I recently asked the American-Tenkara Anglers “what’s your your favorite tenkara brand?”
These tenkara enthusiasts nominated fifteen different tenkara brands and here were the results in order of popularity. Hopefully this helps you make a more informed decision when purchasing your first or tenth tenkara rod, line, or accessory.
We include an “about” with each of these brands, most provided by the brands themselves.
The Tenryu … are tenkara rods made in Japan by a small company that is not yet well known in the US. They are not the world’s least expensive tenkara rods. They may be the very best. – Tenkara Bum
Small scale fly rod manufacturing operations are on the brink of extinction. The modern era fly fishing market is dominated by mass produced, imported, cost driven fly rods. The simple truth is, there are precious few of the little rod shops left. But all hope is not lost, there are still a few places where meticulous detail and old school manufacturing processes still exist, and a few of these shops are still on American soil. Riverworks is one of these special places where fly rods are handcrafted one at time to perfection. We build fly rods for specialty applications and hardcore fly fishers who demand the finest materials, flawless workmanship, and individual attention that has been lost in the modern fly fishing industry. If you want to do business with a company where you can have a conversation with the person who builds your fly rod from start to finish, you have landed in the right place. Welcome to Riverworks- a little fly rod shop dedicated to satisfying your fly fishing addiction. – Jeff Lomino- Founder/Fabricator/Lead Designer
13. Streamside Furled Leaders
We have the largest selection of Western leaders, Tenkara Lines and Tippet Rings on The Internet. – Streamside Furled Leaders*
BYO tenkara kits and other custom options!
11. Badger Tenkara
Our core mission for Badger since our founding in 2014 has been to support the growth of fishing with Tenkara style rods, and to promote a positive and inclusive fishing experience. We believe that a long-term, sustainable interest in Tenkara fishing is best created in the US by making sure that Tenkara is “accessible” to anyone who with interest.
We encourage anglers who fish high gradient mountain streams using to apply traditional Japanese techniques if they choose. We encourage anglers who fish on other types of water to fish techniques that suit their environments best. What is important to us is that you experience Tenkara style fishing equipment, and most importantly, that you have fun! – Matt @ Badger Tenkara
Suntech Tenkara Rods are unique. They were designed for both the Japanese domestic market and for the US market. The Suntech TenkaraBum 36 is the first tenkara rod designed by an American tenkara angler in collaboration with a Japanese rod company.
Suntech is a small Japanese company for whom quality is paramount. In Japan they are known primarily for their Ayu rods, which can be over 30 feet long and cost over $2000, and for their excellent Keiryu rods. In the US, where there are no Ayu, they probably are are best known for their almost unbelievably light and sensitive Kurenai HM30R seiryu rod.
9. Daiwa Tenkara
The top of the line Daiwa Tenkara Rods are called “Expert.” Whether you are an expert or a beginner, you will appreciate the quality. Dr. Ishigaki, the Japanese tenkara master best known in the west, once told me that Daiwa and Shimano make the best tenkara rods. He helped to design the Shimano rods. That he considers the Daiwa rods to be in the same plane is a testament to their quality. – Finesse Fishing
8. Tenkara Bum
I didn’t want to be a Tenkara Bum when I grew up. It just happened. I love tenkara. It’s not that it is a traditional Japanese art, I am not drawn to the exotic. I am, however, drawn to the effective and the efficient. I love the light rod, unencumbered by a reel; the light line, uncaptured by a conflicting current. I love the direct connection you can only get if the fish can’t take line.
I grew up in Colorado and learned to fly fish on the St. Vrain River. This was long before it became nationally known. Back then, I’m sure people two counties over never fished it and people two states over never heard of it. It’s a small stream, or three actually, the North, the Middle and the South St. Vrain. They are great streams for a tenkara rod but I moved away long before I had become a tenkara bum.
Now I live in New York City. I fish the streams that run between the New York City Reservoirs just north of the city, as well as some streams in Connecticut and New Jersey. For years I took the subway and commuter trains to go fishing but I mostly rent cars now.
I learned about tenkara by accident. I had seen a photo of a North Country soft hackle fly on the internet and was struck by it’s simplicity and it’s almost austere beauty. I tried to find out all I could about soft hackle flies and how to fish them. Through reading both early and contemporary accounts, I decided that a rod much longer than my 8′ Phillipson Premium was needed to get the most out of them.
I couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on a new rod, new reel and new line, so I started looking for alternatives. I found David Webster’s book, The Angler and the Loop Rod. He used a long rod, no reel and a horsehair line tied to the rod tip even though reels and silk line had already been in general use for decades. As a professional fisherman, he had to use what worked. If a long rod and no reel worked for him, I thought it would work for me.
In the course of my research on loop rods and the horsehair lines that were used with them, I came across a reference to tenkara. Tenkara rods are similar to loop rods and traditionally they used horsehair lines. Virtually no one fishes with loop rods anymore, but tenkara is still popular in Japan. The information is current and the equipment is modern.
At that point and for quite some time thereafter, no one sold tenkara rods in the US, and I had no idea how to import one from Japan. I spent the better part of 2007 trying different crappie rods, which I figured were as close as I could come to a real tenkara rod. When I tell people not to use a crappie rod because a real tenkara rod is so much better, I speak from experience. I got my first tenkara rod in early 2008.
Finding information about tenkara was hard. Most of it was in Japanese, and the computerized translation just isn’t very good. My goal for the TenkaraBum site is to provide the kind of information that I wish had been available when I was just starting out.
