Is Tenkara (Really) Getting Too Complicated?


Both sides are very interesting! I remember when Tenkara just started and yes we only had a couple choices, things seemed easier then. But when I discovered tenkara bum and all the other options online I was so very happy to see Tom and chris giving info on commen cents and other things it really helped with not just how a rod would cast but what kind of back bone it had bc some streams I fish are tight and I can’t have a fish turn on me. But then another part of me lately have been going back to the simpler times when tenkara was just starting… maybe it’s bc I can’t get high end rods that much like I used to, maybe it’s just bc I like to reflect on those times… I don’t know but I also understand the simplicity of it all too. In Japan they have tons of rods to choose from so it isn’t like your going against the grain of you love gear I know I do! But I also understand settling in and just fishing with the rod you have. We all went through the times of trying new gear especially when it just became available, remember when the oni rods became readily available? Jason was The one importing them at the time if I recall, and dang I love my oni rods!! I can see both sides and I think it’s interesting to listen to both sides. But when it all comes down to it the rod that catches the fish is the rod that’s in your hand


Compared to you, I am not a very technical guy but am totally thankful for your data, reviews, and worldview. It has definitely guided me in a lot of ways. As much now, as when I was just starting in this sport. I consider you as a role model and really there is so much to learn from you in terms of tenkara and also as a human being.

What I like about your approach is that it is largely objective with a separated area for your subjective notes. You and Chris Stewart bring order to our choices and are a cornerstone for our community.

I feel that the Jason Klass article is in poor taste as it is pointing the finger at others while his own rod articles are equally as technical , list specifications, and get into technical jargon that only seasoned casters may be able to digest. So, what is the motivation for such an article?

In general, there are personalities in any group whose need to be the best, an expert, or right about something supersedes anything else.

Tenkara is a rabbit hole but no one is forcing anyone deep into it. If an angler does not like technical information, they can easily have the discipline to avoid it. The most simple way to do this, is to simply unplug and go fishing.

My 12 year old daughter finds enjoyment in tenkara. I am more technical than she is, and I enjoy tenkara. Tom is more technical than I am and he enjoys tenkara. What is there to question?


I, for one, enjoy data that help answer questions. What makes rods different? What rod is best for particular situations? How do rod characteristics affect casting and fish catching/fighting? I choose to learn more. It makes me appreciate them more. Others don’t need to or may not want to. That’s fine. It’s a difference in thought process and curiosity, not a characteristic of the sport or hobby. Engineers and designers of rods go through complex calculations and processes to produce rods, similar to the traditional bows that I love. A longbow is really just a stick and a string, but they’re all unique and different. I like hearing about the wood types, materials, limb tapers, glue, speed, hand shock, power curve, etc. It doesn’t complicate the idea of pulling the string and letting it go. Cars are the same way. Some people want to learn everything about them, others just want/need to know there is a gas pedal and a brake pedal. I like to have an idea of what I’m buying, before I buy it. I like researching to inform my decision. Others would be happy with a choice based on a coin flip. To each their own.


I started getting into Tenkara maybe 2 years ago, and the more I researched it the more confused I became. There was just too much information, and I was no longer having fun. I bought a Tenkara USA rod and a starter kit. Then I caught fish and had fun.

Last spring I was poised to purchase a Spey fishing setup, and the more I researched it the more confused I became. There was just too much information, and I was no longer having fun. I could not build a setup on my own. My aspirations wondered and I used the money on a Keiryu rod instead.

It was a mistake to go directly into Spey without first learning any other wester fly fishing. Spey is not marketed to outsiders. On the other hand, Daniel Galhardo wanted us to believe that anyone could pick up a Tenkara rod and start fishing. I think Jason Klass has noticed that Daniel’s message has started to go quiet.

I love Tenakra. I love the rods and the lines and the flies. And I love when a trout plucks the fly and the line between us goes taught and rings through the water. When I’m standing there kneed deep in coke-bottle-green water waving a 12 foot antenna around I am in-tune.

I love sharing Tenkara too. When I take my friends fishing I handle all the details. I pick the water, I rig the rods, and I point out the feeding lies. My friends have fun and catch fish. In a way Danile did this for me on my first outing. It was Daniel 's words I heard in my head as I stubbled barefoot through a frigid stream without a clue. These days I’m more likely to ponder the words of Tom Davis and his spreadsheets while I’m fishing.

Simple is good. Let us remember our beginner’s mind.


