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Tenkara – the lightness of fly fishing

Category: Techniques | Author: Pavel Adamovský

My first experience with the traditional Japanese fly fishing gear.


On our fly fishing journeys, we are always searching for and discovering new things. In today’s global world, we are influenced by tens, hundreds, thousands, and even more impulses, and so in this process of searching and discovering we have many more opportunities than ever before. Just think, would it have been possible a half a century ago to get news in English from a Russian, living in Prague, that he wants to introduce you to the world of traditional Japanese fly fishing? Maybe yes, but certainly not with the simplicity and depth as in today’s world.

This exact thing happened to me recently, when I unexpectedly received an email from a Russian named Oleg, asking if we wouldn’t want to experience and write about Tenkara here in the Czech Republic. I knew a little about Tenkara, and since my fly fishing journey has been leading me further and further towards lightness and simplicity, I didn’t hesitate. Tenkara is kind of a return to the past, when people fished more simply and easily. No hundreds of fly patterns, dozens of rods, various accessories, vests where we can hide half the offerings of a typical fly shop, and equipment so valuable that if we were to leave it in the car overnight, we certainly wouldn’t sleep easily…

So what is Tenkara? It is a fly fishing method using a light telescopic rod, inspired by traditional Japanese fly fishing. Tenkara doesn’t need any fly reel, because the line is attached to the end of the rod using something called the lilian – a short piece of braided string that is attached to the tip of the last rod segment. The fishing line (also usually braided) is attached to the lilian with a simple knot. A tippet is attached to this line, similarly as in the “western” style of fly fishing.

Tenkara rods are very light and fine – even those used to fishing with light two or three weight rods will feel the difference. And the difference is huge. Another significant different, which lends to the minimalist feeling, is the short list of equipment needed for Tenkara fishing: a telescopic rod that can fit in a backpack or bag, a spool of line, a couple of tippets, a small box with light flies, clippers and forceps. For an investment of 100 Euros, even a complete beginner can immediately start to fly fish (at least in summer, when waders aren’t necessary).

If Oleg was likely the first fly fisher to try Tenkara in the Czech Republic, then I guess I am one of the first Czech pioneers to take Tenkara to more Czech rivers. Tenkara has already been tried on the Litavka, Lužnice and Mže rivers, and my journey is just at the beginning. I look forward to sharing with you my thoughts as I gain experience with Tenkara. In any case, my love for Tenkara is already blossoming!


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