Tenkara: Minimalism while Fishing

Tenkara: Minimalism while Fishing

I found out about Tenkara while looking up fishing gear I can bring to a backpacking trip. It's pretty wild how something as simple as looking for a compact fishing rod led me to this whole minimalist approach to fishing that's just so pure and natural.

Tenkara and the Simple Life

Tenkara is a Japanese fly-fishing method that discards the complexities of modern fishing. It's just you, a rod, a line, and a fly. It struck me as the perfect thing for backpacking, and more than that, it felt like it was teaching me something about keeping things simple and staying in touch with nature.

It reminded me of simpler times, when my cousins and I would tie up makeshift bamboo rods with a string and hook. We’d look for worms in the morning, fish in the afternoon, and at night we’d be eating some of the best fresh fish we’ve had.

Bring Almost Nothing

Tenkara USA Iwana (12ft) and a Kebari I tied using crow feather

Tenkara rods are telescopic, meaning it can go from around 20 inches to 12 feet or even longer. Tenkara uses very light dry flies that float just on the surface of the water. Tenkara lines are about as long as the rod at 12 feet long.

My fishing gear bag just includes a Tenkara rod (Iwana from Tenkara USA), two lines (a furled line and a shorter level line), a roll of 5x tippet, four flies called kebari, a pair of forceps, a nipper, a line holder, and my fishing permit.

It's How You Fish

Once you get to your location, your first course of action should be look at fish. What are they eating? How close can you get to them before they get spooked? Should you throw the fly within the fish’s line of sight, or should you throw the fly at a distance then gently move it closer to the fish? Are they hiding from you by swimming still, or are they actually hunting prey?

This fish (center) was actively feeding and followed my lure until it caught wind of my ill intentions. It “played dead” at that spot until I left.

With observation skills and some creativity, you could fish different scenarios with the same minimalist gear.

Final Thoughts

Tenkara's like a breath of fresh air, helping you clear out not just your backpack but all the clutter in your head too. It’s a great way to connect to nature, as you need to observe fish behavior for some time before you catch some good fish!

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. At zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and buy the item.