Over the course of the past few weeks, it seems like every fly fishing related forum I regularly visit has had a topic or two started regarding Tenkara. In just about every case, one of the first discussion points raised is – Is it really fly fishing?
Of course, I guess it all comes down to what your definition of fly fishing is. If somewhere in your definition, there is a clause which mentions the use of reels and/or snake guides, then it’s obvious that fixed-length-line systems do not meet your requirements for being a fly fishing method.
One definition of fly fishing I found –
“Fly fishing is an ancient and distinct angling method, developed primarily for trout and now extended to other surface-oriented species such as grayling as well as a wide range of marine species. Artificial flies are constructed — "tied" onto a hook with thread, fur, feathers and other materials — in sizes and colors to match naturally occurring food or simply to excite a fish. Fly rods are relatively light and long while the lines are relatively heavy, providing the casting weight. Lines may be tapered and of differing densities to float or sink and are matched to the rod according to weight. The fly itself weighs very little and is attached to the line by a 2-3 meter leader which may taper to a very fine line at the tip end, also called the tippet.” (wordiq.com 2010)
Using the quoted definition, I think Tenkara certainly meets all the criteria. It is both ancient and distinct, developed primarily for trout. The rod is both light and long, and the mass of the line is what is used to propel the otherwise weightless fly. BTW, it does use a tippet.
To be honest, I really don’t care how people choose to fish, as long as it’s legal. I also don’t really care what they think about the way I choose to fish (as long as I stay legal). I do find it somewhat amusing to hear from someone who fishes with a strike indicator and a couple of split shot and a San Juan worm say fixed-length-line systems aren’t really fly fishing, it’s just fishing with a cane pole. But of course, to each his/her own.