Tenkara Secrets, a collection of essays dedicated to Soseki Yamamoto


Soseki Yamamoto


Soseki Yamamoto was a Japanese mountain stream angler and author. His books are on the shelves of all tenkara experts in Japan and now through the help of the Japanese, those books and tenkara knowledge have migrated throughout the world.

Tenkara-Fisher dedication to Yamamoto Soseki

For anyone following along, it's not just this article, it is the entire web site that I have dedicated to the spirit of sharing like Soseki Yamamoto’s reporting of modern tenkara and various techniques all over the globe.

In 2010, I became aware of Yamamoto san by the suggestion of Eiji Yamakawa and Satoshi Miwa, two very talented Japanese mountain stream anglers. With the help of Miwa-san, we did a English translation, a synopsis of the book, “The World of Fly Fishing; Tenkara Secrets” 

In the pages of Tenkara Secrets are essays and biographies of many famous Japanese mountain stream anglers. Within those essays are their approach to tenkara with detailed pictures and diagrams of the tenkara equipment used.

The ability to take that book and look at the synopsis online at tenkara-fisher brings the message of the angler’s message to life.

If you step back and view tenkara-fisher, you will see that I’ve fashioned the site after the prolific sharing of Soseki Yamamoto. The site is truly dedicated to his sharing.

This collaborative article and subsequent collectives have all been in the direction of Tenkara Secrets. It has been my intent to keep the direction of tenkara-fisher a community site, a “ten colors” approach of Japanese tenkara as practiced by our peers.

Tenkara Secrets, this collective article is just that, those things we do that make us successful that aren’t always seen in the general view. Let’s enjoy together, the Tenkara Secrets of many modern tenkara fishers.

David West Beale - Toshiro Todoroki - Владимир Бушляков - John Vetterli - Jason Klass - David Walker - Kai Cornelius - Paul Gaskell - Dr. Tom Davis - Kazumi Saigo - John Sachen - Christophe Laurent - Aldo Menghini - Anthony Naples - Isaac TaitAdam Trahan - Daniel Galhardo

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Secrets of the River

David West Beale

Slow down,

slow your breathing down.

The river rushes past with chaotic urgency.

Slow right down.

Let the myriad sounds of bright water wash over you.

A new, steadier rhythm will emerge.

Let this be your rhythm.


Move slowly.

Tie on your fly.

Take time, be sure of your connection.

The sun is strong today but the trees filter and dapple the light,

confusing the eye with ever changing contrasts and reflections.

Look beyond the prism and you may see the shapes of fish in your mind's eye.


Each cast is unique and may never be remade

and a fish is but one of many outcomes.

Here in this place, the person you were has become the person you are.

In this place, the person you are becomes the person you will be.

For the river is time itself.


It is said a cat has three names. One name it is given. One name it becomes known by, but one name is known only to itself.

It is said a Samurai has three hearts. One heart he shows to the world, one heart to his family, but one heart is known only to himself.

So it is with the river. To discover the true name of the river is the work of a lifetime. You may see the kingfisher that flashes by and the minnows scattering around your boots. You may listen to the music of the riffle and feel the cool air over the rocks. You may hold in your hand, briefly, the wild beating heart of nature then let it slip quietly back.

You may begin to suspect that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Scientists call this 'ecology'. But this is the description of a measurable system of components and their interactions. It speaks not of the spirit of the river. Only the emotional self has a language for that.

The spirit exists not without but within. It is within all things of the river and those of us with open hearts can feel its influence. It is up to us to honor the river and protect it from the many challenges our species has created. We all have choices in how we live our lives and the footprints we leave, however small. After all, tiny raindrops brought life to the valley and gave rise to civilisation. Everything we have we owe.

 

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Tenkara Secrets

Toshiro Todoroki

…For “Kebari-Hooks”

Up until now, I have tied the traditional “kebari” used in the mountainous areas of Japan for local friends to use.

「飛ぶ蟲に合わす」
The “Kebari” matches the insects that fly at that time

「蓑毛の腰は流れに合わす」
The hardness of the hackle is adjusted to the flow of the River

「蓑毛で誘って胴で喰わす」
Invite the fish with the movement and light of the hackle and deceive the fish with the body

「毛鉤」は手道具と同じ
“Kebari” is hand tools

Durability and functional beauty are the most important

At first it was traditionally tied only by hand

After that, I learned the flies used for FLY fishing, and pursued more robustness and effectiveness. In the process, I felt that “kebari” had something in common with “forgotten flies” used in various countries.

It’s a simple structure, so it’s not just similar.

Not just general shapes created from anglers’ rules of thumb

Remain in the literature, those made from trade with other countries from the 1600s before

···There is no border to “Kebari” from the old

The interesting point is how to make the hook

The method of manufacturing old hooks in Japan is the method of manufacturing sewing needles.

There is no method of manufacturing the hook to cut diagonally of Europe

The method of manufacturing fishing hooks has evolved by incorporating the technology of “swordsmithing” that escaped the war.

The forging technology for metal materials used for hooks at the time was the same as the manufacturing technology for “Japanese swords”.

Introduces hooks created the old way… Introducing hooks since the 1950s

Material is piano steel wire

Material is piano steel wire

A typical hook pattern
角型·丸型·大輪型·狐型·袖型

A typical hook pattern 角型·丸型·大輪型·狐型·袖型

SODE-type(袖型の種類)
···秋田袖·東京袖

SODE-type(袖型の種類) 秋田袖·東京袖

kITUNE-type(狐型の種類)
···秋田狐·東京狐·軽井沢狐

kITUNE-type(狐型の種類) 秋田狐·東京狐·軽井沢狐

kITUNE-type evolution
···鮎掛け針·マス針

kITUNE-type evolution 鮎掛け針·マス針

Diversion of sea fishing hooks
···海津鈎·チヌ針·マルセイゴ針·伊勢尼針
Not only is it strong, but the weight of the hook is important.

Diversion of sea fishing hooks ···海津鈎·チヌ針·マルセイゴ針·伊勢尼針

Barbless hook···スレ針

My favorite
…「彦兵衛 改良ヘラ鮒スレ鉤」e.t.c

Barbless hook···スレ針

Special hook shape
···新アマゴ針·吉村アマゴ針

新アマゴ針·吉村アマゴ針

Characteristic is tough, sharp, unbreakable, regrindable and easy to repair… This is similar to the nature of the Japanese sword

Handcrafted fishing hooks have a lot of tastes.

It is still more that was made by hand hook “Kebari” is

There are various surface treatment methods for corrosion resistance, such as “brown baking”, “blue baking”, “black dyeing”, “pure gold plating”, “tin plating”, which are general high-temperature treatments.

The choice of many hooks was left to the local environment and the fisherman’s intentions.

Many “Kebari” were born from the hooks that anglers trusted.

