Despite having a love for fishing, for many years I considered it out of the question on backpacking trips. Even with the lightest fly fishing setup around, it was still just too weight prohibitive. I couldn’t afford to take a pound and a half of extra gear with me on most of my hikes, and thru hiking and fishing might have well have been mutually exclusive. This all changed this summer on the CDT. With the discovery of the Tenkara style of fishing, where rod weights are often under 3 ounces, I was entering a whole new realm of possibility.

With a packed weight of around 3-4 ounces, for everything I needed to legitimately fish, what did I have to lose? Time was a concern for me initially. On thru hikes all of your time is spent on forward progress. Down time is mostly for eating or sleeping. If this system is going to work on a thru hike, it must be fast…      And it is! I can get my rod out and set up in about a minute or less. For me, this meant that I could take just a few short breaks throughout the day and fish the incredibly beautiful and serene streams that, up until now, I had only been able to stare longingly at. (I should insert a warning here…. While Tenkara may be a very time efficient way to fish, it is quite addictive. Don’t kid yourself like I did, there will be days on trail where you spend hours fishing. On days like this, I’d often end up night hiking to make up time.)

One highlight of my Tenkara time on trail came in the Wind River range of Wyoming. I found myself fishing at around 11,000 feet on the banks of a pristine glacier fed lake. To my left, a giant wall of rock formed a pass that I’d soon climb over to continue my hike. The lake itself was centered in a cirque, walled off by towering cliffs of rock on all sides but one, which is where I approached from. As I watched trout swim through the deep, crystal clear water, a glacier attached to one of the walls of the cirque let off huge groans and pops as it cracked in the warmth of the day. Big boulders lined the edge of the lake and served as the perfect platforms from which to sneak up on the trout. Life doesn’t get much better than this as far as I am concerned.


One of the many beautiful spots you’ll be able to fish with Tenkara. This was near 11,000 ft.


When I first learned about Tenkara. I ordered one of the cheapest, yet still lightweight rods I could find. I had no idea if the fishing style was for me and didn’t want to invest too much money into something that may not work out. As I progressed with this rod (A Dragontail Tenkara Komodo) I found that I enjoyed the Tenkara method, but wanted a little more out of my rod. Primarily I needed a little more length, but I was also interested in finding the lightest, best built rod I could. After doing some research, I wound up finding Tenkara USA. They seemed to be the pioneering brand in the US and had both smart design and some of the lightest weights around. Additionally, I liked the fact that they were very involved in the community and actively working on bringing the Tenkara method into popularity in the US.  As I investigated more, I finally settled on the Sato rod. It is a triple zoom rod that functions as a Jack-of-all-trades, and strives to be the only Tenkara rod you’ll need. This rod accompanied me for a large portion of my CDT thru hike, where I became very familiar with it, and with what fish felt like on it 😉 Everything else you need to know can be summed up in my video review here:

Bonus: I just found out that Tenkara USA is a member of the 1% for the planet program, so portions of their profits go back to help support the streams we love!

For more info:

-Tenkara USA:

-Sato rod on Amazon: