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August 24, 2011 / flogginwater

Twelve Dollar Tenkara

“Say what? Blasphemy! Tenkara fishing for less than a hundred bucks? You lie!” But wait – I don’t! What is a Tenkara type fishing rod? It’s a telescopic pole with line attached to the tip. Hm. Sounds a lot like cane pole or panfish poles to me!

Tenkara USA lists “rods” (rods have reels attached. Poles do not) from 11 to 14 and a half feet. They start at about $140. For a telescoping graphite pole with a simple cork handle.

Fly fisherman really ARE asking to be separated from their cash at a much more substantial rate than other anglers.

Okay, so how can I fish Tenkara style for $12? Simple!

Shakespeare – maker of (sometimes) fine fishing tackle for the better part of a century – makes their own line of telescopic graphite poles. One such pole is called “Durango” – you know, like the Dodge SUV, or the town in Colorado. They come in lengths from 10 to 14 feet, 3 or more sections. Okay, so it’s not fancy like the Tenkara’s two jillion sections that let you have a 14′ long pole that’s only 12 inches long when compact. You *could* get that with a Durango pole, if you’re willing to buy two and take a dremel to one (you buy the second, in case you’re as good with a dremel tool as a virgin is in the back seat of a ’52 Chevy with the captain of the varsity cheerleaders). Chop that one up into 12″ long sections and reassemble the pole.

Want a fancier grip than the textured graphite? Okay, buy a roll of twine, parachute cord, or some other water-resistant line that’s around 1/4 inch in diameter. Watch some YouTube videos – like THIS ONE – about wrapping thread onto the guides of a rod. Now get the wheels turning in that big ol’ juicy noggin of yours and apply what you’ve learned, in macro scale, to the twine and the big, thick butt shaft of your soon-to-be Tenkara pole.

Okay, now that you’ve wrapped your grip half a dozen times and have it ‘just right’, you need one more thing to be a Tenkara fisherman – you need a line. Now, you *could* buy the Tenkara line. Or you could be less of a sucker, and buy or build a simple tapered leader, using a heavy, stiff butt section and a supple, thin tippet. You can play with leader length – but I wouldn’t deviate much from a 1:1 ratio of pole to leader lengths. A leader more than about half again as long as your pole is going to make landing fish interesting, especially if the fish is bigger than 10 or 12 inches.

Assuming you went the tapered leader route – tie a perfection loop in the butt – you know how to tie a PERFECTION LOOP, right? Tie a perfection loop in the butt end of your leader, slip it over the loop eyelet on your Durankara (I just made up that word. Now you’ve got to pay me money any time you fish with this concept, muahahahaha) Pole, run the tag end of the line through the eyelet, and snug tight. “Hey, that’s just like that loop to loop connection I use on my fly line!” Yes, yes it is.

Now take this assembly, head to your stream of choice, flick your wrist and watch your pole assemble like the cold, blued steel of policeman’s ASP baton as he’s about to unleash a can of Whupass on some miscreant, and prepare to fish.

Wait! We forgot something. You need a *fly* to fish with. Grab a soft hackled wet fly, or if you want something that looks more like a Tenkara fly, grab a cool Reverse Spider pattern and tie that on your leader point. Now get to fishin!

Spread on your blog, and on every Internet forum you post on about the superiority of Tenakra (or rather, Durankara) fishing. Tell them all how anyone who fishes with a traditional fly rod and reel is a sucker, and needs to simplify their lives and their fishing. Carry nothing more astream with you than a single fly box with half a dozen wet flies, a single spool of tippet, and a pair of line nippers (who needs hemostats when you are fishing barbless flies, right?) and your Durankara – Tenkara pole.

Wade wet, while wearing tan cargo shorts and a floppy hat, and a Grateful Dead T-shirt. Slather yourself in patchouli and sunscreen (or patchouli scented sunscreen.)

Enjoy life on your superior Astral Plane, and revel in the fact that you only spent $12 on your Tenkara pole, while all the other suckers wasted their money on those Tenkara USA made poles.

The above was written half in jest – Tenkara is a fine way to find a different challenge in fishing, even if some folks have managed to take it to an extreme level. Seriously though, you don’t need to drop a hundred bucks to fish with what amounts to a panfish pole. Try the Durango rod by Shakespeare before you plop down the cash for a Real Deal TenkaraUSA rod, unless you poop gold coins and piss crude oil, unless you like spending way too much money on crap.



  1. Jay / Aug 24 2011 06:18

    Nice perspective. Way to keep it real.

  2. owl / Aug 24 2011 06:32

    I really enjoyed the pot, so don't take this one bit of half-hearted criticism too hard ….but the one thing you didn't mention was the weight of your Durankara. It would weight twice as much (or more with handle) as a “real” tenkara. Speaking of handles, I once took my Iwana 11ft and left the three bottom sections home, wrapped the biggest section I had with me in a boot lace( a round one like wader laces) and fished it like a 6.5 ft. Harry Potter wand. It worked, but apparently not well enough for me to bother doing it again for whatever reason. πŸ™‚ LOL

    Great post though. You can't spell tenkara without “snob.” ( Although not every tenkara buyer is a snob…….or a sucker. πŸ™‚ )

  3. owl / Aug 24 2011 06:33

    HAHA. That should read….”POST.” I enjoyed the POST. πŸ™‚

  4. troutrageous1 / Aug 24 2011 06:39

    HA! I enjoyed the humor in the post.

    Yes, you can use a crappie pole to fish “tenkara” but you can also use a surf rod to go ice fishing.

    And while $45 is still more than $12, you can get a more “authentic” tenkara rod without spending a fortune.

    Okay, enough out of me, I'm off to telescope some rods and revel in my angling superiority.

  5. CHASE / Aug 24 2011 08:45

    loved this post, I've contemplated all summer long about trying this with an old panfish pole. When I first saw Tenkara poles, my first thought was “What is this fancy panfish pole?”

  6. Cofisher / Aug 24 2011 20:23

    Enjoyed the “pot” immensely…oops, I meant post. I haven't gotten bit by the Tenkara bug and I doubt with 30 some fly rods that I will. Why confuse me any more than I am.

  7. Mark / Aug 24 2011 23:53

    LOL at Owl's faux pa. I'm sure some folks might find pot enhances my readability.

    I'm sure you'd enjoy casting (or, what resembles it with Tenkara) with a real Tenkara rod vs the Shakespeare – for $100+ more than the Durango, it better be lighter. They ought to add “Catchafish” to the Iwana rod name. They can rename a longer version the “Iwana Catchabigfish”

    Honestly for me, tenkara would be perfect for most of my panfish fly fishing – its usually short casts,close battles, and swinging the fish to hand. A lighter, simpler pole would be neat, and if used with a floss line, Tenkara would be a great dapping pole.

    And I now envy Howards collection more. 30+ rods, probably lots of neat glass rods…*drool*

  8. Anonymous / Aug 25 2011 10:09

    Spend $500 to $600 on a fly rod and then have to buy a reel. Now that is what I call a real sucker.

  9. Mark / Aug 25 2011 20:21

    I'd have to agree with you, Mister or Misses Anonymouse – unless you're very wealthy, plopping down $500+ on any fishing rod, plus spending more for a reel, and more for a line probably is a sucker move. My most expensive rod & reel combo would run me $250 to replace. But that rod allows me to fish more than two rod lengths away from me, and it'd let me land a BIG fish without much fear of breaking the rod or the line (because I've got a reel, with a drag system, and 400 feet worth of line (not that I've ever needed all 400 feet, but it's nice to know I've got it at times).

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