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Tenkara Guide

How to tie a knot for tenkara rod

Tenkara Quick Start Guide

WETFLY Tenkara Set Up


1. The lilian is the string at then end of the rod tip. The first knot that you will tie in the setup of your rod is called the lilian knot. It’s a simple overhand knot tied near the end of the string.

WETFLY Tenkara Lilian Knot

2. A girth hitch can be used to attach your Duraleader to the lilian knot. Double the Duraleader loop over and pass the base of the lilian sting through the end of the loop and cinch to tighten. Keep tip retracted to protect while attaching line. 

WETFLY Duraleader to Lilian Knot

3. Attach tippet to the clear loop end of the Duraleader with an improved clinch knot.  Repeat same knot to your fly hook shank. 

WETFLY clinch knot to fly

4. Extend your WETFLY Tenkara rod by carefully extending the tip first.then while holding cork handle firmly in one hand, extend other segments away from you. Be sure to have at least 15ft of clear space.

WETFLY Extend Tankara Rod

5. Collapsing your WETFLY Tenkara rod starting with first segment (closest to cork handle) one by one carefully finishing with the tip last.

WETFLY Collapse Tenkara Rod



About Tenkara Fishing:

Tenkara rods can are excellent for the smallest brush riddled brook trout streams yet versatile enough to fish larger bodies of water like your local pond or lake. Fish feed consistently on or below the surface within 5 to 30 feet of you. 

With a heritage reaching back hundreds of years, the Tenkara method of fishing originated through simplicity and a focus on catching fish with only the necessary components – rod, line, and fly. The telescopic nature of these fly rods and the omission of a reel allow the entire package to collapse into a small tube. There is no reel and the art of Tenkara fishing relies on the angler connecting to the fish while providing lifelike action to the fly. Once fished, Tenkara is found to be easier, simpler, more effective, affordable, and reduces the angler’s gear to what could be stored in a medicine bottle. 

This guide will cover the following areas to get you started with your new WETFLY Tenkara Series rod:

  • About the different Tenkara Gear that is used
  • Different types of casts that you can use while Tenkara fishing
  • What knots are important and where to use them
  • About the different flies and when and where to use them
  • Different methods of Tenkara fishing
  • References that will help you throughout your enjoyment of Tenkara fishing 

The Tenkara Rod

The Tenkara rod is a fishing rod in its simplest form. Essentially, the rod acts as a tool used to manipulate a line with a fly toward feeding fish. Hundreds of years ago, this rod may have been a long branch or bamboo cane. Today, your WETFLY Tenkara rod is an advanced, nano-carbon, collapsible rod that weighs mere ounces. Because it is collapsible, you can carry it your backpack or even a laptop case. 

Extending your WETFLY Tenkara Rod

Start by holding the rod with the cork handle down, and remove the wooden stopper that is fitted to the end of the base section. Once you remove this stopper, you should see the lilian string inside which is attached to the last section of the rod. Gently pull this cord and the last section will come out with it. Hold your fingers over the opening of the base section and continue to pull out each successive section until the rod is fully extended. Be sure to watch out for things like ceiling fans and tree branches while extending your rod.

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Collapsing your WETFLY Tenkara Rod

When you collapse your WETFLY Tenkara Rod, you will want to do the reverse of what you did when you extended it. Start by holding onto the cork handle of the rod. Grab the next section up, and begin to gently push the sections in one-by-one until the rod is fully collapsed. You will want to be sure to collapse the sections in order from thickest to thinnest as you move toward the tip. If any section seems to be stuck or has trouble collapsing, be patient. A gentle tapping, back-and-forth motion should release the sections and allow them to retract into each other. Once you have all of the sections back into the handle portion, insert the wooden stopper back into place to keep sections from sliding out unintentionally. Always store your rod in the protective cloth sock and aluminum rod tube provided when you are not fishing. 

