Tenkara vs. Cane Pole Fishing

Tenkara vs. Cane Pole Fishing

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Rod:  Long telescopic rod with tapers specifically designed to cast a light line without weight

Line:  Level fluorocarbon or tapered furled nylon monofilament, thread, fluorocarbon, or horsehair.

Terminal Tackle:  None

Lure:  Artificial fly

Delivery:  Overhand cast, bow & arrow cast, roll cast, side arm cast, steeple cast, etc. (Same casts as in fly fishing)

Presentation:  Dead drift, wet fly swing, pause & drift, pulsating, etc. (Same as in fly fishing)

Approach:  Read water, and strategically position oneself for the best presentation.  Keep moving and seek out fish in different lies

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Cane Pole Fishing


Rod: Long rod (either telescopic or jointed cane) designed to lob weight (or not designed at all in the case of actual cane)

Line: Usually nylon monofilament

Terminal Tackle: Hook, weights, bobber

Lure: Natural or synthetic bait

Delivery: Lob or flip bait into water and let it sink

Presentation:  Let live bait swim or let dead bait sit. Watch bobber for signs of a strike. Adjust depth of bait if necessary.

Approach: Typically stationary: sit & wait for fish to take bait.


Tenkara is not cane pole fishing!

Author: Jason Klass

Jason is an avid fly angler and backpacker. As a former fly fishing guide originally from Western New York, he moved to Colorado and became an early adopter of tenkara which perfectly suited the small, high altitude streams and lakes there. He has not fished a Western-style fly rod for trout since.

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  1. oh… I like this 😀

  2. Each of the types of fishing needs its own hardware.. But I liked your: “Tenkara is not cane pole fishing!” :)

  3. Personally, for those those especially obstinate people who refuse to get the difference I propose a different method of instruction. I would wack them upside their head with a tenkara and then a cane poll and ask them if they felt a difference. I find that generally the people who continue to call it cane pole fishing are the people who will ALWAYS call it cane pole fishing no matter what you say to them.

  4. I’m ready to embrace the cane pole fishin’ idea. The question I have is this – if they insist on calling it cane pole fishin’ and it works really well – then doesn’t that mean that all of their gear can be replaced with a cane pole? Who’s the sucker? You know what I mean?

  5. Hi Chirs,
    True. But it’s no to convince them that I posted this. It’s to allow those who are more open minded to do their own research and come to their own conclusion without only hearing one side of the story.

  6. Jason…Fair enough. I guess my statement is more geared towards the frustration I sometimes feel when the person I’m dealing with is a devotee of western fly fishing who is probably trying to get under my skin and is not necessarily open-minded. For the record…I try to explain the difference in a civilized manner before having to fight the urge to whip someone with a cane pole.

  7. Chris, LOL. I’ve had the same feeling, but then I catch myself and realize I’m crazy. A tenkara rod tube would work much better.

  8. But what if I were to use a Tenkara rod tube filled with concrete?

  9. Touche.

  10. People who are enamored of the technology in their hand and their skill in using that are those who necessarily seek to denigrate other forms of fishing. Honestly, I don’t think they get the spirit of what fishing is. The sport is a continuum of styles and mediums not just in the now but throughout time. Even here, to state that tenkara uses, for instance, “telescopic rod with tapers specifically designed to cast a light line without weight,” denies the past when for a humble Japanese fisherman, tenkara meant substantially different technology than in use today. Technology if employed today some might deny is tenkara.

    If I cut a 12 foot willow switch, tied a line to it and affixed a fly, would it be anything substantially different than tenkara? Would I be denied the right to fish a Colorado fly-fishing-only water? A degree of pride is fine and it’s what gives us that satisfaction for any job well done, including our fishing endeavors. But when it comes to denying either the efficacy or enjoyment of another in the continuum that is sportfishing, that pride holds no place of importance let alone meaning.

  11. Hi Lynn,
    I see what you’re saying but I think I’m pointing out differences here that are beyond just technology. I also site technique, presentation, approach, the lure, etc. Admittedly, there is nothing “traditional” about using carbon rods and fluorocarbon lines but there are so many fundamental differences between cane pole fishing and tenkara that to equate the two is just plain illogical. And for me, it’s not a matter of pride. It’s a matter of clarity.

