Home » Tenkara Gadgets: The Ties that Bind

Tenkara Gadgets: The Ties that Bind

I’m sure I’d trigger the plagiarism-detecting software if I ran an article that began with the sentence: “fly fishermen love their gadgets!” But it is true. Anglers that prefer to pursue fish with fly tackle have a special affinity for specialized apparatuses. (That one cleared.) Even the facet of our sport that is simplest, purest, and most unencumbered by the trappings of the materialism of the western world produces a gadget from time to time.

Tenkara has existed for centuries in Japan, but the surge in popularity in the United States can be traced back to 2009. That is when Tenkara USA was founded by Daniel Galhardo. Galhardo had developed a love for “streamlined fly-fishing” a few years prior, and then launched the first tenkara tackle company outside of Japan.

Back in 2002, Daniel personally evangelized me on the merits of this angle at a fly fishing show. I picked up a rod a few months later, and it has become my go-to for my backyard stream and hiking trips. In all honesty, I’m not a Tenkara loyalist or purist. I use the gear when I need something light or convenient, and I usually use western flies. But I love it, and am peering down the rabbit hole more every year.

I ran into Daniel at the Tenkara USA booth at the Somerset fishing show. After a brief chat, he gave me a few of the latest products to check out. The magazine is beautiful and a joy to read. The line and fly keeper is, like tenkara, so simple yet so ingenious. But it was the little package of “rod ties” that really intrigued me. For one reason: “see what you can do with these, and let me know,” Galhardo said.

If you get on the Tenkara USA website Daniel personally walks you through the particulars of what you get when you buy the rod ties, as well as some very helpful uses. So if you want helpful ways to use them, I’d suggest starting there.

But I thought to myself, “what else could I use these for?” Here are some of my favorites:

The Display Piece

I plan on having a fiberglass replica of a 6" brook trout I caught mounted above it.
I plan on having a fiberglass replica of a 6″ brook trout I caught mounted above it.

There is a lot of concerns for aesthetics in fly fishing. From colorful reels to fashionable neck gaiters, most anglers like to show off a little bit. Why not make your tenkara rod the focal point of your living room? After taking down some large pictures of my family, I was able to use the rod ties to create a nice presentation of my Iwana.


The Wallet Chain

Yes, I know it is a picture of my butt. And yes, I know it is more offensive that the fly is an elk hair caddis and not a kabari.
Yes, I know it is a picture of my butt. And yes, I know it is more offensive that the fly is an elk hair caddis and not a kabari.

All the cool kids in the 90’s had them. Want to be a cool kid on the stream? This way your flies, lines, and street cred are all securely at your hip. Feeling timid? Use the shorter ties. Want to flaunt your tenkara line and fly keeper? String all the ties together and let that thing dangle.


The Business Casual

"Excuse me, I'm on another call - the call of the wild."
“Excuse me, I’m on another call – the call of the wild.”

I’ve used the ties to fasten my rod to backpacks, sling packs, and children’s strollers. But I’m not out in the woods Monday to Friday, nine to five. That is why the ability to turn my briefcase into a tackle box has revolutionized the way I fish. This rig says: “I know I’m in a meeting now, but I’m really ducking out a few minutes early to go fly fishing.”


The Pointer Dog

All he needs for sustenance is a steady stream of fishing haiku.
All he needs for sustenance is a steady stream of fishing haiku.

One of the most frequent frustrations of Tenkara anglers is misplacing their rod plugs. If you haven’t fished a tenkara rod, this is the little stopper that holds all the telescoping segments inside the handle while you aren’t fishing. But once you remove it, the marble-sized plug has a tendency to disappear. That is why I created, trained, and employed this little guy. Once he gets a sniff of the tenkara rod, he tracks your bumbling steps until he goes on point.  A quick note on this: the new Tenkara USA rods have an integrated “Keep your Plug” system. Although this will force numerous plug-dogs to find new work, I believe it is the right thing to do. I want a Rhodo, so  I guess I’m a part of the problem.


In all seriousness, these are very handy little tools to keep in your pack, vest, or car. I’ve used them with my cameras, for storing fishing gear, and my kids have even played with them. Simplicity and versatility can be very important to gear for outdoor activities, often trumping oft-touted cutting-edge technologies. The flexibility and multi-tasking nature of the rod ties make them a perfect fit for tenkara and the message of streamlined fly fishing that Daniel Galhardo champions.

“It isn’t as much about putting out new products as it is just getting people out on the water,” he said. That is a refreshing perspective in the fly fishing industry, and in retail in general.

My only real criticism is that they have the pesky tendency to form themselves into this shape if left on their own for a prolonged period of time…

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