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The action of a Tenkara rod refers to the stiffness or flexibility of the sections. The WETFLY Tenkara Series rods are a 6:4 Action. This means that the base 6 sections are stiffer than the tip 4 sections, hence 6:4 Action. More delicate Tenkara rods lay in a 6:4 or even a 5:5 action range, whereas heavier rods with more lifting power might have a7:3 or 8:2 action. A 6:3 action is perfect for use in small streams, ponds, and when you are working with a shorter Tenkara rod. 


The lilian is the small string that is attached to the last (tip) section of your WETFLY Tenkara rod. At the end of the lilian is a small knot that keeps your Tenkara line from sliding off the lilian. All of your Tenkara lines will attach directly to this lilian string with a hitch connection that we cover in the “knots” section of this guide. 

Replacing Sections

If one or more of the sections of your WETFLY Tenkara rod happen to break or become damaged, don’t worry! They can easily be replaced. You may have noticed a cap on the base of the handle. Once this cap is unscrewed, you can access the sections. Here you will be able to pull out the broken or damaged section(s) and simply slide in replacements. Replacement sections can be ordered directly from WETFLY (see references at the end of this guide for ordering details). 

Tenkara Lines

Tenkara lines vary greatly and there really isn’t one way that needs to be fished. The conditions of the water you are fishing will always present various opportunities to use different styles of Tenkara fishing and different types of Tenkara lines. 

Floating Tenkara Lines

Floating Tenkara lines might be made of horsehair (traditional), furled and tapered monofilament, or other synthetic materials such as the WETFLY DuraLeader (included). These floating Tenkara lines are used for a gentle presentation of a fly toward feeding fish. These lines are especially effective when casting a dry fly with your WETFLY Tenkara rod. Additionally, there is no harm in using a floating line to attach small streamers or soft-hackle flies—it all depends on how fast you want your fly to sink and how deep you want to fish. 

Level Line

A Level Line that is a non-tapered, fluorocarbon line. In order to fish with a level line, you will attach a selected length directly to the lilian and then attach one or more flies to the level line. The length of line typically used will be equal to 1 to 2 times the length of the rod. Therefore, you could use up to about 15 feet of level line to create your fishing setup with the  Tenkara rod. Because the level line is fluorocarbon, it is more invisible to fish and denser than water (sinks faster). This allows you to fish weighted nymphs that reach the feeding depth faster and more efficiently. Many times, a level line is used in a Czech nymphing style of fishing where you use 3 weighted nymphs about 12-20 inches apart with the heaviest fly in the middle. 


The tippet that is provided with your  Tenkara Series package is used to attach the fly to your Tenkara line. Tippet is measured with an “X”, whereas the higher the X-coefficient, the lighter the tippet. In order to protect your WETFLY  Tenkara rod, you’ll want to avoid heavy tippets that are 3X or larger. Typically, a 5X or 6X tippet is perfect for most situations where you’ll be Tenkara fishing, but sometimes a wary fish or ultra-clear and slow water will require lighter line.

Making your own Tenkara Lines

Once an angler becomes comfortable with Tenkara fishing, it is quite common for them to begin making their own Tenkara lines either as a hobby or as a way to dial in a line for specific circumstances. Traditionalists have reached back to centuries-old methods of twisting horsehair to make their own leaders. You can also take the front section (15-20 feet) of a discarded 3-6wt fly line and make a leader that will be customized to your liking. Experimentation with different level lines and poly leaders will bring you to a point where you are targeting your fish with the perfect presentations in any fishing situation. 

Tenkara Flies

Tenkara flies are just like flies used for any style of fly fishing, but there are a few that trace their roots back to the traditional Japanese style of Tenkara fishing (Kebari flies). Simple soft-hackle wet flies, small streamers, and popular dry flies are all effective flies for use with Tenkara fishing. 

Traditional Tenkara Flies

The Kebari flies that are used in Tenkara fishing are tied slightly different than the soft hackle flies that you may be used to. Kebari is a Japanese word that translates to “fishing fly” and they are traditionally tied with the hackle feathers pointed toward the eye of the hook. This allows the fly to be manipulated in the water so that these hackle fibers pulsate to mimic lifelike movement.

