Tenkara Grasshopper Central

Thoughts on Tenkara Fly Control

Thoughts on Tenkara Fly Control

by August 9, 2017 8 comments

When anglers discuss the advantages of tenkara, they almost exclusively focus on its ability to keep line off the water. This is a core feature, what fascinates me most about fixed-line fishing is its ability to comprehensively control the fly. Given practice, the creative angler has a broad variety of techniques available to apply to any given situation. Manipulating the fly’s depth, drift speed, and movement produces the condition that either draws strikes or doesn’t. Gaining a clear understanding of certain aspects of how a tenkara “system” functions are critical in developing precise fly control.

Line Tension

In my experience, the most crucial factor in controlling the fly is maintaining proper line tension. You can think of the fly as a remote-control vehicle, the angler as the pilot, and the line and rod being the radio frequency that you are using to communicate. When the line has enough tension, it can conduct your movement commands through the system to the fly. Thus it can carry information like vibrations and movement back up the line through the rod to you. With too much slack in the line, you lose control of the fly, and nothing can be effectively transmitted in either direction.

With slack in the line, you will need to make larger movements to generate enough energy to push through the slack and move the fly. Larger movements impart a wild, sloppy, and uncontrolled action to the fly. On the contrary, a line with proper tension will transmit motion and vibration easily. The angler makes small movements that will translate into subtle and precise presentations. Paying attention to this detail is key to controlling the fly.

Rod Management and Line Tension

Proper line tension results from a well-managed rod tip. To maintain proper line tension, the rod tip must stop in the appropriate position during the cast. The rod tip must be maintained at appropriate positions throughout the drift and play of technique. The angler’s movements and body positioning are intended to support putting the rod tip in an appropriate place, maintain proper line tension, and deliver a properly controlled fly onto the target water.

When I observe anglers struggling with casting, fly control techniques, and line tension, often they are focusing more on moving their hand instead of the tip of the rod. They are making movements with their casting hand that result in some degree of motion, but these motions are not resulting in enough tip movement to transmit the energy through the rest of the system. Without the tip moving, the energy does not transfer to the line, and the line does not assume any tension.

Every movement imparted to the rod is done to create tip movement. We can either load or relax the system depending on timing and what our intent is.  You’d be amazed at how many students “click” straight into better casting and fly control immediately after receiving this piece of feedback.

Fly Control

Fly control includes the art moving the fly when and how you want to. It also includes the art of not moving the fly when and how you want to. A perfectly executed dead drift is an example of fly control! Just as much as a subtle sequence of pulse and drift techniques is. Neither is going to be easy to do well with slack line. Being able to shift between a static drift and a dynamic, active presentation with slack in the system is difficult without generating a lot of environmental disruption. Maintaining proper line tension is the key to keeping your options open. Proper line tension allows for rapid technique changes by sending or discontinuing movements through the system.

I believe that getting fly control dialed in requires the development of your awareness of the conditions present in the system you are fishing. Most important is being able to sense the baseline weight and balance of the rod, line, and fly. This gives you the knowledge of “normal” allowing you to detect variations in water current and wind. After detecting these variations, try to use them to your advantage in positioning the tip and tensioning the line.

Combining awareness of environmental factors, tip position, and line tension, you can attain precise control over the location and behavior of the fly. Sharpening your fly control skills may require some time to explore the fundamentals before it becomes natural. Don’t be afraid to evaluate your style, ask questions, set goals and challenges for yourself during a day of fishing. You can learn a lot by being self-aware and pushing your limits!

A Note from The Tenkara Grasshopper

I want to thank Matt Sment for submitting this post to the site. Reading this has helped me with a few minor points of my tenkara fishing techniques. I am very sure that you will find the same thing after reading this post. Leave your comments for Matt and thank him for sharing his thoughts with us!

Please visit Badger Tenkara and check out the offerings from a great company.

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8 Comments so far

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  1. Self
    #1 Self 12 August, 2017, 19:59

    Please forward to Chuck Feather’s wife

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  2. Matt Sment
    #2 Matt Sment Author 9 August, 2017, 13:56

    Thanks, Mike!

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  3. Jason Klass
    #3 Jason Klass 9 August, 2017, 12:12

    Well said. I love the analogy of the fly being on “remote control”.

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  4. Norm
    #4 Norm 9 August, 2017, 11:42

    Good tips Matt, thanks.

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  5. Mike Bruner
    #5 Mike Bruner 9 August, 2017, 11:41

    Great stuff gents!!!

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