I recently read an article that referred to a piece written by Joan Wulff called "The Evolution of a Fly Fisher". As an aside, Ms. Wulff was actually one of the first people I saw cast a Tenkara rod, she attended an event in May 2009 at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor, NY.
Ms Wulff describes six steps which anglers often evolve -
Stage 1 Catch as many fish as possible
Stage 2 Catch the biggest fish
Stage 3 Catch the most difficult fish
Stage 4 Getting involved in conservation or heritage
Stage 5 Enjoy the experience wherever and whenever you fish
Stage 6 Bring others into the sport
I think Tenkara techniques fit very well with most of the stages identified by Ms. Wulff -
Stage 1, Basic Tenkara is fast and easy to learn. Since there is no need to manage and coordinate line with a second had, it requires less coordination and practice than traditional fly fishing. Once the basic casting technique is learned, a beginner can concentrate on catching fish. Plain and simple. Some claim they catch some order of magnitude more fish with Tenkara than when using western fly fishing techniques. To be honest, I haven't found that to be true for myself, I think I catch about the same amount of fishing using either method. However I can see where a beginning fisher may be able to cast more accurately, with less frustration, so the catching aspect may be higher when fishing Tenkara.
Stage 2, you've got me on this stage. I find I hook as many good sized and truely big fish when using Tenkara, but I do often loose the biggest fish. It would really be outside the scope of Tenkara to try to fish for steelhead or salmon (probably double digit weight southern largemouths as well). So if you are looking to hang something on the wall that will truly impress your friends, you might want to stick with using a rod that has a reel attached.
Stage 3, depending on the species and conditions, Tenkara can excel when angling for finicky fish. The long Tenkara rod allows to accurately place and manipulate a fly. Being able to keep the entire line and leader helps eliminate drag.
Stage 4, certainly Tenkara helps an angler to appreciate the heritage of fly fishing. The use of a long rod and fixed length line goes back to the earliest days of fly fishing, in both the eastern and western spheres of influence.
Stage 5, Tenkara certainly aids the angler in truly concentrating and enjoying the experience. It's easy to become a tackle junkie - rod, reel, backing, line ,leader, tippet, flies, indicators, split shot, vest, ... Tenkara tends to focus more on the experience, perhaps to the point of being zen like. Certainly we all like our toys, and there is nothing wrong with equipment, but Tenkara takes us back to perhaps our earliest days of fishing with a stick, string and a hook.
Stage 6, this revisits some of the earlier points, Tenkara is a great way to get new folks started in fly fishing. They can learn fast, and if there are any fish around there is a good chance they will get a chance to shake hands and get acquainted with at least a few finny friends.