Does Tenkara Improve Fly Casting?

Summer Steelheading

Summer Steelheading

Yesterday the weather was perfect and there was a decent ebb tide flowing so I decided to hit the beach and fish for searun cutthroat.   Since picking up tenkara at the beginning of the season I stopped fishing western rods completely for trout thus have only used a real fly rod a few times all year.   On a trip to Biscayne and Islamorada of course I had to throw my saltwater rods and this was the only time I’ve used a single handed rod all year long.   I fished my big 14′ 9-weight spey rod on the Skagit early in the year.  Mostly though I fish an 11′ 6-weight switch rod when I’m casting with a reel – this is my beach rod as well as my summer steelhead rod and is what I grabbed yesterday even though I’d only thrown it once all summer long.

On the beach I was stripping out line and casting, getting a bit more distance with each cast.  I do a quick spey cast to knock out part of the line, pick it up, haul it and shoot it.  By the time I was into my first 17″ cutthroat I was knocking out 60-70′ casts with no problem.   As the morning continued I found myself with only a few turns of fly line left on the reel, I was hitting 80′ casts with no problem.  To top the day off I landed what was probably the second biggest cutthroat I’ve ever caught on the beach, a 20″ fish that was big and burly and fought like a steelhead with multiple runs and jumps.

I don’t remember casting quite this well earlier in the season before using tenkara.  I could usually cast 60′ or so for about a half hour but then my casts would start to degenerate.  Yesterday my casting stayed sharp and long all morning.  As I was driving home I thought about this and feel that fishing tenkara all year may have actually improved my standard fly casting.   Learning how to handle the light line on the tenkara rod really forces one to learn to load the rod and let the rod do its job and I think that has transferred over to my spey casting and switch rod casting.  The few times I’ve been steelheading this fall I’m kicking out my entire spey line pretty easily and on the beach I could probably clear my reel of fly line.   I think I’m finally loading the rod properly after all these years of fly fishing.    Nothing else changed this year except the fact that I used tenkara for 80% of my fishing.