TenkaraGrasshopper’s Failed Attempt At The Tenkara “One Fly” Theory

TenkaraGrasshopper’s Failed Attempt At The Tenkara “One Fly” Theory

by September 11, 2013 1 comment

Back about a year ago I read about the “One Fly” theory commonly found and discussed and even debated in the Tenkara community. I was intrigued by this theory and decided to try and learn as much as possible about it. I even had Daniel Galhardo of Tenkara USA write a guest post on his feelings about this topic.

In a nutshell, the “One Fly” theory states that a Tenkara angler uses one fly pattern for all their fishing and do not follow the “match-the-hatch” theory commonly ascribed to in western fly fishing. The “One Fly” theory subscribes to the belief that fish are opportunistic feeders and will potentially put anything that remotely resembles food into their mouth, not unlike a child.

In traditional Tenkara as practiced by the traditional Japanese Tenkara angler a pattern is chosen based on how it performs on and in the water. With a simplistic tying style and a minimum quantity of materials used to form the fly, the angler is required to perfect his or her presentation technique to fool the fish. And the level of mastery does not occur over night and can take a lifetime of practice.

If you are new to Tenkara you might become intimidated by the thought that it could take a lifetime to perfect your presentation technique. I can say with complete conviction that the goal of this perfection is what attracts me to Tenkara and I believe you will find the same thing occurring in your exploration of Tenkara.

Wait one second, I thought this was a post about TenkaraGrasshopper’s failed attempt at the “One Fly” theory! you might be thinking.

Sorry, I digress and apologize but it is my “SQUIRREL”

So, how has my “One Fly” theory attempt failed you ask? Well, let’s just say there are a couple of factors responsible for this occurrence in my Tenkara fishing. Some of these factors are due in part to a deeply ingrained mindset from my early days as a stillwater fisherman and then a western fly fisherman. Some of these factors are just sheer stubbornness on my part. Not necessarily one of my finer attributes but still a part of me.

Other than the simple fact that I am stubborn the ingrained habits that I fall into are those taught in the practice of spin-casting and western fly fishing. One of those habits that I have carried over from spin-casting is that if one lure isn’t working, then change it out for something else in hopes that the new lure will be more productive. If that doesn’t work, then “rinse and repeat” until you get the desired results of a tight line and a netted fish in hand.

Western fly fishing has much the same idea when it comes to the “match-the-hatch” theory whereby you tie on a fly selected by how close its attributes match those of the naturals the fish are currently feeding on. When “matching-the-hatch” during a day of angling the angler will try different patterns for each fishable layer of the water column, starting at the bottom of the river and working their way up to the surface. The attributes of the correct fly are not just how close the materials used match the natural, but it is also the size and action of the fly in the water. Because of this it is very common to see a fly fisherman or fisherwoman standing in the middle of the river either staring blankly into a box filled with flies and unsure what to do next or they are tying on and trying pattern after pattern with little or no confidence in their choice of fly. Sadly, technique loses its importance when an angler has no confidence in their fly choice.

That being said, this is how I learned to fly fish when I was a little kid and the longer I fished the more I came to believe that this was the only way to catch a fish on a fly rod. And to this day there is always a niggling thought that since I have not gotten any action maybe I should just change my fly. And most of the time I give in to this urge and do just that. And this is where my attempt at the “One Fly” theory consistently occurs.

In the spirit of “matching-the-hatch” and at the same time trying to follow the “One Fly” theory. I found myself in the Tenkara Man Cave tying up a box full of Kebari flies. And all the patterns are different Kebari, albeit there are 12 of each placed neatly next to each other. Because of this fact I failed at the “One Fly” theory even before I got out on the water this season.

Tenkara Kebari Fly Box

But, due to my stubbornness and my not wanting to be a failure or quitter before I even started I finally committed myself to using “One Fly”. It seemed simple enough to make the commitment but there was one major kink in my thought pattern, and that was 1 fully loaded fly box staring me in the face with 8 different patterns to choose from. So I made the only decision that I could in good conscience, I didn’t!

I started carrying my fully loaded fly box with me whenever I was fishing. With that box in hand or my pocket as the case may be I was selecting one fly pattern for each day I was on the river and only using that one pattern for the entire day. Well maybe not the whole day, just most of it. Again, there was my ultimate failure in this theory.

As I write this post, sitting in the Tenkara Man Cave right next to my fly tying bench, my mind starts wandering off the subject of writing onto something different. Well, not completely off the subject of this post, but pretty darn close. I started thinking about the possible variations on the Ishigaki Kebari patterns I could come up using an over-abundance of fly tying materials. Alas, I fail again and get drawn into multiple patterns and before I know it I will have another box full of different Kebari patterns.

Ishigaki Kebari
Image provided by TenkaraBum.com

At least you will have to give me credit for at least trying, right?

I would be curious to hear what you think about this topic and your personal experiences with both the “One Fly” and “match-the-hatch” theories. Please leave a comment here or over on the Inn Of The Tenkara Gods at the following link: “One Fly” and “Match-the-Hatch” Theories.

If you wish to read the first article please feel free to follow the link here to see what I had to say and also IO am including post from Daniel Galhardo.

Daniel Galhardo: Daniel Galhardo and the “One Fly”

1 Comment so far

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  1. Tenkara USA
    #1 Tenkara USA 22 September, 2013, 13:14

    Graham, I think it could help to think of it and rephrase it not as a theory but a philosophy.
    I have successfully used one fly in a lot of places and for quite a while now. There are a two times in the last 3 years when I believe different flies could have produced more fish, that's two times out of roughly 250. For the other times my simple tenkara fly worked well and it saved me from having to think about what fly to tie on.
    Here's my most recent post on the subject: http://www.tenkarausa.com/blog/?p=5519
    Daniel, Tenkara USA

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