tenkara south africa online shop

Tenkara differs from traditional fly fishing in that you do not have a fly line or reel, and the rods are a bit longer.
Typically the Rods are 11 to 13 ft long, and instead of having to put them together piece by piece, they telescope out just like an old radio aerial, so that before they are extended, they are shorter than a four piece rod tube.

Instead of a line you use a furled tapered or level leader which is connected to the tip of the rod, and is usually about the length of the rod.
To this you connect a standard tippet of about 6X or 7X and as long as you dare.
Because of the length of the rod, you can fish with no line on the water, which means you can fish completely drag free if you wish. As you can 'high stick' from much further away, there is less chance of you being spotted.
You can also cover the water faster, as you do not have to back or false cast.
The method is simple, requires very little equipment and is ideal for beginners and experts. So, in essence, you can catch more fish, with less clutter.

The History of Tenkara
Many years ago, idle Samurai warriors were taught to fish, and somewhere around that time the Tenkara technique appeared. The Samurai may not have invented it, but they were certainly among the first to champion it.
It has had periods of relative relapse, but was the favoured technique of professional fishermen for hundreds of years which speaks volumes regarding its efficiency.

samurai tenkara
The Tenkara rod of yesteryear was usually a long straight piece of bamboo (cane), a far cry from the modern retractable rods of today, made of carbon fibre by companies such as Sakura (who incidentally still produce 'solid' bamboo rods).
Up until a few years ago Tenkara was limited to Japan, but is fast achieving cult status in the US and Europe.

Was Ryoma Sakamoto the famous Samurai, a Tenkara Fisherman?

tenkara south africa

happy tenkara fishermen

Sean Mills
One thing is for sure though, fishing with a Tenkara rod is by far the most sun and most effective way to fish a small stream. I love the simplicity of the outfit and how delicately it can present a dry fly. The length of the drifts that you can achieve with the Tenkara rod and leader are simply sublime. Tackling tricky lip currents is so easy with the length of the rod. I am definitely a convert.

Koos Eckard (left) - Whats my thoughts on Tenkara??? I love it!!!! For Smallstreams you need nothing more than that. Did I run after the Big Bow and Brown? Hell Yeah!!! Fishing the Tenkara was the most fun I ever had on a stream. I am convinced!!!

Mario Geldenhuys - ‎... the Sakura Seki Rei (Tenkara rod) - simply sublime!! ….made the hour I spent on the stream one that I won't forget in a very, very long time!

Tom Sutcliffe (with Tony Kietzman) - ..this was no passing craze. It was an efficient, delicate and poetic way of catching trout,...we had indeed got ourselves seriously hooked on the Tenkara style...

Craig Thom - it is unlikely that I will ever use a conventional rod on a cape stream again.

Neil Rowe (the first known SA Tenkara fisherman) - I've found the Tenkara rod to present wonderfully. As you say, the line is generally off the water and one can control drift with only a few feet of tippet on the water.... I've caught rainbows up to 18" ..'

magazine articles

TENKARA — Japanese method gains fans in South Africa — by Craig Thom

SINCE before my first visit to Japan in 2004, I have been fascinated with the crafts associated with Japanese flyfishing. To generalise that they make things smaller and simpler would not be far wrong, but when it comes to quality of finish and detail, they have no equal. A different culture and ethos means another way of thinking, which results in unique innovation. That this innovation is rooted in tradition seems like an oxymoron, but the results speak for themselves.

As Japan is a country filled with small streams, it is not surprising that flyfishing has gravitated towards these. They also have some of the world’s most photogenic trout with beautiful names to match — turquoise-tinted, clear mountain streams are the habitat of colourful trout with names like Iwana, Amago and Yamame.

It is in this scenic setting that, many centuries ago, idle Samurai warriors were taught to fish, and somewhere around that time the Tenkara technique developed. The Samurai may not have invented it, but they were certainly among the first to champion it. It has had periods of relative relapse, but has been the favoured technique of professional fishermen for hundreds of years. This speaks volumes for its efficiency. The Tenkara rod of yesteryear was usually a long, straight piece of bamboo (cane), a far cry from the modern retractable rods of today that are made of carbon fibre by companies such as Sakura (who incidentally still produce solid bamboo rods). Up until a few years ago, Tenkara was confined to Japan, but is now fast achieving cult status in the US and Europe.

Being able to fish using the Tenkara technique was a logical progression to my fascination with Japanese craft and flyfishing, as it seemed to me to be the ultimate in lightweight small stream fishing.

It wasn’t until years after my trip to Japan that I borrowed a rod from a friend and tried it on the Holsloot River in the Cape. The technique is perfectly suited to local pocket-water. There are a lot of superlatives I could use to describe the experience, but it’s easier to say that it is unlikely that I will ever again use a conventional rod on a Cape stream. Tenkara differs from standard flyfishing mainly in that you have a long rod and no reel. Attached to the tip of the rod is a fixed length of line (or tapered leader) which is usually about the length of the rod. To the end of that you connect your tippet and the fly.