It is also fun to choose a hook according to your fishing method and target fish

I thank my dear friend ”Adam Trahan”


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Владимир Бушляков

It seems to me that the main secret lies not in Tenkara, but in our attitude to life, to fishing. The more attentively you study the river, stream, its internal streams, the more accurately you will determine the place of stay, feeding of fish. Observation and attention is needed. This is the main key to spending more time in the water. As in the old days, if you want to eat, catch a fish. Or stay hungry. Primal Instinct Unlocks! 

Today, the issue of hunger is not the main reason. We fish more for pleasure, we get a thrill from fighting fish. Do you want to get adrenaline - catch a fish! Take a nice photo and let it go for the next meeting. And this Tenkara or Keriyu is not so important. The fish feeding place is the same. 

The main secret: How does the simplest fishing tackle win the hearts of fishermen? 

All good, see you on the river.

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My Tenkara, A Journey, Not A Destination

John Vetterli

Sometime in the spring of 2009, I acquired my first tenkara rod, a Tenkara USA 12 foot Iwana.

I had no idea that in that weird looking fishing rod, I held in my hands the keys to a new journey that would eventually take me all the way to Japan to learn from several master tenkara anglers, make new lifelong friends, and even catch a few fish along the way.

I started out like most of the early tenkara anglers outside of Japan. Taking what I already knew from western fly fishing and adapting it to this weird long bendy stick. There was really no information from Japan in English so there was a lot of experimentation, a few success and a shitload of spectacular failures.

During the early days of tenkara in North America, I met Erik Ostrander and Rob Worthing. We began to build our company Tenkara Guides LLC in the summer of 2010. Our company has been an industry leader for the past 10 years. But that is another story.

Our guide business has two sides to it.

One is fixed line fly fishing which includes all the hybrid forms of fly fishing like nymphing, western style dry fly fishing, and even streamers and mice patterns.

Then there is the other side, the Japanese tenkara method. By having Masami Sakakibara as my teacher and mentor, we have evolved into something unique as a business.

If you just want to catch a bucket load of big fish from big rivers, that is side one.

If you want to dive deep into the Japanese tenkara techniques, philosophies, and tenkara culture, we created Oni School where you can come to Utah and learn directly from the man many consider the greatest living tenkara angler in the world, Masami Sakakibara. This is side two.

I know that to the tenkara purist crowd that seems hypocritical. This is the reality of operating a guide business. Not every client wants to learn traditional Japanese tenkara. Most just want to catch as many fish as possible. But, occasionally you book a trip with the client that wants to dive deep into Japanese tenkara. Those days are pretty rare and they are truly special.

Throughout all this is a powerful connection I feel to Japanese tenkara history, culture, techniques, and the many friends I have made along the way in Japan, Europe, and here in the USA.

In the beginning it was about catching fish and now it is more about the people. The connections, sharing ideas, enjoying time on the water with others and for those that really want to know, sharing everything Masami has been teaching me for the past 6 years.

When I first met Masami Sakakibara in Mazegawa, Japan back in 2014, there was this instant and powerful connection like electricity between us. Everything he taught me just clicked, he would explain something, show me some technique and I just understood it and could immediately replicate it. Though many hours of conversation, I have learned that we share many of the same interests outside of tenkara. We share similar personal philosophies regarding tenkara, conservation, and life in general. It makes our relationship as student and mentor flow easily. Masami has become more than my friend and teacher, he is family. Over the years he has shared so many subtle insights as far as techniques, that some of them take several months of dedication and practice for me to not just be able to mimic the technique but to understand the how and why behind it. Once you hit that level of understanding, you are able to effectively teach it.

Adam asked me to write about my “Tenkara Secrets”.

After all this rambling, here it is.

My mentor Masami Sakakibara is preparing Erik, Rob, and myself to be able to teach his entire tenkara system. This is no small feat. His system is a fully integrated tenkara style that includes rods, lines, flies, casting methods, fishing strategies, tactics, and it is all built upon a philosophical foundation that ties it altogether. We don’t want to just parrot or mimic what he is teaching us. We acknowledge that we have an obligation to teach deeply his thoughts and feelings about tenkara and how it relates to the other parts of our lives not just as tenkara anglers but human beings.

Can tenkara make the world a better place?

The simple answer is yes.

By using tenkara to refine our skills on the water, we are also refining ourselves. Tenkara requires patience, persistence, calmness, compassion toward nature, preservation of natural resources, forgiveness, enjoyment of simple pleasures, and above all, the ability to laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously.

These are the most important tenkara secrets I have learned from my mentor, my friends, and the river itself. The fishing is just a tool to refine the human being into the best version of myself I can become.

Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail, but like the river, I must keep moving forward.

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The Tenkara Secret 


I was asked to write an article about “tenkara secrets”. While trying to think of a premise, at first, I started thinking about “secret” flies, esoteric presentation techniques, or unique rigging methods. After pondering it for quite a while, I came to the conclusion that none of these are “secret”. They’re available anywhere on the Internet. You can go to Youtube, Facebook, or various websites and look up any of this information. Since I started tenkara in 2009, the amount of information on the method has exploded. It’s almost overwhelming. But then it came to me. The “secret” to tenkara has nothing to do with gear or flies. It’s something internal, not external. What is it? 

Confidence. 

I know that sounds cliché but over the course of 10 years, I’ve found it to be true. I used to put confidence in my gear rather than in myself. I carried probably a dozen fly boxes, at least 5 or 6 tippet spools, and lots of other unnecessary gear. I went to the water thinking that if I could just choose the right tippet size and fly, that’s how I would catch fish. It worked, but it was all pomp and circumstance. Totally unnecessary. The one thing I wasn’t carrying in my overloaded vest was the one thing I needed the most. 

By minimizing my gear and studying tenkara techniques, I’ve learned to be confident in my presentation. I no longer worry if I have the “right” tippet size or the “right” fly. I fish the fly I want. If the fish don’t want it, so be it. (But they usually do). 

Sure, I have my go-to patterns but it’s not the fly that catches the fish. It’s the angler. If the angler doesn’t have confidence, no fly will work. Even the perfect fly. 

So, what tenkara has taught me is the opposite of what 30 years of western fly fishing has tried to indoctrinate in me: it’s all about confidence. Not gear. Not gizmos. Not gimmicks. Most people scoff at the lack of gear I carry. But I catch just as many (and sometimes more) fish than they do. I’m playing a hand with a poker face rather than the winning cards. But it works. And I usually take the jackpot.

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Begin at the Beginning

David Walker

“Begin at the beginning, and go on ‘til you come to the end; then stop”. Being mostly a mystery to me why anyone would want to read about my tenkara secrets, the things about tenkara I have made important to me. When there are so many other tenkara anglers who post online content that are probably more skillful anglers than I am. Who also post more interesting photos, and videos. I decided to take part of Lewis Carroll’s advice in the opening quote. Begin at the beginning, and go on to a good place to end. Then stop.

I first read of tenkara in May 2010 in a post on hamockforums wherein this new thing called tenkara was recommended as lightweight fishing gear to take backpacking. The next month I ordered two tenkara rods. Purchasing an Iwana rod from TenkaraUSA, and an Ayu rod from Jason Klass. Neither of the two had both rods in stock. At that time my son was 14 years old, still liked to hang out with me doing stuff. I always purchased two of everything so we could do things together. Something I enjoyed doing for a few more short years.

