Tenkara Rod Setup (Everything You Need to Know)

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Have you purchased a new tenkara rod but know which tenkara rod setup is correct? It’s a unique form of fishing, and it could be challenging the first time to feel confident you’re setting it up correctly. In this guide, we’ll show you how we’ve set up our tenkara rods for catching countless trout in the backcountry of California.

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Setting up a tenkara rod to catch trout is quick and easy. You’ll need your tenkara rod, level line, tippet, and fly. First, you’ll uncap your rod to expose the lillian. Tie a simple overhand knot in the lillian and a sliding loop knot in your level line. Lock the level line behind the lillian knot and extend your rod. On the other end of the level line, create a Perfection loop knot to make a loop-to-loop connection with your tippet. The tippet should be around 18 inches long. Tie on your fly, and you’re ready to start fishing.

Tenkara is a fly fishing style invented in Japan for catching trout in small mountain streams. Use a tenkara rod along the shore of high-elevation lakes, rivers, and streams. It’s perfect when you’re in tight spaces since you don’t need much effort to position your fly since your level line is easy to maneuver.

How to Set Up a Tenkara Rod

You must set up the tenkara rod correctly to avoid your rod’s or even line’s potential breakages. Use sturdy, simple knots to assemble your fly rig, casting line, and tippet to prevent breaking your lines.

We have covered a complete guide on how to set up a tenkara rod in just a few steps.

Step 1

Tenkara fly rod has a cord inside called the lillian that you will tie to your line. To start the assembly process, locate the lillian and attach it to the line.

This is simple for an angler who has attached a fly line to a conventional fly fishing leader. At lillian’s end, make a simple overhand knot, which will serve as a stopper knot.

Step 2

Take off the rod’s end plug. Hold the rod handle down, tip up (to prevent the telescoping rod from falling out), and pull out firmly.

Step 3

Swing the pole gently and lower the rod’s tip slowly downwards until the lillian line, which is permanently attached to the rod’s tip, extends from the more significant portion. Pull the lillian outward until it sticks out from the most significant section by a few inches. Don’t remove the entire rod yet.

To set up the rod, you need either a traditional fly line or a tenkara level line, sold as a spool that can be divided into several lines or as single-level lines. The ideal one is the fluorocarbon tenkara line, which has a uniform diameter.

tenkara set up
Tenkara Fishing by Lionel ARMAND

Step 4

After tying the overhand knot, loop the lillian’s end around it and make a temporary loop (remember here you are simply overlaying the line to establish a loop and not tying the knot).

Following that, thread your improvised lillian loop via the flawless loop you knotted at the Tenkara line’s end. Once you are through, pass the remaining portion of your tenkara line via the lillian loop to create a loop-to-loop connection.

Step 5

There is no set rule to the line length to be attached to the rod’s end. But it is advisable to use a line with the same length as the pole. After extending the rod, you may measure the line or cut it to the same pole’s length. 

You can extend the rod by tugging the rod tip, which is now connected to the line until it rests against the second section. Continue pulling it out bit by bit from smaller to larger until the last portion of this telescoping rod is pulled out.

Ensure you don’t put too much load on the tip and middle parts of the rod when you extend the lower segments before the upper segments.

Step 6

Attach the tippet to the level line using a simple clinch knot and tie the fly. Now you are through with the tenkara setup. Grab your rod and step out on the water to witness the effectiveness of this rod.

When storing the line, hook the fly on the line holder and wind it over it. Your cork handle is designed to accommodate the line holder adequately.

If you are still stranded, you can search for how to set up a tenkara rod on the internet. You can watch numerous videos to help you assemble your rod.

Tenkara Fly Fishing Tips

Once you get into the water, don’t panic about what to do if you are a beginner. Drop your fly rod into the water and let it do its work. To increase your success rate, do the following:

Maintain a Tight Line

Point your rod tip high with only your fly and tippet in the water to ensure there is little or no slack. Having a stretch can make a fish grasp the fly and spew it out before you realize it.

Use Short Line

Casting and managing the line will be simpler if you choose a shorter line.

Using long tenkara lines, you risk losing a fish swimming in your direction. Sprinting backward or alongside the river is the only way to keep the line taut. Bringing a fish in on a long line without a fly reel is also tricky; you’ll get tangled!

Before tracking the fly, cast upstream and allow it to splash gently on the water; this offers a hungry fish an alluring trick.

Keep an Eye on Your Fly

You will see the fly as the fish takes it if you are fishing in clear water. If you don’t see the fly, make sure your eyes are where you anticipate your fly is and watch for any splashes or movements in the water.

You can also wait to feel the line. But if you spot any flash where you expect your fly is, don’t hesitate to set the hook even if you are not feeling the line.

Employ a Strike Detector

When the fly is below the surface of the water, no matter how bright it is, it can be challenging to see, especially when fishing deeper or in murky water. Get a strike detector and attach it at the line’s end to help you see the fish as it hits the fly.

Line Length

Ensure you bring an extra line up to the pole’s length and other replacement sections. If you’re fishing far away from the coast, you can add it to your main line to increase your reach.


Tenkara fly rod is the most compact and portable fly rod on the market. It is also lightweight and perfect for hiking and camping adventures. 

Tenkara setup is simple. Follow the above steps and use those tips, and you will have a fantastic fishing trip. Besides, be careful when extending or collapsing your tenkara rod.

Diana Nadim
Fishing Expert
Diana began fishing at the age of seven, as it has been a long-time family tradition. From catching small bullheads to catching strippers on the backwaters of Bighorn, she loves to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water. Her dad was an expert angler, and he taught her fishing along with her two siblings. They used to go to the Bighorn River in Montana and Henry’s fork, Idaho. As a pragmatic person, she is obsessed with creating well-researched and practical guides and reviews of the best fishing methods and gear.
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