the abundance of pocket water in the mountain streams of the Western and Eastern Cape are ideally suited to tenkara
Tenkara differs from traditional fly fishing in that you do not have a fly line or reel, and the rods are a bit longer.
Typically the Rods are 11 to 13 ft long, and instead of having to put them together piece by piece, they telescope out just like an old radio aerial, so that before they are extended, they are shorter than a four piece rod tube.
Instead of a line you use a furled tapered or level leader which is connected to the tip of the rod, and is usually about the length of the rod.
To this you connect a standard tippet of about 6X or 7X and as long as you dare.
Because of the length of the rod, you can fish with no line on the water, which means you can fish completely drag free if you wish. As you can 'high stick' from much further away, there is less chance of you being spotted.
You can also cover the water faster, as you do not have to back or false cast.
The method is simple, requires very little equipment and is ideal for beginners and experts. So, in essence, you can catch more fish, with less clutter.
The History of Tenkara
Many years ago, idle Samurai warriors were taught to fish, and somewhere around that time the Tenkara technique appeared. The Samurai may not have invented it, but they were certainly among the first to champion it.
It has had periods of relative relapse, but was the favoured technique of professional fishermen for hundreds of years which speaks volumes regarding its efficiency.
The Tenkara rod of yesteryear was usually a long straight piece of bamboo (cane), a far cry from the modern retractable rods of today, made of carbon fibre by companies such as Sakura (who incidentally still produce 'solid' bamboo rods).
Up until a few years ago Tenkara was limited to Japan, but is fast achieving cult status in the US and Europe.
Was Ryoma Sakamoto the famous Samurai, a Tenkara Fisherman?
happy tenkara fishermenSean Mills - One thing is for sure though, fishing with a Tenkara rod is by far the most sun and most effective way to fish a small stream. I love the simplicity of the outfit and how delicately it can present a dry fly. The length of the drifts that you can achieve with the Tenkara rod and leader are simply sublime. Tackling tricky lip currents is so easy with the length of the rod. I am definitely a convert.
Koos Eckard (left) - Whats my thoughts on Tenkara??? I love it!!!! For Smallstreams you need nothing more than that. Did I run after the Big Bow and Brown? Hell Yeah!!! Fishing the Tenkara was the most fun I ever had on a stream. I am convinced!!!
Mario Geldenhuys - ... the Sakura Seki Rei (Tenkara rod) - simply sublime!! ….made the hour I spent on the stream one that I won't forget in a very, very long time!
Tom Sutcliffe (with Tony Kietzman) - ..this was no passing craze. It was an efficient, delicate and poetic way of catching trout,...we had indeed got ourselves seriously hooked on the Tenkara style...
Craig Thom - it is unlikely that I will ever use a conventional rod on a cape stream again.
Neil Rowe (the first known SA Tenkara fisherman) - I've found the Tenkara rod to present wonderfully. As you say, the line is generally off the water and one can control drift with only a few feet of tippet on the water.... I've caught rainbows up to 18" ..'
magazine articlesTENKARA — Japanese method gains fans in South Africa — by Craig Thom
SINCE before my first visit to Japan in 2004, I have been fascinated with the crafts associated with Japanese flyfishing. To generalise that they make things smaller and simpler would not be far wrong, but when it comes to quality of finish and detail, they have no equal. A different culture and ethos means another way of thinking, which results in unique innovation. That this innovation is rooted in tradition seems like an oxymoron, but the results speak for themselves.
As Japan is a country filled with small streams, it is not surprising that flyfishing has gravitated towards these. They also have some of the world’s most photogenic trout with beautiful names to match — turquoise-tinted, clear mountain streams are the habitat of colourful trout with names like Iwana, Amago and Yamame.
It is in this scenic setting that, many centuries ago, idle Samurai warriors were taught to fish, and somewhere around that time the Tenkara technique developed. The Samurai may not have invented it, but they were certainly among the first to champion it. It has had periods of relative relapse, but has been the favoured technique of professional fishermen for hundreds of years. This speaks volumes for its efficiency. The Tenkara rod of yesteryear was usually a long, straight piece of bamboo (cane), a far cry from the modern retractable rods of today that are made of carbon fibre by companies such as Sakura (who incidentally still produce solid bamboo rods). Up until a few years ago, Tenkara was confined to Japan, but is now fast achieving cult status in the US and Europe.