At that time the tenkaraUSA forum was about the only place to find any information about tenkara. Written in English. Which wasn’t very much. Soon several people began writing about trying to make their own tamo net. Before discovering tenkara for seven years I had been actively involved with folding kayaks. A lot of information was available in English. A lot more information about the sport, its culture, and its history was available in German. Where before the war there were about 80 companies making folding kayaks. Folding kayaks having been a sport promoted to make use of the trains in summertime that in wintertime transported skiers out of the cities into the mountains. The kayaks were designed to disassemble and fit into the spaces on the trains designed to hold snow skies. The trains transported the kayakers and their boats up river. Where they could assemble their kayaks, and paddle back down stream. Taking two days or longer to do so. The Japanese are also avid folding kayak enthusiasts. A lot of folding kayak information could be found on Japanese language websites, too.

Reading the TenkaraUSA forum post wherein people were trying to figure out the best way to go about making their own tamo nets. I quickly recognized the best place to find that information would be found on Japanese language websites. And I already had some experience searching for information about a sport on websites written in languages I did not speak nor knew how to read. Maybe I could help them out. I only needed to discover how tamo, and related terms were written in Japanese to get started. I shared a lot of the information I found. I think some people found it helpful.

After searching for information about how to make tamo nets, it ignited an interest in searching for more information about the history and culture of tenkara in the land of its origin. An interest I still enjoy pursuing. Maybe some people enjoyed reading some of it I posted publicly. Even my big goofs. Now a lot more information is readily available in English, and a tenkara culture is well on it’s way becoming developed outside of Japan. And finding new old Japanese tenkara culture information is becoming more difficult to find. Not everything is on the internet, despite popular opinion it is.

When I first started tenkara fishing I often would fish for several hours each day. Sometimes fishing all day on the same river. Or fishing on one stream in the morning. Then traveling to another stream to fish in the afternoon. I was still working at the time, and had to squeeze in as much fishing as I could on weekends. When I had the time to travel to streams where the fishing is better than on streams near home. But now days I mostly only fish for one to 2 hours on days I go fishing. And no longer spend much time driving to new distant streams. I found I was just as pleased to catch a fish on a stream 30 minutes or less away as a fish caught on a stream that takes a couple of hours or more of driving to reach. Plus I don’t need to catch a lot of fish to feel it was a good day. I enjoy trying to make each next cast more graceful than the previous one. Other people seem to enjoy it, too. On days when fishing with bystanders near by, and chatting with them. They will often say they found watching me cast, relaxing.

The first tenakra rod I purchased that wasn’t a TenkaraUSA rod was the Daiwa LL 360 SF. A very nice rod I still fish with. Afterwards I acquired several other brands of tenkara rods: Nissin, Oni, Tenkara Times, Suntech Tenkarabum, Karasu, and so on. But, also adding the Sato and Rhodo rods. Now I mostly fish wider rivers, with 4m rods. Or a little bit shorter or longer rods. Partly because I don’t much like wading to fish, and only wade when I have no other choice. I do occasionally fish narrow bushy streams where a 3.2m rod is an advantage. I’d probably do it more often but to many line snags in tree branches, with little wind in narrow hollows to blow the skin nibblers away that I’d rather avoid. However, the small streams do have beautiful brook trout, which fear me not because they are sheltering in pools where a tree branch extends over them only a foot or less above the water. Just no way to drift a fly over then that they wont ignore, or they dash off to hide for twenty minutes after seeing me when I get close enough to even try to deliver a fly into their sheltered location. 


As my casting skills improved I experimented with casting longer lines, and lower weight lines. And lines made by different manufacturers. Using #2 or #2.5 LL whenever I can get away with it. Heavier line when I must due to wind or size of the kebari I’m using. I also like the Fujino straight lines. For their efficiency, no time wasted removing line coil. But also experiment now and again with lines made from braided saltwater lines. Some I made myself, other lines gifts from friends who also experiment with them, and sent me a few of their creations. I’ve also enjoyed receiving a few other gifts from tenkara community friends; custom-made line holders, a kebari drawing, a few kebari, even a few videos. And I prefer larger diameter line spools, 90mm, because it’s a little bit faster to wrap on long lines. Each round gaining a few extra inches of line vs a smaller diameter spool. That time efficiency thing, again.

Most of the time I fish with a line about 1m longer than the rod, plus 1 meter of tippet. Once in while fishing with an even longer line or even less often a shorter line. Fishing mostly with kebari I tied myself. Cloned patterns of new or old patterns seen on the internet, trying some old patterns seen in old Japanese language tenkara books. Some my own creation, others kebari tied by friends who mailed them to me. While I enjoy tying kebari, I have only tied a few over the past two years having more than I have places to keep them. Narrow bushy streams come in handy to decrease the on hand supply.

I’ve probably already gone past where I ought to have stopped. I will only add a couple of secrets. If you’re curious about the difference between good, better, and the very top quality, sports product. What some people would refer as an alpha-model. Stick with tenkara rods. Alpha grade binoculars are a lot more expensive to play around with. A $2,000 binocular isn’t 10x better than a $200 binocular. Maybe 40% better. Don’t misunderstand; a 40% better binocular is a real pleasure to hold in your hands, and use. But a $800~$1,000 binocular can be almost a good, just not quite as ergonomically refined. However, a 40% better alpha-tenkara rod will cost a lot less money. A rod priced half way there will be almost as good, and also a joy to cast.

I used to visit Mystic Seaport every time I could. Where on the L.A. Dutton fishing schooner the museum staff would say a common saying on the fishing schooners was, “Are you going to fish, or cut bait”? I felt pretty dense as it took me a long time to figure out what they meant. Isn’t cutting bait part of deep-sea fishing? Walt Disney said the same thing more clearly, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Begin doing tenakra! I’ve found doing many different aspects of doing tenkara; the actual fishing, tying kebari, studying the culture, interacting with other people in the tenkara community. Enjoyable. You might, too. Ask around. It’s not a secret.

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Hello my friends, my name is Kai. I've been fly fishing for 30 plus years. I've guided both in the salt water of Hawaii and for trout in Utah. I went to fly fishing guide school in Ashland, Idaho and I've been focused on tenkara since October of 2010. I've focused more on the traditional methods from Japan with a little experimentation on still waters. I was asked to give a few of my tips and tricks for a more successful tenkara trip.


My first tip is don't over think it. 

Tenkara at it's core was designed for high catch rates with simple kebari and techniques. I'm not saying you can't toss a streamer or nymph but I am saying you're missing out on the advantages that comes with the system of fishing that is tenkara.

When asked what the angler can do to improve their tenkara fishing, I always respond with pick a sakasa kebari of your liking and force yourself to fish only that pattern. I realize there are other styles of kebari but in my opinion the sakasa kebari is the most adaptable to varying streams and rivers. Also know as the one fly method, this style is the truly the best way outside of a trip to Japan to improveyour tenkara fishing. Having only one pattern keeps your kebari in the water longer, which puts it in the face of more fish. Beyond simply catching way more fish, fishing a single kebari will improve your casting, your manipulation of the kebari and help you understand angles and casting positions.

