Fly fishing: Tenkara or short fly rod?

8:03 a.m. on December 6, 2011 (EST)
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Ok so I have been fly fishing for about 5 years now and really love it. I have two fly rods one is a 9'8in 7/8wt 4 piece, and a 8'6' 5/6 wt 2 piece. I have often enough brought the 9'8' fly rod with me on backpacking trips but unless I find myself at a wide river or a lake I find it hard and awkward and sometimes downright frustrating to use in tight quarters(brushy areas).

A year or so ago a solution for me was to buy an emmrod packer. Which is an awesome little rod and works great for backpacking and fishing darn near anywhere, however, it's not nearly as enjoyable as a flyrod IMO.

So, I am in search of either a shorter light weight fly rod or maybe a tenkara rod. I don't know alot about Tenkara rods. The short fly rod I have my eyes on is the Echo Carbon 6'6' 3wt 4 piece.

I have a $50off coupon for Echo rods, which is what is leaning me toward them in general. But the coupon aside they look like very nicely made moderately priced rods.

I am open to your experiences and recommendations. Has anyone played around with the Tenkara rods? What do you think about them? What is your favorite shorter fly rod for small creeks and brooks?

A little environmental information. Most of the creeks/brooks I want to fish are typically less than 12ft wide, and usually are quite brushy on the banks and often have at least some overhanging brush about 6-9ft off the water. You can obviously see why an 8ft or 9ft rod would not work as it hits everything lol. Yes I know how to roll cast etc.

10:01 a.m. on December 6, 2011 (EST)
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The guys that I've talked to with Tenkara rods really like them but I've never fished with one. I thought that all Tenkara rods were fairly long to make up for the lack of a reel? If it were me I would go with the Echo 3wt and start practicing my bow and arrow casts.

10:28 a.m. on December 6, 2011 (EST)
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I not an expert fly fisherman (I have a rod, a few poppers for bass and know how to cast) but for whatever it's worth the tenkara looks like the way to go for the conditions you describe.

I didn't know what tenkara was so here's a video for those that don't.

11:09 a.m. on December 6, 2011 (EST)
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You just missed a sale on Tenkara's iwana pole last week for 81 bucks. Their all sold  out. After watching the video ocala added. Makes me wonder what I am missing looks quit peaceful and enjoyable.

11:13 a.m. on December 6, 2011 (EST)
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A popular fly lure fishing technique in the High Sierras is using an ultra light spinning reel and rod, with the fly on a 3' - 4' leader attached to a swivel, with one of those float bobs that can be partially filled with water placed above the swivel to provide casting weight.  Works good in the wind, around brush choked streams or stances that preclude the traditional back cast.  A skilled angler can send it thirty yards plus on this rig.  The lure is then retrieved in a manner simular to spoon lure fishing. 

Alas the technique is more like casting a small bass spoon than the traditional fly rod whip cast, so this technique may not not appeal to your creel.


12:34 p.m. on December 6, 2011 (EST)
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Definately the Tenkara rods seem appealing, i just havn't seen many first hand accounts of them. And since it is totally different I am leery about jumping on them. I have been seeing alot of used Tenkara rods sold on a multitude of different backpacking sites, so that also has me thinking. If they are so awesome why am i seeing so many sold off 2nd hand? Most fisherman(that i know) would never sell their favorite rod/reel or the rods that work the best for them.

@whomeworry , I hear you on the light spinning rod set up, which is precisely what my Emmrod is doing. It is great don't get me wrong, and I catch a ton of fish. But, its more so the actual act of fly fishing that I am in love with more so than the catching of fish. So its really just the method I want to change. but I agree with you 100% that small light spinning setups are very effective and perfectly suited to backpacking.

3:55 p.m. on December 6, 2011 (EST)
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Looks like I been adapting this technique but all I take is the line and a hook.  Find the rest once out there.

8:36 p.m. on December 6, 2011 (EST)
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Fly fishing gear, tactics, and techniques are highly subjective (as you probably know) and what may be great technique for me in a particular river system, time of year, climate, etc. may be much less so for another person in a different area. Lots of times I hesitate to post on this topic, but I'll give it my best shot.

I used to be a member of several fishing forums and have watched as people debated this to the death, day after day until I couldn't take it anymore. It's much worse than tents or boots, I'm not sure why. It seems to be a "manhood" thing like fire starting.

Sometimes they would both be right for different reasons but any suggestion of that possibility was refused outright haha.

Anyway, I say this so that my opinions are taken as such, just my opinions and not something I wish to engage in debate about with anyone.

My experience is limited to watershed river systems in the Southern Appalachian mountains ranging from stocked tailwaters that are dam fed and up to 1000' across, to upper elevation level 1 & 2 headwaters, many of which you can jump across in places.

I have used a Tenkara on several occasions while fishing with a friend. It was a 12' Fountainhead Caddis (?) - something or another. I believe the fly line was Dacron.

I liked them, but in the same way and for much the same reasons I like a cane pole. To me the Tenkara is a sophisticated cane pole that works very well and packs down exceptionally nice, 21" or 22" for the one I used.