In general, our complications are not related to tenkara as much as it is a symptom of our modern age. The overload of resources.

When I started tenkara there where only a handful of resources. Now there are more and each tends to demand some level of attention. There are very few I would rank as unbiased, accurate, or helpful.

I am not sure if this is accurate but our modern culture is nearly void of mentors. There are a lot of folk who consider themselves experts but very few who are true mentors. Mentorship is a selfless task.

I feel mentorship has now become an old fashioned concept and it is dying. Unlike other fishing disciplines tenkara is not as prolific and therefore there are not many local clubs. Traditionally a local fishing club is the device for guiding a new angler through the complexity of learning the sport and honing skill. The group and its participants act as mentor.

As @Tea_and_Tenkara notes when he mentored others he kept Tenkara simple. When I mentored my daughter and some of my friends, I did the same. It is a far different mentorship experience than watching a video or reading an article. Guided hands on application is so much more powerful.

Forums are sort of like being a member of a fishing club, but because it is not localized the only mentorship that can occur is academic. It is also hard to unravel academics without hands on instruction.

Guenther also noted Daniel’s influence. I think most of us have been influenced and mentored by Daniel. Daniel Galhardo is the perfect example of a fantastic mentor.

Instead of screaming at the world because it has become too complex. One should reflect on what they can do to change that, especially if their concern if for new anglers. Perhaps Klass could embrace his mentor within and provide a guided curriculum for all skill levels. Instead of blaming, help bring order to the complexities he is reacting to.


I am just a nerd in general, which is why I played with nuclear power in the Navy. I can safely say that I haven’t bought a rod or not bought a rod based on RFI or RM. After all, I fish six and 7 m rods. I like to look at those specifications after I have fished a rod to correlate the specs to what I actually experienced. I pay much more attention to the weight and penny ratings before purchase. That being said, what drives me to or away from a rod is the feel and suggestion that is provided by folks like Tom and Tenkarabum. It also helps if Tom concludes that he “really, really” likes the rod.:joy:


I for one appreciate the work done to offer objective, measurable data.

I will admit that I don’t use it much, but I have been using it more in a similar way that @Kris.Franqui has mentioned – after the fact comparisons of my impression when there are measurements on a rod I’ve fished.

I think it is terrible when “more information” is considered problematic, especially if it is objective and reproducible. With information comes power, but it doesn’t necessarily come easily. We as fly-ish anglers tend to be very observant but I don’t think we’re near as objective as we think – so when something can be measured, great!

I do think that there is a risk of discouraging people by the variety of choices and “elite” rods, but that’s not something that is nothing unique here. I have a lot of rods, but I favor those that are the most versatile.

My longest-standing gripe about tenkara online advice (which I agree is necessary since local knowledge is scarce in many areas) has to do with oversimplification and more importantly, projecting one’s experience/goals onto others. There should be no shame in suggesting a nice bead-head killer bug/Walt’s worm/whatever to get somebody into their first trout (or fishing traditional kebari patterns to warm water fish) so that folks get the hang of the mechanics and some things click quickly. Later they can be nudged to try other things and solve other problems by developing different skills. In this case, I’m primarily drawing from my own experiences on slower/deeper/more-food-rich waters in western NY. Luckily, many folks do provide this kind of advice, but it hasn’t been as common.

Back to the topic of complication – trying to enforce simplicity seems like the most anti-tenkara thing I can think of. If the original roots are in providing – you do what works for you. Now, as a hobby, why should there be any shame in taking it as far as one wants?

It is usually those who have been at it for a while who ask for very specific rod actions/requests for info. The newer folks usually get pretty solid advice for “first rod” selection and luckily the disclaimer that they will likely buy a few more if they stick with it.

So, kudos to Tom for his efforts in rod reviews and data…and those who share objective details about the stuff.


Reading the reply posted in response to the original topic I’m reminded of an old folk saying… you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Way way too negative. If it were posted on our club’s Facebook page I would have deleted it and asked for a more tactful rewrite, as it does have some value.

I’m an old physics major who ended up with a masters in economics, obviously an analytic numbers guy. I don’t feel the numbers are worthless, nor are they the holy grail. They’re like a compass. They just sort of point you in a general direction. BUT, if you don’t know precisely where you want to get they’re pretty much valueless at that point.