Being able to fish using the Tenkara technique was a logical progression to my fascination with Japanese craft and flyfishing, as it seemed to me to be the ultimate in lightweight small stream fishing.
It wasn’t until years after my trip to Japan that I borrowed a rod from a friend and tried it on the Holsloot River in the Cape. The technique is perfectly suited to local pocket-water. There are a lot of superlatives I could use to describe the experience, but it’s easier to say that it is unlikely that I will ever again use a conventional rod on a Cape stream. Tenkara differs from standard flyfishing mainly in that you have a long rod and no reel. Attached to the tip of the rod is a fixed length of line (or tapered leader) which is usually about the length of the rod. To the end of that you connect your tippet and the fly.
This is about as simple as it gets: rod, line, and a small box of flies equals a simple, clutter-free, enjoyable day on the water. As one online blog puts it, Tenkara is “... a stick, some string and a fly”.
Tenkara rods are long, very long — anything from 10- to 14 feet. Compared to the average stream rod of 7- to 8 feet it is like a pole, but it certainly doesn’t feel or cast like one. The action is what one would call “slow”, with the typical action being designated 6:4 or 7:3. A 6:4 action indicates that the rod is stiff for the bottom 60%, with the remaining 40% being more flexible. It makes sense then that the main bend or flex point is at the 60/40 point. A 7:3 rod would thus be a “faster” one.
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.
Read the full story in the June/July 2011 issue of FLYFISHING. http://www.africanangler.com/fly_article.asp?id=750
LEARNING FROM THE OLD MASTERS — Tenkara-kebari and a bit of flyfishing history — By Craig Thom
“There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don’t know.” — Ambrose Bierce, US author and satirist (1842 - 1914)
TENKARA-KEBARI are, for all intents and purposes, what we westerners regard as soft-hackled or wet flies, but with some differences. The major difference and cornerstone of these flies is that they are tied with the hackle facing forward rather than at right angles to the shank or facing backwards.
The reason for this is that this style of tenkara fly is manipulated up and down in the upper water column. The forward-facing hackle allows it a large range of movement which suggests life. A standard hackle will flatten against the shank when pulled, while the forward hackle will open up and move. Some tenkara-kebari are made using stiff cock hackles like a dry fly, which enables them to stay open permanently.
The use of flies for fishing in Japan is believed to have originated about 2 000 years ago. However, it was not until the relatively peaceful Edo period in Japan (1603-1868) that a rapid development of tenkara techniques and equipment occurred. During this period, craftsmen made beautiful flies using exotic materials like snakeskin and gold foil for the noble and rich, as well as itinerant Samurai. These craftsmen took fly-tying to a new level which eventually evolved into miniature high art.
Before this, flies were made from bent needles with the tippet of horse hair (mare) tied directly to the hook. Later there were versions with loops tied to the hook. Fly vices were unheard of and the flies were usually tied while sitting cross-legged, with the leader connected to one big toe. And we thought that barbless hooks are something new! With no vices, bobbin holders or hackle pliers, techniques had to be a little different. One of these simple hackle techniques is shown in the step-by-step sequence overleaf.
At the end of the Edo (Shogunate) period, and thanks to the Meiji (enlightened rule) reforms, people had leisure time. Anyone was allowed to fish and fly-tying went commercial with an estimated one-million flies sold per annum at its peak. Some of the families of needle manufacturers who made hooks and flies for sale still make flies today, with an apprenticeship for craft flies being five years.
Read the full story in the October/November 2011 issue of FLYFISHING. http://www.africanangler.com/fly_article.asp?id=778#
tenkara linksTenkara-Fisher is a web site about tenkara style fishing. The site is truly in it’s infancy where as the discipline of tenkara is not. We will take care to represent tenkara in a light honoring it’s beginnings and reflecting on what it is today.
Yoshikazu Fulioka's excellent site on Tenkara Fishing in Japan, his favourite streams, information on Tenkara fishing, and his fantastic artwork.
There is also a comprehensive section on traditional Tenkara flies