Over complicated Tenkara

Lately, the few times I have read articles or watched videos on Tenkara I have gotten a bit agitated by the authors.

Why is it necessary to over explain or complicate something like tenkara by trying to make it so academic with over complicated analysis?

It cracks me up as I feel that somehow the authors might be missing the point of tenkara…or at least my impression of it.

Let us try to keep it simple, a rod, line, fly, and an angler’s connection with a river.


I don’t share your agitation, but I can definitely see your point.

The amount of next level tenkara tactics, strategies, etc… have really flared up in the past year or so.

There was a time where I tried to consume as much as I could find about tenkara, but there’s just too much “expert” advice out there to do that anymore.

Guess it all depends on how much that kind of stuff matters to you and your fishing - for every person it might turn off, it probably excites another. I do respect people that approach their hobby or past-time with an academic approach.

I figure the more you time you spend on the water fishing, the more “advanced” tenkara you’ll find yourself doing, perhaps without even knowing it.

I see what you see.

But it doesn’t matter.


I guess one could see something from the concept in a phrase I first heard on the fishing schooner L.A. Dunton at Mystic Seaport. A phrase that humbled me because it took me a long time to understand its deeper meaning. The phrase. " Are you going to fish, or cut bait?" Meaning are you going to go fishing or are you just going to keep preparing to go, and never go.

However, the concept of 10 People 10 Colors [十人十色] also carries the idea of 10,000 people 10,000 colors [万人万色]. iow, everyone has different ideas, perceptions, ideas, taste, etc.

I often make an analogy between Tenkara and the game of GO. Tenkara and GO are both simple basic systems. And simple systems provide the most freedom of movement of where to go next or not go. The basic nature of both allows beginners to start playing right away, yet offers a depth of learning to keep your interest for a life time.

For me that is part of the beauty or appeal of Tenkara. From my POV, Tenkara is only as complicated as you want it to be. Or allow it to be. It’s your own choice whether to just fish by intuition or seek a deeper understanding of the many facets of Tenkara.

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Just to be clear, I am always seeking to learn. I just find some of the material denser than it needs to be. More of a criticism for authors to trim the fat. Most tenkara concepts at the core are pretty simple and can be easily explained in a sentence or two. I get agitated when I have to wade through an envelope of jibber jabber just to hear the point.

I find this to be true, most of the expert instruction may not even help a person whose personal experience is not at a similar level as the instruction. Most of the nuance of fishing and learning is experiencing the context. There is no fast track to this.

There is nothing wrong with cutting bait…as long as its balanced.

What drew me to tenkara was its freedom, its core simplicity, and its engineering. It sort of bums me out a little that it has been overrun by so much material and commercial content. It wasn’t too long ago when it was just Tusa and tenkara bum… saying here are some fishing tools…go use them and have some fun.

David, you always dig up some cool stuff that I enjoy even if I do not always respond to your threads. Whenever I am exposed fisherman who have been using a technique for decades I usually take notes, no matter the discipline. I find great value in this.

Two thoughts: 1) without analysis, it is just opinion, and you have no way to judge whether the points are any better than those of anyone who has a computer and a keyboard, but perhaps very little experience.

2). If you want to keep tenkara simple, you can, but you will just barely scratch the surface. Tenkara is NOT simple, it just appears to be. The “rod, line, fly” isn’t the half of it. The real guts of tenkara is what you DO with that rod, line and fly.


This is what I am getting at. The burden of the academic and making process heavier than it needs to be. The burden of pre analyizing or imposing technique on something that is conditional/situational. Observation and adaption will often trump pure academic approach…and its more fun.

Its true I am not a technical angler. For me fishing is more of an improvisation than a technical exercise.

I am not debating that.

There are plenty of complicated things in fishing,…not just tenkara. Thats what keeps us engaged. I am just trying to note that somethings are better communicated with a concise description.

