I've fished Tenkara exclusively for two years in Colorado and really enjoy it. I usually take a Tenkara rod on every hike, backpacking trip or backpack hunt.
The thing is, I'm kind of getting bored with it. It's easy catching naive high elevation brookies and cutthroat on my Tenkara rods, but I just feel a little bored. I've also found that I occasionally need longer reach on alpine lakes, particularly when the wind picks up. I know that longer casts are possible with Tenkara but I don't want another Tenkara rod.
I don't have any real experience with western gear and am wondering if something like a 7 1/2 foot 3wt would do most everything in the Colorado backcountry. I've spent a little time casting the Orvis Superfine Touch 3wt at the store in Cherry Creek and it seems like a lot of fun, and I can get more casting range out of it.
I think my backpacking future includes both Tenkara and western fly fishing, in part because I want more versatility and in part because I just like gear.
Would love to hear your thoughts about western rigs for the backcountry if you've fished both!
I have a 6'6" 2wt and 7"6' 3wt both of which I enjoy fishing. However, if you're looking for a shorter rod that will be versatile I'd get a 7'9" 4wt. I have one and love fishing it. A real advantage of going up a rod weight is it will help you cast small streamers, heavier nymphs and bushier dries. I like the 7'9" or 8' rod because it is still shorter for more wooded streams but give you a bit more reach when fishing pocket water where you want a drag free drift over multiple current lanes.
I've got a Tenkara USA rod as well and find at times I really enjoy fishing it, but like having a variety of rods depending on conditions and my mood.
. I know that longer casts are possible with Tenkara but I don't want another Tenkara rod.
This may or may not work out for you, but have you tried fishing a longer line on the tenkara rod you already have? I've fished lines as long as 25' without any problem. The only down side is you have to hand over hand a bit to get to the fish.
Conventional fly tackle is more versatile than Tenkara. You can do more with it. If you had to choose only one kind of tackle for the range of conditions you might encounter, it should be conventional. If you have room in your pack and can handle the extra weight (which isn't that much, but in backpacking every ounce counts), toss in a Tenkara kit too.
For the greatest versatility I would pick a 7 1/2' to 8', 4 or 5 weight rod, in 4 pieces or more. Cabela's sells a 7 1/2' 4 wt "Stowaway" model in 6 pieces for $155 that might be ideal, but I've never tried it.
I often pack a western rod along with a Tenkara rod on my many back country trips in Idaho. I now find that I use my Tenkara rods when messing around, taking breaks from hiking etc. I use my western rod for my real fishing. I agree with going up from a 3wt to a 4wt. Larger heavier flies, more punch in the wind, etc. I have found some very impressive fish on waters that I have only previously caught smaller fish on Tenkara (top water). Swinging a weighted bugger or small streamer is a great way of enticing the much larger fish hanging out deep in small mountain streams. Although this past season, I was lucky enough to land a great bulltrout on a tenkara rod. I tied on a weighted nymph after a large fish attacked a small cutty I was bringing to the net. Best of luck.
I guess it depends on how one chooses to define "real fishing" (as opposed to "reel fishing").
There is no one rod or style that does it all. A tenkara rod does some things very well, some things not so well. Same can be said for a 4wt reeled rod. It all really comes does to the situation, and how one chooses to fish.
I've only backpacked once but with tenkara rod. Depends on where you go I guess, but over here there are hardly bigger fishes and I only have a 6wt western rod, which seems like overkill. but ya I love tenkara on mountain streams and rivers, but miss the reach of fly rod on big waters, lakes.
crytrekker, where are you fishing? If you are getting bored with the size of the fish, etc. it want to mix things up, you need to hit some of the lakes. The fish will be much bigger. I have never fished with a tenkara rod, but based on how light and small they pack up, carrying two rods would probably work great. I often run into the need to carry two rods myself. However, getting a 3wt or 4wt rod, is not going to be a good mix and there would be no reason to carry both.
This is no place for a 3 or 4wt:
and this is no place for a 9ft fast action 5wt or 6wt rod:
I am sure you have seen both situations and have maybe even hiked to and or fished both places. I would carry your tenkara and then a fast action 5wt or even 6wt. I tend to carry a fiberglass 7ft 3wt and a a fast action 9ft 6wt on hikes I know I will be hitting streams and high alpine lakes. I once hiked many miles to a lake with a medium action 4wt...could see lots of very nice cutties...but there was that lovely 12,000ft wind. I caught 1 fish and gave up...it sucked!
I used to bring my Tenkara as my a backup and strapped it vertically on my waist pack when I was using my 6wt or 8wt western. It didn't get much action when I did that; I had to actually go for Tenkara fishing and left the western rods home to give it a good wiggle. I am fishing stillwater lake like in the first picture, mountain lakes where the western rods excel. I am sure that I will miss my Tenkara if I ever going to backpacking in the mountains and fish their streams.