I’m afraid my tone at times may come off a bit like “I did this and I did that” but I’m just trying to share my experiences with various techniques (not all of which have come from Japan), with various tenkara lines (not all of which were not made for tenkara), and rods I have found work quite well (not all of which had the word “tenkara” stenciled on them at the factory).
I have been to Japan. I have fished with and learned from Dr. Hisao Ishigaki and Meijin Masami Sakakibara, the “Tenkara King” and “Tenkara Demon.” Their flies are different, their rods are different and their methods are different.
I have also been intimately involved in spreading tenkara in the US. I am the one who told Daniel Galhardo that Dr. Ishigaki was coming to America and suggested he might want to meet him. I am also the one who persuaded him to carry level lines. For years now I have been actively involved in explaining and promoting tenkara on a number of internet forums, and will continue to participate on those that welcome free and open discussion.
7. Three Rivers Tenkara
In October of 2009 I fished with my first tenkara rod. Like many of us back then I bought a tenkara rod as a sort of novelty – I figured it would find a niche place among my western rods, to be taken out only here and there for a change of pace. I didn’t plan on tenkara taking over completely. It did.
Why “Three Rivers Tenkara” ? : I’m from Pittsburgh and the term “Three Rivers” is practically synonymous with this city where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers come together to form the Ohio. Pittsburgh sits at a great confluence of three rivers.
Now in America we are also at a confluence – a confluence of two great fly fishing traditions. And when these two come together it is inevitable that something new is formed – whether a new thing in actuality or only new attitudes and thoughts. My fishing past and my love of tenkara have come together and I’m being carried along in that new river. I have the greatest appreciation and respect for the history and tradition of tenkara in Japan. But I can’t help to change things a bit, even if I don’t intend it – my tenkara will necessarily be something different.
I don’t pretend to be a master of Japanese tenkara, modern or traditional, but I choose to honor those traditions by picking up a tenkara rod and heading to the stream in the spirit of brotherhood with the original Japanese anglers and all of the new ones across the globe. Three more rivers – the river of tenkara’s birthplace, the river I’m fishing and the river you’re fishing wherever you are.
Heraclitus said something like “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” To me that quote always brings to mind Three Rivers – the river I’m fishing now, the river I remember fondly from yesterday, and the river I anticipate fishing tomorrow.
My sincere hope is that by offering the excellent Tenkara Times, Oni rods and Tenkara Tanuki rods, I can help folks to set off happily on their own tenkara adventure. Who knows what it will be like? But I hope it will be unique and it will be your own – but mostly I hope it will be fun. Grab a tenkara rod and a box of flies and get started creating your own new Three Rivers. – Anthony Naples
6. Nissin Tenkara
Another Japanese company that is very popular in the United States. Their rods can be purchased online through numerous tenkara rod dealers, including Tenkara Bum.
5. Oni Tenkara Rods
Masami Sakakibara began fishing tenkara more than 35 years ago and is considered by anglers in Japan to be a Master of the technique. His single-minded intensity and passion for tenkara earned him the nickname Tenkara-no-Oni or The Tenkara Demon. Tenkara-no-Oni has used his decades of experience to design his Oni Tenkara Rods. At the urging of others, Masami has created website in order to share his tenkara experience and to preserve it for others. Go to Masami Sakakibara’s World of Tenkara to learn from the master. – Three Rivers Tenkara
4. Tenkara Rod Company
We love the outdoors as well as the simplicity and beauty nature has to offer. Fishing gives people a chance to get out and and enjoy this beauty. The complexity and expense of fly fishing can be daunting to someone who just wants to throw a line and catch some fish. Tenkara gives people this opportunity. With a rod, a line, and a fly, you can go to a river, lake, or stream and catch some fish. That’s what made us fall in love with Tenkara.
We are based out of Idaho and are proud of our location and surroundings. Within 1 hour of our headquarters we have some of the world’s best trout rivers and streams (but don’t tell anybody that). Idaho’s geography has inspired this hobby as well as the design and functionality of our rods. You don’t have to live somewhere like Idaho to enjoy Tenkara. You just need to be able to find some water to throw your line in! – Tenkara Rod Company
3. Tenkara Tanuki
Tanuki rods are crafted with utmost care. They are crafted in a fine factory in China. My choice of factory was based on two factors. The factory believes in skill and craftsmanship of the workers instead of machine operations. It also got an excellent track record on top quality hand crafted carp rods. Factory’s engineers are also happy assisting me in various technical aspects.
The engineers and managers of this factory were trained by two Japanese rod making masters about ten years ago: one is responsible for machine setup, operations and training workers, and the other one, who is a retired engineer and rod designer from Shimano, is responsible of general design and quality control. He trains engineers to design rods, check the production quality control process and make decisions on the materials. Both are professionals in their own fields and are extremely detail orientated to obsession like many Japanese masters. – Tenkara Tanuki
2. Tenkara USA
Tenkara USA is the first company to introduce tenkara outside of Japan. Founded in 2009 by Daniel W. Galhardo, Tenkara USA is a fully independent company, based in Boulder, Colorado. – Tenkara USA
1. DRAGONtail Tenkara
“Providing affordable quality in Tenkara gear” is our slogan and we do everything we can to live up to that slogan. We are a one-stop shop for everything you need for Tenkara from Tenkara rods, Tenkara lines, kebari flies, hooks & fly tying materials, to Tenkara accessories. – DRAGONtail Tenkara