How to Cast a Tenkara Rod – Better For Beginners?

How to cast a tenkara rod (mountain stream)How to Cast a Tenkara Rod

For years fly fishing has been thought of as a more difficult style of fishing. However, with the introduction of Tenkara style fishing to the USA, I believe that fly fishing has become more accessible to beginners. So let’s learn how to cast a tenkara rod!

Fly fishing with a tenkara rod is simple. Meaning that every aspect of the practice is simple. I love casting a tenkara rod and today I will teach you how so that you too can enjoy the beautiful simplicity.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of casting, let’s talk a little about what tenkara is and where it came from.Dragontail Shadowfire 365

Tenkara is an ancient style of fly fishing used by the early anglers of Japan. The practice was used primarily by commercial fishermen in high mountain streams.

Tenkara is specifically used in small mountain streams to catch fish such as trout. Although the early Japanese would target local fish such as Yamame, Iwana, and Amago.

Tenkara was brought to the states by the founder of Tenkara USA in 2009. Since then, many companies, such as DRAGONtail Tenkara have started selling quality tenkara rods.

If you would like to learn more about the history of tenkara, go check out one of my previous articles titled “Tenkara Rod – Origin Stories”.

Since the arrival of tenkara to America, the sport has exploded! Bringing with it a new way for beginners to enter the sport of fly fishing.

Some were skeptical of tenkara thinking it was “too simple”, as written about by Tenkara Talk in his post “Tenkara Isn’t Good Because It’s Simple”. In this article, he speaks on how simplicity is good because it grants the angler “efficiency and cadence on the water.”

But enough of that, let’s talk about how to cast a tenkara rod.

Casting a Tenkara Rod

If you are coming to tenkara with little to no knowledge of casting any type of fishing rod, that is perfectly okay! Tenkara is a WONDERFUL platform to learn on!

The simplicity of the rod allows for a fast learning curve. This makes it a good choice for even children!

Let’s layout the steps:

Step one: Setup

You first will want to purchase or borrow a nice tenkara rod with good action. Check out my review of the Shadowfire 365 if you don’t have one.

You’ll want a line approximately the length of the rod, a few feet of tippet, and a sakasa kebari fly, size depends on preference and targeted fish. I usually use a size 12 or 16.

*The furled lines or tapered lines are usually easier to cast than level line.*How to cast a tenkara rod

Step Two: Holding the rod

You should hold the rod handle in your dominant hand with your pointer finger leading down the rod. You can also pinch the handle with your pointer finger and thumb on either side, This is called the “V-grip”, but I prefer the prior.

Hold the rod out in front of you with your wrist bent and somewhat relaxed and your elbow bent with your arm loosely by your side.Tenkara usa "how to cast tenkara"

Step Three: The motion

You’ll then want to preload the rod by smoothly bringing the rod to about 12oclock. Don’t come to an abrupt stop, but decelerate rapidly until stopped.

This step should be done by bending you wrist and and your arm together to avoid fatigue.

Once the line and fly catch up with the rod you need to smoothly bring the rod forward and until about 2-2:30.

Make sure that you slow down the rod speed right before your rod reaches 2-2:30 but don’t come to an abrupt stop.

Your goal is to let the fly land on the water with the line fully extended.

Tenkara USA (How to cast tenkara)

Step Four: Accuracy

Your accuracy when casting is very similar to throwing a rock, as described by Daniel from Tenkara USA.

You’ll want to use the rod to point to where you want the fly to land. It’s important that when you’re casting you bring the rod straight back and then straight forward. This will help your fly to land where you are aiming for.

If you follow the previous steps, your line should have very little oscillation and your fly should hit the water first, hopefully right where you were aiming.

Step Five: Rinse and Repeat!

You’ll want to make sure and watch your surroundings when you cast to avoid catching “undesirables” such as trees or ears…

I also recommend not spending a lot of time false casting when you are out fishing. This will help you keep your line out of trees as well as provide you with more opportunities to catch fish.

It’s perfectly fine to practice false casts in your yard to learn the motion, but when on the streams you’ll always catch more if your line is in the water! (Unless, you just want to false cast a few times to dry your fly)

If you still have any questions about tenkara casting, check out Tenkara USA’s video on “Casting a tenkara rod”. They have a lot of great information on all things Tenkara.

Why is it Easier to Cast Tenkara?


When casting tenkara, you don’t have to worry about your excess line tangling on sticks, shooting line, or getting tangled on far away things like you would when western-style fly fishing.

For a beginner this is much better and much less frustrating because let’s face it, nobody enjoys being bad at something. This means the faster you can learn to do something, the more likely you will be to stick with it.

Tenkara teaches the basics of casting a fly rod and if you desire to dabble in western style fly fishing you will be more prepared.

Another HUGE reason why tenkara is easier to learn is the entry price! I know this is something that is often overlooked but it’s true! it’s not cheap to get into western style fly fishing, often costing hundreds and hundreds of dollars for poor-performing beginners gear.

Tenkara, on the other hand, is around $100 for a well-performing, name-brand beginner-intermediate rod. Making it A LOT more approachable for beginners. Check out one of my other tenkara posts, where I talk more about the price of entry.

How to Get Better at Casting Tenkara

Tenkara is easy to learn but there will always be room for improvement, that’s part of the fun!

low water fishing

When you’re first beginning, I would recommend finding a stocked pond in a park, or a similar body of water, to learn at. Find an area free of trees and other debris so that you can purely focus on your form.

If you start in a densely populated forest on a mountain stream, your progress will be slower and likely frustrating. Starting in a controlled environment will give you confidence and allow you to progress quickly.

After you feel comfortable, start making your environment more and more difficult by trying to fish on a windy day or maybe next to a tree. These elements will make you think differently and try new things.

Continue To Learn:

As you continue to add more and more difficult elements to your environment, you will grow in your ability until you can fish those high mountain streams in the dense woods. These types of steams are so fun because of the journey to get to the location, the ability to catch native fish species, and much more!

Always try to push your ability by changing location, fishing in different conditions, and targeting different fish species! You will grow quickly and will begin to fall in love with the journey!

Casting a Tenkara Rod is Perfect for Beginners!

Obviously, it’s clear that learning how to cast a tenkara rod is not only simple enough for beginners but thrilling enough for seasoned veterans!

Learning how to cast a tenkara rod will allow you to spend hours and hours of time perfecting your technique, and give you priceless experiences. The love you will find will drive you for years to come and always keep you entertained!

What’s Your Tenkara Journey?

Please leave me your experiences with tenkara in the comments! If you have never tried tenkara but want to, leave me any questions you may have!

I will answer any of your questions and I will reply to every comment!


2 thoughts on “How to Cast a Tenkara Rod – Better For Beginners?

  • March 26, 2022 at 10:57 am

    Nice article. My Tenkara journey has taken me from fishing nothing but Tenkara for a few years, to a gradual transition back to western fly fishing again. What made me give up fly fishing from the start was the complexity of it and the fixation with expensive gears and more gears.
    Having explored the simplicity of Tenkara for a while, and at the same time realizing its limitations, has made me rediscover the joy of fishing in general and fly fishing in particular. I think I will continue to fish both Tenkara and western fly fishing in the future. They both have their time and place I think, and one doesn’t have to exclude the other.

    • March 28, 2022 at 4:08 pm

      Absolutely! I definitely agree that there are applications that tenkara is better for and vice versa. Thanks for your input!


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