Pro Tip: Teaching with Tenkara

Written by: Jim Mitchell, Montana Hunting & Fishing Adventures

Bonnie Mitchell shows off the fruits of her Tenkara skills.
Photo courtesy Jim Mitchell

My story is not uncommon: My wife, Bonnie, didn’t like to fly fish. Every time we would go out and I would try to teach her, in her eyes I was being a jerk, telling her how it must be done. This was frustrating because, as an outfitter, I have taught hundreds of people to fly fish.

Them, one of my guests started bringing a Tenkara rod with him on float trips. I had had some experience with this style of fishing, since the fly shop I work with became a Tenkara USA dealer. At the time, my wife was working in the shop, and the simplicity of Tenkara sparked her interest. I started practicing Tenkara techniques so we could offer this type of trip, and she had to try it.

Tenkara is simple enough that an angler can master it without much instruction.
Photo courtesy Jim Mitchell

With Tenkara, all I had to do was show her how to set the rod up, make a couple example casts, and let her go. She was able to put a fly on the water without worrying about mending and line management. In no time, she was catching fish, feeling confident, and having fun. As the summer wore on, she wanted to go fishing any time she could. She became very skilled with the Tenkara Rod and started to use a standard fly rod, as well. Now she is hooked on fly fishing, both Tenkara and Western-style. When you can catch fish without all the worries, you want to learn more to catch more. Tenkara helped me help her.

Thanks to OGR14, I recently had the privilege to fish with the founder of Tenkara USA, Daniel Galhardo, to become certified as a Tenkara Guide by the man who introduced Tenkara to U.S. anglers. I made a new friend and learned a lot more about keeping it simple; but that’s another story.

Jim Mitchell is an Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing guide who operates Montana Hunting & Fishing Adventures, in Hamilton, Montana.

4 thoughts on “Pro Tip: Teaching with Tenkara”

  1. I just don’t get Tenkara, I would rather have a 11′ Nymphing rod and can do the same thing and so much more. I have watched video’s on Tenkara and then at the end they have to handline in the fish because they have no reel. I know it will never be for me.

  2. I agree with Winston. I can easily emulate Tenkara by anchoring the line to the rod with my hand and high sticking and I still have my reel there when I need it. I do like the principal of technique over gear that Tenkara preaches but I think that is merely one school of thought of many in fly fishing. I will likely teach my daughter fly fishing small streams by utilizing their techniques but will hand her a regular 3 wt fly rod, which has proven very effective over the years.

  3. One thing that bears mentioning is that a complete Tenkara outfitted and on the water weighs less than 3 oz. That’s rod, line and fly. Without a reel to strip and mend or line to pile up at your feet makes for more casts and less fatigue. All about simplifying without sacrificing functionality. It won’t do all things equally but most or all of what you may need. Only way you can know is to try, A good complete outfit costs less than $200. How’s that compare for a good Western outfit? And it travels at about 22 inches long sticking out of your backpack. Just add water, 😉

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