How to Use a Tenkara Rod

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For many anglers, the simplicity, intuitiveness, high efficiency, and great presentations afforded by Tenkara rods are enough to sway them to try their hand at the sport. A mastery of the rod’s techniques is essential, and the basics begin with learning how to use Tenkara rod.

How to Use a Tenkara Rod

The lack of a reel and the compact size of a Tenkara rod makes it a popular choice among anglers who enjoy traveling light. The majority of the rods can be retracted into a compact tube. Similarly, the length of a Tenkara rod can be customized to suit your needs.

When fishing in larger bodies of water like rivers and ponds, a longer pole is usually more effective. A shorter rod, however, can be useful in certain situations. Here are my tips on using this rod.

A person using a fishing rod with a green fishing line to fish in the lake

Using a Tenkara Rod for Casting

Most anglers make the common mistake of approaching the casting of a Tenkara rod and line as though it were a fly fishing rod and line. To cast heavy fly lines, many western manufacturers design rods with a slow yet relatively stiff action.

Casting the adapted Tenkara equipment is similar to casting a conventional fly rod.

However, doing so would negate Tenkara’s key benefits. If feasible, cast and land only your single wet fly at the indicated area. This “fly first” toss is great for the fly and casting line.

The fly casting line may be kept dry while still allowing for precise fly placement, which is a major benefit. Allowing a heavy fly line to descend to the water’s surface after casting it horizontally will not achieve those goals. You should eliminate the pause between your backcast and your forward cast to shorten your casting stroke.

Detecting Fish Strikes With Your Tenkara Rod

Unweighted flies require fish to rise to the surface to take them. Beginners in Tenkara fishing can use a floating-coated, damp fly and cast it “dry.” Assuming you keep your rod tip and eyes on the drift, you should see the fish take your fly in either scenario. Flip your wrist back to set the hook.

If you are casting further back or the water is muddy, you will need a different strike detection method. Keep an eye on the tippet if it’s visible or the line’s color if you’re monitoring a moving target. Your line is a strike pointer. You would not feel the fish grab your fly when dead drifting.

Follow the river with your rod tip and be on the lookout for any sudden stops or slacks in the line. When casting, the most crucial component of the line is the colorful junction between the tippet and the casting line, which is why Tenkara lines, especially level lines, are colored. This area is very sensitive.

Perfecting a Drift

During the summertime of the year, you can spend the majority of your time on the stream simply perfecting a dead drift or normal drift presentation, and still catch fish. That is why you need to work on your first cast so much.

Two Tenkara rods with green fishing lines beside blue shoes full of mud were placed on a wooden dock

Casting downstream or across and through the stream and letting the fly splash lightly on the water before tracing the fly, tippet, and fishing line upstream can be a very appealing presentation to an eager fish. For maximum effect, do this while keeping everything out of the water except for a length of tippet long enough to let your fly sink to its intended depth.

That sweet spot could be on the surface or, for unweighted flies, a foot or so down. As a general guideline, a drift period of three to five seconds is optimal in most streams. This prevents the fish from being “lined” (scared) before they even see your fly.

How to Install a Tenkara Rod

Without the proper training and understanding, setting up your rod can be a frustrating ordeal. If not installed properly, this fragile rod will be shattered. How to set up a Tenkara rod is detailed below:

  1. When working with the “Lillian” cord, the point of the rod must be shielded at all times.
  2. To avoid the casting line, tippet, and fly rig from breaking, you should tie them with knots that are both secure and straightforward. These rods are not designed to accommodate intricate knots, therefore there is no point in even attempting to use one. To put it simply, less is more.
  3. You can make the rod longer by beginning at the end and working your way up through the parts in a pattern that makes each part one diameter larger as you go. This will allow you to lengthen the rod.
  4. The process of collapsing the rod might be difficult. As a result, you should begin by collapsing the rod from the Handle and then pull in the sections of the Tenkara rod that have increasingly decreasing diameters.
  5. It is essential to keep your hands close together while folding the Tenkara fishing rod to avoid damaging the rod. Instead, you should hold the blank on both sides in a position that brings it as close to the joint as possible.