A wise old man at my fly club once told me “I fish the way I do because that’s how I like to fish.” A novice (the focus of the original article) has a lot to discover about his own color of tenkara before the numbers become a good guide.
I had to find out what places I like to fish, how to fish them effectively, and then what the optimal tools were for me doing that. Once I finally had a tenkara rod in my hand that felt perfect, then and only then, I could look at all the available data and see the real meanings in the numbers. Because I could look at the numbers for my first perfect match and compare them to others as I expanded my rod collection and eliminate the ones I was shown wouldn’t feel right to me. Without that context though, a newbie just sees a blizzard of numbers and the words that people who aren’t him associate with those numbers.

Hands on casting, guided by a good teacher, I strongly believe is the best way to guide a novice in rod selection. Whenever I can I hand on of my rods to someone to try, and we have a conversation about the differences, and how they will go about finding their own color of tenkara. Tenkara is, at its core, pretty simple.

Edit: And I probably should have started with this. Please go to the original post and read it, and the link at the bottom that takes you to another on the same path.

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One thing I’d like to see is someone interpreting Tom’s data in a more user friendly way. One idea that comes to mind is a website that lets you interact with the rods in a more intuitive way. Maybe with pictures of rods and some non numeric indication of how rods compare.


Viewing data in different ways and presenting it in a user friendly way is a monumental task in terms of interface.

Toms data is a compile which is different than any other resource. It is a gift. Most other resources have isolated data without an overview, and I do not think anyone has as many as Tom.

If you consider how there are very few products in the universe that have such an overview, even major fishing rod builders do not have a elloborate product comparison. It sort of points to how challenging it is to maintain or create interface for.

I am just noting this as I feel it is a challenging ask. To add, most info we see is of recreational motivation. Few people in our community are getting paid to do any of this.


De mystifying Rod Moment and Tip Heavy-ness: Take a rod and extend it and place it on a support so you can walk to its center and pick it up in one hand. You will notice that the butt of the rod will want to drop, so move back a little at a time until you find the rod"s Ballance Point, where the shorter heavy end of the rod counter balances the mid and tip sections. Notice the distance between the balance point and the rod"s grip and its back end. The closer the balance point is to the grip, the less tip heavy the rod will feel. No rod is perfectly balanced, that’s a physical impossibility.

Moment is a numerical value assigned to the pressure required to over come the tip heavy-ness that all rods have. Anything over 6.0 will be very noticeable, and the longer the rod is and the more it weighs, and the more tip heavy it will feel, and the more muscle tension it will take to over come that weight and the more tired you will become in fishing that rod.

With Zoom Rods, the length of the rod changes, and so do the balance point or points. Plus the collapsed sections add more balancing weight to the butt end of the rod, explaining why some shorter lengths feel much better to cast than the longer ones do on zoom rods.

Also in holding your line up and off of the water, the angle the tip is elevated to shortens the leverage the rod has and makes the rod feel lighter, even though it is the same length and weight all the time on a no-zoom rod.

The weight of the rod, in and of its-self is not the critical thing, but in how that weight is distributed. There are a few rods made that have weight added to the rod"s butt to enhance the rod"s balance - the rod weighs more but it feels lighter in your hand in casting and fishing because of the improved rod balance. Most rod makers do not weight balance their rods. Some makers claim they do not weight their rods while others readily admit that they do. There are ways you can do this yourself but it seemed to be more trouble than it was worth on the rod I tried doing it on - I preferred fishing the lighter weight rod. If you have never fished with a sub 6 moment rod, it is very hard to appreciate what a wonderful experience fishing with such a rod is. It will spoil you for fishing with tip heavy rods for good. If simplicity produces the desired results, that is all well and good. But life is not always simple. And, sometimes it takes more complicated techniques to get the best results, if that"s what you are looking for, which not everybody is. Sometimes, good enough is good enough.

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Speaking as someone still new to tenkara, I can say the following:

  1. Tom, Chris, and Tristan, and all of their content and data (in Tom’s and Chris’s case) were so helpful for me to take the plunge into tenkara. Yes, there’s a lot of info, but for someone who is into fishing but knew nothing about tenkara, that info was wonderful.