When fishing crystal clear rivers with extra spooky fish, I often lengthen my level line about four feet and focus on swinging my kebari into where the fish are. At the end of the swing lowering your rod down allows the kebari to dip right before rising, causing fish to have a reactionary strike. Before lifting your kebari for another cast allow it to ride on top for upwards of 30 to 45 seconds. Allowing your kebari to ride on to is actually extremely productive and fun as the takes are savage.

The beauty of tenkara is that it does not follow the match the hatch approach often, and I instead prefer to bust the hatch. I have tried many colors but florescent green with a white feather has been my most productive. You basically get the bright color kebari of your choice in a size 8 or larger and you fish it very quickly in all the fishy spots during a hatch and you'll start getting aggressive territorial takes. Some of my biggest fish are caught this way, but full transparency some of my smallest fish are also caught this way.

So I'm not going to get into the debate of what is or isn't tenkara, but for the sake of this article, I'll say I also love fixed line fly fishing with my tenkara rod in high alpine lakes. My favorite tip for these lakes or any stocked trout pond or lake is in the first and last few hours of daylight, tie on a size 12 black leech and cast as far as you can and work it back quickly just under the surface. Focus on areas near spillways, creeks or inflows, and deeper edges with grass. This is also effective from a kick boat on the larger trout lakes, but focus on the grass line. All you warm water guys this also works on bluegill, bass, white bass, wiper and peacock bass, although size of the leech might vary. I will say that black is by far the best color I've used, but experiment and see what colors work for you.

Mahalo for taking the time to read my tips and tricks. I have a lot more but figured this is a good start. Feel free to reach out to me on social media if you want more clarification. Have a great day and hopefully it's spent fishing with those you love. 

Kai C

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Tenkara Secrets 

Paul Gaskell

If you can define “secret” as something not widely known – and yet extremely valuable – then tenkara is a goldmine of secrets. It makes picking out just one or two very difficult.

Maybe one of the biggest secrets is just how technically brilliant the best tenkara anglers in Japan are? Without wanting to sling mud, this area is one that I passionately (and yet respectfully) disagree with Jason Klass on. It seems likely Jason’s idea that “There are no tenkara masters” can only devolve into an argument on the dictionary definition of “master”. How else to describe anglers who are so far ahead of the curve? When you have students spending extended live-in “internships” with ex shokurōshi to properly learn their approaches; what other description for those teachers is more fitting or deserved?

I’m not sure what we’re afraid of in the admission that next-level practitioners exist? Surely that is something to celebrate and draw inspiration from? To deny their existence seems designed to justify a more mediocre – and less inspiring - status quo.

Another major secret that I wish was more widely appreciated is the culture of collaborative skills development and strong social bonds in the Japanese tenkara community. I often hear people complain that they live 5-hours-plus away from any trout fishing – so that’s why they can’t do it.

Well, I certainly empathize with how precious “free” time is. I also understand that everyone’s situation is different. On the other side of the same coin, Kura-san regularly drives 6 to 13 hours to attend extended weekend tenkara camp, fish, BBQ & beer events in the mountains. He, and many others, love tenkara so much that those journeys are a no-brainer. To make an activity that much of a priority in your life, it’s got to be pretty special right?

During those weekends, there is a strong culture of “what value can I bring to the group?”. This extends to creating a great social atmosphere, cooking great food and filling your buddy’s drink cup for them as much as it does to raising everyone’s fishing “game”. I believe this is a major reason those dedicated tenkara “crews” in Japan progress and get great at a faster rate than most people in other fishing cultures. In the West, it so often seems to be more about going it alone, “STFU & fish”, finding fault with different views (so you can safely justify sticking to your own approach) and being afraid to “share the glory” with anyone else. Can you think of a better way to stifle progress?

Sharing those hard-won technical secrets carries a heavy responsibility. That’s why every insight I’ve benefited from that I’ve written about or videoed is, as far as humanly possible, credited to who I heard it from first – or how it developed from some group endeavour. That way you get to decide whether you want to try something for yourself and see if it improves your enjoyment, success or understanding.

I’ve offended people on a daily basis by sharing those insights which have created such a positive impact on my own fishing. Obviously living with that offence is unpleasant. However, these days, I’m pretty happy to continue offending the people I can’t help. Being blunt, it saves the folks on both ends of that equation time, money and emotional labour. On the positive side, there are many other people who are happy to benefit from the secrets of great Japanese tenkara anglers. That’s the crew I like to belong to and share secrets with…

Everyone comes out of that interaction feeling enriched and inspired.

Paul Gaskell

discovertenkara.com & fishingdiscoveries.com

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I’m not sure I have any real tenkara secrets, but I have a few things that have helped me climb the learning curve.
Practice. I try to practice my casting on a daily basis. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. I certainly wouldn’t call my casting perfect, but I have enough confidence in my casting that I can predict the outcome of most situations. I have tried to study the casting techniques of Masami Sakakibara and have tried to incorporate his style into my own casting. But I will never be able to cast like him. I am much taller than he is, and my skeletal structure, center of gravity, rotational moment of my arm, stance, etc. are much different than his. Still, I practice, as often as I can. My thought is that the time on stream is to be for fishing and not practicing. Practice before you go to the stream, then when you are on stream, implement what you have practiced.

Rods. Find a rod(s) that work for you and your fishing style. There are many different styles of tenkara, and so, there are many different types of tenkara rods. Some rods are full flex (or slower), load easily, and make small fish feel larger. Some rods are stiffer (or faster), have a fast hook set, and fight fish with more control. Depending on your fishing environment, stream type, fish species and size, you may prefer one rod over another. That is OK. Find a rod(s) that works for you and don’t worry about what others do. They are not you.

Kebari. Not all kebari are the forward hackle style. Although forward or reverse (sakasa) kebari seems to be the iconic style in American tenkara, they are not the only tenkara flies. Rear facing hackle (jun) kebari are quite common as are stiff hackle (futsu) kebari. Fish them all and find out what you prefer. Like many, I started with sakasa kebari, but now fish many other styles. Exploring various kebari styles and patterns makes tenkara more rewarding, at least for me.

Tie your own. I would recommend that you, at some point, learn to tie your own flies. I argue that to increase your pleasure in fly fishing, learning to tie your own flies is essential. Sure, you can fish flies tied by others, but tying your own flies is extremely rewarding. It gives you better “ownership” of the tenkara or fly fishing experience.
As I said, I don’t think I have any secrets, but the four items I have presented are “secrets” that have made my tenkara journey very rewarding. I look forward to many more years of exploring the multifaceted world of tenkara and discovering many more “secrets”.

-Tom Davis, Teton Tenkara


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Kazumi Saigo "Tenkara Ajari"

1. Beautiful mountains in Japan, beautiful and wonderful environment blessed with greenery and water, but in recent years, Japanese mountain streams have become difficult for fish to live in.