  12. tenkara is tenkara,cane pole is cane pole,you’re right and
    we who read your blog know that.
    people who call CPF for tenkara don’t know about tenkara
    and also about CPF,and they might not try or try to know
    tenkara ever.
    they just enjoy make you sick and it succeeded.

    I wish your sick is cured.
    and if you know about Jps bate fishing method(for the river),
    you may be not so irritated.it’s not play of the children.

    fishing is for enjoying. peace.

  13. Pesca mosca Valsesiana (the Italian fishing style so similar to tenkara that one could argue they are essentially the same) is cane pole horsehair line reverse hackled fly fishing at its finest. http://www.moscavalsesiana.it/

    I would argue that it’s the technique, not the equipment that should be the differentiation between fishing styles.

  14. Yo también creía que era sólo la técnica,pero después de usar -por necesidad-primeramente la caña de pescar,y luego cuando fué posible una caña diseñada para Tenkara,la diferencia fué notable.Gran post.Muchas gracias.

  15. Ah! Since the late 70’s, I have used cheap cane poles with a fly at the end of 8 ft of monofilament with which very young children can catch sunfish. They just drag the fly back and forth thru the water. Works great for the active young ones.

  16. Tenkara Mafia

    “But what if I were to use a Tenkara rod tube filled with concrete?”

  17. TJ, that’s a great idea for a reality tv show. I’m calling Discovery channel right now!

  18. Hey Chris,
    Not to make it political, but there are people who voted for Obama not once, but twice!
    So much for getting some people to really think about what is & really what is!
    Bob T.

  19. Hi Chris,
    I mostly agree but you can’t discount gear entirely as technique is usually what drives gear selection. There’s some leeway but certain techniques demand specific gear to be effective.

  20. Gerardo,
    Sí, yo también creo que la caña correcta es mejor.

  21. Thanks that needed to be said.

  22. I thought this was a traditional way of fishing , bamboo was the rod of choice 200 years ago because it was available. now it takes 100 bucks to do the same thing. Am I missing something ? I kinda like the idea of simple, Its not the cost of the pole its the magic that’s in it ! 47% of the people agree

  23. Want to save some money and “Tenkara” fish? Go to Bass Pro and buy a telescoping graphite “cane pole”. Tie on a 15ft 5x tapered mono(or flouro) leader. Attach fly. You just saved yourself $250!!!! Tenkara is another flyfishing fad. Nothing more.

  24. want to save even more money and “fly” fish? go to walmart and buy an ultalight uglystik. throw on a casting bobber. attach a fly. you just saved yourself $1000!!!! flyfishing is another fishing fad. nothing more.

  25. To Charles Allen: Whether tenkara is a “fad” or not, I have no idea. Since reel-less fishing has been with us for many hundreds of years (thousands?), and tenkara specifically for at least 2 hundred years in its country of origin, I hardly think it’s simply a fad.

    But even if it were a fad, I’d continue to fish my local creeks with tenkara. As a flyfisher for over 2 decades, and a tenkara-fisher for less than 2 WEEKS, I can say that the performance and ease of use of my tenkara rig on my local water is far superior to that of the many flyfishing outfits I own. On the waters I frequent, tenkara is simply SUPERIOR to my “traditional” Western fly rigs. I can (and will) someday blog about my impressions of the relative advantages (and disadvantages) of tenkara for my “brand” of fishing. But until then, I’ll continue to catch more fish in more places with my tenkara rig than I ever could with my Western outfits; Oh, and for far less money, mind you! Those are simply facts.

  26. Hey Mike, yep tenkara is a 500-year-old fad. It will die out just like rock n’ roll. LOL.

  27. I have a Shakesphere “Wonderod”, 13′ long 4 sections. Could I attach a line to the end and pretend it’s a Tenkara rod? Most definately. Would I want to cast that behmoth for more than a few minutes? I think not! Can you say repetative motion injury – that sucker is heavy! Give me my Iwana any day.

  28. Hi Joseph,

    I haven’t tried that Shakesepeare rod in particular but I have tried similar ones. The fact is, those telescopic rods aren’t designed to cast the light lines used in tenkara–they’re designed to cast weight. If you cast one of those next to a tenkara rod, you’ll notice a big difference. The argument to use cheap, telescopic crappie poles comes up over and over again and it always centers around price rather than performance. Personally, I don’t think $100 (as mentioned in the article) is a lot to spend on a rod, especially considering many premium fly rods these days go for $700 – $800 (not to mention adding the cost of the reel and line).

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