This is about as simple as it gets: rod, line, and a small box of flies equals a simple, clutter-free, enjoyable day on the water. As one online blog puts it, Tenkara is “... a stick, some string and a fly”.

Tenkara rods are long, very long — anything from 10- to 14 feet. Compared to the average stream rod of 7- to 8 feet it is like a pole, but it certainly doesn’t feel or cast like one. The action is what one would call “slow”, with the typical action being designated 6:4 or 7:3. A 6:4 action indicates that the rod is stiff for the bottom 60%, with the remaining 40% being more flexible. It makes sense then that the main bend or flex point is at the 60/40 point. A 7:3 rod would thus be a “faster” one.

The tip section of a Tenkara rod is extremely thin, and glued into its tip is a small piece of string to which the leader is connected, using a simple knot. The delicate top sections of the rod help protect the tippet. 

Read the full story in the June/July 2011 issue of FLYFISHING. http://www.africanangler.com/fly_article.asp?id=750

LEARNING FROM THE OLD MASTERS — Tenkara-kebari and a bit of flyfishing history — By Craig Thom

 “There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don’t know.” — Ambrose Bierce, US author and satirist (1842 - 1914)

TENKARA-KEBARI are, for all intents and purposes, what we westerners regard as soft-hackled or wet flies, but with some differences. The major difference and cornerstone of these flies is that they are tied with the hackle facing forward rather than at right angles to the shank or facing backwards.

The reason for this is that this style of tenkara fly is manipulated up and down in the upper water column. The forward-facing hackle allows it a large range of movement which suggests life. A standard hackle will flatten against the shank when pulled, while the forward hackle will open up and move. Some tenkara-kebari are made using stiff cock hackles like a dry fly, which enables them to stay open permanently.

The use of flies for fishing in Japan is believed to have originated about 2 000 years ago. However, it was not until the relatively peaceful Edo period in Japan (1603-1868) that a rapid development of tenkara techniques and equipment occurred. During this period, craftsmen made beautiful flies using exotic materials like snakeskin and gold foil for the noble and rich, as well as itinerant Samurai. These craftsmen took fly-tying to a new level which eventually evolved into miniature high art.

Before this, flies were made from bent needles with the tippet of horse hair (mare) tied directly to the hook. Later there were versions with loops tied to the hook. Fly vices were unheard of and the flies were usually tied while sitting cross-legged, with the leader connected to one big toe. And we thought that barbless hooks are something new! With no vices, bobbin holders or hackle pliers, techniques had to be a little different. One of these simple hackle techniques is shown in the step-by-step sequence overleaf.

At the end of the Edo (Shogunate) period, and thanks to the Meiji (enlightened rule) reforms, people had leisure time. Anyone was allowed to fish and fly-tying went commercial with an estimated one-million flies sold per annum at its peak. Some of the families of needle manufacturers who made hooks and flies for sale still make flies today, with an apprenticeship for craft flies being five years.
Read the full story in the October/November 2011 issue of FLYFISHING.


Tenkara-Fisher  is a web site about tenkara style fishing. The site is truly in it’s infancy where as the discipline of tenkara is not. We will take care to represent tenkara in a light honoring it’s beginnings and reflecting on what it is today.

Tenkara Japan

Yoshikazu Fulioka's excellent site on Tenkara Fishing in Japan, his favourite streams,

information on Tenkara fishing,

and his fantastic artwork.

There is also a comprehensive section on traditional Tenkara flies

streamx fly fishing cape town

Tenkara Tackle

Sakura Tenkara
Tenkara rods are long, typically 10 – 14ft, and telescope out from within a short handle to a delicate tip at the end. The action is considered slow compared to conventional modern rods, but not all rods re the same.

The tip section of a Tenkara rod is extremely thin, and glued into its tip is a small piece of string to which the leader is connected, using a simple knot. The delicate top sections of the rod help protect the tippet.

The 'stiffness' or 'action' of each rod is designated according to the table below.

6:4 Mid, 7:3 Progressive, 8:2 Tip - What do these numbers indicate?
These numbers designate the rod action, which is determined at the point on the rod where the stiffer butt gives way to a softer section. For example, on a 6:4 rod the first 60% is stiffer than the last 40%, thus most of the bending action will occur 60% from the butt, or say 6 foot from the butt on a 10 foot rod.

tenkara rod

Rod handles are typically made or cork or a light wood like paulownia. In general cork handles are shaped and wooden handles straight.
Each rod has a 'cork' that fits in the top and prevents the pieces coming out and possibly getting damaged in transit. The back of the handle has a screw in cap, so that the pieces can be removed for cleaning or maintenance.
The rod's tip piece has a piece of yarn glued into it, that sticks out of the tip. It is to this piece that your 'line' is connected to the rod with a loop.

