A Simple Beginner’s Tenkara Casting Tip for Unweighted Flies & Ultralight Level Lines
Casting with a tenkara rod can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Some people adopt the “I just pick it up and put it down” mindset. Others dig deep into physics, exploring different loops, curves, and multi-dimensional flicks of the wrist to accomplish their perfect cast, just like Masami Sakakibara in the video below.
Many anglers that are drawn to tenkara read about (and ultimately choose to fish) ultralight level lines and unweighted kebari. This is what most people think of when they conjure an image of “Japanese tenkara.” It can be an extremely effective form of fishing, if one can get the cast under control.
I’ve often read posts on social media where anglers mention that they’ve tried, but choose not to fish level lines. They cite not being able to get the preferred distance on their cast, often having the line and tippet bunch up a few yards from their feet.
If this sounds familiar, here’s a simple beginner’s tenkara casting tip to get a bit more distance with level line and unweighted kebari:
“Stop it high and let it fly!”
Attending a lot of tenkara gatherings over the years, I’ve witnessed many new tenkara anglers cast for the first time. By instinct, they’ll lift the rod a smidge beyond their ear to backcast. Let’s call it around 11 o’clock on a clock face. This is great! However, on the subsequent forward cast they tend to want to drop the rod back down to 3 o’clock (horizontal). Some even go down to 4 o’clock while also extending their arm outward to “toss” or “throw” the line forward with force.
This can be perfectly fine with a furled or PVC line and beadhead fly. The extra mass creates momentum that help propel your tackle forward regardless of inefficiency in your cast. However, that motion doesn’t work so well with unweighted lines and flies. This mix of over rotation and too much power is what creates those frustratingly short casts.
To solve that problem quickly, try stopping your cast much earlier in the forward motion, perhaps between 1 and 2 o’clock on a clock face. When you do that the flex in the upper rod sections will be prompted to do more of the work for you, at an angle more beneficial to creating a loop in the line that will propel your fly forward, and not down. Plus, it requires little or no “muscle.” Simply movement back, then a short, swift movement forward, almost in one continuous motion.
(If you happen to watch the full video of Masami Sakaibara at the beginning of this post, once you get past all of the seemingly wild swirls and twirls, you’ll notice he stops his cast at around 2 o’clock almost every time. He never goes down to horizontal when overhead casting.)
After giving this advice and witnessing a few minutes of additional casting, those same newly minted tenkara anglers generally begin casting their level line longer and straighter. While they are not expert casters at this point (who ever is?), it definitely eliminated some initial frustration, a key to keeping the “fun factor” high during the learning process.
So if you struggle with casting your combination of level line and unweighted flies, try stopping your cast a bit earlier and higher. I think you’ll find this tenkara casting tip allows for longer and more accurate casts with your ultralight setup.
Do you have a story to tell? A photo to share? A fly recipe that’s too good to keep secret? If you would like to contribute content to Tenkara Angler, click HERE for more details.