Nymphs and Wet Flies

Nymphs and wet flies mimic a variety of underwater life such as nymphal, larval, and pupal stages of insects as well as scuds, leeches and other swimming or drifting food. The majority of a trout’s diet is found beneath the water’s surface and that makes these flies especially effective throughout the year and times of the day. A favorite Tenkara fly is a simple soft hackle pattern that can mimic a number of underwater species. 

Dry Flies

Dry flies are those flies that float on the surface of the water and solicit a surface strike from fish. Fishing dry flies offers the excitement of watching a fish take your fly after it has been properly presented within the feeding zone. Many of your typical patterns such as the Griffith’s Gnat, Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, and small grasshopper patterns are very successful when used with your WETFLY Tenkara rod. 


Streamer flies typically imitate swimming baitfish or leeches. These flies are drifted in front of fish and then tugged along underwater to imitate small baitfish, crustaceans, or leeches. Strikes on streamers are typically strong and positive and offer a fun and exciting way of fishing. Small Wooly Buggers, Muddler Minnows, and similar patterns provide a fun way to change up your Tenkara fishing and target additional species.  

Casting a Tenkara Rod

Casting a Tenkara rod is a very simple process involving just a single hand. There are several different types of casts that an angler can use. Depending on the style of water that you are fishing, you may find that a certain cast is better suited to present your fly to feeding fish. 

Traditional Cast

The traditional cast is similar to casting a fly rod with a reel, just easier. With the line in front of you, simply bring the rod back to about a thirty degree angle and stop to allow the line to straighten out behind you. At that point, bring the rod forward to about a fifteen to twenty degree angle and allow the fly to gently drop to the water. As the fly drops, you can lower the rod to level or just above level, thereby altering the distance to your target. During this cast, it is important to have a firm wrist. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that you stop your back cast and your forward cast firmly with a stop and a start. When starting out, it is helpful to watch the line as it travels through the air. If your line is making a circle shape, you are likely drifting the rod too far back and too far forward. Narrow down your casting movement and you will notice that circle narrowing down to a tighter oval. The tighter the oval (loop), the more accurate your cast will become. 

Bow and Arrow Cast

The bow and arrow cast is used when in tight quarters. When overhanging brush or steep banks make it difficult to cast over you or behind you, the Tenkara rod is very well suited to use the bow and arrow cast. Grab your fly by the bend in the hook and pull back slowly to load the rod as you would a bow. Aim your rod at your target and release when you think you have enough energy stored in the rod. Be sure to practice this cast a few times before aiming at feeding fish so that you know how much energy you’ll need to build. In addition, you’ll want to be careful in how you hold the fly so that the fly releases safely when you let go. 

Tenkara Bow and Arrow Cast

Water Load Cast

The water load cast uses the tension of your Tenkara line on the water to load the Tenkara rod. When fishing a stretch of water in a stream, you will likely be casting upstream and then allowing your fly to pass through the stretch of water and then downstream of you. At this time, point your rod downstream toward your fly. Then slowly lift the rod just to the point when your fly is about to leave the water and cast your fly upstream ahead of the fish you are targeting. This style of cast will allow you to cover a stretch of water many times over until you take a few steps upstream and cast to the fish ahead of where you just fished. 


In Tenkara fishing, there are only a few knots that you’ll need to know, and luckily for the Tenkara angler, they are some of the simplest. In the reference section of this guide, we’ve provided a link to a video covering these knots. 

Lilian Knot

The first knot that you will tie in the setup of your rod is called the Lilian Knot. This knot should already be tied in your lilian, but you may want to take it out or tie it again some day. The lilian knot is a simple overhand knot tied about a quarter inch from the end of the lilian. If you prefer to have a bigger knot here, just pass the lilian string through the overhand knot twice instead of once.

Lilian Knot

Perfection Loop

The perfection loop creates a loop in your line for use with a loop-to-loop connection. This knot is used to connect two lines together and offers a straight, non-slip loop without a lot of bulk. 