An abnormal weather caused by global warming due to climate change, natural development by humans, and an angler who takes a fish and takes it home .

The protected forests and nature are only part of the picture, and it seems that the worsening nature is overwhelmingly the better than the restoring nature.

Since this is such a situation, the fish is livable environment, suitable for fishing nature itself maintain are made in the river less, mountain stream to follow a deterioration feel that it is the majority.

We hope that 10 to 20 years from now, and more and more years, children can enjoy fishing in the same or better environment as they are now and play with nature.

In Japan's mountain stream that is undergoing such deterioration, what kind of method do I need to pay attention to the changes in the surrounding nature, read the situation at that time, think about fish and rivers , and efficiently catch the target fish? I want to introduce you to what you are doing.


2. Many of Japan's mountain stream March from May September is the season until May, and the other of the season without exception, fishing is not allowed.

A river that is much better and a fish that you can catch all season is almost nowhere in my area.

In the area where I live, the tenkara season is from late May to the end of June .

Although the final peak will come in late September for a short period, the season for Tenkara is really short.

So, in the summertime, I often go to the rivers that flow from the Japanese Northern Alps, chasing good fish and gradually raising the altitude.

Since the season pattern is organized, what river can I efficiently fish for during this time, and whether it is easy to fish, my fishing is not only relying on feeling and intuition, but from data acquisition The fishing spot is decided after taking in and analyzing independently .

Deserve in a good type in Japan "Syakumono" (30cm or more) how to fish efficiently, good type of trout, char is likely to catch anywhere this time, also in what month if you go to where catch or not the probability goes up , data While observing, make a decision after checking the weather forecast immediately before and the river status with a live camera .

Why, I "Syakumono" if you stick to.

It is one of the good standards in Japan, and when I started fishing, I went to the river with the aim of catching fish of that size .

However, no matter how many times I caught it, I could not catch a good fish.

Of course, there were rivers that didn't grow to that size, and I used to fish in such rivers, but I can't doubt that I was fishing inefficiently.

I still remember vividly the situation and happiness when I first caught “syakumono” through trial and error.

Such joy I know a lot of people, even one person, excitement to be asked , I would like you to fall in love with Tenkara. At the moment a series of trial and error there is in, but also support for the fishing people to "Syakumono" while fished the are.


3. Let's start by explaining how to actually fish.

My fishing method is surprisingly simple.

Fish with #14 Tenkara kebari and assemble the next fishing method based on the information obtained from the fish in that time period .

If there is no reaction with the #14 fly bark, it is judged that the activity is low or that it does not lead to predation.

In such a case, even if you continue to use the same fly, it is difficult to meet good fish and you rarely get a reaction.

So, the size of the fly #16 ~18 while dropping in, use a bead head fly, which was in reference to a is Kaga fly Japanese traditional crafts, fishing by sinking the fly.


(Procedure for ①)

On the contrary, if there are many rises and you can see the good- sized fish predating by the flow or turning around near the water surface ,

increase the size of the fly to #10 ~ 12 and further lift the fly , Tenkara kebari is naturally flown like a dry fly to catch fish.

If the size of the fly is larger than this, damage to the fish will be serious, so we will not use a large fly.

As I wrote so far , I briefly summarized the three patterns of fishing.


[Low activity]

① Sinking fishing : Let it flow naturally at the same point about 3 times.

If there is no reaction, catch a fly with a vertical and vertical invitation (bring less active fish into the reaction bite).


[Normal activity]

② Ordinary fly fishing: At the same point, let it flow about 3 times naturally (water surface to water surface of about 10 cm ).

If there is no reaction, add an invitation at the point where you can predict that the fish has arrived.


[High activity]

③ Float and fish : As dry as possible, let it flow as naturally as possible.

It is more natural for a fly to hit half the surface of the water than for it to float completely, resulting in more natural hits.

If there is no reaction, lure or stop the fly at the point where you can predict that the fish is arriving and eat it.


4. Considering the situation at that time and the process of catching from one fish, it would be a shortcut to catch the next fish.

It is very important to think about why you were caught, and it is a proof that your thought was not wrong when you thought about yourself and connected to the next one.

Try to be as fishy as you can, keep in mind what your fish does, and never force yourself to hit the fish.

It is nature and fish that teach us tenkara.

Knowledge and experience learned from people are also important, but the situation changes every moment when spending time in nature.

I always think that fish is a teacher because it is the fish that teaches me that.

What I said is the basics, and I hope that each person will devise a new fishing method and will be the trigger to build their own fishing method.

We sincerely hope that the nature is abundant forever and that everyone can enjoy good fishing.

Thank you.


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What’s my secret you ask? Well, if I really had a secret then it would be wrong of me to share it, especially to such a wide audience. In some cultures or more precisely with some people, secrets are shared only one person at a time. One would have to find an old timer to seek out the real gems and non disclosed secrets that so many of us have so freely published online over the years. I am convinced there are really no more secrets because Google is my friend and she has a bottomless and ever growing repository of secrets (and lies) to share with anyone and everyone. Welcome to the modern world where knowledge is king but tread carefully as knowledge is only one piece of the puzzle when setting out on your quest to conquer your dreams and aspirations. Knowledge will most certainly guide you in your choices and help in making good decisions but in fact it is experience that will really make you shine and with that the boundaries are endless as you combine the powers of knowledge and experience. Those who have come before us, our teachers, each embarking on their own path at different junctures have welcomed us on our own journey with open arms sharing what they know and passing on to those who show interest and enthusiasm in learning the secrets passed down from generation to generation. Now it is our responsibility to continue in like manner, while embracing new and fresh ideas that evolve naturally but not forgetting the past and the roots of where the path first began. Show respect, share the knowledge and embrace change – these are my secrets.

Now, what have I learned from my friends, and what works for me on my tenkara path, i.e., what is my secret sauce? First of all, I am really stoked to be a member of the greater tenkara family. We are young and old (mostly old?) and live near and far but our passion is united for doing something not only different, but satisfying in many ways. I have to give my old friend Adam full credit for not only gearing me up and getting started 5 years ago but taking me under his wing (he has been known to fly hang gliders so he has big wings and a bigger heart). Adam’s guidance helped shorten my ramp as I set out on my own path to gain knowledge and experience with all aspects of tenkara. I am also fortunate to have lived in Japan for 30 years and am fluent in the language so it has been easy for me to get knowledge and communicate with Japanese anglers and teachers. My passion keeps me thirsty for knowledge and near weekly excursions exploring the streams, rivers and lakes out here in central and northeast Arizona and across the southwest on my quest to entice a fish to take my kebari or other no-named ugly fly I happen to tie while sipping sake or a fine wheat bourbon like Eagle Rare. As we all know some days are better than others, but just being outdoors and exploring the beauty of the mountains, canyons and valleys make every trip a success.

