How Is Tenkara Different Than Fly Fishing?

Tenkara is a traditional Japanese method of fly fishing that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Unlike Western-style fly fishing, tenkara utilizes only a rod, line, and flies – no reel.

This makes it a much simpler and more affordable way to enjoy the sport of fly fishing. There are a few key differences between tenkara and traditional Western-style fly fishing that should be considered when deciding which type of fishing to pursue.

Equipment: Tenkara does not require the use of a reel, eliminating the need for additional equipment such as an arbor or backing line. The lack of an arbor also simplifies the casting process, as there is no need to adjust your grip on the rod during casting. Additionally, tenkara rods are typically shorter than Western-style fly rods, allowing for more accurate casting in tight quarters or small streams.

Technique: Tenkara utilizes a fixed line length which eliminates the need for false casts and therefore speeds up the process of getting a fly on the water. Additionally, tenkara relies heavily on keeping tension in the line while casting which helps to create tight loops and improve accuracy. Lastly, tenkara anglers often use shorter leaders than Western-style anglers which can help keep flies away from obstructions like trees or reeds.

Fish Species: Tenkara is particularly well suited to small stream trout fishing as it allows you to cover water quickly and efficiently with its simple technique and equipment requirements. However, it can also be used effectively to Target larger species such as bass or even saltwater species like redfish or bonefish with some adaptations to tackle and technique.


Overall, tenkara offers anglers an easier way to get into fly fishing without having to invest in expensive equipment or learn complicated techniques. It is less expensive than traditional Western-style fly fishing due to its simplified equipment requirements and its technique lends itself well to small stream trout fishing but can be adapted for larger species as well.

Photo of author

Michael Allen