Essay Tenkara

The Intrigue of Tenkara

Article by Sean Dziedzic

There’s quite a few aspects of tenkara that make it so intriguing to many of us. Maybe it’s how simple and ultralight it can be, the culture and history, or something else entirely. Whatever it may be that has drawn you to the sport, you’ll be welcomed with open arms from others in the community of tenkara anglers.

One of the major reasons we get such a tight knit feeling on stream is the approachability of these anglers, no matter who you meet, if there’s a tenkara rod in their hand I bet they’re happy to help and chat with you. This is something you may not find in other disciplines of fishing, it’s about the fish regardless of whose line it’s on. We lay it all out for everyone and want you to make the best choice for you, not the best choice for us. It seems the simplistic and genuine style of fishing has carried over into the hands of the business owners, we all want to have fun on the stream. Whether that means $50 or $5,000, making enjoyable memories is the number one goal.

Tenkara Intrigue - Sean Dziedzic - Rod

As you progress in tenkara and delve deeper into the philosophy you may find it effects your life in ways other than fishing. It seems a lot of us have started to adapt a minimalistic life style along with our fishing, everything from living in a smaller space such as the tiny house movement, to trading in our massive amounts of tying materials for a much more concise variety. You may also find growing/gathering your own food and becoming more “natural” or “green” to be a side effect; this is completely normal and should be fully embraced.

With the winter months coming up tenkara is the perfect cure for cabin fever. Many rods can be cast in the average living room for practice. Tying your own flies is another great thing to do, even if you’ve never tied a fly in your life, for a very reasonable price you can get straight to tying flies. This is what really piqued my interest when I was just starting out.

Nowadays I tie a thousand or more flies over the winter months. When you first get started they may not be pretty but it has less to do with the fly and more to do with the presentation. Some of Japan’s most respected Tenkara Masters prove this with their “one-fly” method. That could mean fishing identical flies every time you hit the water, or maybe using a few different colors or sizes for the same pattern. A far cry from a western outfit with thousands of patterns to choose from and every angler saying you need every single one in every possible size!

Tenkara Intrigue - Sean Dziedzic - Kebari

There’s just something about fly fishing that I feel brings you closer to nature, most of us dream of fishing in the beautiful scenery this planet has to offer. For some of us the size of the fish has never been the top priority though it is very nice landing a monster, but it’s more about seeing the fish and being in the great outdoors. Thankfully that is no longer limited to mountain streams in Japan; there are plenty of anglers all over the world and I believe that foreshadows what a big future we have.

Tenkara will likely always be a niche sport, but that’s okay, it’s a fantastic fish catching tool and incredibly intuitive making it ideal for breeding the next generation of trout hunters! With that being said, you’re certainly not limited to just trout. Lots of folks fish for pretty much everything but trout, I’ve even seen bass landed on a tenkara rod. And now we’re hearing of some saltwater action as well. The only limit to this great art is your imagination.


Sean Dziedzic is an avid fly fisherman and rock climber. He spent 6 months in Colorado climbing, fishing, and tying for shops such as Charlie’s Fly Box. He used both western and tenkara rods and enjoys both on his home streams in western Massachusetts and surrounding areas.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2016-17 issue of Tenkara Angler Magazine.

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