Tenkara Fly Fishing With My Son

The first time out with my son, Tenkara fly fishing
The first time out with my son, Tenkara fly fishing

Sometime last summer, my son and I were standing on the edge of a river – something we do often. It was a pretty warm day, and instead of his waders, he wanted to stand in the river with just his shorts on. We stood there for a quite a while as I was trying to teach him a little bit more about how to cast with a fly rod. At the time, he was only 6, and despite my best efforts, he wasn’t that interested. He loved being out on the river, and anytime I hooked into a fish, he would rush over, reel it in, and then give it a kiss (I know it’s weird, but he loves to do that) before we put it back in the water. But, he just didn’t want to stand there and figure out how to cast.

He wandered back to the shore and was hanging out with the rest of my family for a while when he then motioned for me to come back to shore. He had been going through all of my fishing stuff and had found an old fly reel. My wife had let him cut a section of it off, and he had tied that to the end of a stick, and now he wanted a fly. He had decided that the thing that was too difficult for him was using a reel and trying to shoot line through that as we casted, so he made his own rod. He spent about an hour in the river that day with just a stick, old line, and a fly of his choosing – a size 6 grasshopper. Needless to say, he didn’t catch anything. The great thing was though, he was having way more fun fishing that way than when I was trying to teach him.

Fast forward to a few months before his 7th birthday, I saw something for the first time and thought it was very cool. It was a different kind of fly fishing rod called a Tenkara fly rod. Tenkara fly fishing is a traditional type of fishing practiced in Japan. It’s a really simple way to fly fish. No reel to figure out, no difficult casts–just a fly rod, line, and fly. So, for his birthday, I decided to buy him a Tenkara Rod Co Cascasde fly rod. The first time he tried it out, it was awesome! We were standing in the middle of the Yampa river in Steamboat Springs, and there was my son, fishing away with his very own Tenkara fly rod. He got a few bites, but wasn’t able to hook one that day. He didn’t mind, though; it was his own rod, and he was big enough to use it on his own.

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My son Tenkara fly fishing in the Yampa River

Now it doesn’t matter where we go fishing, that’s the only rod he wants to use, “Dad, can I use the blue one?!?” he’ll ask. He’s pulled out a few in smaller streams, and a couple standing in his waders (and sometimes in just his shorts) while hanging out in the inlets or outlets of lakes. But what I love about this rod for him, is the pride that he has when he uses it. When we hike to a lake, he’ll carry that and his line holder on his own. I’ll tie a fly on for him before we go out, but the rest of the process, he can do all on his own. Sure he doesn’t catch quite as many fish as he could if he could cast out a little further–or if he would just cast where I tell him–but he doesn’t care. For him, for me, for most of us, fishing is about getting away from something. He wants to be a ‘big kid’ that can do it all by himself, and this rod lets him do that anytime he wants!

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Getting close to catching a fish

Written by Jeff Oetter

I am a Colorado native that grew up going fishing every chance I could. Now I’m a pastor, as well as a life long student! If I’m not working or studying you can find me and my family heading up to the mountains in our Jeep.


We hope you enjoyed this amazing story from Jeff. What are some of first experiences with Tenkara? Have you tried it yet? Let us know in the comments! Thanks for reading!

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