This post may contain affiliate links.

Tenkara Fly Fishing: Insights and Strategies

Tenkara Fly Fishing by David Dirks
Tenkara Fly Fishing by David Dirks

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. 


  1. Catching Fish. That IS the name of the game…

  2. Great article and I agree that Tenkara is not something that you can learn from a book. It takes a lot of time and patience to get the process down smoothly.

    • That’s my perspective too. I’m spending as much time on the water as possible and carrying my rod around so I can fish whenever I see a stream/river. I’ve found Chris Smith’s TenkaraBum site helpful but like this book, you need to dig into it and try stuff when you get on the water. I’ve just switched from a traditional line to flourocarbon and I’m reteaching myself how to cast. Making some headway, but it takes work.

  3. Anyone wanting to have a book of instruction as to how, what, when and where tenkara fly fishing is all about there is what I call the tenkara bible.

    “TENKARA” by Kevin C Kelleher MD and Misako Ishimura

    In addition to this do not forget a current license and do read the rules as you may find it illegal to fish without a running line in some places.
    A tenkara rod is not only a fly fishing tool but is equally at home bait fishing too. A fly fishing indicator such as a “Pimp” works well as a bobber and a complete tackle with a small hook (14 is a good general size) will fit on a standard line winder. Bait is in and on the banks of the water. shrimp grubs etc is naturally what fish expect to find.

    • While that is a good book which explains the spirtual benefits of Tenkara Fly Fishing most eloquently, it’s not for beginners either. It’s really written for experienced, conventional fly fisherman. I’m a beginner. Take it from me…this isn’t a good book for beginners.

  4. The best thing you can do to learn how to trout fish is to sit and watch the fish.

    If you can’t sneak up on them to watch, you will need to learn how to do that first; stay low, wear clothes that blend with the environment, walk softly, do NOT wade in the river, and come up on them from behind. Once you understand how the trout behave, where they position themselves, and how they feed, 90% of the battle is won. It took me a long time to do all that – months but the reward was a lifetime of understanding how to catch trout.

    Books are fun to read but largely useless for the newbie.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *