In this video, we can see Tenkara no Oni give a very cear demonstration of a traditional tenkara casting style and presentation. Here is a play-by-play breakdown of what you can observe in the video…
Let’s begin with the cast…
1. He begins by pulling his forearm back slightly, and then snapping his wrist on the backcast to generate line speed.
2. He then (again slightly) pushes his forearm forward and snaps his wrist on the forward cast.
3. At the end of the forward cast, notice that he “bounces” the rod once before giving the presentation. Presumably, this helps the line straighten out and keep the line off the water.
4. He also keeps the rod tip high, also allowing the line to remain off the water.
The main takeaway here should be that tenkara casting involves more wrist than arm (almost the polar opposite of western style casting). Linespeed is generated by loading the rod with quick snaps of the wrist rather than using the arm to move the tip of the rod a greater distance along a straight plane as in conventional fly fishing. In general, you should be moving your arm as little as possible. This is counterintuitive to most western fly anglers who are taught that too much wrist is a bad thing.
Now, the presentation….
The first thing to notice is that Tenkara no Oni keeps all of his line off the water. This eliminates unwanted drag and allows for a better hookup when the fish hits because you have a more direct connection with no slack. After the fly hits the water, he uses his whole arm, keeping the wrist tight, to gently pulsate the fly by twitching the rod (watch just the rod tip for a few casts). This subtle movement causes the soft hackle of the tenkara fly to open and close, giving it a lifelike action of a swimming insect. To see what flies look like underwater when presented this way, watch this video.
Notice also that he makes no false casts and only keeps his fly in the water for about 3 seconds on each cast. Whereas in western fly fishing we focus on keeping the fly in the water as long as possible, in this approach, the goal is to catch the attention of the fish which could mean several casts to the same fish, a few quick pulses, then a recast. The appearance, disappearance, and reappearance of the fly can entice the fish to strike out of attraction, desperation, or even agitation.
While this type of presentation is very different than western fly casting, it is not difficult to learn. Like anything, it just takes a little practice and some concentration on what you’re your doing step by step. After a little practice, this style can become second nature like it is for Tenkara no Oni. He makes his casts look effortless and that surely only comes with experience.