Tenkara Perfection Loop

Double/Triple Surgeon’s Knot

The surgeon’s knot is used to connect two pieces of leader or tippet together when you are dealing with smaller diameter monofilament or flourocarbon line. Lay the lines next to each other with about a two to four inch overlap on the ends you are connecting. Make an overhand knot while keeping the lines together. Then pass the ends through the overhand knot again to make a double surgeon’s knot. To make the triple surgeon’s knot (stronger, but bulkier), pass the ends through the overhand knot a third time. Hold both pieces of line and tighten the knot and then trim tags. 

Tenkara Double/Triple Surgeon's Knot

Improved Clinch Knot

The clinch knot is used to attach a fly to the end of the tippet. Run the tippet through the eye of the hook and leave about two to three inches of tippet extended out of the eye of the hook. Twist that tag around the main stem of the tippet five to six times and then run the tag through the hole of the tippet created at the base of the twist. Now pull the tag through the loop that extends from either side of the twisted line. Pull on the main stem of the tippet while holding the tag and the knot should secure at the eye of the hook. Trim any tag that sticks out. 

Improved Clinch Knot

Non-Slip Mono Loop

The non-slip mono loop knot is used to attach a fly to the tippet where the eye of the hook rests within a small loop. This loop knot allows the fly to move more freely in the water and mimic a more lifelike appearance. Start by placing an overhand knot about three to four inches above the end of the tippet. Tighten this loop to about a quarter inch in diameter. Pass the end of the tippet through the fly and run the end of the tippet through the hole in the overhand knot being careful that the tippet enters the hole on the same side as it exited. Twist the tag end around the main stem of the tippet four to five times and then bring it back through the hole of the overhand knot, again through the side that it last exited. Hold the tag and pull on the main stem of the tippet to secure the knot. Trim the tag near the knot. The loop should be about a quarter inch in length. 

Non-slip Mono Loop

Loop-to-Loop Connection

The loop-to-loop connection securely connects two loops. Start by passing one loop through the other. Then pull the end of the line connected to the loop that was passed through the other and run it through its own loop. Pull that line all the way through until the loops secure over each other while making sure neither loop is doubled back over itself. 

Loop to Loop Connection

Girth Hitch 

The girth hitch is used to attach your Tenkara line to the lilian string. At the base of a Tenkara line should be a loop. Double the loop over and pass the base of the Tenkara line through the end of the loop. Run the lilian string through the hole created in the Tenkara line loop and snug the hitch connection. Be very careful to keep the tip of the Tenkara rod fully retracted into the base section of the Tenkara rod handle when applying pressure to this hitch to avoid damaging or breaking the tip of your rod. 

Girth Hitch

How to Fish

Tenkara fishing is a pursuit of simplicity. Unlike traditional fly fishing, there is no reel involved and the length of the line does not change while you are fishing. The most important thing to remember in Tenkara fishing is to not “overthink” what you are doing. Just remember, there is a rod, a line, and a fly...and that’s all. 

Fishing from a Floating Object

Many of the iconic images that you will see of Tenkara fishing show the angler fishing from land or wading in a stream. Many times, there are opportunities to fish from a canoe, a float tube, or even a stand up paddle board. This allows the angler to cover a much greater area and fish that area from just about any angle. Be creative when you are in search of fish and always pack your Tenkara rod when you are headed to areas with fishable waters. 

River Wading

When wading in a river, you will usually work upstream and cast toward fish that are upstream or across the current from you. Most fish in running water will have its head pointed upstream waiting for food to pass by in the current. By casting upstream, you avoid being seen by the fish and can present your fly in front of them. Watch for fish to see if they are feeding on the surface or flashing back and forth feeding on food that is floating by within the water column. Also be aware of insects that are flying around you, on the banks, or in the grasses. Try to use a fly that imitates what is available to the fish at the time that you are fishing. When targeting fish that are feeding below the surface, pick up a few rocks from the river bed and notice which insects are crawling on the underside of the rock.

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