Fly Fishing Tips 2 min read

How to Setup a Tenkara Rod

Just bought a Tenkara rod and are wondering how to set it up? Tenkara USA founder Daniel Galhardo has some helpful pointers in this video tutorial.

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

May 3, 2013

I’ve decided recently to give Tenkara fly fishing a try and recently purchased a Tenkara USA ITO fly rod on ebay.

Naturally when the rod arrived the first thing I wanted to do was set it up and give it a try.  A quick search on the web yielded a number of videos on how to setup a Tenkara rod.  Here’s some of what I found out.

tenkara rod kit

Tenkara Rod Setup – What You’ll Need

If you are not familiar with Tenkara, it’s a simple form of fly fishing that uses only a rod, line and fly. No reel required. So setup of a Tenkara rod is pretty simple, yet it is definitely different than setting up a traditional western style fly rod.

Tenkara Rod First Impression

For this exercise I really thought I needed some help so I recruited my youngest son Jack to help out. Here’s Jack puzzling over my new Tenkara ITO rod in the backyard. His first question, “Uhhhh, how do you fish with this, it’s so short.”

tenkara rod closed

“Ahh Grasshopper”, I said, “one must not be so quick to jump to conclusions. All is not as it seems.” And with that I removed the little plug (it has a name, but don’t remember what it’s called) on the end of the telescoping rod and extended the rod to its’ full length of 14-feet, seven-inches.

tenkara rod extended

Now what do you think? “Wow!”, said Jack, “how do you fish with this, it’s so long! They must not have trees in Japan. And how is it so light?” All good questions Jack.

I too was wondering how one fishes with such a long rod. Fortunately, the ITO has this neat zooming feature that allows you to fish it at 13-feet or 14’7″. Even at 13-feet it seems really long. But that’s to be expected when you are are accustomed to fishing a rod 9 or 10-feet long. We’ll worry about fishing this thing later, let’s get back to the point of this post, how to setup a Tenkara rod.

How to Setup a Tenkara Rod

In additional to the rod you need to purchase a “line” to attach to the end of the rod. But this is not an ordinary fly line, rather something that looks more like what we call a “leader” in Western style fly fishing.

Tenkara fly lines come in tapered and level varieties. The tapered lines were originally constructed from horsehair but are now made of mono-filament and are akin to a furled leader in construction. The level lines are basically a straight section of uniform diameter fluorocarbon mono-filament material.

Rather than try to explain how to attach a Tenkara line to the rod, I’ll let Tenkara USA founder Daniel Galhardo show you (see video above).

Once you have the line attached to the rod, it’s a simple matter of adding a section of tippet and your fly and you are good to go.

Up next in this mini-series on Tenkara fly fishing, we’ll cover some options you have for attaching tippet to a Tenkara line, including how to add a sighter for improved strike detection.

Tight (Tenkara) lines!