  2. I found Jason’s blog post a bit condescending. Being a newbie doesn’t mean you can’t wade through information and make a reasonable decision. For example, I didn’t know whether or not I was going to like tenkara, so when choosing a first rod I, like most people, was not going to pick an expensive Japanese rod (no matter how much data there were on Tom’s and Chris’s blogs). I was going to get an inexpensive beginners rod, and Toms reviews of Dragontail rods made picking that company and the shadow fire an easy choice. I bought it, used it, caught fish, learned what I’d like to improve on (rod-wise) and chose another rod based on Tom’s and Chris’s info. Rinse and repeat. Iteration is key to getting good at anything and all of the info out there allows beginners to grow into the sport.

Data are good; content is good; options are good.


I was conditioned to frugality while growing up. By necessity we embraced whatever our family could afford and I never became a “seller” or “trader”.

As an adult with some discretionary income I became a “researcher” before making purchases. Now I am retired with a (semi-) fixed income and really appreciate Dr. Tom’s and Chris’ data when I can’t try out rods before buying. Along with their blogs that describe where and how they fish, and their methods, their explanations of how the data correlates to their casting and fishing gave me a baseline from which I made my first purchase decisions. The baseline has been further refined by my own experience and along with their data, most of my purchases have met expectations.

Dr Ishigaki and Mr. Sakakibara have refined their techniques to a level that is an art form. Do they believe that the design of their rods that have helped them achieve their level of the art are simple?

When I began mentioning Tenkara fishing in my local FFI fishing club meetings I was mocked as using a “stick, string, bobber, and worm on a hook”. As I learned more techniques my monthly fishing reports apparently became more impressive and they asked me to do a Tenkara presentation. That led to an invitation to give a presentation at a state FFI fair, and later at another club 300 miles away. With PNW Steelhead in such dramatic decline, the local club’s hardcore Steelheaders are doing more trout fishing. While not “devotees”, they are now telling me they’ve followed up with T-rods on “unproductive” trout water that their buddies had just gone through using western fly rods-reels and they caught fish. They’ll learn :wink: .

Is Tenkara really “simple?


Hello! New here and looking forward to learning and sharing! I am from Michigan, and just attended the 42nd annual Mid-West Fly Fishing Expo with my fishing buddy. I search all the vendor’s, and sales rep.‘s looking for tenkara fishing stuff. Other then a couple of vendor’s selling furled lines, I didnt see any tenkara specific stuff! I’m thinking Danial Galhardo has brought to light tenkara to the US since 2009. And yet one of the biggest fly fishing shows east of the Mississippi, and yet I still have not yet seen i ,person one of his rods. I started with a 12’ Willow and Cane tenkara rod I purchased off of the auction site for next to nothing. My next tenkara rods was from a friend who purchased a Maxcatch 12’ tenkara rod. He didnt fish it much and a friend of his broke the tip and he had no interest in getting it repaired, so he gave it to me. I purchased a new tip. I wanted a little shorter rod so I next purchased a 9’ telescopic graphite Chinese rod off of the auction site for if I remwmber correctly, around $4.00. It didnt have a cork handle, so I bid on a cork handle on the auction site and got that for around $2.00. I installed the handle on the rod (can see it on I caught a 13" rainbow (biggest fish on that rod) on that rod. I like the way it casts. The rod is 18 1/2" long , weight is 2 1/2 oz. w/ rod cap. My fishing line. I use SeaKnight Monster S9, Hi-Vis green, 65 LB. (.37mm). Due to windy conditions. It’s a micro filament braided line. So, do I think tenkara is getting complicated? Only as complicated as you make it. As in ANYTHING. There will always be a new rod, or a new line, or what ever, that is marketed to help you catch more, and bigger fish. And to sell you the new fangled gimmick, and take your money! My new flies, get snagged in bushes, just as much as my old ones do! It’s just like, I have purchased I cant count how many gadgets to help tye on a fly when I am on the river, stream, or creek. None of them have worked. I am now down to fishing flies size 14, and 12. Anything smaller and I spend a half hour on the water, trying to thread my tippet thru the eye of the hook. I just got a new gimmick, where before you hit the water. You tye on a short puece of tippet on a fly and a loop on the other end. So you just do a loop to loop (handshake) on the water. The only thing with that is you have to have all your flies ready to use. Cause you never know which fly the fish want till your on the river! Unless your one of those that only uses one fly! If so, I guess your ready for whatever lies ahead! Most of complications now a days, are just getting to the water to get a fly in it!

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Well said, and completely agree!

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Funny, I came across this article and wanted to see if anyone had already addressed it. (Apparently “YES” :joy:)

I really enjoy Jason’s writing and have learned a great deal from him. His musing here on whether the beginner’s quest for the “perfect 1st rod” is helped by having a proliferation of comparative data that attempts to describe a rod’s action and “feel” is interesting to me and I wanted to talk about it in this forum.

