D.I.Y. Rods Trout & Char

Interline Tenkara Rod

In this article we speak to Satoshi Ogitani, an angler from Fuji, a city in eastern Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan in the foothills of Mount Fuji. Ogitani-san has been fly fishing for over 30 years and is fortunate to conveniently reside near several catch and release streams that hold substantially sized trout.

What makes his style of fishing uniquely interesting is that it involves the use of an interline rod – a rod where the line runs inside and through the center of blank – with a Shimano Honryu 44 NP tenkara rod as the base. He couples this rod with a reel, an ultralight fly line, and some craftsmanship. While this is not tenkara or even fixed line fly fishing, we thought it was interesting enough to share with our readership.

The rest of this article is penned by Satoshi Ogitani.

Interline Tenkara Rod - Satoshi Ogitani - Tenkara Angler - Shimano Honryu 44 NP

A Problem Arises

While I was using a tenkara rod in a small river two years ago, I happened to hook a very big fish. Initially, I thought I had hooked the riverbed or a stone because it didn’t move. But it suddenly started to run and escape from me with tremendous power and speed. The length of the tenkara line was limited, my tenkara rod couldn’t hold it, and the line broke instantly.

This made me start thinking that if a tenkara rod has a reel, it may be more capable of handling such a big fish. Other people have tried this, but almost all interline tenkara rods I found on the internet were not able to release and rewind lines when fighting with a fish. Their line length may be adjustable, but it was always fixed while fishing.

One day, I coincidentally met Naoyuki Ide on Facebook. He is a tenkara Master who I found also uses a reel-coupled tenkara rod. He kindly disclosed everything about his interline tenkara rod design to me, and I was eager to build my own. Since then, we’ve collectively modified the design little by little by trial, then exchanging information. Today, he uses the same rod as I use. Or I should say I use the same rod as he uses!

Why an Interline Tenkara Rod with Reel?

I find there are several benefits to an interline tenkara rod with a reel. First, because it can utilize a reel in a line length-controlled manner, I believe it makes it easier to fight with a big fish.

Second, since it allows us to reel in line to shorten its length outside the rod when a hooked fish comes closer to us, we don’t need to handline as we normally do when landing it with a regular tenkara rod, which often unexpectedly allows the fish to escape.

Another final reason we enjoy using reel-coupled tenkara rods instead of a regular fly rod and reel is that tenkara rods such as Keiryu Tenkara, Honryu Tenkara, and BG Tenkara, are longer than fly fishing rods. Honryu Tenkara, which we normally use, is 4.4m in length (before cutting tip). This makes it easier to reach far fishing spots and is very convenient especially when we have to cast a fly across a fast stream.

When I go to small rivers where I don’t need to expect big fish, I use a regular tenkara rod without a reel because I’ve been fascinated by tenkara. This is the same reason why I prefer an interline tenkara rod over fly rod and reel, even when I try to catch big rainbow trout.

Design & Construction

In terms of the construction, this rod features an L-shaped bracket I bought at Home Depot. I only had to enlarge the hole it initially had so that the rod’s butt cap was able to fit through it. To that bracket, I mount a fly reel that holds #3-4 fly line. If it can hold 100 feet of line, I think the smaller the reel the better in order to reduce fatigue since I hold and cast the rod all day.

Interline Tenkara Rod - Satoshi Ogitani - Tenkara Angler - Reel Bracket

I use the finest 0.6mm diameter shooting running line which may be lighter than #0 fly line. To string it through the inside of the tenkara rod, I drill a hole through the butt cap, and then cut 10cm from the rod’s hollow tip. The cut tip’s edge is reinforced by a stainless tube, rounding the corners to avoid any damage to the line while fighting fish.

Interline Tenkara Rod - Satoshi Ogitani - Tenkara Angler - Tip Reinforcement


Master Ide-san always uses this particular kebari and catches big trout, including rainbow trout up to 70cm. I often use the same pattern as well.

Interline Tenkara Rod - Satoshi Ogitani - Tenkara Angler - Kebari

Here is a peek inside my fly box to show you the flies I normally choose from.

I use a wide variety of hook sizes between #8 and #24 depending on the situation. I find that if stocked trout reside in a stream for a long enough time, they will prefer to eat natural insects. In most catch & release rivers, the trout will only take small flies ranging from #18 to #24, so matching the insect size becomes very important. However, trout that are stocked recently are not as selective and often take large, attractor patterns.

I have been successful in catching rainbow trout up to 65cm with these tactics.

Interline Tenkara Rod - Satoshi Ogitani - Tenkara Angler

Satoshi Ogitani is an angler from Fuji, a city in easter Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan in the foothills of Mount Fuji. He has been fly fishing for over 30 years and is fortunate to reside near several streams that hold substantially sized trout.

This article originally appeared in the 2022-23 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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  1. You’ve given me an idea for an interline Tenkara rod that changes the dynamics slightly. Instead of the contraption on the butt that runs the line through the butt what about a reel seat with a small fighting butt that runs the line through an angled ceramic eyelet either further up the handle, or at the connection of rod and handle that wouldn’t interupt the nesting capability? No changes to the tubing at the tip, but a more formal reel seat would balance the set-up and make removing the reel easier by unscrewing two locking nuts with no residual pieces to hang anything on.

  2. The eyelet would run internally like the cable guides on high end bicycles. Nothing would be exposed to catch.

  3. Why not just use my 10 1/2 foot euro nymphing rod, with OPST laser line for running line with tippet? Same thing, only easier to use. Stick with Tenkara for Tenkara’s sake, and use it for it’s simple value..

  4. I think I can make this work with the 3d printed reel I have. Having a reserve of line and adjusting the length of the line is something I thought too for a while and it just happened that I came across this article. This said, here is another idea. I am from France and I use to use very long rods to fish with baits under a float in large rivers. Only a portion of the rod telescopes while the rest have ferrules (I am talking rods up to 20m long). Here is the trick: in the telescopic rod, we have an elastic line that stretches through the tip top inside guide. This offers about double or more the length of the line out and it also absorbs the hard pulls from the fish. Also, a fish fighting an increasing resistance is a formidable way to fight a fish. The setup is really simple, some line is added in the tip top guide and the elastic line (like fly rubber legs which is also often doubled). There is a conical insert that is recessed inside the rod and that jams inside it. For tenkara or keiryu one just needs to attach this to the bottom screw on cap of the rod. A swivel is always a good idea.

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