Hi from the mitten state! I’m new to river fishing and have yet to try fly fishing. I’ve seen these things called tenkara rods and I was wondering if anyone has experience with them in a backpacking situation? Or if a newbie should start with one of these rods? 

Thanks! 

@LongHaulPaul 

One of our employees at the REI store in Huntington Beach has experience using Tenkara rods, here is what they had to say:

"Hi there from REI store 88 in Huntington beach! I'm the unofficial fishing guy in the store and have used Tenarka rods for backpacking and bunch of other situations.

Tenkara is a pretty simple option to get into fly fishing, it's as basic as it gets and depending on the situation it can be very effective. For new folks it could be an easy path to fly fishing, without having to use both hands to cast like a traditional rod, sometimes its not a hard transition to Tenkara, but because you have a fixed length of line you may run into situations where managing line becomes a problem. Because of its fixed line and lack of reel to take up line it is really best suited for small creek and lakes where fish are feeding near the bank.

Rods come in lots of different sizes and actions, I would size your rod to the terrain you're fishing in, rivers with tight vegetation on the bank its going to be easier to handle casting with a shorter rod, lakes without obstructions you can get away with a longer rod. As for actions, I would stick with 7:3 or 6:4 actions, they land in the medium kind of category of stiffness so for bigger fish or bigger flies i would go with the extra stiffness and smaller fish smaller flies I would go softer. I would point you towards a company like Tenkara USA or Tenkara Rod co, that sells rods in starter packs or bundles to make life easier. Tenkara is super fun and the light weight nature really lends itself to backpacking, it does have its drawbacks with not having a reel and only having a fixed length but after some practice you can work past those drawbacks. In reality most lake fish are going to feeding along the bank during the spring and summer and those wild unpressured creek and river fish may be in striking distance for Tenkara.

Hope this helps!"

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Speaking as a fly fisher on the waters of Western NC where many trout waters are smaller streams with tight quarters, long casts are difficult and seldom needed. Most of my casts on small streams are roll casts because brush inhibits traditional back casts. In addition, shorter casts provide better line control, the best drifts, and increase reaction time for hook sets.

 

I have not tried Tenkara, but feel like I have because I often fish with 8-10’ rods and seldom use my reel. In other words, other than balancing your rod, a reel is only a line holder on small streams. Therefore, Tenkara would seem to be a simpler set-up for carrying and fishing on small streams. 

I have been fly fishing for almost 50 years and enjoyed small stream fishing often. If I were starting out experiencing fly fishing on small streams, I wouldn’t hesitate to use a Tenkara rod. I’ve landed, and carefully released, trout up to 13” but mostly targeted native trout in the mountain streams which range in size from 5” to 10”. 
Tenkara fishing is a simple rod with a length of braided line and a length of monofilament tippit to attach to fly to the line. The rod sections collapse and securely store within the rod handle section. Use a small Tenkara spool to store the line and leader and a small fly storage box and your good to go. Don’t forget to get a fishing license and, perhaps, a trout stamp in the State you will be fishing. Please practice catch and release.

A Tenkara outfit compliments the camping, hiking, and exploring experiences. It makes sense to me for REI to offer a simple Tenkara package. Swift bike packing bags is now partnering with Tenkara rods maker and offering a fly fishing pack and package.

I hope this helps!