So, this is my philosophy on tenkara.
I honestly do not know what Tenkara means other what I have been exposed to, and like any history there is interpretation and variance in the definition. There is also flaw in definition. I am 100% sure that my idea of it is flawed but am not embarrassed by that truth. I also will not pretend to know what it means. I think its fair to say that as fishing means different things to different people, so does tenkara or fixed line fishing.
I have witnessed the Tenkara definition change in the community and with friends. I see this a a great thing. We are involved in a metamorphosis. It is an exciting time. We are getting more and more material and history. It is also fair to note, that this western definition is still in its infancy and may even change and be classified and different ways.
With what I know about it and how the tenkara purists define it, I will never be a true tenkara angler. I will never experience the Japanese mountains. I will probably never have the skill of a master tenkara angler. I will probably always have an outsider perspective on what Tenkara is and means. I am ok with this.
My path is to enjoy some Tenkara techniques and principals. I want to learn what I can and improve myself as a fly angler. I like to fish and I really enjoy fixed line fishing…period. As I get more and more skilled I find myself gravitating more and more to techniques, settings, and concepts earmarked as Tenkara. This is my path, it may not be for everyone.
My advise to a new fixed line angler. Consider first yourself as a fixed line angler and open your options to greater freedom. Don’t get hung up on tenkara rules but educate yourself on as many concepts as you can digest. The Discover Tenkara material is great. As are the TUSA, tenkara bum, and a variety of blogs like those provided by Tom Davis and Jason Klass. There is a good mix of Tenkara and just productive fish catching technique out there. All of it is equally valid and helpful to grow you as an angler.
Beadheads, grub, and worm patterns catch fish. They can be great tools to understand fish behavior and where fish hold. Live bait is also a tool. Understanding how to read water and where fish like to hold is a big part of the battle. Without it, many of the advanced tactics will not have context. There is no shame in using these methods to learn. It is money in the bank. You need to learn how to crawl before you can run.
I am still crawling. I am still learning. I am on my fourth season. I have employed some tenkara techniques this season and am just starting my journey to understand a lot of things. It is exciting. I am definitely becoming a better angler, but I am still far from understanding tenkara.