I have also interpreted the theme of this collective article on “secrets” to mean what’s my recipe? Besides all the points mentioned above which are important to the core of my tenkara secrets are more practical points I learned through trial and lots of errors. Plan and research as much as possible (like any trip or holiday plan, I find that is half the fun building up the anticipation of the next journey or destination. Understand the seasonal changes and how that impacts where fish are holding. It is important to use common sense when water temperatures fluctuate in hot and cold seasons and make a decision to just stop fishing for example when the water is warm and trout are stressed. Gain knowledge on reading water, where fish are and experience in presenting your fly in a natural way so that you don’t spook one or more fish in a given pool. Get the fly first cast mastered (sometimes all it takes is an adjustment in your rig, line type, length and repetition). Depending on the body of water, conditions, weather, time of day and water flow, choose your fly carefully. You may have a 1 fly approach, but sometimes having a heavier wire, lighter or darker color or bigger or smaller size will be the secret to triggering the fish. For me and probably most anglers, that is is the fun and biggest challenge of fishing, i.e., figuring out what you need to do to trigger a strike. It is a puzzle of sorts and I really enjoy this aspect of fishing.

Without rambling on any further on my recipe or secrets to tenkara, there are a few final points to keep in mind which may be the most important of all….stay healthy, be kind and have fun! Thanks Adam for all you do for the community and inviting me to participate.

John Sachen

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Tenkara Secrets

Christophe Laurent

I have discovered tenkara eight years ago with a Youtube about Masami Sakakibara and since then I have been studying as seriously as possible tenkara.

The first thing I did was watching all the possible videos from Japan dealing with tenkara and then I started looking for books about this fishing technique. This was made easy to me as I had got in touch with some people I had seen in the videos such as Masami Sakakibara, Kazumi Saigo and many of their friends. I think that as a tenkara student I was very lucky that the Japanese people I was friend with on social media were very helpful and thanks to their help I have made quite a good collection of tenkara books.

The second thing I did was getting the tenkara gear. I tried a lot of different gear as I wanted to be able to discriminate good and bad gear but was always true to tenkara minimalism.

After these years of study and practice I think that modern day tenkara, the sport as we know it today, has in my opinion two pillars: rational observation of fish and gear minimalism.

The books of tenkara masters show that this fishing technique is based on rational observation of fish, it is not about anthropomorphism like western fly fishing has become. Some tenkara masters, especially Dr. Hisao Ishigaki has written theories about trout behaviour and trout biology that have been confirmed by science.

The practice of tenkara masters shows that successful tenkara fishing can be reached with minimum gear…but maximum skills. If one can describe tenkara with only one sentence (generally « One rod, one line, one fly) it doesn’t mean that one will be a good tenkara angler in one day. In fact it takes years of practice to really discover what can be done with minimalist fishing gear.

So after near a decade of passionate interest for tenkara I think that the tenkara secrets I have discovered are « Open you eyes when you are on a stream » and « Keep everything as simple as possible ». This is the gate to successful tenkara fishing experience.


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Tenkara Secrets

Aldo Menghini

I was asked to explain what the "Secret of my Tenkara" is, but honestly I had never asked myself this question up until now and therefore it remains a bit difficult for me to answer without thinking about it first!

Let's start together, dear reader, this little journey into the world of Tenkara, to discover its secrets and my secrets.

Imagine a wind-swept, snow-covered Japanese mountain village where the earth's few resources were not enough to survive the harsh winter.

Precisely in these places, inhospitable and isolated, the inhabitants equipped themselves, with the few resources offered by the community and the greedy nature, to try to find food in the local streams.

With bamboo they made reeds, with horsehair and silk lines, with folded needles hooks on which they wrapped feathers of courtyard animals, such as hens or pheasants, together with natural fibers taken from ferns.

This, according to what is known, should be the way in which the Tenkara was born, a technique based on the primary necessity of human survival.

This, dear reader, is briefly what we must know to understand in what context this technique was born and developed.

Now let's start looking for "the secret".


Let's start looking for it in the equipment.

The rods have now almost completely abandoned the original bamboo and are made almost exclusively of carbon fiber, with a length that can vary from about 3m to 4.50m.

They have various types of actions, from the most parabolic to the exasperatingly fast action and can be both telescopic and zoom (variable length, my favorite for practicality of use).

They come in different types and with different prices, they can satisfy any need of the modern western fisherman, even that of catching fish of considerable size: something almost unknown in Japanese mountain streams.

But, on closer inspection, I don't seem to recognize any secret in the current rods.

So let's try with the lines: they can be made in braid (fixed length and quite heavy) or simply be level lines, of variable length and extremely light, of various colors and sizes (pink, yellow, orange, 2.5 / 3 / 3.5 / 4 the most common sizes. My favorite orange of 3 / 3.5) to which a tip of about 1.5m is connected, generally fluorocarbon.

However, even here it doesn't seem to me that there is anything strange or particular.

Maybe we will find the "mysterious secret" in the Kebari?


They can be divided into three large families: Jun, Futsu, Sakasa.

The substantial difference between the three lies mainly in the way the hackles are mounted: backward, vertical or forward.

Each has its own specific use (up, down, restrained, etc.) and can be made in various sizes and in the most varied colors.

Initially I preferred and used only the Sakasa Kebari, as I thought they had more movement in the water. Then, over time, I began to appreciate all three types, in equal measure and without distinction.


Basically it doesn't seem to me that here, in the Kebari, there is the secret we are looking for.

We can look for it in the various methods of manipulation of the Kebari: in the Gyaku-biki, in the Yokohama-biki or in the Tone-zuri, in the Tome-okuri or in the Hashi Rakashi. Great ways to bring our Kebari to life once it hits the water. But these manipulations are not secret. You can buy a good book or visit a website about Tenkara, dear reader, and you can study them and put them into practice, with the "right approach", easily. Unfortunately, not even here is the "Secret" we are looking for so much.

Maybe then it will be in the beautiful wooden box where we keep our Kebari? Or in the vest you've just bought? Or in the last type of polarized glasses?

You see, Dear Reader, I must confess to you one thing: I know where the secret is hidden.

Was I a little cruel to pretend I was looking for him where I knew I wasn't?

I apologize but it was a way to spend time together, to get to know you and to have a little conversation with you.

The secret is not hidden in anything you can buy: the secret, the real and unique one of its kind, is within us. And the most surprising thing is that we often go looking for it in an online store!!!

Tenkara was born already perfect. In fact, I smile when I hear "I'm experimenting ..."

There is nothing more useless !!! Experimenting can be done on something that is not yet well defined or is in the process of evolution. Tenkara was born perfect and any "experimentation" or modification destroys its "imperfect beauty". It is as if you wanted to "correct" or modify Leonardo's Mona Lisa: pure madness !!!

In Tenkara you don't have to create anything. It is the essence of fishing: it is an optimized system, an infallible mechanism, where the variables have been reset. The only one still in existence is the human one. It is Japanese minimalism applied to fishing. Changing, experimenting, expanding, adding is equivalent to not having understood anything and Tenkara will give you nothing.