How to Assemble a Tenkara Rod

The rod must be assembled first. Tenkara Rods, as you probably well know, are telescoping rods. The technique of releasing the rod is uncomplicated making it straightforward to accomplish.

First, you will need to take out the Tenkara rod’s plug. Then, gently lower the rod to reveal the tip. Hide the pointy end and show off the braided “Lillian” end. To remove the segment, start at the tip and work your way down.

They ought to slip out without any difficulty, and you must slide out each section completely before moving on to the next. When the pieces are fully expanded, they should fit together snugly. The rod should not become stuck, so don’t make them too snug.

How to Tie a Tenkara Rod

If you use the appropriate strategy, tying a level line or conventional line to your Tenkara rod shouldn’t be difficult. As a first step, a Level Line or a conventionally furled fly line must be knotted very close to the tip of a Tenkara rod. Every single Tenkara rod ever made has a Lilian, a strong braided line, pre-attached to it.

Finding the proper knot for the fishing rod is a big challenge for Tenkara fishermen. Since this is the case, a stopper knot is recommended for securing a regular line to the Lilian. This knot is essential in a standard line but is optional when working with a level line.

Following this guide will ensure that your fishing line is securely fastened to your Tenkara rod.

  • Wrap the end of the string in a slip loop knot. To do so, just loop the tag end over the free end and tie a snug overhand knot. For added safety, some anglers use a stopper knot.
  • Double-loop the Lilian’s tail end. Make sure to get past the stopper knot in the Lilian if there is one. Adding a third wrap is optional for some folks, but it’s not necessary.
  • Holding the Lilian’s two wraps together, tie the knots by dragging the level line through the slip loop and wrapping it down around the Lilian.

After following these steps, you have finished setting up your Tenkara rod and line.

A person wearing gloves holds a Tenkara rod with green fishing line standing near the beach

How to Clean a Tenkara Rod

Keep your Tenkara rod clean at all times to prevent dirt from getting stuck on the segments and in the spaces between them. As a general rule, this is less of an issue when fishing in clear, moving water, such as a stream. However, take care not to put the rod down anywhere that sand could collect.

When walking up or down riverbeds with a Tenkara rod, the real concern is dropping the rod or sweeping dirt onto the orifice at the top. When you extend your Tenkara rod, the debris that has become lodged between the sections will damage the inside of the rod.

Damage to the Tenkara rod’s exterior will make it look bad and may make it possible for the residue to stick to it later on. future. Additionally, the rod may sustain tiny fractures, which will undermine it and increase the likelihood to break. Make sure you wipe down each piece with a wet towel and, if required, rinse it in clean water before you collapse your rod.

How to Rig a Tenkara Rod

A hook, swivel, and sinker are not required to rig a Tenkara rod, as they are with other western fishing rods. Having the proper quantity of line and, more importantly, the correct hook for your fly is all that is needed for a great rig on a Tenkara rod. With the line now tied to the lilian, how do you set up your hook?

Preparing your hook

Although strong wire hooks support flies underwater without putting additional weight like a sinker, ensuring the fly is in the appropriate places where fish gather, the slightly softer tips of Tenkara rods make it challenging to set the hook.

Ayu hooks are popular among Japanese anglers since they are built of a thin wire that, in theory, would allow for greater piercing when used in conjunction with a soft-tipped rod. This makes intellectual sense but fails to hold up in practice. This is due to the inherent “springiness” of thinner wire compared to thicker wire, regardless of the grade of the wire used.

The most crucial information you need to know about Tenkara fishing is that, even with the best hook, your presentation will determine whether or not you catch fish.


Everything you need to fish with a Tenkara pole and reel in that big catch is at your fingertips now. Keep in mind that despite its seeming fragility, this fishing rod is effective. Therefore, taking care when using it will ensure its longevity.