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

Tenkara Jam 2016


c4ccc68130ff58e54b026306c4711199The 2016 Tenkara Jam is coming soon!

Tenkara anglers and those interested in tenkara it is time again to “Jam on it!”

When: October 15 and 16 from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m both days.
Where: Yellowhill Activity Center, 1455 Acquoni Road, Cherokee, North Carolina.

This is the third year of the “Jam” and it is shaping up to be the best ever and a worthy successor to previous tenkara summits.

The big names in tenkara will be giving presentation and I am fortunate to be included with these notable and knowledgeable tenkara pros. In addition dozens of equipment vendors and organizations will be there to show off products and tell their stories.

As of this writing here are the pros on tap to share their knowledge.

  • Jason Klass: “Ten Tenkara Presentations Anyone Can (and Should) Make” The majority of fly anglers rely mostly on a simple, upstream dead-drift presentation. But there are so many other presentations you can make that will increase your catch rate and lend themselves perfectly to the tenkara method.
  • Daniel Galhardo: “Tenkara: a different way of thinking” Tenkara shows us there is usually a different way of thinking and doing things. Daniel will talk about things that at a first glance are counterintuitive but when people are willing to give them a try are very effective.
  • Robert Worthing: “Advanced Casting for Fixed Line Fly Fishing” Teaches a method of building casting skills without limits. The presentation begins with understanding rod dynamics (we sneak in some big fish wrangling here), and defines a common set of terms for dissecting casting elements. We will use stop motion capture software to introduce and analyze various casting strokes and begin to explore their application on the water.
  • Chris Stewart: “Lions, Tigers and Bears (Oh My!)” Tenkara is not limited to trout. We will cover ideas about fishing for micros, sunfish, crappies, bass, perch, pickerel, muskies, catfish, carp and inshore salt water fish.
  • Erik Ostrander: “Advanced Casting Techniques”
    A discussion on how to utilize the entire body to create effective casts and drifts in highly technical riverways.
  • Anthony Naples: “Dynamic Tenkara: A Personal Approach” Dynamic Tenkara – will focus on the idea of creating a personal tenkara tool-box that fits your own personal preferences, conditions, locales and experience, as well as allowing you to successfully tackle varying conditions that you’ll meet.
  • Jason Sparks: “Tenkara 101” This is an introduction of tenkara for all anglers. It will cover a brief history into the origins of Japanese fixed line fishing. We will touch on the equipment of the rod, line and fly, basic fly casting and fish landing. This is a primer to get all of those curious about tenkara up to speed quickly so that they can appreciate the following programs.
  • Luong Tam: “Fundamentals of Tenkara Rod – Characteristics and Mechanism” Reveal the basic mechanism inside the rod through the developer’s point of view, using Tanuki rod as a case study. I will try to present how things work inside the rods. I will also share outside designs and rod development process.
  • Tom Sadler: “Focused Fishing” Success in fishing, especially fly-fishing, comes when you leave complexity and technology behind. Tom will explain why knowledge, skill and simple tools are more important and how they can increase both your fly-fishing success and your enjoyment in the outdoors.
  • Dan Dutton: “Making the release count: how to minimize post-release fish mortality”. We all want the fish that we release to survive, grow, and be able to be caught again, but fish often succumb to the trauma of catch and release fishing. Learn how well-intentioned anglers inadvertently kill fish and how to increase the survival of fish that you release.

The Tenkara Jam website is loaded with info, here are some quick links:

Click on the link for information about lodging.

Click on the links for information about vendors and organizations coming to the 2016 Jam.

Click on the link for bios on the presenters.

Hope to see you at the 2016 Tenkara Jam!

What’s My Line

Mossy Creek - 9x3b
As the popularity of tenkara grows, tweaks and innovation are becoming the rule rather the exception. One area that has seen a good deal of change is the type of line being used.

If you are new to tenkara, the line is a key component in the setup. Like other forms of fly-fishing the line both loads the rod and delivers the fly but is not stored on a reel. It is a fixed length attached to the rod tip.

When I started with tenkara the line choices were pretty basic. You had a choice of furled lines or level lines. Today there are a variety of line options with more on the horizon. For example small diameter fly lines have recently become popular.
All are readily available and have their proponents, as you will see below.