The "Secret of my Tenkara" is to have removed all that is useless, then, once finished, I continued to remove something else, until nothing is left of my Tenkara but her with her silent beauty.

Discussing which is the best Kebari or which rod is the best performing takes you away from the most elementary truth which is also its great strength: its disarming simplicity.

My "secret" is to be alone, on the river, away from the noisy competitions. My Tenkara is never a frenzied rush of appearing but a silent walk of being.

Dear Reader, I advise you to focus on the technique and not on the tools or material that, for various reasons, you use, whatever it is.

The challenge you have to face every time with the Tenkara is to get the most out of the minimum: many of your failures are certainly due to an incorrect technique and not the tools you use.

If you try to perfect the technique you will see that the tools you cursed before are now there

you will love more than anything.

The "Secret" of my Tenkara "is to slow down the pace of life, reflect and no longer act on impulse. Before,, when I was fishing with the Western Fly Fishing technique, my thoughts went fast and continuous doubts assailed me: will it be the right line? Is the fly what the fish now prefers? Is the tip too large in diameter?

I was thinking fast and wasting time asking myself questions. Now, on the other hand, I only think about fishing well with my Kebari (every year I choose a Kebari and fish with it for the whole season). I don't think about anything else.

In this way, Dear Reader, I can assure you that my approach to the river has progressed significantly and the presentations of my Kebari have become absolutely better.

My advice, in fishing as in life, is to simplify things, always.

My motto is "Live Simply" (phrase used by my favorite American clothing company) and it is valid, I repeat, always and everywhere, along the river as at work: a lifestyle that follows you, always, and that conditions positively your choices.

And this is also thanks to Tenkara that I understood it.

We are naturally inclined to complicate even the simplest things and this involves a considerable increase in problems and a waste of energy.

The Tenkara is a master of this: it drastically reduces the number of knots (I only use 1, maximum 2), lures (I use one type per season) and lines to use.

Dear Reader Friend, as you can see, Tenkara makes you always be yourself but in a more intelligent way: it relaxes you in its use, it helps you to eliminate what you don't need: it helps you, ultimately, to learn more for the simple reason that it forces you to use fewer things.

To conclude, it makes you share moments of a serene passion, whispering the words and never screaming them, smiling and joking with a tranquility of mind that, in this world that is traveling too fast, still allows you to look in the eyes of those in front of you.

My Tenkara, stripped of all the useless with which we are used to living, allows you to observe, to think and then, if you feel like it, even to fish.

This, Dear Reader, is the "Secret of my Tenkara" and its Imperfect Beauty. Make good use of it if you want.


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Tenkara Secrets 


I have fly fished for about 28 years. For the last 10 years tenkara has played a significant role. My growth as an angler over that tenkara influenced 10 year span has been disproportionate. Getting involved in tenkara has made me a more successful stream fisherman. It’s impossible to put a number to it, but getting into tenkara elevated my skills in a way that exceeded the years spent doing it. Some of that increased success has to do with the gear of course. The small and medium sized streams that I fish in Pennsylvania are a great match for tenkara and the reach of the long rod paired with a light line held off of the water is going to make you more successful. It just is. But there is more to it, something less tangible but no less important. And therein lies my biggest secret to my tenkara success.

It’s two things really. Attention and Focus. 

Tenkara lead me to see these two aspects of angling success more clearly. Without dwelling on it too much, I’ll just say that, in a very practical way, tenkara gear has a way of just “getting out of the way”. Because there’s less to fiddle with the angler can spend more time just fishing. In addition to that practical aspect, there is the philosophical aspect of simplicity. For example, limiting your fly selection and focusing on other skillful aspects of angling instead. You might be asking yourself at this point “But what does any of this mean in practice and how can it be applied?” So I’ll give some examples of what I mean.

Attention. What I mean by that is simple. Pay attention. It’s easy to think that time on the water will make you a better angler. But that’s really not the case. All the time spent fishing will not amount to much real experience if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on. It may seem obvious, but after giving talks and speaking to many different anglers I came to realize that many anglers do not pay very close attention and as a result they do not progress as much as they could. In a practical way what I mean is this. If you catch a fish on a given day it can be a singular unconnected experience, or you can see it as part of a bigger picture and learn from it by paying attention to the particular details. The details you can note are things like, where was the fish? In the open? Near cover? Near the bank? What kind of water was the fish in, was it fast or slow, shallow or deep? What type of presentation elicited the bite? What was the weather like? What time of day? What season? Were bugs hatching? What was the water temperature? Was it a brown trout? Brook trout? Rainbow trout? I could go on. The point is that fish behave in predictable ways, based on the variables that I mention above (and many others). The more you know about that the more successful you can be. Paying close attention to your success is one way to increase your knowledge of these things. You’ll never know it all, and sometimes you’ll be stumped because you won’t know all of the necessary information, but that will happen less the more attention you pay to the details of your success. I am still very much a work in progress when it comes to this- but at least I know that I need to work on it.

Focus. Focus can be applied in different ways and really is the counterpart to paying attention. One very specific way to apply focus is this. Focused casting. It’s easy to fish up a stream and see a current seam or a bankside lie, etc. and cast to it a time or two, come up fishless and just move on. You may assume that if a fish was nearby your cast was probably “good enough” and the fish would have taken if it was interested. I’ve seen over the years that this is not generally true. Sometimes it can be a matter of inches when it comes to a successful vs. unsuccessful cast. So in applying focus to your casting you need to pick a very specific spot to target, not just a general area to cast to. Generalized, shotgun casting can catch you fish - and depending on conditions it may catch you a lot of fish. But when fishing is tougher it really can become a game of inches and focused accurate casts will be the ticket to success.

Another way that I think of focus is this. Often I’ll spend hours or days on the stream focusing on one aspect of fishing. For example I’ve recently become very interested in (obsessed with) fishing the slow, skinny water of creeks. You know those spots where the water is barely moving (or maybe not at all) and is so completely placid that wading and casting become extremely difficult to do without spooking fish and the utmost stealth is required for success. In the fall this kind of water can predominate certain sections of streams that I fish. Anyway I used to avoid that water but then I decided to focus my attention on it and improve that aspect of my fishing. Sometimes focusing on one part of your fishing game results in frustrating days and few fish caught - but in the long run it pays dividends.

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Tenkara Secrets


During the summer of 2014 while living just outside of the Washington Beltway my love affair with tenkara was born. That summer was certainly in the top three best summers of my life as I galavanted throughout Maryland & West Virginia with my tenkara rod. Then in the fall of 2014 I was blessed to move to Japan where I lived for three plus years immersed in the culture where tenkara was born. From my time in the streams and headwaters of Japan I came to discover something - the body, the tribe, the community that is tenkara. This body of people from all walks of life, with different perspectives, experiences, and privileges bonding over the simplest tool - a stick with string affixed to the end and a bit of thread and feather wrapped and glued to a bent needle. It is a small community and therein lies its beauty - it feels like a family albeit a big extended family but a family nonetheless.

