A plea for tenkaras.

Tenkara. A fly rod without a reel. Essentially a fancy stick with a string attached that holds your fly. Since when did it become cool to hate on it? For those unaware, shade has been thrown everywhere from Reddit threads to the banks of the Madison. Even we at O/B are guilty of bashing the tenkara. Quite frankly, it’s out of control, and enough is enough.

You anti-tenkara fools simply do not know what you’re missing out on. Tenkara anglers have limited line to work with, as opposed to a normal rod-and-reel setup that allows for long casts and floats. This is a self-imposed handicap. The setup doesn’t exactly make it easy, but that’s the whole point! Ring any bells for you dry-fly-or-die guys? To quote Kelly Clarkson—or Nietzsche, if you’re older than 27—what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

When driving by a river, it’s common to see one of these crusty tenkara spurners head-to-toe in waterproof gear while standing in no more than ankle deep in the water, choosing instead to cast further to their desired pool. If that decked-out Brad Pitt wannabe had any real skill, he’d be chest-deep with only seven feet of line to work with, catching more with less. Tenkaras force you to get creative, wade further, and put more thought and effort into catching fish, as opposed to standing on shore with spendy Sage rods in cute, comfortable waders. Speaking of waders, are you scared to get them dirty? Indeed, actually using them might drive down their resale value once the new Simms drop happens (because the new ones are ten times better!).

tenkara fishing bozeman montana

To the naysayers: what is the point of fishing? If you’re using a fly rod, we know that it isn’t about the catching, because a spin rod and a carton of nightcrawlers produce exactly 37 times as many fish. So, what could it be? Perhaps it’s an excuse to explore a new area and enjoy the meditative qualities of a river. Maybe it’s to slow things down, to disconnect from society. Maybe it’s a challenge. Tenkara enhances all of these qualities. French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said that “perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away.” This holds true with the tenkara. I’d even argue that by using less, you are experiencing more.

Our day-to-day lives are constantly filled to the brim with clutter and distractions, but with a few favorite flies and a simple tenkara rod in hand, one can leave that clutter behind and explore more freely. Long story short: before you write it off, give tenkara a chance. Wade that stream, crawl through those bushes, get lost, and enjoy the simplicity of fishing with nothing but a stick and string. Just remember, there’s a good chance you’ll actually get those waders wet!