Tenkara Rod Co review: the take from expert guide, total novice

Gear ReviewsChris Jensen

Tenkara Rod Co review – the expert guide’s opinon

Garage Grown Gear founder, Amy Hatch, and I had been kicking the Tenkara Rod Co review around for months and months. We scheduled the trip a few times but for various reasons it kept getting bumped.

When Amy mentioned our Colorado-based website developer, Brooks, would be passing through town, we decided to make Tenkara fishing something of a team building activity.

We are blessed with so many great trout waters around here in Teton Valley, Idaho. I’ve been honored to fish and guide on these waters for more than two decades. With so many secret fishing holes up my sleeve, it was honestly really hard to decide where to go.

A quick wade trip on the Teton River? Or maybe just float the Teton River? How about Dam to the Husky on the South Fork?

When my Dad mentioned we could borrow his jet boat aka “The Time Machine,” the idea stuck. We’d be able to “drive” from spot to spot, just fishing the “A” water on the South Fork of the Snake River. It was a good plan, but as happens a lot in fishing, not without its hang ups.

On Wednesday, July 27, the day this actually all went down, fishing turned out to be tough. The daily PMD hatch was ending by the time we got to the river and the fish got “lock jaw” until the late evening caddis hatch and spinner fall.

I was humbled and put back in my place. Still we all had a lot of fun. Everyone hooked a fish and we managed to land a few too.

We fished the Owyhee model from Tenkara Rod Co.  At 13 feet long it’s the perfect rod for big water like the South Fork.

I was really impressed by how well it cast. It felt much more like a traditional fly rod than any other Tenkara rod I had fished.  The yellow and green color scheme is radically different than a traditional rod, yet it’s rather pleasing on the eyes and somehow fits with the idea of doing something different.

The only downside to the whole Tenkara Rod Co. setup was the tippet ring. The Owyhee kit comes with a traditional woven line with a tippet ring attached. I’d never used one before but it seemed like a handy idea, so I tied my tippet to it.

Unfortunately, the first fish I hooked promptly broke the tippet ring right off … rookie mistake. I should have tested it first. Tippet ring aside, I’m looking forward to taking the Owyhee out this weekend with clients to give it some more “testing.”

While fish definitely get away more often on a Tenkara rod (due to the lack of enough line, a reel and some nice drag), I still think Tenkara is a great way to fish and especially to introduce someone to the sport.

Chris Jensen, Garage Grown Gear’s store manager and veteran fly fishing guide
 
 

Tenkara Rod Co review – the novice’s perspective

Back in April, our store manager Chris mentioned to me that we should head to a nearby river for a couple of hours after work one day for a Tenkara Rod Co review.

Fast forward three months, and the trip had taken on a life of its own.  Instead of the local river, we decided to go to the world-renowned one about an hour away (the South Fork of the Snake). Instead of casting from the banks, we got our hands on a motor boat. Instead of drinking beer, we brought gin and tonics. And, instead of just Chris and me, we invited the whole team. (It’s a bit beside the point that the entirety of our team is three people, so we really only invited one extra person, Brooks.)

Chris, Brooks and I were pretty much the perfect archetypes. Chris is a seasoned fly fisherman who has been guiding for decades. Brooks grew up fly fishing occasionally and can hold his own. Me … I’d never been fishing a day in my life, what alone fly fishing. (Unless you count my days of dip netting while an Alaska resident).

As we headed for the water, I’ll admit I was a bit nervous. As a team, we have a great dynamic, where everyone gets a voice and everyone gets challenged. Still, as the CEO, I generally run meetings and take the helm of the ship.

This situation completely flipped that on its head. I had to rely on Chris and Brooks for everything … getting the boat in the water, tying knots, choosing flies, finding fish and learning how to cast. When my line got tangled (as it did several times), Chris had to bail me out (after ribbing me a little about “knitting a sweater.”)

I hear that we chose a particularly difficult time of day to fish. I don’t really have anything to compare it to, other than the fact I saw Chris sweating a little bit to land his trout.

For the first few hours we all got skunked. Then we finally found a spot where the fish seemed to be biting, if only occasionally.

I was off by myself, trying to remember not to break my wrist when casting, and all the sudden there was a tug on my line. (I haven’t even told Chris and Brooks yet that I was just lifting my line out of the water to recast; I had no idea there was actually a fish mouthing my fly).

Chaos erupted. The fish started swimming toward the current. Chris was yelling at me to walk toward them (ie toward the slower water). Seconds later, I was officially “tenkarad.” The fish was free and I was stunned. Apparently, one of the disadvantages of Tenkara is that you can’t let the line run when a fish takes off.

Chris also got “tenkarad” so I don’t feel too bad. He also had a little metal “o” thing at the end of his line break on him while trying to land a fish. I’ve never seen anyone go from a Zen meditative state to spewing cuss words so fast.

While Chris and Brooks both got a fish or two, I never did. And, that’s OK. I still had a ton of fun and would love to give it another whirl. We were out there until 10 pm, so we definitely weren’t having a bad time, fish or no fish.

And, I will say, that even though Tenkara has its challenges, it does seem to be great for beginners. It makes the whole process of fly fishing much simpler and more approachable. And, while my cast is still a complete disaster, using a Tenkara rod was a great way to start practicing.

I also really loved the Tenkara style of getting out of our boat and sneaking up on fish. I especially loved watching Chris do this. He’s got a sixth sense for how to move with the river.

Amy Hatch, Garage Grown Gear founder and CEO

Gear reviewsTenkara rod co.

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