Many of the rivers, streams and becks in the Yorkshire Dales are perfect for practicing tenkara fishing and for learning how to fish tenkara style. I have fished tenkara style on most of the Yorkshire Dales rivers and offer tenkara instruction, tuition, lessons and guided days on rivers perfectly suited to this style of fly fishing throughout the Yorkshire Dales. But what is Tenkara?...
Tenkara is a traditional Japanese method of fly fishing which has taken the fly fishing world by storm over recent years. It is mainly used to fish mountain streams for small fish and is still very popular in Japan today. Until a few years ago tenkara was virtually unknown outside of Japan. It involves using a long rod, typically 11' to 15', but no reel or flyline. Tenkara rods are telescopic, making them portable and quick to extend and put to use. The leader is attached directly to a short piece of braid, known as a Lillian, at the tip of the tenkara rod. The leader used is generally about the same length as the rod in use and can be made from a variety of materials, tapered or level.
One of the main attractions of the Tenkara style of fishing is its simplicity: you only need a rod, leader and fly, and that's it! In my opinion there are two main advantages of Tenkara fishing over the western style of flyfishing...
- Presentation - Tenkara gives presentation advantages over western styles of flyfishing in two distinct ways. Firstly, there is no heavy flyline landing on the water's surface, which can and will spook fish on occasions. With Tenkara there is only the leader landing on the surface, often only a small section of leader, with the rest being held off. This gives us the most delicate presentation of our fly imaginable.
Secondly, Tenkara allows us to hold our leader off the surface when presenting our fly/flies across stream. Tenkara makes it possible to present your fly on the other side of the stream, in pockets and seams, without drag. With conventional fly fishing, lifting the rod and (relatively) heavy fly-line from the water causes the fly-line to sag below the rod tip, which results in the tip of the fly-line being drawn towards you and, therefore, a dragging fly and poor presentation.
- Quick Change of Techniques - Another great advantage of Tenkara is that it allows us to change quickly between techniques. Tenkara is just another way of presenting the same flies we use in flyfishing, using the same methods, just on a fixed line with no reel. For example, we might be fishing upstream dry fly, progressing upstream picking off rising fish and covering likely looking areas, when we come across a pool or part of a pool that looks more suited to nymph fishing. With a Tenkara rod in your backpack you simply wind in your western style outfit, extend the Tenkara rod and fish through with nymphs. Once done, the Tenkara rod can be quickly collapsed, stowed and it's back to conventional flyfishing. Of course this change can be nymphs to dry, or any other alternative method.
Tenkara has a few other advantages over conventional flyfishing... It is the perfect way to introduce children to fly fishing, particularly the art of river fly fishing. Casting and line management are much easier to master than traditional fly fishing, and the uncomplicated approach is perfectly suited to young anglers who can quickly lose interest and attention.
The same also applies to adults wishing to take up fly fishing, especially those progressing to river flyfishing from a stillwater background. The fixed line, close range concept of Tenkara, quickly teaches that we don't need to cast far to catch fish on rivers. Tenkara intuitively teaches many of the fixed line methods that are recent developments in fly fishing such as Czech Nymphing and French Leaders.
Having said all this Tenkara is not a panacea and there are many instances when Tenkara is not suitable. Given the delicate approach and ultra-flexible rod, Tenkara is best reserved for days with little to no wind, or at least an upstream wind to aid casting. Having a fixed line and no reel it is not ideally suited to catching big trout. It is quite possible to land big trout on Tenkara gear, and some will argue this point, but I avoid using it where big trout are a distinct possibility. If an unexpected big trout gets hooked all well and good, but the chance of leaving flies and trailing tippet in a big fish is quite high and I believe that responsible anglers should avoid Tenkara where big trout are likely. Tenkara is a relatively close range technique and, therefore, it is extremely difficult to practice on clear streams with spooky fish - not impossible, but certainly challenging!
Tenkara was first developed to fish rocky streams in the mountains for small fish and clearly it is perfectly suited to fishing this style of water. In the Yorkshire Dales I have at my disposal lots of this type of water, on which Tenkara works superbly. I also have access to the Upper River Tees, possibly the most suited river in the UK for Tenkara fishing - rocky, fast flowing and literally full of small trout. I offer lessons in tenkara fishing and Tenkara tuition throughout the Yorkshire Dales and a typical day's guiding will see me setting up a tenkara rod for my client to try. I carry a range of tenkara tackle for my clients to use. If you've not tried tenkara before please get in touch to be introduced to this unique style of fishing - it will add another string to your bow!