What Do You Need for Tenkara Fishing?

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You have chosen to take up Tenkara fishing, and now you are probably wondering what gear you will need to get started. With the right gear, this fishing style can be pretty fun and thrilling. So, what do you need for Tenkara fishing?

What Do You Need for Tenkara Fishing? 

The basics you need are:

  • A Tenkara rod
  • A Tenkara line
  • A leader
  • Tippet material
  • Some flies

Some other things you may need to carry along include a line clipper, hemostats, and optional equipment like a Tenkara net, a fly floatant, strike indicators and split shot, and a Tenkara line spool.

You do not need to carry around a ton of gear for the Tenkara style of fishing. The gear required is also very affordable, compact, and lightweight. This is what makes it particularly ideal for backpackers and anglers looking to travel light. Moreso, you do not need a reel, a vest, or a bunch of gadgets.

A man wearing a green jacket is holding a brown and black fishing rod in his right hand and a silver fishing hook in his left hand while standing near the lake

What Is Tenkara Fishing?

Tenkara is a style of fly fishing with roots in ancient Japan. Tenkara is a shortened form of the Japanese term “Tenkara-tsuri,” which translates directly to “Fly Fishing” in the languages of Japan’s traditional mountain-dwelling people. The name gained popularity in the 80s because of  Yuzo Sebata’s works.

This style of fly fishing is characterized by the use of long rods, a set length of casting line fastened to the rod’s tip, and basic, impressionistic wet fly patterns. You have to keep your setup simple and rely on a natural presentation with minimal drag to catch the attention of any fish in the area.

Tenkara is most suitable for catching fish under 10 inches in length because the technique originated on little mountain streams and creeks. Fishing with a Tenkara rod is best suited to smaller streams in the mountains rather than lakes and rivers. You can enjoy the peace and quiet of nature with just a rod and a fly.

Choosing Your Fishing Gear

Tenkara rods come in a variety of lengths, from 8 feet to 15 feet or more, with some of them being adjustable. This allows you to choose the perfect length for your fishing situation. Most modern Tenkara rods are telescopic, which means that you can fold them up into a compact tube that is easy to carry in a backpack.

Having decided on a rod, all you need is some leader and a few different fly patterns. There are two distinct options when it comes to leaders:

  • A level line
  • A tapered one

In most cases, anglers prefer a level line because it allows for the best presentation with the least drag.

Your fly patterns are the final piece of your Tenkara rig. Choose flies with smaller, more noticeable, and more realistically-looking patterns. Keep in mind that the fly’s ability to glide freely through the water is more vital than its ability to imitate a certain insect.

Why Is Tenkara Fishing Popular?

Starting as a local practice in some parts of Japan over 200 years ago, Tenkara has now gained wide popularity in the west. Here are some of the reasons why this fishing style is popular and why you should try it:

Compact and Lightweight Gear

If you love hiking and don’t want to be weighed down by gear, a Tenkara rod could combine your two pastimes. On long excursions through thick brush, more gear is the last thing you need.

You can also forgo taking along your waders and wading boots and just fish from the bank of a tiny stream if you are looking to conserve some room. You can quickly get to those out-of-the-way places by hopping from rock to rock or boulder to boulder. 

Most hikers will be relieved to learn that they can have a fantastic day of fishing without having to wear cumbersome waders.

Relatively Easier Techniques

Regarding reel fishing, you need to know how to control the drag, set the hook at the right time, and bring a fish in without losing it. However, with this fishing style, you do not need to use a fly reel or adjust the drag to bring the fish in.

A man wearing a black jacket is holding a black and brown fishing rod in their right hand near a body of water

Tranquil Experience

A lot of anglers prefer fishing this way because of the tranquil experience it offers. Tenkara fishing simplifies its fishing setup into three essential components:

  • The angler
  • A rod
  • The water

Ease of Setting Up

Tenkara rods are so easy to set up that you may accomplish it in a matter of seconds. Removing the end plug, hooking up the level line, and extending the rod to its full length is all that is required. Simply tie your fly, and you are primed for action.

You can prepare your Tenkara fishing rod, with a line and fly already attached, before setting out or set it up whenever you reach an ideal location brimming with trout. Whichever way you go, you can start fishing in under a minute.

The required gear or setup is not complicated, so there is no need for you to map out every detail in advance, and you do not have to waste time adjusting your gear.

Related Questions

Is Tenkara Fishing Easy?

Yes, this fishing style is relatively easy. Since you need less gear, the learning curve is a lot shorter. This means that you can learn a few techniques and get the hang of them within a bit of time. This has made Tenkara fishing more accessible to a wider audience.

What Size Tenkara Rod Should I Get?

When possible, you should use the longest rod available. This will allow you to cast farther, retain more of your line above water, and exert more control over your fly, which is a primary benefit of Tenkara. A Tenkara rod of 12 feet in length is considered the “typical” length for this style of fishing.


Knowing the right gear, you need for this fishing style is a great way to start. However, gear is just one part of the picture. When it comes to fishing the Tenkara way, you have to shift away from gear and focus more on your skills. So, it is important that you learn how to fish Tenkara rods effectively.