Level lines are a single diameter of line. Materials are usually nylon, monofilament or fluorocarbon. Level line users pick a diameter to suit the fishing they are doing and the fly they are casting. Benefits include economy, the ability to adjust length easily and delicate presentations. A key component in selecting level lines is visibility. Clear lines are hard to see and regular level line users opt for bright, florescent colors like orange, pink or green.

Rob Worthing of Tenkara Guides LLC offered some important observations about picking level lines. “Level lines that are created specifically with fixed line fly-fishing in mind are 100 percent fluorocarbon, and are formulated to be stiff with little memory. The stiffness is important in holding the line off the water and keeping a direct connection to your fly.”

Because fluorocarbon is dense it has some key advantages according to Worthing.“The density improves casting. The low surface area to weight ratio is also why it excels in sinking flies. It is less apt to get pushed around by varying currents at different depths, allowing you to establish a more direct connection with your fly.”

Fishing with denser level lines also allows you to use a lighter line, which contributes to a key tenkara advantage; the ability to keep line off the water.

Chris Stewart of Tenkara Bum agrees with the advantage of a lighter line. “Even though heavier lines are easier to cast, they are harder to catch fish with. You can’t hold them off the water as well, so you can’t get the same drifts that you can get with lighter lines. Also, lighter lines have less inertia, so they are more sensitive, it takes less to make them twitch.”


Often furled lines are the first line new tenkara users try. Furled lines are multiple
strands of material that taper from thick to thin. They are similar to furled leaders used in other forms of fly-fishing but are usually longer. 11 feet to 13 feet are common and longer lengths are available. Most are made with Kevlar to reduce the “stretchiness” that comes from nylon or monofilament.

Customization is quite common in the furled line arena. Do it yourself furling jigs and videos are available for those who want a try building a line and personalize their rig. Kevin Kelleher’s book, Tenkara, Radically Simple, Ultralight Fly Fishing, has a chapter about making your own lines.

Two companies stand out in the furled line market, Moonlit Fly Fishing and Streamside Furled Leaders. Both offer a wide selection of lengths and designs.

Many people, myself included, like the “feel” of a furled line when casting. This often helps people make the transition from rod and reel to tenkara.


The use of very light floating lines has become more popular as tenkara anglers push the innovation envelope. The lines are the same as floating fly lines currently on the market just cut down to suit tenkara style of fly-fishing. They are usually level lines in small diameter, although some folks use lightweight tapered lines. Common sizes range from 0.022 diameter running line to two weight double taper.

The most common reason for using floating fly lines has been “castability.” Much like the tapered furled lines, fly rod and reel anglers picking up a tenkara rod find the feel of casting a floating line similar to what they are used to, helping make the transition to tenkara easier.

Floating lines are becoming more common and Patagonia offers 40 feet of 0.027-inch Cortland floating line made of a small-diameter, hard mono core and a supple PVC coating. Each package includes a seven-foot, six-inch, 3x leader. They retail for $24.95 and are available at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing.

Longer rods, stiffer actions and bigger flies have been some of the reason cited for using these types of line.

Matt Sment of Badger Tenkara is a big proponent of floating line and offered these observations. “Floating line has solidly become my preference. I believe it offers significant advantages, including – high durability, lowest cost over time (you can fish the same line for many seasons), exceptionally resistant to tangles in the first place and easy to untangle if you get one (you wont lose a line to a tangle), superior visibility, functions well below freezing temperatures, well suited to throwing larger/heavier flies, supports a wide variety of tactics (like ‘line as sight indicator,’) does not become waterlogged and change characteristics, and is very easy for beginners to learn on.”

Here in the Shenandoah Valley were I guide for Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, floating lines are my favorite for fishing large terrestrials, big bushy dries and dry-dropper rigs.

The desire to innovate has become a hallmark of tenkara here in the U.S. The range of line options and the ability to easily rig a rod with different lines is just another advantage of tenkara.

As Paul Vertress, head tenkara guide for RIGS Adventure Co., commented, “A couple of extra lines in your pocket weighs very little, and gives you so much more flexibility on different water and conditions. Simplicity + options = success.

Author’s note: A version of this article first appeared in Hatch Magazine.