September 23, 2018

Status Report: Where I'm at on my tenkara journey.

When I started Teton Tenkara in January 2012, I stated that the blog would be a chronicle of my journey in tenkara. Keeping with that goal, from time to time I like to update you as to what my current favorites are. I believe that learning tenkara is a dynamic, not static, process. So, from time to time I'll change my mind about things I liked in the past and embrace other equipment and techniques that seem to work best for me currently.

Before I begin, let me once again describe where I fish and for what species, size of fish that I target. I think this is important when reviewing equipment, for my situation likely is different than yours. Just keep that in mind.

I live in SE Idaho and fish streams that are small (3-5 feet wide) to moderate (10-25 feet wide). They are generally Rosgen A, B, or C classification, are low nutrient freestone (except the Rosgen C streams which are meadow streams), and have trout in the 6-14 inch range. I fish pretty much exclusively for salmonid species such as trout, char (brook trout), and mountain whitefish. I fish subsurface 95% of the time with size 6 to 14 unweighted kebari, nymphs or beadhead flies. Size 10 is my most commonly used kebari. If I do fish a dry fly it is almost always a terrestrial, such as a hopper or an ant pattern. I fish exclusively level line tenkara.

Now that's over, we come to my current "favorite" equipment:


TenkaraBum 36 - This is the perfect rod for my casting style, stream type, fly and fish size. It has a low overall weight and a low swing weight. It is perfectly balanced and casts a #2.5 to 3 fluorocarbon level line with conviction, but can lay a fly gently in the surface film too. It has a quick hook set and just the right amount of backbone to fight fish in narrow, fast flowing streams and I loose fewer fish with this rod than any other I use. I can go from fishing a #14 Ishagaki kebari to a #8 tungsten beadhead Prince nymph in a heart beat and this rod could care less. It throws them both perfectly. The only thing I don't care for is the handle shape. The handle length is fine, but it's shape is too aggressive for my hand. No problem though, I just modified the handle shape with a little tennis racket wrap.

TenkaraBum 40 -  As much as I love the TB36, I love the TB40 even more. It too has a low overall weight and a low swing weight. This is very important to me, as most 400 cm rods are too tip heavy for my liking. It has all of the same characteristics of the TB36, but it has a slightly softer action. It is the perfect 400 cm rod for me. If I have enough rod and line clearance, this is the rod I'll fish. It does suffer the same handle issues as the TB36, but I modified my TB40 as well.

Zen Tenkara Suzume - I'm still looking for that "perfect" small creek/stream rod. Until then, I'll be using my modified Zen Suzume. It's got a useful three way zoom feature so that I can fish pretty much any creek, beaver pond or no. I like it's backbone; it can horse a nice size trout out of the snags very easily. I've modified my rod by replacing the top two segments with the top two segments of a Tenkara USA Iwana. I feel that the rod casts, hook sets, and fights my trout better. I do hate the design of the lower three segments - the rod can't be disassembled for drying and cleaning. Besides, if you're are unlucky enough to break one of the lower segments (such as falling on it) you're screwed. You have to buy either a whole new rod (which is expensive for what you get) or all three lower segments (including the handle). That's a poor design in my book. Still, the rod has enough redeeming features that I like the way it fishes, as modified.

Other rods I like, but fish much less often, are the Nissin Zerosum 360 7:3, Oni Type-I, Nissin Air Stage Fujiryu 360 5:5, and Tanuki XL-1.


DRAGONtail Premium Tenkara Line - This is the line that I use most of the time now, size #3 is my preference. It is small in diameter and light enough to easily fish "line off the water" tenkara. Since I fish almost always casting up stream a light line is paramount. The other thing I like about it is that it is just a little stiffer than Nissin Oni tenkara line. That slight extra stiffness helps transmit the kinetic energy of the rod tip to the fly more efficiently than a more supple line. When I say "stiffness" it's not much, but I think it makes a difference.

Nissin Oni Ryu Tenkara Line -  This is the other level line that I use. I mainly use it in #2.5 size. It's a nice line, but I can't see it as well as the DRAGONtail Premium line. It doesn't hold up as well as the DRAGONtail line (the surface frays more easily), and the coloration doesn't seem to hold up to time as well. Still, it's a great line.

Line Storage:

As far as line storage, I still use (and like) my homemade spools cards or I use DRAGONtail Tenkara Line Cards. I like that both are very thin and that I carry half a dozen lines with me in my small chest pack.

For on stream line control I still prefer Snap-on Line Winders from DRAGONtail. These are not perfect, like they don't fit all my rods, but they are good enough and very convenient. They do fit both the TB36 and TB40 very well.

Sighter and Tippet Ring:

As you can see from the above discussion on lines, I like orange lines. But to help me see the take I need a contrasting color on which to focus my eyes. For this, I like TenkaraBum Tactical Nymphing Sighter. It is by far the best sighter material out there. I use just the green section with a little black attached. This is tied onto the orange line so that the portion of the black sighter separates the two colors. I find that this setup really helps me to see the fish's take, even when it's very subtle. I tie the two sections together using a speed blood knot (which is not a blood knot at all). The knot is easy to tie, very strong, is small, and keeps both the line and sighter in-line without a kink. To help this knot seat tightly, put a little lip balm on your lips, then before you pull the knot closed, when you would usually wet the knot with saliva, close your lips onto the open knot to apply the lip balm to the line. Now pull the knot tightly and you will see that it slides into a small, tight knot easily.

