The hours of debate about Tenkara have produced more fun than using the rod could ever offer so I decided to point out a few issues raised by its rise in the UK for entertainment purposes. The first person I know who enjoyed using Tenkara several years ago quickly explained to me Tenkara in its simplicity and enjoyed using the Technique – good on him and after all he works for the WTT – top bloke. Since then over the past few years I’ve spoke to many anglers and dealers etc who seemed to think it was a gimmick to some extent, making comparables to using a pole, whip or even a fly rod without guides and many more. 2012 has been the year things seem to have taken off for Tenkara and since they are outselling anything else, especially considering it’s the only rod most fly anglers haven’t already got, the very same people are now raving about them, how did we ever survive before - kerching!. Before I go on I should mention until now I’ve been holding back not to alienate myself from clubs/groups/retailers but on reflection why change the habit of a lifetime, sod em!
Some Tenkara fans claim they can play/catch anything effectively whatever our rivers have to offer from yearlings to double figured wild fish. On the other hand a few respected anglers I know explain how leaving flies hanging from larger specimens soon disheartened them as they were simply outgunned, overpowered or found lacking somewhat using Tenkara. Now you could always tackle up (stronger tackle) but I’d imagine that would detract from other obvious claimed advantages of Tenkara.
Speaking for myself – I will say I often tackle up knowing there might be large specimens in numbers in certain rivers or sections to ensure I’m not outgunned at the detriment of a fish. Not just concerned with leaving hooks and leader but playing out the fish for long periods increasing the risk of casualty on release. Simply trusting all anglers to use common sense using Tenkara will in my opinion no doubt fail, especially on day ticket waters. Without any commitment and expensive day permits a small minority of poor anglers will attempt to get there monies worth at any cost to our fish and I suspect a majority of the same poor anglers will celebrate at the fact of no reel or line to carry around all day. I honestly believe most fish could be landed no problem using Tenkara, after all its just another method and they’re all to be enjoyed, although many anglers are now guilty of overplaying its simplicity. It is less off a fly fishing technique and leaning towards coarse in my opinion so the fact our traditional fly fishing game rivers are excepting this method is a real turn around and sign of the ever changing times - be it good or bad.
Light set up with no reels or flylines to carry all day would appeal to most if there honest and this one point is definitely an advantage, especially where several reels might be carried. Some also claim Tenkara is ideal on small streams where a stealthy poke through the growth can delicately place you onto a fish. Now I get the long rod being used for reach having used poles and whips 35yrs ago for a similar approach, but what about trees all around and tricky backcasts etc I’ve always gone shorter (6 or7 ft) on very small streams with some success I might add, so you could possibly say it could be good and bad on this respect while fishing small streams depending on where your stood.
Keeping on the length theme if you consider a 10ft rod compared to a 9ft rod while Check nymphing you’ll know the advantage on terms of reach/span is huge. Long Tenkara rods will give definite advantage for such a technique where no reel is needed, mind you French leaders, highsticking and flyline can all be used in the same way not to mention whips and poles so no clear advantage on other methods really. Dealers make claims about casting Tenkara style suggesting an advantage to poles and whips but I could cast with a clothes line prop if I practised enough and let’s not forget the tenkara flies, please tell me I won’t begin seeing my brethrens fly box full of these uncreative, uninspiring drab flies at £2 each.
A club excepting Tenkara rods couldn’t possibly refuse a member using flies on his whip without looking ridiculous. If they suggest Tenkara has a cork handle and a whip doesn’t, then I suppose this is suggesting if you’ve paid more money and had your pants pulled down by a Tenkara dealer that’s fine. Mind you the very same chaps selling Tenkara rods obviously walk hand in hand with the honcho holding the local fishing rights so things are hunky-dory.
Many anglers claim Tenkara isn’t fly fishing but this depends what you personally class as fly fishing. Some anglers suggest you have to use a fly rod, others a fly line or even both, but what if you fish without using the fly line? Other anglers simply believe if a fly is tied on the business end, then its fly fishing and let’s not forget using all of the above with an indicator might be simply be float fishing to some but that’s another Limahl song.
Excepting Tenkara isn’t a crime but in my opinion takes a huge step to bridging the gap between game and coarse angling, but no surprising the fly lads seem to judge the whip or poles as inferior but it’s undeniably a very similar style to both. The difference is Tenkara is taking massive steps towards merging game and coarse fishing together, have I got a problem with this, most definitely not, but I bet coarse anglers are belly laughing at the game lads all up in arms about a method they have perfected on coarse rivers many years ago. Let’s not forget Walton and Cotton were using Tenkara and the rod caught tuna boys are still standing shoulder to shoulder on their little boats using their own Tenkara style rods today.
The reality is Tenkara is nothing new, in fact it’s been around for centuries, however some bright spark has realised game anglers are so blinkered they could be fooled into paying more for a flyrod without guides, if its marketed correctly. I think Tenkara is well suited to catching small fish and can be effective enjoyable angling and it could prove effective at bringing youngsters into angling a bit like the whip really. Dealers will no doubt carry on with this not so new craze until every numpty has one, in fact I think I’ll buy one later in the year when the price drops.
The facts are Tenkara runs very close to whips and poles no matter how offensive Tenkara addicts will find it. Remember we are all just anglers and I can’t wait to use my whip with its newly fitted cork handle – Whipkara Baby! I can hear those tills ringing so watch this space.