As Tenkara catches on more and more in the U.S., I have yet to see one description of it lacking the following adjective: simple. Mainly by virtue of not using a reel, Tenkara is certainly simpler than what most Western fly fishers are accustomed to–and that is probably its main appeal. Ironically though, many have attempted to impose the complexities of modern Western fly fishing on it. One of the first questions many new to Tenkara ask is how they can add a reel. Others want to translate complicated dropper and indicator rigs from their habitual fishing methods. These attempts have mostly failed because of the resilient simplicity that is the very nature of this style of fishing.
Of course, this is nothing new and not merely an epidemic in the U.S. I think it’s partly human nature to sometimes make things more complicated than they need to be. In the picture on the right, you can see a multiple fly rig from the Iwate prefecture in Japan. The mere thought of trying to cast that rig makes me cringe.
While I don’t only carry only one fly pattern like Dr. Ishigaki, I do adhere to the one-fly philosophy when it comes to rigging. While many like to “increase the odds” by using dropper rigs with 2 or more flies, I actually feel that focusing on one fly is more effective. Aside from obvious disadvantages such as dropper flies creating drag I feel that focusing 100% of my attention on just one fly make me a more effective angler–a sniper with one bullet rather than a soldier with a machine gun. Like the sniper, my concentration must be completely focused while I wait for the right moment. And when that moment comes, a simple system will not only reduce the number of things that can go wrong, but also not distract me with unnecessary variables.
Here’s an interesting page with descriptions of different styles of Tenkara fishing from different prefectures in Japan. It made me think a lot about my own style–what I’ve brought over and what I’ve left behind from Western fly fishing. What is your style? Do you find yourself adapting rigging methods from Western fly fishing like indicators or dropper rigs or do you prefer the one-fly approach?