My reaction is probably petty. I guess sometimes people of any discipline can be pretentious about an activity or technique. Part of me feels that making anything about tenkara pretentious is sort of conflict of philosophy.

I found this fantastic quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes recently and it completely sums up my feelings on the matter:

I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity



Part of me feels that the “philosophy” is largely a product of the early marketing.


agreed…hahahahhaha…but at the same time I do believe that so much of fishing is better derived from personal exploration and experience…than spoon fed.

I must say that of the footage you guys have produced, the interviews are probably the most helpful to me. The from the horses mouth sort of direct communication. I thank you guys for this.

I sort of understand. Really unavoidable but I feel it is still my impression largely true, because I have plenty of success with little effort or skill enhancement.

Am I a competition level angler?..no.
Are fish counts important to me?..no.

The more technology we introduce, the more convoluted things can become…look at western flyfishing. Part of me wishes we as a community could resist that path. I will admit, that I own a half dozen different lines of the same length. We are doomed…hahahhahahaha.

I think some of this thread has gone off the rails, but in general my philosophy is that fishing should be fun and light hearted not a technical exercise. For those who do not share that approach, I feel that they are missing out…especially with tenkara.

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Keep it simple, it works for me and I catch scads of fish. Of course I have been fly fishing for about
60 years and that helps. I observed during my career as a prof. geologist, complex explanations are
rarely necessary or even correct most of the time.

I picked up the method for it’s simplicity and it is certainly that, complicating it makes it unrewarding for me. So for those who prefer it make it as complex as you wish, different strokes for different folks.

As long as you realize they feel you are the one that is missing out, then all is well.

What??? They think that??? Who???
believe me…I have been around the block enough not to worry too much about that kind of stuff.

I know some of you have had opportunity to fish will some of the Masters. No doubt I would dig that experience and I am not so naive or stubborn to believe that I cannot learn from others. In fact what little that I have seen from footage of master tenkara anglers seems to be aligned to concise descriptions of technique, which is more or less my point in this thread., Keep the verbal line off the water and stick to the point.

This not just in tenkara. This really is an any discipline.
Not like I do not struggle with it myself…as seen in this thread.

Just pulling your leg. The point being that anytime two people disagree, each thinks the other is missing something. And you are right, not just in tenkara.

Yeah I know…I was just hamming it up. I know forum text is never a good medium to read tone…but all this stuff is part serious but mostly light hearted.

by the way…I am digging that GM 53. I have been in the salt all spring and summer until last weekend. I was out in that stormy weather and wrangled the biggest brown I have had to date. Massive tail pumps and the brown did three long laps around me before I got it to net…almost like a tuna’s death circle. Just pure joy!!!

Thanks for so saying. Maybe my ramblings aren’t as nutty off-the-wall geeky as I sometimes think they are.

Nothing wrong with that approach. You have company who also think it’s best to not analyze to deeply.

Many people consider Neil Peart (drummer for the band Rush) the greatest drummer in history. According to a story I read somewhere. He has been asked how he plays the sequences in his drum solos. He replied that he didn’t know how he did it, he just can. And he refused to think very much about how he played his more complicated pieces. Believing that if he thought about it too much he would loose the ability to play them. Clearly there’s a place for instinctive abilities. What pilots call seat of pants flying.

To clarify (modify?) my previous statement. I believe Tenkara Equipment is Simple. That simplicity permits Complex use. The two together make a Complex system.

Someone is always curious about what makes things work, and will analyze it. Read it or not.

In the words of Mr. Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that”. :neutral_face:

Hi Gressak
I am not near you, but I am see you
I can understand your way of thinking well.

My philosophy is …go fish

:laughing: Well Go Fish is a kid’s game, and sometimes kids have it figured out right.

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Lots of words from the sellers.

Tenkara is simple, humans are not.

The education comes from people that take a gifficult idea, serve it as simple, then the student takes the complex idea that is served up simple and makes it for his own.

That’s how we went to the moon.

It’s simple.

But it really isn’t.


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