Tenkara is a method of fly fishing that originated in the mountains of Japan hundreds of years ago. Today it has evolved into a popular way to fish mountain streams, pocket waters, rivers and still waters for both trout and panfish. The tenkara method allows the angler to present flies in the most realistic way. It has been called fishing in its purest form, using just a rod, a line and a fly. The word tenkara is believed to mean “from the skies” but no one really knows for sure.
A Brief History
It all started in the mountains of Japan where fishermen needed to find the most efficient way to catch fish to feed their families and make a living. There are several stories on the origins of tenkara but no real written history on it. Fisherman discovered that they could imitate insects with feathers and threads and they could be used many times as opposed to bait fish that were basically used once and done. They used simple bamboo rods with lines fixed to them. British Diplomat Ernest Satow spent several years in Japan and wrote about it in the late 1800’s.
Tenkara has been adopted in the United States by experienced fly anglers looking to simplify things as well as by new anglers who might be intimidated by the amount of information surrounding western fly fishing. Todays tenkara anglers fall into two categories, the traditionalists and what I would call the adapters. The traditionalist believes in only using tenkara in its purest form. The adapters believe in using tenkara as another tool and applying all they have learned in western fly fishing with tenkara rods. Regardless of where you fall… tenkara is an incredibly efficient method that is fun for all ages and abilities.