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

A review of Tenkara: Radically Simple, Ultralight Fly Fishing

Tenkara anglers or anyone wishing to learn more about tenkara fishing will be hard pressed to find a more enlightening book then Tenkara: Radically Simple, Ultralight Fly Fishing, (affiliate link) by Kevin C. Kelleher, MD with Misako Ishimura.

From the start Dr. Kelleher grabbed my attention. In his introduction he writes of his struggles with western-style fly-fishing. Tangled lines, over loaded vests, the time needed to rig up, all conspiring to make fishing less enjoyable.

He contemplates enforcing a self-imposed rule, “…that I will quit anything that gives me a headache or makes me cuss.” It was those frustrations that lead him to tenkara.

Boy, can I relate to that.

A tenkara primer

Kelleher’s introduction and his chapter the roots of tenkara alone are worth the price of the book. However he goes on to share his extensive knowledge of tenkara and fly-fishing.

The book is packed with information and takes the reader on a learning journey that is both educational and entertaining. Kellerher writes with the experience of someone who has invested some serious energy in learning tenkara but relates the information is such a way that the reader is not bogged down in technical jargon.

Interspersed throughout the chapters are tips and anecdotes that add a more personal dimension to the learning experience. The illustrations are excellent as well, revealing Kellerher’s award winning artistic ability.

A superlative reference

While tenkara is about simplicity this book thankfully defies that tenkara convention.

A look at the list of the chapters below show the broad range of information contained in the book:

Why Tenkara
The Roots of Tenkara
Gear Simplicity
Rigging Easily
Dance of the Dry Fly
Underwater Rooms
The Simplest Cast in Fly-fishing
Small Streams
Large Water
Hook to Hand
Bugs 101
Kerbari and Western Flies
Making Tenkara Lines
Tenkara Backpacking
Tenkara Women

Even for the non-tenkara angler there is invaluable information in this book, especially in the casting, fishing and entomology sections.


My own tenkara journey has been greatly enhanced by reading Tenkara: Radically Simple, Ultralight Fly Fishing (affiliate link). I think yours will be as well.

Many thanks to Dr. Kelleher and Misako Ishimura for sharing their knowledge in such a delightful way.

Fish simply!

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  1. Kevin Kelleher says:

    Tom, thanks for the great review. It is high praise from the first tenkara guide on the east coast. As you’ve noted, it’s the simplicity of tenkara that makes it so much fun for beginner and seasoned anglers.

    Innexpensive, easily learned, and ultra-compact. It is my hope that tenkara brings more new anglers into the sport we love and into the conservation efforts that grow out of that appreciation. Hope to see you an the stream sometime!

  2. Tom Sadler says:

    Thanks, Dr. Kelleher!

    Not sure I was the first guide (you, Chris or Misako likely deserve that honor) but I am certainly one of the most ardent ones.

    Your book truly opens the door to the tenkara way. Rarely have I seen a “guide to” book offer so much useful advice.

    I share your hope that tenkara opens the doors to more anglers and leads them to the knowledge that stewardship of our resources is part of enlightenment we gain from fishing.

    Looking forward to fishing with you sometime.

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