Fly fishing in Japan

The traditional Japanese method of fly fishing is known as "Tenkara". The first reference to tenkara was in 1878 in a book called "Diary of climbing Mt. Tateyama". Tenkara is the only fly fishing method in Japan that is defined by using a fly and casting technique where the line is what is actually being cast. Tenkara originated in the mountains of Japan as a way for professional fishermen and inn owners to harvest the local fish, Ayu, trout and char for selling and providing a meal to their guests. Primarily a small-stream fishing method that was preferred for being very efficient, where the long rod allowed the fisherman to place the fly where the fish would be.

Another style of fishing in Japan is Ayu fishing. As written by historian Andrew Herd, in the book "The Fly", “Fly fishing became popular with Japanese peasants from the twelfth century onward... fishing was promoted to a pastime worthy of Bushi (warriors), as part of an official policy to train the Bushi's mind during peacetime." This refers primarily to Ayu fishing, which commonly uses a fly as lure, uses longer rods, but there is no casting technique required, it's more similar to dapping. Ayu was practiced in the lowlands (foothills), where the Bushi resided, while tenkara was practiced in the mountains. Fishing flies are thought to have first originated in Japan for Ayu fishing over 430 years ago. These flies were made with needles that were bent into shape and used as fishing hooks, then dressed as a fly. The rods along with fishing flies, are considered to be a traditional local craft of the Kaga region.

In the West, fly fishing rods were primarily made of wood, which is heavy, so having long rods to reach spots where fish may be was tricky. Anglers started trying running line systems, where they could use shorter rods and longer lines. Eventually this led to the development of reels and the widespread use of shorter rods and reels. In Japan, bamboo, a very light material, was readily available, so anglers could make very long rods without much concern for weight. Fly fishing remained pure, as it was in its origins; anglers in Japan could continue using the long rods and did not feel the need to invent running line systems and reels.