Here are 2 of Jason’s quotes from the article that I captured my attention:

If I were new to tenkara and saw all these charts and formulas, I’d probably just walk away and forget it.


One’s gear is an evolution based on empiricism, not an algorithm.

I know that this article ruffled a few feathers, but I think that he was expressing a valid opinion (albeit not one I agree with completely), particularly as an educator and influencer in this sport. I also think that there is a nuance that may have been missed which would put his concerns better into context. I would start by restating the premise of the article this way:

If I were new to fishing and wanted to try Tenkara, would it make sense for me to look these charts and formulas?

Viewed from this perspective, the answer might still be, “yes”.

  • Do you like geeking out with data?
  • Are you curious about what the different labels used by Tenkara rod manufacturers such as “6:4 vs. 7:3” mean?
  • Do you wonder how different Tenkara rods are evaluated - what properties make one rod different from another?

In that case, reading about the background on CSS and RFI provides a great deal of information on more than just the individual rods. It showcases some of the differences between the Japanese and American fishing industries and how rod makers describe their products. It helps define the history from which Tenkara evolved - small streams, small fish - and how American Tenkara retailers like Zen and Badger chose to develop rods that were not just in that mold. In other words, it might provide awareness about the sport overall that would pique your interest. It might also help you form opinions about who you wanted to buy from, who you might trust and respect to ask questions from and, at a high level, if you had an idea about the sort of fishing you wanted to do, what sort of rod you might look for. But is it necessary for a very beginning fisherman, with no experience whatsoever on the water, to know and understand these things? Nope, I don’t think that it is.

Which brings us to the 2nd idea, that “one’s gear is an evolution based on empiricism”. (Note that I omit the 2nd half of that quote though.) I completely agree with the idea that we buy new gear based on the experience we have with the gear we already own. Generally we choose new gear with the intent of tweaking certain characteristics in a specific way. Where an algorithm, or more accurately a “metric” (which is a “quantifiable measure that is used to track, compare, and assess performance or processes”), helps us is in comparing those specific characteristics - without having to actually experience the item physically. So why does this matter in the context of this discussion? Because there is a large body of people who are new to Tenkara, but not to fishing. People who have empirical knowledge about things like fish handling, fly weights, water conditions, etc. People like me.

Tenkara is new to me, specifically the idea of, “fixed line fly-fishing with attractors” is new to me (I’m getting the very distinct impression that “Tenkara” can be viewed in a very specific and traditional way). But fishing is not new to me. I started fishing over 40 years ago and I have a pretty good idea of what I want to fish for and where I want to fish for it. I also have a pretty good idea of the size and type of flies I want to fish with. These factors can and do have an impact on the style of rod that I’m looking for. Even as a Tenkara newb I know that Smallmouth bass are not the traditional catch, neither are Mountain Whitefish or Bluegill for that matter. I also have experience with different types of fly rods, many of which I purchased with no research or data, and as such, I would like to avoid amassing a collection of Tenkara rods that don’t suit my preferences. So for someone like me, who has empirical knowledge of fishing, but is a newb to Tenkara, the CSS and RFI data are extremely useful.

In sum then:

  1. “Is Tenkara getting too complicated?” The answer is that it’s as complicated as you make it. At it’s heart, it’s still just fly-fishing with a fixed line. Isn’t it?

  2. “Do metrics such as CSS and RFI scare away newcomers to Tenkara?” Not if my experience is representative. I found them useful concepts to understand and use to evaluate rods with.

  3. “Does someone new to fishing need to understand CSS and RFI to learn Tenkara [and enjoy it].” Nope, I don’t think so and I doubt the authors of those metrics think so either. Look at how Chris Stewart started his interest in Tenkara, for example.

My final point is this, I don’t think accurate data should EVER be viewed as a bad thing. It may be something that a beginner doesn’t understand initially, but then again, you never know.

Actually, I lied, my VERY LAST point is this - @jasonklass , thank you for having the courage to post that article and share your opinion. I think it was well reasoned and a useful thing to consider, especially for people like yourself, who help guide newcomers into this sport. These days, we can sometimes forget that contradictory viewpoints are what make life exciting and interesting. I appreciate your viewpoint, despite not agreeing with it, and look forward to more articles on your website.