In the early days of 2017 my life took a new and unexpected turn - I became a dad and with this change I entered into a new realm of practicing tenkara. The freedom to wake early and head out the door with a small pack for a day of adventure was gone - at least for a few years. In its place though came the joys of teaching and raising up a little person to love the outdoors as much as I did.

When I read Adam’s invitation to write a piece for his blog I was immediately intrigued. All he said was:

“I am interested in your ‘Tenkara Secrets’. Those things that are important to you. ‘Secrets’ here is just a catch word - you are a teacher and share your knowledge freely….”

Tenkara is more than just fishing - it is a way of life. A way of life that is immersed in a wide and diverse community drawn together by an ancient method of survival birthed in some of the most rugged mountains in the world. Adam’s request reminded me of something I had read in one form or another most of life:

“No member of a body lives to serve itself, rather it puts itself to use for other members of the body.”

While I do not necessarily consider myself a teacher as that implies expertise - I do have several years of experiences of raising a son from infancy to love and appreciate the wild places of our planet. Rather than try and break down the lessons learned into bullet points or click-bait type headers I would rather share the tales of our experiences. Perhaps they will inspire a new dad or mom or maybe even a grandparent to take the loved one entrusted to their care into an environment far from electrical outlet covers, scheduled play-dates, and now carefully planned social interactions.

Most people join the tenkara community later in life. I did when I was 31. My son Tadashi joined this global body when he was 11 months old. It was a cold day in December on the edge of the Tanzawa Mountains above Hadano, Japan. I was wearing chest waders and Tadashi was bundled in at least two layers beneath a snow suit. We were guided that day by none other than Go Ishii himself. I think I caught one maybe two fish that day and Go-san? Several dozen. However, the day was a smashing success. What made it a success? A baby carrier backpack that enabled Tadashi to get a front row seat to the action while keeping him warm and safe. Leading up to that day I had taken Tadashi on countless hikes in the carrier. At first he did not like it much, but as he got more comfortable with the idea of being strapped to dad’s back the outings grew longer and longer. Eventually, he could sit in the carrier for hours. When Tadashi was 15 months old we went on our first wet wading fishing trip together. We waded up the Guadalupe River and caught several Guadalupe Bass before finding a wildflower dotted sandbank to rest on while we swam in the warm water together.

Just last week Tadashi, who is now three and a half, and I returned from his first backpacking trip. We chartered a water taxi on the outskirts of Yosemite National Park that took us into a wonderful area called the “20 Lakes Basin”. I brought my ultralight finesse rod as well as my tenkara rod and we caught at least a dozen fish together. This was our fourth backcountry camping trip together this summer. A few months prior Tadashi had caught his first fish in the South Fork of the Kern near Kennedy Meadows, and on a tenkara setup too boot. The experiences of camping this summer was not new for Tadashi though; when he was two I took him on his first camping trip to Big Bear. That first outing we spent four days and three nights mudding in our new truck, star gazing, and of course a little bushwhacking up the fish-less Santa Anna River with a tenkara rod in hand.


So, what am I trying to get at here? My aim from when Tadashi was old enough to hold his head upright was to immerse him in the wild places I love to be. I tamed down the experiences a little - no sawanobori a.k.a. waterfall climbing yet… Maybe when he is six. I also make sure to bring plenty of juice boxes (we almost had to cancel his first backpacking trip due to that oversight). Tadashi and I have been on some unforgettable trips together. From watching meteor showers snuggled in a hammock at 7,500’ to wet wading a tumultuous creek, him in one arm and my tenkara rod in the other. He gets mad now if I do not let him hold every fish I catch. The expectation is there and now dad just has to bring the results. I appreciate the pressure, it is making me a better angler.

The ways of our tight knit tenkara community differs from person to person. Interpretations are added or vehemently opposed - but in the end we are one body building each other up and seeking just one more fish or one more cast into the cool wild air before returning to the mess our world is in. As for me? I am striving to raise my child in the way he should go: so that when he is old, he will not depart from it - one cast and one new friendship at a time.

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Photo by Adam Klagsbrun, "My Japanese friends allowing me to fish point"

Tenkara Secrets


Tenkara is Japanese style fly fishing.

What you see here is my dedication of the site to the idea that tenkara is far more than a simple method of mountain stream fishing. It is a network of communities, a simple method of mountain stream fishing for trout and it is a way of life.

Yamamoto san described this in his books.


I am keeping alive, the love of this style of fishing in the way that I understand Yamamoto san does. By sharing the variety of methods all over Japan and now all over the world.

The world of fly fishing; tenkara secrets.


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Tenkara Secrets 


Anglers are notoriously perceived to be a secretive bunch. Some go through great lengths to preserve the secrecy of a fishing spot they enjoy; others keep flies and techniques to themselves. But the fact of the matter is that most fishing secrets out there are not as much secrets as they are things we have not thought of sharing.

I can almost guarantee you that you are not the first nor the last person to fish a productive out-of-the-way hole. I am pretty certain any techniques, unique rigs, or productive flies I have kept to myself (not a frequent thing for me to do anyhow) are not vastly different from others that came before me to be really called a secret. While some people may have purposefully kept things a secret from others, at least in my case, these are simply things I have not thought of sharing. As I wrote a book on tenkara where I attempted to literally share everything I could think of in terms of tenkara fishing, at least for me the only things left are likely things I have not thought of sharing, not because of a desire to keep them “secrets”, but rather thinking that perhaps they are not worth enough of sharing.

But, the little things in fishing, those I perhaps never thought of sharing, can go a long ways in helping catch fish too. So, these may be my “tenkara secrets”:

  • I really don’t give much thought about what fly I put on. This is not a secret, as I have written extensively about the idea of most tenkara anglers using “one fly”. But, it is worth sharing again that when I’m fishing I start with whatever fly I already have at the end of my line. If I don’t have one, I like to start with a larger fly, but am not particular about that either. I have also fished with flies other anglers have lost to trees and that I found dangling.
  • More often than not I do not focus on the fish. I really focus on reading the water, and I fish the water. If a fish takes my fly, then I have done my job at interpreting the water flows and finding the fish that way. Fishing the water has the benefit of making every cast a successful one, even when a fish hasn’t taken my fly.
  • I take a lot of breaks. While I will spend some periods of focused fishing, where I move from pool to pool in search of fish, the majority of times I go fishing I will move fast through a few pools, but I will also stop and observe. I like seeing if fish may be rising in them, if I can spot them, how they are behaving, etc. Sometimes I will spot the fish, watch them, and not present a fly to them; while sometimes casting to a fish I see is inevitable, other times I “catch” some learning from them and just let them be.
  • The best way to learn tenkara, is to share it. I don’t know if this really is a secret, I might have even said it before. But, it is what has allowed me to acquire the skills, and “the fishing touch” so many people think I have. By sharing things I was able to learn. When you tell someone something, you are forced to look at it with a beginner’s eye and you end up picking up nuances that you may have known all along but weren’t particularly aware of. Sharing your own “secrets” with someone forces you to evaluate the secret’s efficacy and utility, and allows you to expand on what you are sharing in a way that you pick up new things based on it.

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