Tenkara Fly Fishing by David Dirks isn’t an instructional book about fly fishing in the Tenkara style and if you’re looking for a structured introduction to Tenkara you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, it’s a round table collection of responses to questions about Tenkara techniques posed by Dirks to a half-dozen Tenkara fishing guides, covering everything from the philosophy of Tenkara, fly patterns, casting techniques, and fly patterns to strategies and tactics for fishing different kinds of water.
As a beginner fly fisherman trying to climb the learning curve by myself (after one guided Tenkara lesson), I often felt lost reading this book because I don’t know a lot of the fly fishing concepts and jargon used by the contributors. Which leads me to believe that the audience that would benefit from this book the most, are existing fly fisherman who want to try the radically simple, reel-less style of Tenkara.
Still on my next fly fishing outing, I found myself applying many of the techniques discussed in Tenkara Fly Fishing including modifications to my front casting technique resulting in much better fly presentation and less line on the water, more stealth in my approaches, and a fuller appreciation of how to fish all the spots on a stream including the eddies, pools, riffles, and pocket water. I even landed a pair of brookies (finally).
I think Tenkara Fly Fishing, is one of those hobbies (like hiking and backpacking) that you can’t learn from a book. You have to experiment, preferably in non-life-threatening circumstances, until you can build up a large experience base and figure out what’s what. Books and conversations with other fisherman can give you ideas about the techniques you want to develop, but you need to develop the muscle memory and judgement of when to apply them, in different conditions, on streams and ponds.
While Tenkara Fly Fishing captures the best practices distilled by a group of experienced Tenkara fishing guides, you’re going have to reread this book many times to glean tips and tricks that you can use and incorporate into your own fishing techniques. The book is organized to help you do this, with good chapters on rod and line selection, how to tie Tenkara flies, and small and large water strategies for Tenkara fly fishing, but you’re going to have to nibble away at the knowledge packed in this book for it to sink in.
Disclosure: Philip Werner purchased this book with his own funds.