Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tenkara Debate

Last night at a board meeting for Central Jersey Trout Unlimited a friend and I were explaining the Tenkara method of fly fishing and showing off the equipment (rods, lines, flies, etc) to our fellow board members.  A debate quickly surfaced... is Tenkara considered fly fishing.  Obviously my friend and I were on the yes side of the debate but there were a surprising number of people who did not consider it fly fishing.  Was it the lack of a reel, the method of presentation, the unorthodox (to them) equipment?  Many arguments were made both for and against but in the end no one changed their opinion.  Some of us considered it fly fishing at its roots, fly fishing simplified...just rod line and flies.  The others did not know what to call it, but they would not call it fly fishing.


  1. I am curiuos why folks don't consider tenkara fly fishing. What are the arguments against? It all seems pretty clear to me - you use flies, a fly rod, and you cast ( not just dap).

    Sounds like fly fishing to me.

  2. The only significant difference between tenkara and the most narrow definitions of fly fishing is the lack of a reel.

    If tenkara is not fly fishing then the history of fly fishing is very short indeed.

    The Macedonians that Aelian described in 200BC using wool and feathers to create an artificial fly and catch fish must not have been fly fishing then.

    Dame Juliana Berners, who in the Treatyse of Fysshinge with an Angle described how to make a rod, twist a line, and tie twelve different fly patterns must not have been fly fishing then.

    Charles Cotton, who wrote the fly fishing chapters of Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler and described 65 different trout flies must not have been fly fishing then.

    Modern anglers who do Czech nymphing, where only a short bit of line and leader is used (and the reel isn't) must not be fly fishing then.

    For that matter, some people say that because a San Juan worm, or an egg pattern, or even a Gray Ghost streamer doesn't imitate a "fly," fishing with one isn't really fly fishing.

    Whatever you choose to call fly fishing, as far as I'm concerned, the only definition that matters is the one in your state's fishing regulations. I'm not from New Jersey and I don't know your regulations, but I'm not aware of any states that say tenkara is not fly fishing.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with both your comments. I was actually quite surprised at the statements that it was not considered fly fishing. As CM very eloquently stated it is the very basis of fly fishing. Its how it all started. I wonder if the same type of debate took place when the first person attached guides and a mechanism to store line to a fishing pole.

  4. I would say:

    Tenkara with a fly = fly fishing
    Tenkara with bait = not fly fishing

    but I guess by that standard using a bubble with a fly on a spinning rod would be fly fishing too... so maybe we should just say fly fishing is fly fishing, spin casting is spin casting, and tenkara fishing is tenkara fishing.

    haha who cares-- Tenkara is cool.

  5. The line is used to cast the fly not the bobber to cast the line and fly.

    The rod and line are used to deliver the fly to your target. The reel is used to hold line, and play fish (not always needed).

    You cast and present the fly in the same manner,
    I'll call it fly fishing.

    I agree it looks cool.