Streamers are extremely productive fished on tenkara rods
We've fished streamers with level line, furled line and our Badger lines. They all work well. Tippet or leader size is the more important part of the equation. If we are fishing for trout, we usually stick to our go-to tippet size, 5x. We use a standard length, 3-5 feet. This set up works well for smaller streamers, up to size 10 or so. If we are just targeting bass, we usually try to save the expensive tippet. Bass tend not to be very leader shy, so we just use inexpensive 6 pound test fishing line or whatever we have found on sale. A big spool of fishing line will cost less than a fancy tippet spool and should last you a long, long time. We use a similar length, maybe 4 or 5 feet. If you are trying to get your fly deep, fluorocarbon will sink faster than nylon/mono, but you can certainly use either one.
Most streamer patterns of a reasonable size and weight can fished with Tenkara. We use a lot of leech patterns, wooly buggers and beadhead wooly buggers. Small streamers work really well with Tenkara. We like size ten and twelve streamers for prospecting for trout, probing deeper pools, and warm water fishing for panfish and bass. If we are targeting bass specifically, we’ll use larger sizes, up to about size 4. Beyond that, casting bigger flies with typical Tenkara set ups becomes impractical. It can be done, it just isn't all that fun - or pleasant.
It seems like streamer fishing just wouldn't work well with Tenkara, but we've had surprising success. If you are fishing a stream, you have a variety of choices. You can simply cast into a “fishy” area and then let fly dead drift back to you, moving your arm back as the fly drifts to minimize slack in the line. Dead drifting with a gentle, erratic twitch of the wrist will give the fly some surprising life-life motion. You would not think a dead-drifted streamer would be all that appealing to a trout, but it works. As you can see by the picture above - its effective on bass too!
You can also actively pull the fly back towards you. Simply cast out, then bring your arm back towards you and then behind you to pull the fly back downstream. Vary your retrieve speed to see what the fish like that day. I almost always add a twitch with the wrist on the retrieve. I would recommend that you find a pond or stream with very clear water so you can try these tactics and get a feel for how each type of motion works. Watch the fly as it comes back to you. If you can watch fish respond to various retrieves, that’s even better.
If you are fishing still water, you will need to retrieve the fly back to you somehow. I would suggest varying your retrieve and giving the fly a twitch now and then. Bass love it. If you are fishing a weighted streamer, try casting out and then letting the fly sink. I will usually cast and then count up to a number and retrieve. You can start with a low number like 5 then work your way all the up to 20 or 30. That way, you are letting the fly sink into various “strike zones”. Once you figure out where the strike zone is, you are dialed in! Counting helps you be consistent in finding the strike zone.
Lastly, jigging a weighted streamer can also induce a strike. Cast, let the fly sink, then jig it back up to the surface. Be erratic about it and vary speed. Sometimes that works when nothing else does.
Fishing streamers with Tenkara is fun and effective. We hope this tutorial will help you get started. Don’t be afraid to experiment and develop your own style!