Knowing what to do after you get the fish on the hook is a whole separate set of tenkara skills
"Tenkara-No-Oni" Masami Sakibara is extremely mindful of his surroundings and how they relate to his fishing.
While casting and fly manipulation are key aspects of tenkara fishing, they really only take us to the point of getting a fish on the hook. There is significant work to do afterwards! In this post, we'll look at what takes place after we draw that strike, and how we can maximize our chances of landing the fish he we put on the hook. Watching "Tenkara-No-Oni" Masami Sakibara provides excellent lessons in situational awareness, so lets look at video of him landing an average trout on the Provo river during Oni School 2017. Being highly aware of the environment and the task at hand, Oni shifts between being very stable and very mobile as the situation demands...
The video opens with Oni casting across the main current to edge pockets along the far bank. These small targets are slack water in shadow along the rocky shore opposite of the slower, inner curve of the slight turn of the run.
1) You'll see a definitive, firm upwards movement to load the rod and set the hook as the fish strikes. The very next thing that he does is get stable - crouch and lower his center of gravity. He brings his free hand into play to stabilize the lower section and drops his grip to waist level. Why? He is making certain to transfer all of the "load" to the power curve of the rod.
Knowing that he is about to play the fish towards him and across the strongest part of the current, it is important to make sure that the rod is loaded at an optimum angle. Keeping that power curve intact ensures that the rod can provide maximum resistance and spring when needed. This keeps him in control of the fish from the beginning, rather than letting the fish's movements dictate the angle and position of the rod.
Often, when our tenkara rod is in a crazy position and we've lost the advantage of the power curve, it is because we did not establish control of the rod load from the moment of the strike. You can see in the video how quickly Oni establishes control of the rod's position and load.
2) Once he has gained definitive control of the rod and fish, he moves immediately to find solid ground on the bank behind him. Once there, we see him again pause and drop into a low crouch, reestablishing the tenkara rod's power curve and control of the fish. This fluid transition from stable->mobile->stable highlights Oni's moment to moment awareness of what is happening with the rod load and the fish at the end of the line.
3) He holds low and stable stances as he works the fish through the strongest current. At this point, he begins balancing the rod's task between steering the fish and maintaining the power curve, moving downstream when needed. He is careful to maintain controlled tip positions and rod load; you can see him look upwards to check the bend in the upper rod at a few points in the process.
You will also see that he maintains a waist level grip while the fish is being played across the strong current, using both hands on the rod in various ways to operate the tenkara rod. Again - the low position helps create that power curve! When the fish reaches slow water, you can see him shift to a single handed, shoulder-level grip position when maximum control and flex are no longer a concern. This also reflects a choice made between stable and mobile.
4) Rather than stop moving and drag the fish to his position regardless of what lies between, Oni's landing strategy is terrain-aware. He picks a likely area of slower water and accessible bank, and maneuvers the caught fish to it first - then he'll perform the common hand-line retrieval. This helps to ensure that the fish will be more under control during the landing process.
Since there really isn't a repeatable playbook for tenkara fly fishing, we might best boil down these observations into some core concepts for succesfully playing the fish once its on the hook:
1) Quickly establish optimum rod position and power curve. 2) Adjust body and rod positions to maximize power curve based on situational requirements. 3) Choose landing zones that offer maximum control during retrieval.
Ideally, the angler needs a mix of stability and mobility, and a situational awareness that gives them the information they need to decide when to use them. The best way to develop these skills is to build experience, and that only comes from time on the water. Try to keep a situational awareness around your fishing, and these concepts will start to pay off in your tenkara fishing.