Caring for your rod
Your rod has very delicate tip pieces and this has to be borne in mind when extending or collapsing your rod.

extending a tenkara rod

Extending your rod

  • Remove the stopper from the front of the rod and store it somewhere safe.
  • Tie your leader onto the 'Lillian' using the knot shown, after removing the leader from its spool.
  • Holding the bottom (handle section) of the rod, in one hand near the top so part of your hand sticks over the top. This hand will control the rear sections of the rod as the other hand pulls them out.
  • Grasp the 'dongle' on the rod tip with the other hand and carefully pull out the first piece, being careful not to move it laterally.
  • While the handle side hand brakes (not breaks) the second  piece, the first piece is pulled out gently but firmly to seat it in place.
  • This is then repeated for each section until the entire rod has been extended.

collapsing a tenkara rod

Collapsing your rod

  • Your rod is collapsed in the reverse order, starting with the back end of the rod.
  • Hold the handle section the same way, and with a gentle twisting motion, undo each segment as it comes down.
  • Undo the leader last.
  • DO NOT COLLAPSE A DIRTY ROD as any grit in the segments can cause them to jam or create damage.

Cleaning your rod
A wipe with a damp cloth should be sufficient to clean your rod most of the time. Let it dry properly before packing away.

For a thorough clean your rod will have to be dismantled.
With the stopper in front in place carefully remove the butt cap by screwing it out. Tilt the rod carefully and remove each piece one by one, starting with the smallest. Lay them out in the order, smallest to biggest and ensure they are oriented the same way, ie front side up. Getting them upside down when you put them back may cause damage.
Clean with a mild detergent and wipe dry.
Replace pieces in reverse order and ensure that the butt cap is secure. You do not want your pieces falling out at the stream.

Sakura Tenkara Sakura Tenkara
Sakura Rods

tenkara line

Tenkara lines are actually a leader, as there is no reel or fly line, so from here on, they will be referred to as leaders .
These are made from furled mono-filament or silk, and sometimes fluorocarbon. Level lines (no taper) as also used but are more difficult to cast, and are usually used for specialised applications.

The leader length is usually the length of the rod. In windy conditions a shorter one can be used and in ideal conditions a longer one (see sidebar about when your line is too long).

There are leaders for different techniques or circumstances.
Yellow tapered leaders are for small streams and delicate presentation
White tapered leaders are for general use, an all round line.
Brown (or Tea) coloured tapered leaders are for heavier flies and distance casting.
Yellow level leaders are for specialised applications like 'dapping' a wind blown line and can be cast by experiences Tenkara anglers.
Custom leaders can be made with furled mono-filament or silk, and level fluorocarbon can also be used. .

When changing leaders it is advisable to collapse the rod unless you have someone to hold the rod for you.

Most  leaders will require a bit of preparation before first use.

Your leader is usually stored on a spool, with the tippet and a fly already tied on. Thus you can have a range of lines, with the relevant fly and tippet ready tied for fast deployment. These fit easily into you pocket, and the spool serves as a temporary holder if you want to collapse your rod to move through some bush.
Tenkara Knots Leaving the leader connected to you rod, collapse your rod. Hook your fly into the spool nd wind the line onto it leaving a piece a little shorter than the collapsed rod. Tuck the line into the spool to stop it unwinding, and then slip the spool over the top of the rod where it sits like the hilt on a sword.
Be careful to keep it upright at all times so that the rod pieces don't come out the top and the spool doesn't fall off. When you are ready to fish reverse the procedure.

Leaders can also be stored on 'dropper rigs' tippet Standard fly-fishing tippets are used, usually in the range of 6X or 7X. The main reason for such light tippets is to protect the tip, so never exceed 5X. Some rods allow much thicker tippets (see manufacturers guidelines), but decent sized fish can be landed on 6X.

Standard knots are used to connect the leader to tippet, with most leaders having a loop at both ends. In this case a perfection loop put onto your tippet then loop to loop connected to the leader is the best option. For tying on flies, use your favourite knotnets

Tenkara nets differ slightly in that they are bent at the neck and generally have a round entrance.
This facilitates easy capture of a passing fish without having to bend down too far. It also allows them to be slipped into your belt while fishing without them falling out.

tenkara net tenkara by stephen boshoff
A cherry-wood Tenkara net made by Stephen Boshoff.
Note how it is held, allowing the fish to swim into the net as the current holds the bag open.
The angler does not have to bend down to use the net.


tenkara flies


Traditional Tenkara Flies or Kebari are generally used for tenkara fishing, but you can use any flies you choose in any combination.

tenkara net

In Japan Tenkara fishermen fish dry only, nymph or swung wet, either singly or in teams.
Dry fly and swung wet fly Tenkara fishing is essentially the same as any other fly-fishing, but nymphs are usually fished differently.
Tenkara 'nymphs' are what we call soft-hackled flies, or spiders. These are fished in a manipulative way to create movement in the hackles and make the fly appear alive.
The rod tip is moved up and down with the effect of opening and closing the hackles.

tenkara net

Tenkara flies are divided up into different categories (see illustration below) and in Japan, different regions have different traditional flies.
The hooks used are standard modern hooks, but the more traditional  flies use eyeless hooks with a thread loop similar to traditional salmon flies..

