Tenkara With Black Thread And Rooster Hackle

Besides offering what are no doubt the first pictures of fly fishing doyenne Joan Wulff casting a tenkara rod, a new post on the Tenkara USA blog includes some intriguing thoughts from tenkara authority Dr. Hisao Ishigaki on how simple trout flies can be: “It should be noted that Dr. Ishigaki is a leading specialist in the field of ‘Visual Training,” which is used regularly by different groups of individuals, including professional athletes, and he used that to study the vision of fish, particularly mountain trout. Ever since then, he’s been tying one fly pattern, which takes seconds to tie, and many times is tied using only black thread from a $1 store, and some rooster hackle.”
Morgan Lyle also talks about the talk Dr. Ishigaki gave at the talk at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum Saturday, noting that even Ed Van Put is enamored of the technique: “About 10 years ago, Van Put was given a tenkara rod by a Japanese ambassador and ‘just went ballistic with it,’ he said. ‘I started fishing with it every day, and I’ve used it every year since.'” (From DailyGazette.com.)
A free MidCurrent t-shirt goes to the first person who shows us an image of someone using (successfully) tenkara in saltwater.

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  • LOL, the t-shirt may be sitting on the shelves for a while :).
    Tenkara is really defined as mountain-stream fly-fishing, thus it is not done on saltwater. Though, one may find different styles of fishing done in Japan that may resemble tenkara.
    I just scanned some pictures from a wonderful book printed in 1940, called “Angling in Japan”, and they depict some “fixed-line” methods of fishing that would resemble tenkara (like cane-pole fishing would resemble it), though they are worlds apart.
    Pictures can be found here: “Angling in Japan”, Picasa album

  • The link I posted previously may not be working, here’s the URL:

  • lived and fished in northern japan for 3 years. the saltwater version is called ayu. tenkara uses a 9.5-12′ pole + line about 1-1.5′ longer than the pole, plus a fly…only. ayu uses 12-20′ poles and lines considerably shorter than the pole; and cut bait is quite common, but they also use lures and flies. tenkara works great on small fish, but gets pretty hinky on trout over about 14″ or so. warm water pan fish like bluegills, crappie, etc. are a riot on a tenkara rig! trout in japan are small. and when you get to salmon water or anyplace where the fish are bigger, the tenkara poles r put away and the ayu poles or modern tackle come out.

  • About the big fish, Dr. Ishigaki has caught a 30 inch anadromous fish (similar to a hard fighting steelhead) up in Hokkaido using a tenkara gear set. It was the fight of his life, lasting about 10 minutes. I will be writing about that a bit later and we filmed an interview where he describes it.
    Essentially one must use the current to one’s favor, and have a real sensitivity in playing the fish – Think Lee Wulff fighting atlantic salmon using his little cane rod. Also, taking advantage of weak moments of the fish is very important.
    Big fish are not out of the game in tenkara….they just transform it into an extreme sport.

  • saying that dr. ishigaki landed 1 30″ fish n hokkaido is like saying that miyamoto musashi defeated 10 horsed samurai while on foot. musashi was 1 of japan’s greatest sworsmen, and author the definitive text on kenjutsu and kendo, the go rin no sho (book of five rings). 75% of all samurai confrontations with the katana ended n mutual death. likewise, the vast majority of tenkara anglers would not attempt to catch such fish using tenkara. i am not speaking from books, videos, internet searches, or 2nd hand accounts from 1/2 way around the world. i lived n a far northern japanese fishing community for 3 years, spending most of my weekdays along the coast…literally living on the edge of a coastal estuary lake…and my weekends along the mountain lakes and streams.

  • I attended the Catskill event and took photos of Dr. Ishigaki also. I blogged about it here: http://eclecticguy.com/2009/05/24/tenkara-how-my-blog-introduced-me-to-japanese-fly-fishing/

  • I agree that tenkara is definitely not a big fish game, it is not, and that never appealed to me to begin with, but I do think fighting larger fish with it has a lot of merit.
    On this article:
    http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2009/may/28/528_fly/ it is said that Mr. Ed Van Put said ““I fish the Beaverkill with it, and I’ve caught fish up to 19 inches. And I’ve fished little streams you would never fish with a conventional rod, and caught fish you would never have believed were in there.”
    19 inches is respectable by any standard, I think much more with tenkara.

  • i don’t want to be misunderstood. i never said fish over 14″ cannot be landed on a tenkara rig. i said it starts to get very challenging at about that size.