Home > Gear, ultralight bicycle touring > Ultralight Bicycle Fly Fishing Rig ~ the Fountainhead Caddis Fly

Ultralight Bicycle Fly Fishing Rig ~ the Fountainhead Caddis Fly

After many years away from fishing, I’ve decided to get back into the game and begin tormenting mountain trout once again.  But I want to keep things as inexpensive and simple as possible as well as combine it with my passion for bicycle travel.  Tenkara seems to be an excellent fit.

Tenkara is fly-fishing distilled down to its most fundamental elements; a rod, a line, a fly and, hopefully, a fish.  Absent are the reel and yards of never used backing.  The Tenkara rod has no line guides and the line is simply tied to the braided material on the tip of the rod called the “lilian”.  The rods collapse within themselves to about 18 to 24 inches.  Tenkara is traditional Japanese fly fishing and it is slowly gaining popularity here in America.  If you’re a follower of “The Path Less Pedaled” or Jason Klass’ “Tenkara Talk” (also Backpack Fly-fishing and Gear Talk) then you are already familiar with Tenkara.  It’s a perfect match for Ultralight travelers wanting to include fishing into their adventures.  It’s also perfect for minimalist fly fishers wanting to divorce themselves from the complication of unnecessary and expensive gear.

While putting together my UL fly-fishing rig, I was determined not to be sucked into the L.L. Bean black hole; I began my search for gear at the TenkaraBum site.  This is a great resource with honest reviews, links to affordable rod suppliers and tips and techniques.  They also sell Tenkara lines, tippets and flies.  I picked up a ‘level line’, a spool of tippet and enough material to tie 25 flies, then followed a link to Fountainhead and purchased my first Tenkara rod.

The rig I’ve put together begins with Fountainhead’s Caddis Fly 330.  This eleven foot rod sells for $45.00 and fits in my meager budget with change left over.  Compare that to a western-style setup.  You’d be hard pressed to find a decent rod and reel anywhere near the price and of course you’d still need to buy backing, line, leader and tippet.  The line for my Tenkara rod is a single strand monofilament just a bit stiffer than the line you’d use in a spinning reel; eleven dollars for 33 feet.  That’s enough for about three lines.  To that I’m adding a 4x tippet and two ‘line keepers’ from Bass Pro. (I didn’t realize at the time I placed my order that TenkaraBum sells these same keepers.  Save on shipping and buy everything at the same place.)  Flies excluded, my Ultralight fly-fishing setup cost around sixty bucks, weighs only a few ounces and collapses down to about 24 inches.

“One Fly”


Western-style fly-fishers tie (or buy) an assortment of flies and try to ‘match the hatch’, that is, pick a fly that most closely matches the bugs trout are feeding on that particular day.  The belief is that catching a trout is 50% fly selection, 50% presentation and 50% luck.  One phish-philosophy in Tenkara that I am really drawn to is “One Fly”.  Finding one fly that works for you, in the area you live, that catches fish regardless of the hatch.  Presentation is everything and Zen-like technique is more important than fly selection.  Be the fish.  Catch the fish.  Eat the fish.  Ohmm.

So to begin the spiritual search for my personal “One Fly”, I dusted off my long unused vise (there were cob webs all over it) and started tying 25 Killer Kebari from a kit of material purchased at Chris Stewart’s TenkaraBum.  Chris sells “One Fly” kits; everything you need to tie 25 flies, including detailed instructions.  When I say detailed instructions, I should also say that you need to know the basics of tying; although, these kits would be a perfect match for someone who is just learning the basics.  If you’ve not tied before, you’ll need to get a bit of instruction on finishing your fly off.  Make friends with a fly tier or spend some time watching YouTube.

What I really like about these kits is that there is little waste.  One trap I fell into years ago when I was tying western-style flies is collecting piles of expensive material that I never used.  With Chris’ kits, you buy just enough of the right stuff and no more.  At much less than a buck a fly, they’re very affordable and Chris offers a good selection of patterns.  Check them out, maybe you’ll find your “One Fly”.


  1. September 24, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Tenkara is fly-fishing distilled down to its most fundamental elements; a rod, a line, a fly and, hopefully, a fish.

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