The flies are generally large, but small ones work fine.

TYING TENKARA FLIES – is quite simple, and you do not need a wide range of material. Bodies are mostly made of silk or yarn and peacock herl. The hackles are usually grouse, pheasant & bantam chickens.

Tenkara RSA South Africa


Fishing with your Tenkara rod is simple. Cast like you would a normal fly rod on a river, but with less effort or force. Be gentle and you find that your flies lands softly and with great accuracy. You will be able to do most of the casts that you can with a normal fly rod (sorry, no double hauling). Cast a normal stroke, a side stroke, steeple cast or roll cast. Of these all, the roll cast is most useful as you can flick your fly back into position as it comes near you. This enables you have your fly on the water for more time during the day, as you are no longer false casting. The only time you will false cast is to perhaps dry a fly.

Grip your Tenkara rod using a standard thumb grip (like golfers do) or with the pointy-finger grip, but this is less popular and can create fatigue. Cast with your wrist, rather than your arm, but holding you arm out forward will get you some extra reach, but will be more tiring. Presenting your fly is far better as it will land softer as you do not have the energy of a fly line dissipating towards the fly which can cause some serious fly splatting.

You should able to fish a dry fly without any drag as there is no fly line or leader on the water. This is important, so I am going to repeat it

You can fish a dry fly without any drag.The only drag you should experience is the wind's effect on the leader. Should you experience this you can always change the leader. Fishing pocket water but from further back and without drag has some advantages. You are not going to spook a fish with an indelicate splatting of your fly or line. Fish will not be circumspect about a fly that is behaving strangely.

Most importantly, being further back means that the fish has less chance of spotting you. Having said that, it does not mean you should fish without caution. The angler who takes care to wade carefully, avoids flashy things on their jacket and takes care to hide, will be far more successful.

Traditionally the Japanese Tenkara flies are fished underwater with an up and down motion that creates the allusion of life in the fly as the hackles open and close. This motion is maintained through the drift and does require some practice. When you are starting out, use a white fly above the fly you are fishing and that will serve as an indicator, showing you more or less how the fly below is behaving. Fishing with a standard fly set-up is perfectly acceptable even if it not traditional. After all the reason you are fishing the set-up is most likely it's ease and simplicity. On the other hand you could go the whole Zen way.

Showing off the fly 'Sutebari', is a traditional technique that could be considered 'teasing the fish'. Essentially, the fly is shown to a fish a few times, but just out of his range but within sight. Then it presented in a spot where the fish hardly has to move to take it. There is a wonderful explanation and diagram on Yoshikazu Fujioka website 'Trout and Seasons of The Mountain Village'   It is worth a visit.

Using a similar technique to the one above, one can tease the fish with a fly that hovers above the water then settles on it. This is very similar to dapping, and a lightweight level leader can be used instead of a tapered one. UP & DOWN The most common technique used in Tenkara fishing is manipulating the fly by moving the rod tip up and down. This is usually done just below the water surface, but is also used deeper in the water column.

Moving the rod tip and down slightly has the effect of opening and closing the hackles of a Tenkara style fly, thereby giving it life. In the words of Yoshikazu Fujioka "we are transforming the fly to attractive bait and sharpening a trout's appetite". This technique can be used with any kind of nymph as well, even if it doesn’t have hackles. It also trains you to keep in contact with the fly in case there is a take you do not see.  

If you prefer not to fish in the traditional Japanese or Tenkara style, you can fish your normal fly fishing methods using a Tenkara rod. It will still be more effective at closer ranges and in pocket water than your standard setup Dry + nymph   Where to stand   The drift Playing & netting a fish   Landing fish may take a bit of getting used to. When you have a fish on, the rod is bent which means the 'line' and tippet are much longer than the rod, so unless you have long arms, you are in a 'situation'. Firstly, let the fish run up or downstream, you do not want a fresh fish at your feet.

Once ready, encourage the fish to pass you, and net it as it does. For small fish, grab the 'line' with your free hand as the fish passes, and then transfer the line to your rod hand. Your free hand is then slid down the leader until you reach the fish. Step back, rod high arm up till you have control of line in other hand.  

Please say thank you to the fish and release it  

tenkara stream fishing