-175: The author casting tenkara at Kiyotaki river in early spring.

P177: The author enjoys tenkara at Kiyotaki river, near his house.

P179: The author enjoys tenkara in the lower reach of Ohkura fall of the Hukuchi river, Hyogo prefecture (1967).

P180: The author tying a fly in the study in his house.

P181: The author enjoying fishing in the Maze river, Akita prefecture (1975).

P182: The author tying a fly at home.

P185: The joy you feel when you fish tenkara is different from that when you fish with bait. 

The photo shows Kuwabara Gentatsu fishing for yamame by tenkara.

P186: The tenkara gear that Kirimichi Saburo brings with him to a stream. 

You can put all of these in one pocket. This convenience of tenkara is an advantage over other fishing methods.

P187: Tools of tenkara. The rods are “Yamame” designed by Kuwabara Gentatsu.

P188 photo: Spools made by Tsuruya, the fishing tackle shop. There is a hole in each spool to store the fly.

P188 illustration: An example of tenkara rig. The tapered line should fit the action and the length of the rod. #4(0.33mm in diameter) x 6, #4 x 5, #4 x 4, #3(0.285mm) x 4, #3 x 3, #3 x 2, tipett #1.5(0.205mm)

P189 Bottom illustration: The knot of two braided lines when you make your tapered line with braided lines. (Surgeon's knot)

P189 Top illustration: How to make a braided line.

P190 Top photo: A close up view of a fly tied by Sebata Uzo.

P190 Bottom photo: Flies tied by Yamamoto Soseki.

P191 Right photo: A reverse hackle fly tied by Kirimichi Saburo.

P191 Left photo: Flies for ayu. It is said that there are a few thousand different flies for ayu.

P192 Top right: Fly hooks. The right, down eye. The center (3 hooks), straight eye. The left, up eye.

P193 Left: A hand vise. If you feel inconvenient with a needle holder, you can use a vise to hold a hook to tie a fly.

P193 Right bottom: Zenmai (A kind of fern. Particularly young sprout as shown in this picture. The sprout is covered by fine cotton-like material, which has been used as body material of traditional tenkara flies.)

P193 Left: Examples of hackle materials. From top to bottom; Wing pointers of pheasant, Cock neck hackle, Plymouth Rock neck hackle, Quill wing of sparrow.

P194-195 Bottom photos: The explanations are written in the text. This is just how to tie a fly.

P195 Top right: It is convenient to store flies in magnetic boxes.

P195 Middle left: Yamamoto Soseki tying a fly with a hand vise. He uses Plymouth Rock feather for the hackle.

P196 Top right: A bad grip. This causes your arm muscle to become fatigued.

P196 Bottom: The good grip, with which you can set hook easily and you are not easily fatigued.

P197: Yamamoto Soseki fishing Iwasaki creek with tenkara in Sado Island.

P198: Make your cast compact and don't cast too strong. The fisherman is Kuwabara Gentatsu.

P199 Top: Finish of a cast. Note that the thumb is off and the rod is held by the other four fingers. You can effectively set hook from this position.

P199 Illustration: How to cast. Top; Back cast, from flipping the line from in front of you until the line become straightened behind you. Bottom; Forward cast, the straightened line behind you moves forward until the fly lands on the water surface.

P200 Top right: Sebata Uzo, who says the movement of the fly is most important, fishes the Okoro river, Maenikko region.

P200 Bottom illustration: The relationship between the water surface and fish vision.

P201 Bottom photo: Kuwabara Gentatsu manipulating the fly. He does it by dragging the fly horizontally or vertically, very skillfully.

P201 Left illustration: An example of fly manipulation. Top, the fly lands on the water. Middle, If you pull the line, the hackle contracts. Bottom, if you loosen the line, the hackle opens.

P202 Top right: Yamame holding a fly.

P202 Bottom left: Sebata Yuzo fishes the Naka river, Tochigi prefecture. He is an advocate of “delayed hook set.”

P203: In tenkara you fish a point in a stream at a time, while in bait fishing you fish a line.

P204: Yamamoto Soseki tries to tempt amago by manipulating a fly.