No rod and no money
One of the biggest frustrations in trying to help someone get started tenkara fishing - or at least started in the right direction, is when they ask a question on a forum on which I cannot respond. It happens all the time - someone on a Flintlock Forum (for example) will ask if anyone ever tried tenkara, and will invariably get an answer that is at best misleading and at worst just plain wrong.
Happened again recently. A guy wants to start tenkara fishing and not only doesn't have a rod, doesn't really have money to buy a rod right now. He said he had a long, heavy crappie pole or a regular fly rod, either of which he could tie a line to the rod tip and get a feel for the tenkara experience. To be diplomatic, I'll just say I would not have given him the answer he got.
In the first place, it takes a lot less money to get a tenkara rod than most people believe. Fountainhead sells their 11' Caddis Fly tenkara rod for just $50 http://tenkaraflyfish.webs.com/apps/webstore/ If the guy decides he really likes tenkara, he may want to upgrade later, but that's not an unreasonable place to start. My least expensive Soyokaze is $72.
If even that is too much for right now, I would have suggested tying a furled leader to the rod tip, as John Scott did when he forgot his reel http://www.flyanglersonline.com/bb/s...ne-color/page2 That is clearly not a long term solution, and has it's risks, as John pointed out. However, the reason I would suggest the fly rod rather than the heavy 13' crappie rod stems from my own experience. Before I could get a real tenkara rod, I was faced with a similar choice, and tried both. The heavy 13' crappie pole, if it is anything like mine, really is heavy, and will have an action that is nowhere near that of a tenkara rod. It will not be even close to the tenkara experience that the guy is looking for.
Tying a furled leader to his fly rod tip, on the other hand, while not the same, will be closer to the feel of a tenkara rod. It will be extremely light . He'll be able to cast it with one hand rather than two. He mentioned in his question that there were a couple streams he knew where a 9' rod would be about ideal. I would suggest he use that set up only on those small streams, and only until he can save up $50. He would probably be wise to tape his ferrules or better yet, run a line through the guides and tie it around the grip so that he doesn't lose his rod tip if he hooks an unexpectedly large fish or gets a snag in a treetop following a missed strike (both of which will eventually happen).
Neither the 13' crappie pole not the line to the fly rod tip is a long term solution, but the line to the rod tip - especially on a very small, brushy stream, is closer to the tenkara experience he is trying to achieve. It should definitely give him the incentive he needs to start saving.
In general, longer is better, but also lighter is better. If he has a couple tight little streams, I'd suggest shorter and lighter for now.