Cane poles have been used in the Southern Appalachians for a very long time because they are very effective on smaller trout streams using technique like dabbling (or dappling), strolling (trolling), sling shotting (also called bow & arrow), bobber fishing, drifting, bottom fishing, and so forth.

In fact one of the lesser known techniques for streams with lots of overhanging growth is to use a fresh cane pole with the branches and leaves still attached so it blends in and doesn't spook the fish like you can by waving a flashy rod tip around.

I plan on getting a Tenkara, but it will probably be yet another "tool" in the toolbox so to speak, bearing in mind I am still fairly new to them.

I don't see the Tenkara replacing my love of fly casting with a fly rod, but rather the right tool for the job at times.

I also love using shorter fly rods on smaller streams and have a 7' - 6" 3wt. and two 8' rods in 3/4 wt. These work for me, where I go, and for the size fish I catch, your needs may be different.

It is interesting you note that you do "know how to roll cast etc", because as you seem to indicate, knowing how to produce a nice roll cast is not the same as being able to perform in very tight quarters with branches sticking in your ears and catching the rod tip, is it? It can be very difficult! Wading into small streams so that you can cast the length of the stream will spook the fish unless you are a Kung Fu master, and levitating above the water is even harder, at least for me.

The shorter fly rods took some getting used to, but now I like them a lot, the biggest difference to me is that my casting is just on a smaller scale which doesn't matter to me really because the streams are smaller too. I tend to like fast action rods but I seem to do better with medium action in the shorter rods using a fly line rated 1/2 wt. higher than the rod wt. and a 4' tapered leader instead of 6-8' leaders. My buddy Brian will not use tapered leaders at all on small streams, only fluorocarbon tippet.

For backpack fly fishing I just use the Cabelas rods like the Three Forks series, not too pricey and work just fine for me.

Again, you may be completely different and may have different conditions you fish under but I'm sure you already understand how that works.

I also love spin fishing with UL rods and IF I was in a long term survival situation these would be my rod choice simply because they are very effective and natural bait is plentiful along mountain streams and I would have a lifetime supply, (as long as I had line & hooks).




Mike G.

11:17 p.m. on December 6, 2011 (EST)
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John's Video link is gone, but from what I could find it looks like these tenkara poles are an extension pole.   I guess that would work, a little different though.  I am not much of a fisherman now days but did a fair amount when I was younger.  I "learned" how to "Fly" fish with a 4 part light spinning pole and rod.  It was actually quite effective in mountain lakes.  My fly rig was a small piece of wood (2" or so) for the bober and then several feet to a fly, usually a black fly or a mosquito fly, no idea what they were called, but it usually seemed to work. 

Latter I stopped carrying the pole and would just throw it out and sit back and read.  Real Tom Sawyer like.  :)  But I know that is not what Fly fishing is all about.  It was just fun remembering all this form this thread. 

Now back to the regularly scheduled helpful information. :D


7:49 a.m. on December 7, 2011 (EST)
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I think I will go with the Echo Carbon 6'6" 3wt 4 piece fly rod. After much thought and consideration I don't think a Tenkara pole is exactly what I am looking for. They do seem interesting, but as trouthunter has said, they are a sophisticated cane pole. I have watched tons of videos and read as many reviews of Tenkara as I could find.

I may end up picking up a Tenkara rod at some point, but for now I think I will just go with a shorter fly rod. I am sure I would enjoy either one, but think the fly rod will satisfiy me more.

10:06 a.m. on December 7, 2011 (EST)
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TheRambler said:

I think I will go with the Echo Carbon 6'6" 3wt 4 piece fly rod. After much thought and consideration I don't think a Tenkara pole is exactly what I am looking for. They do seem interesting, but as trouthunter has said, they are a sophisticated cane pole. I have watched tons of videos and read as many reviews of Tenkara as I could find.

I may end up picking up a Tenkara rod at some point, but for now I think I will just go with a shorter fly rod. I am sure I would enjoy either one, but think the fly rod will satisfiy me more.

 That's pretty much the way I feel.  Although I enjoy fishing in general, and I enjoy being in the mountains, and I like using various types of rods & reels, there is something Zen like, Ethereal, and Sublime about fly casting when you are in 'the zone'.

Some people say it is an extension of your body, I think it is equally an extension of the mind as well.

Watching the fly line loop out, the leader roll onto the water, and seeing the fly flip ever so gently onto the surface of the water just like it landed there on it's own, is super cool.

Sometimes my casts don't look like that, but for me that is part of the mental quest, and the challenge that makes it so much fun.

7:58 p.m. on December 7, 2011 (EST)
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I agree with Trout, I would miss the casting. Being able to reach out to a fish fifty feet away and have him take your dry on a drag-free drift, is a pleasure that never grows old.

Tenkara is essentially dapping, no line is left on the water. So, generally you will need fast-flowing water to cover your approach and the movement of your rod.

OTOH, if you use just a few sections of a delicate fly rod - four or five feet in total length - and create a temporary handle and reelseat on the bottom section; you can really have a packable rod and some fine line fun. :) Kneeling in the streams you described with only a 4' rod will allow you plenty of room for casting and also keep you out of sight of wary fish. Just a thought... A.J. McClane used to do this occasionally to improve his casting skills.

I think I might have an extract covering this on

4:18 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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