A Tenkara Rod Review from Sturtevants’ own Deno Mense:
Growing up in the 1970’s on the banks of the Red Cedar River in northern Wisconsin, my father first introduced me to fishing with a simple cane pole. With it, I quickly learned that I could catch panfish and bass one after another–simply and effectively–with few tangles or hassles.
Fast-forward to the 21st century….In the age of retro and throwbacks, there are a few gems to be re-discovered.
Last season I had the opportunity to re-live the simplicity that first got me hooked on fishing by trying out a Tenkara fly rod. On my first cast I was soon battling a 17” Cutthroat from the bank of an alpine lake reliving that same thrill that got me jazzed on fishing 40 some odd years earlier. With a brushy shoreline making traditional fly casting a bit more challenging, the Tenkara (which means “from the heavens”) was the rod du jour. After a couple of more fish I was so stoked over this new? (they’ve been fishing with it in Japan forever) rod and had to share it with my wife. Soon she, too, was casting and hooting and landing fish.
A month later on a trip with some friends up in the White Clouds I had a golden opportunity that lit the fire for another fisherperson to be. With three of us briskly catching fish, Jan was the only non-fly fisherperson and was missing out on all of the fun. I had packed the Tenkara rod for just this moment. I brought it out, tied on a fly, and with minimal instruction, Jan was fly fishing. She was not only fly fishing, but having action as fast (if not faster) than the rest of us. Jan was now an official fly fisherperson and as hooked as the rest of us!
So what’s the deal with the Tenkara rod you say? Succinctly put—SIMPLICITY! The “Teton” 12’ model- rod, line and a fly ready to fish weigh in at less than 8oz (about the same as a large apple). And with its stock pack-size tube, it’s trail ready at only 1 oz heavier. It measures a minuscule 1 ½” around by 22” long, which makes taking it along anywhere a no-brainer. …But the beauty of it comes out on the water. The rod simply telescopes out of itself to the model’s particular length with a short 2” piece of line that swivels off the rod tip. Loop on a 10’-13’ special braided leader (poly leaders work well also), a short butt section followed by a short piece of tippet and fly and you are ready to fish. Casting is easy. Simple roll casts, snap c-casts or bow and arrow casts make for simple, intuitive, fast, tangle-free fishing. The Tenkara is ideal on smaller streams, (the 12’ is perfect for our smaller local Warm Springs and Trail Creek waters) where bank brush limits back casting. The longer rod also makes mending easier. Don’t let the lightness of it fool you; the 13’ model can fish most all of our larger local waters and mountain lakes well. I’ve had a ball catching some large fish that I might have otherwise broken off had it not been for the forgiveness yet assertiveness of the Tenkara build.
Like the simple intuitive beauty of a single speed bike or a recurve bow, so too is the beauty of fishing the Tenkara rod. Similar to the original cane pole that got me going on fishing, the Tenkara also has its limitations—-but then again so does a spay rod set up but only a lot more expensive! Maybe this is the summer you re-introduce yourself to the simple pleasures of fly fishing—better yet, take that opportunity and share your tenkara with a friend—they’ll be glad you did!
See you out there!—Deno Mense
For more information on Tenkara rods stop by Sturtevants in downtown Ketchum or visit tenkararodco.com. Happy Fishing!!