Tenkara Equipment and Tackle

tenkara rods
  Sakura Tenkara Tenkara rods are long, typically 10 – 14ft, and telescope out from within a short handle to a delicate tip at the end. The action is considered slow compared to conventional modern rods, but not all rods re the same.

The tip section of a Tenkara rod is extremely thin, and glued into its tip is a small piece of string to which the leader is connected, using a simple knot. The delicate top sections of the rod help protect the tippet.

The 'stiffness' or 'action' of each rod is designated according to the table below.
6:4 Mid, 7:3 Progressive, 8:2 Tip - What do these numbers indicate?
These numbers designate the rod action, which is determined at the point on the rod where the stiffer butt gives way to a softer section. For example, on a 6:4 rod the first 60% is stiffer than the last 40%, thus most of the bending action will occur 60% from the butt, or say 6 foot from the butt on a 10 foot rod.

tenkara rod

Rod handles are typically made or cork or a light wood like paulownia. In general cork handles are shaped and wooden handles straight.
Each rod has a 'cork' that fits in the top and prevents the pieces coming out and possibly getting damaged in transit. The back of the handle has a screw in cap, so that the pieces can be removed for cleaning or maintenance.
The rod's tip piece has a piece of yarn glued into it, that sticks out of the tip. It is to this piece that your 'line' is connected to the rod with a loop.
Caring for your rod
Your rod has very delicate tip pieces and this has to be borne in mind when extending or collapsing your rod.

extending a tenkara rod Extending your rod
  • Remove the stopper from the front of the rod and store it somewhere safe.
  • Tie your leader onto the 'Lillian' using the knot shown, after removing the leader from its spool.
  • Holding the bottom (handle section) of the rod, in one hand near the top so part of your hand sticks over the top. This hand will control the rear sections of the rod as the other hand pulls them out.
  • Grasp the 'dongle' on the rod tip with the other hand and carefully pull out the first piece, being careful not to move it laterally.
  • While the handle side hand brakes (not breaks) the second  piece, the first piece is pulled out gently but firmly to seat it in place.
  • This is then repeated for each section until the entire rod has been extended.

collapsing a tenkara rod Collapsing your rod
  • Your rod is collapsed in the reverse order, starting with the back end of the rod.
  • Hold the handle section the same way, and with a gentle twisting motion, undo each segment as it comes down.
  • Undo the leader last.
  • DO NOT COLLAPSE A DIRTY ROD as any grit in the segments can cause them to jam or create damage.

Cleaning your rod
A wipe with a damp cloth should be sufficient to clean your rod most of the time. Let it dry properly before packing away.

For a thorough clean your rod will have to be dismantled.
With the stopper in front in place carefully remove the butt cap by screwing it out. Tilt the rod carefully and remove each piece one by one, starting with the smallest. Lay them out in the order, smallest to biggest and ensure they are oriented the same way, ie front side up. Getting them upside down when you put them back may cause damage.
Clean with a mild detergent and wipe dry.
Replace pieces in reverse order and ensure that the butt cap is secure. You do not want your pieces falling out at the stream.
Sakura Tenkara Sakura Tenkara
Sakura Rods
nissin tenkara south africa
Nissin Rods
tenkara line
Tenkara lines are actually a leader, as there is no reel or fly line, so from here on, they will be referred to as leaders .
These are made from furled mono-filament or silk, and sometimes fluorocarbon. Level lines (no taper) as also used but are more difficult to cast, and are usually used for specialised applications.

The leader length is usually the length of the rod. In windy conditions a shorter one can be used and in ideal conditions a longer one (see sidebar about when your line is too long).

There are leaders for different techniques or circumstances.
Yellow tapered leaders are for small streams and delicate presentation
White tapered leaders are for general use, an all round line.
Brown (or Tea) coloured tapered leaders are for heavier flies and distance casting.
Yellow level leaders are for specialised applications like 'dapping' a wind blown line and can be cast by experiences Tenkara anglers.
Custom leaders can be made with furled mono-filament or silk, and level fluorocarbon can also be used. .

tenkara master line When changing leaders it is advisable to collapse the rod unless you have someone to hold the rod for you.

Most  leaders will require a bit of preparation before first use.

Your leader is usually stored on a spool, with the tippet and a fly already tied on. Thus you can have a range of lines, with the relevant fly and tippet ready tied for fast deployment. These fit easily into you pocket, and the spool serves as a temporary holder if you want to collapse your rod to move through some bush.
Tenkara Knots Leaving the leader connected to you rod, collapse your rod. Hook your fly into the spool and wind the line onto it leaving a piece a little shorter than the collapsed rod. Tuck the line into the spool to stop it unwinding, and then slip the spool over the top of the rod where it sits like the hilt on a sword.
Be careful to keep it upright at all times so that the rod pieces don't come out the top and the spool doesn't fall off. When you are ready to fish reverse the procedure.

Leaders can also be stored on 'dropper rigs'

Standard fly-fishing tippets are used, usually in the range of 6X or 7X. The main reason for such light tippets is to protect the tip, so never exceed 5X. Some rods allow much thicker tippets (see manufacturers guidelines), but decent sized fish can be landed on 6X.

Standard knots are used to connect the leader to tippet, with most leaders having a loop at both ends. In this case a perfection loop put onto your tippet then loop to loop connected to the leader is the best option. For tying on flies, use your favourite knot.
Tenkara nets differ slightly in that they are bent at the neck and generally have a round entrance.
This facilitates easy capture of a passing fish without having to bend down too far. It also allows them to be slipped into your belt while fishing without them falling out.

tenkara net tenkara by stephen boshoff
A cherry-wood Tenkara net made by Stephen Boshoff.
Note how it is held, allowing the fish to swim into the net as the current holds the bag open.
The angler does not have to bend down to use the net.
tenkara flies
Traditional Tenkara Flies or Kebari are generally used for tenkara fishing, but you can use any flies you choose in any combination.

tenkara net In Japan Tenkara fishermen fish dry only, nymph or swung wet, either singly or in teams.
Dry fly and swung wet fly Tenkara fishing is essentially the same as any other fly-fishing, but nymphs are usually fished differently.
Tenkara 'nymphs' are what we call soft-hackled flies, or spiders. These are fished in a manipulative way to create movement in the hackles and make the fly appear alive.
The rod tip is moved up and down with the effect of opening and closing the hackles.

tenkara net Tenkara flies are divided up into different categories (see illustration below) and in Japan, different regions have different traditional flies.
The hooks used are standard modern hooks, but the more traditional  flies use eyeless hooks with a thread loop similar to traditional salmon flies..

The flies are generally large, but small ones work fine.

TYING TENKARA FLIES – is quite simple, and you do not need a wide range of material. Bodies are mostly made of silk or yarn and peacock herl. The hackles are usually grouse, pheasant & bantam chickens.
Tenkara RSA South Africa