Tenkara Grasshopper Central

An Introduction to Tenkara Part 2: Setting Up

An Introduction to Tenkara Part 2: Setting Up

by September 19, 2013 0 comments

Welcome to an Introduction to Tenkara Part 2. If you have made it this far hopefully you have purchased or collected the items I listed in the Introduction to Tenkara Part 1. If not now is the time to do that, although you can still read and study the basic setup procedure but I think you will find it easier to understand if you have the equipment to work with at the same time.

Just to make sure you  have everything, let’s review the items necessary for a day of Tenkara fishing.


First and foremost, make sure to have a Tenkara rod. Without it you can’t even consider wetting a line tenkara style. Hopefully you purchased a rod that is big enough for most of the waters you are looking to fish. As Daniel Galhardo of Tenkara USA suggests go bigger rather than smaller and you will have a wide range of waters you can fish daily. The model, in my opinion, that seems to work the best for beginners is the Tenkara USA 12′ Iwana.

Furled Line
Furled Line
Level Line
Level Line

Secondly, you need a line, which can either be a level line or a furled line.

Thirdly, you will need some tippet material.


And last but not least you will need the all important fly.

Now that we have the minimum supplies need for a day of fishing let’s get started with setting up our Tenkara rig so that we can get on the river and catch a few fish. With practice, setting up your rig should take almost no time at all. Just as a quick side note, you could do all of this even before you leave home so that when you get to your destination you can be fishing sooner. And your friends won’t have to wait for you either.

First, let’s remove the plug from the top of the collapsed rod. Gently but firmly pull the plug straight up and out. Make sure you put the plug somewhere safe so it won’t get lost. It can be replaced if you lose it but it isn’t the cheapest item after the fact. Trust me, one manufacturer in particular might just still be in business because of my past carelessness when it comes to my rod plugs.


Now tuck the handle of the rod under your arm and extend just the tip of rod exposing the lilian. The lilian is the little piece of red cord with a small knot tied at the end, attached to the very tip of the rod. Today I am using a level line with a slight modification for a quick set up on the river. For the white loop on the end of the level line I have attached a piece of Dacron fly line backing. Fold the loop back over the end of the line forming a D-shape. Slip the lilian into the center of the D and gently tug the line down cinching the loop down onto the lilian. You will also use the same attachment method for a furled line as well. There are other methods of attaching a level line to the lilian but we will look at that in a future episode.


At this point we can now start to extend the rod and slowly feed the line off the spool.  Start to gently extend the rod from the center or small part of the rod out. When you get to a joint, give each rod section a  gentle yet firm tug but do not crank on it! If you do, you will find it virtually impossible, if not impossible to collapse the rod. As I extend the rod and feed line off the spool I gently stretch a section of the line to remove any kinks or curls and at the same time I look for damage that may have occurred on a previous outing. Once the rod is fully extended the end of your line should be in one hand.


Now we need to attach a length of tippet to the end of the line so that we can put a fly on to start fishing. Common tippet sizes for a Tenkara setup are typically either 5x or 6x, although if you need to you can go to 7x or even on the extreme end and 8x. I typically use a perfection loop tied into the end of my line. In the image below we are going to attach the tippet to the line using a perfection loop.


Now for the most exciting part of the whole setup! Selecting and tying on a fly!!! Today, we will start off with a #14 Ishigaki Kebari. I will be using a standard fisherman’s knot to secure the fly to the tippet. There is a very large range of knots that could be used for this step and every angler has their favorite. Now that we have our equipment set up it is time to move onto the water and start fishing.


I have selected the Ishigaki Kebari because it tends to be my go to fly for many situations. You could select whatever you wish for your fly as well.


Just as a side note, I sometimes find that I like to collapse my rod for the walk to the river. To avoid my line from tangling while I am walking I typically use one of two methods for line control. Method one, which is by far the most traditional method would be the line spool which can slide down the shaft of the collapsed rod but still gives you quick accesss to your line once you are on the water. The second method, which I use at times are the Fuji Hook Keepers. To use these, simply flip the arms up and selecting one side start wrapping the line in a figure eight pattern. You want to use the figure eight pattern is so that the line will come off the keepers smoothly and avoid a rats nest to deal with later. Now it’s time to go Tenkara fishing.

As I said earlier, if you get these steps done at home your friends will not have to wait around for you to get ready. Even if you do, you still might end up waiting for them. And all I can say is don’t be that guy. Now go fishing.

In the next installment, I will be talking about how to approach the water and then we will get into casting a Tenkara rod and how to hook and land a fish using your Tenkara gear.

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