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New at PressCamp this year was an Outdoor segment, with brands in the hiking, running, camping and related spaces showing off their goods. Several, like Tenkara USA, made products that fit nicely within the cycling world, and we’ll be featuring those over the next week along with a roundup of other cool new products and tech that sit alongside our bikes.

Tenkara is the traditional Japanese method of fly fishing, using only a pole, line and fly to cast for and catch fish. There’s no reel, and if you exclude the fact that the rod is carbon fiber, no tech. Tenkara USA is about simplicity and minimalism. It’s about using a long rod and a light line. Their rods are light, simple to use, and they fit in a Camelbak…

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Tenkara USA was founded by Daniel Galhardo in 2009. After visiting Japan, he thought he could bring the fishing philosophy to the United States -and escape the tedium of a soul crushing corporate job – so he started the brand and has been growing ever since.

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What sets their poles apart is the telescoping carbon shaft. Five sizes are offered, ranging in total length from 8’10” (270cm) to 14’7″ (450cm). Three of those have multiple stops to let you adjust the length of the rod to your skill level or the landscape.

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The rods collapse and use an end plug to keep themselves contained, and the plug presses into the handle’s end when open (right). Unscrew the bottom of the handle to remove all of the telescoping pieces for periodic cleaning or to replace a broken segment. Speaking of which, they offer a lifetime warranty on the rod for any reason, even if your kid steps on it. Simply slide the broken sections out and they’ll send you a replacement for $17 shipping. Or, if its one of the top three segments, just buy the replacement kit with those sections (which are the most commonly broken segments) for $17, shipping included.

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They use a simple line attachment method – the main line uses a “Girth Hitch” knot to secure itself onto the “Lillian”, a soft braided thread at the tip.

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Their models, lengths and prices are as follows. All are collapsible, the “fixed” length ones simply expand to a single length without intermediate stops:

  • Sato – 10’8″ / 11’10” / 12’9″ adjustable length – $215
  • Rhodo – 8’10” / 9’9″ / 10’6″ adjustable length – $215
  • Iwana – 12′ fixed length – $157
  • Amago – 13’6″ fixed length – $169
  • Ito – 13′ / 14’7″ adjustable length – $235

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Keeping with the minimalist theme, very few accessories are offered. The key ones are flies ($7.50, as well as a fly tying kit so you can make your own); The Keeper ($12, shown above), which holds a few flies and contains two wound lines with tippets so you can bring a couple lengths along; and two types of line (tapered and level).

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With the growing interest in backroads and adventure riding, Tenkara’s rods fit perfectly in the mix. The shortest of them, the Iwana, closes down to just 20.5″, and the adjustable Rhodo compacts to 21″. And the weigh 2.7oz and 2.1oz respectively, adding virtually nothing to your load. Shown above, the Rhodo just barely sticks out of the new Camelbak Mule, so a larger pack or pannier used for real bike packing would easily swallow it.

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All rods come with a fantastic, graphically intensive instruction book that shows how to set up the line, tie the knots and cast and catch. What was particularly fun about talking to Daniel is that he took the mystery out of fly fishing. Within minutes, he had me casting well enough, and the process was so easy to learn. Of course, like golf, it can take a lifetime to master, but Tenkara USA removes all obstacles to starting.

TenkaraUSA.com.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Almost every time you refer to Tenkara USA in this article you simply refer to it as Tenkara. Tenkara is the style/method. Tenkara USA is the brand. You really should fix this because there are quite a few other Tenkara brands readily available in the US.

  2. I’ve been interested in a tenkara rod for a while now, but the problem I’ve come across is none of them are SHORT enough when extended for the small brooks I like to fish. Trying to roll cast a 12′ rod won’t work well in tight spots, let alone traditional overhand casting…
    Someone is bound to make one eventually…

    • Will, how short of a rod do you think you’d want?
      Our shortest rod is the Rhodo, which is an adjustable rod at 8’10” at the shortest length. Also, if you hold the rod above the handle (no tee telling you where to hold it), you can fish it as a 7′ rod very comfortably.

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