Is Tenkara just hipster fly fishing?

I’ve spent my share of hours stream-side unraveling some bizarrely vexing tangle of fly line, wondering how in hell three figure-eight on a bight knots managed to coalesce around some low-hanging branch which I was sure wasn’t there on my approach.

So I get it, fly fishing can be frustrating. But like so many other outdoor pursuits, it can’t be enjoyed without a little agony. And certainly not without a learning curve.

I admit to being enticed at the prospect of this old-school-but-now-new-school form of fly casting called Tenkara. Apparently it’s Japanese and they’ve been doing it since whenever trout were invented.

Proponents of Tenkara claim it takes almost no time to learn and avoids all the hassles like line set-up and selection and eliminates the use of a reel while requiring very little traditional casting skills. That’s fine. I’m all for easy.

But is the reward as valuable?

With this new approach to simplicity at the fishing hole, how soon will other essentials, like stream reading, fly selection and presentation be neglected? Will Tenkara’s lack of a learning curve lead to crowded river banks and clumsy fishing ethics?


Or maybe I’m over-thinking it.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with a few more people enjoying the purest way to catch a fish, or learning to identify with that sudden surge of gut-funneled electricity that pulses with every prospect of a hit. It’s what keeps us in the water and the fly rod in the trunk.

I hope I’m wrong about Tenkara. It seems pretty fun.

But I’m still putting my foot down on fedoras. That’s no place to hook a fly.

One thought on “Is Tenkara just hipster fly fishing?

  1. No, it is very useful for those who want to fly-fish in the backcountry. My brother takes one with him every time we backpack. They are so light and compact, you do not have to think twice about throwing it in your bag. As far as fly selection goes, tenkara has its very own selection. The flies are generally bigger even for smaller fish. There is a lot of technique to learn and a fisherman who is a master at tenkara, is just as impressive as standard western fly fishing. Also, nobody is pointing out hipsters anymore, FYI. Just because a near-sighted, fashion forward entrepreneur knows how to snatch up a trout better than you, does not mean you should sum his efforts down to a degrading stereotype. Chances are that you are a hipster anyways… Check out for a seriously talented fisherman you wouldn’t question.

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