I also use a tippet ring. I've never had knot failures at the tippet ring like some other anglers report. I use high quality rings such as Stonfo Tippet Rings. These are small and smooth. They work flawlessly.

Also, I use the clinch knot for attaching my tippet ring and flies.


I generally use the same tippet in all situations. This is TroutHunter fluorocarbon 5.5X. If the water surface is smooth and gin clear, then I will use the same tippet but in 6X. I like the strength of the half size, as well as the thin spool size. Depending on the stream size, water level and clarity, and stream flow rate, I'll use anywhere between 24 and 48 inches of tippet.

Chest Pack:

I have two chest packs. One is a Zimmerbuilt Strap Pack. It's small, but it carries all I need. In it I carry my fly box, C&F Design thermometer/spent tippet holder, TroutHunter tippet spools, floatant paste (in case I want to use the rare dry fly), and lines on spool cards. On its sides I have a nipper on a zinger, and a Ty-Rite. On the back is clamped a Dr. Slick Mitton Clamp.

The other chest pack is an Angler's Accessories Double Haul Lanyard. It is a minimalist chest pack designed to carry only what you really need. It's thin, lightweight and non-obtrusive. It's not a chest pack that people who like carrying a lot of gear would enjoy. But for me, it works really well. On the front I've pinned a nipper on a zinger. Also, instead of using the shirt clip, I've ran some nylon cord through the clip and made a simple waist loop. I don't like my chest packs to flop around when I bend over. There is a pocket on the back of the pack. I use it to hold some small hemostats. Inside, there are a number of pockets. I carry a few lines (on spool cards), one spool of TroutHunter 5.5X FC tippet, a thermometer (for the data geek in me), and a clip-on line tender. At the base of the pack, there is a little elastic loop. I find that it holds a tube of Tiemco Dry Magic floatant perfectly. On the right side of the pack is a nylon tube, probably designed for hemostats or something. I use it to hold a Ty-Rite.


In the summer/autumn I generally use sakasa, jun, or stiff hackle kebari. They are usually wool or thread bodied, and as I've mentioned, size 10. In the winter/spring I generally use beadhead nymphs, either brass or tungsten.

What else? Oh, in summer/autumn I wet wade using Simms Men's Guide Guard Wading Boot Socks, and Little Presents Wader Gaiters. In the winter/spring I use wading pants, one such as from Frogg Toggs. Boots? I use Simms as well as Korkers. The jury is still out on these so I won't go into detail on either of them. One thing I do know however, I do like aluminum cleats. They definitely keep me from falling (along with my wading staff) while wading in my streams which have slick granite bowling balls covering the stream bed.

I sometimes carry a net. Either a Shimano Keiryu Damo Z or a DRAGONtail tenkara net. It depends on which one I have with me at the time. They are both very rugged and I like them over a collapsing net because they hold up in my fast stream flows. I will carry a folding net on occasion, but only on small creeks that have a lot of brush to get through.

Well, I think that's about it. I've spilled my guts for you all to see. This is what I currently use in my day to day fishing. Let's see what changes next year!


  1. Thanks for the info. This kind of post is really helpful for us Tenkara newbies as there is such a plethora of equipment out there. I'm very frugal and like things simple. This definitely helps. Happy fishing!

  2. Nice reflections... I, for now, am considering tenkara a short range game and so more inclined to fish short rods (namely those under 10ft). I'm really addicted to the idea of sight fishing chiefly those structure oriented ones where fish holds close to a bank, rock, reef, grass, log, whatever... I really don't feel confortsble fishing wide open water where there is no clue of a structure to cast at... About lines i'm also for the rather short ones, not bigger than 1.5 times the lenght of the rod (icludding tippet).. Yes, i'm a control addict. Rods i still preffer the rather fast (not necessarily stiffer) over the slower ones. Cork or wood handles are my favorites yet but not as much as in the past. I've been fishing some corkless keiryu ones and really apreciate them.

  3. Great post....I would like to know more about your wading/hiking staff that makes frequent appearances in your post/videos.

    1. Tom has already written a post about it:

  4. Tom

    Getting caught up on your blog. Nice to see that your two favorite rods are mine as well.


  5. Interesting post Tom. I also like the TB40 rod. I'd put it right next to the Oni 1 on my favorite 4m rod list. I'm to lazy to modify the grip. As with the Tenkara Times Watershed 4m rod I just learned to like it with use. The TT Watershed and the DT Karasu 400 probably are switching unsettled between 3d and 4th ranking. The Karasu 400 for quality finish, and how it cast. The Watershed just because I think it is a pretty nice rod available for a much lower price. In fact before the TB40 came along I used to tell people if you can't afford an Oni 1 get the Watershed 4m rod. I don't own a TB36, would like too. But can't really justify purchasing one, yet. The Daiwa LL36 mostly fits that niche for me. Many of my other choices are similar to yours.

  6. Tom - Have you ever felt compelled to try white or clear line in the name of stealth? Any thoughts? Thank you! Charlie

    1. Charlie, I have tried to use a stealth line either in white or light olive green. I haven't had much success using them, mainly because on my streams they are so hard to see (sort of the point, I know). I'm still experimenting.

  7. Thank you Tom,

    I was fishing in southeastern MN snowstorm Saturday and could not see my white line worth beans! I put on a pink line in order to have a clue as to where my streamer landed and swung. It helped a good deal.