Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Single Fly Tenkara

A question recently posted in the Tenkara Anglers facebook group asked about the single fly tenkara technique. The author of the post was looking for advice, reassurance and information about the technique, especially around selective trout and it got me thinking about my own views of the single fly aspect of tenkara.

one fly to rule them all

I admit to a pretty strong addition to catching fish on the surface. So I have been both skeptical and practical when it comes to the single fly technique. Fishing dry flies with a tenkara rod was so effective and fun that I was hard pressed to try something different. In fact if I can’t entice a fish to take a dry or dry/dropper, I usually just call it a day, scout out the water or go for a hike.

When Daniel Galhardo, founder and owner of Tenkara USA was in town I had the chance to fish the single fly method with him. After three days with increasing success I can say with confidence that it works. As a guide who specializes in the tenkara method it was especially rewarding to get first-hand coaching on tenkara fishing.

In the course of three days we had a lot of time to talk about our evolution as tenkara anglers. We shared similar paths to where we are as tenkara anglers today. So when I read Daniel’s response to the facebook question, I was struck by what a well worded insight into the single fly technique it was.

“Main thing to keep in mind is that you should know (or maybe believe) that it can be about technique as opposed to the fly choice. I have been in a few rivers where people told me I had to match the hatch at particular times, but I have also been stubborn in my pursuit of catching fish without paying much attention to the fly and have done well (and have started doing progressively better as I have gained confidence).

I have come to believe I can fish anywhere, including highly pressured waters, without paying attention to my fly. It is refreshing and liberating (this is my favorite part of it). Now, it is possible that I could have caught more fish if I had changed flies…will never know.

I think it mainly comes down to one thing: what do you want most? To think about the flies you’re using and trying to possibly catch more fish? Or, to have the freedom to not catch as many fish now, instead just keep casting that one fly to the water, and perhaps in a year, or two, or ten, feel that you have mastered techniques that allow you to fish one fly effectively?

There is NO right or wrong here. Absolutely not. It is all about what you desire. I really enjoy not having to think about my fly, and I now feel liberated to fly anywhere in the country and fish with my one box of flies. I like that.”

I won’t be abandoning my dry flies for just sakasa kebari, but I will be trying the single fly technique more often.


  1. Chris "Kiwi" Kuhlow says:

    Good post….This past year I concentrated on my technique and narrowed down my selection to 4 patterns ( a Usual, woolly bugger, a Killer Bug and a Royal Sakasa Kebari) for most all of my fishing trips. I would say ~95% of my fish were caught on one or the other of the last two flies and I was only skunked on one or two trips. The one fly/any fly concept I think is a great one because I only have so much time to fish and I don’t like wasting it changing flies.

  2. The Tenkara Ambassador says:

    Like you, I’m primarily a dry fly fisherman. But as you said, tenkara is a superior method for presenting the dry, especially in small pockets with conflicting currents. Perhaps some day I’ll just fish the sakasa kebari (but I’ll probably apply floatant to the hackle.)

  3. I have a question, are you saying you can fish the Kebari or other similar pattern as a nymph as well as dry? If so, how do you sink it, OR float it?

  4. Tenkara flies (kebari) are generally fished wet like soft hackle flies. So yes they can be fished as nymphs. Sink it by overpowering the cast initially or soak it. Then use the drift and pause technique to keep it subsurface.

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