Caddis Fly Rods Review

The Caddis Fly rods from Fountainhead are beautiful and inexpensive. There is no longer any excuse whatsoever to buy a crappie rod or cheap rod from eBay for a "tenkara tryout." These are cheap, and they are tenkara rods. However, the phrase "you get what you pay for" still applies.

The first thing you'll notice when you unpack a Caddis Fly tenkara rod is that it is a beautiful rod. The royal blue color really is striking. Every silver lining has a cloud, though, and there is a downside to that pretty paint job. If you fish on a bright sunny day, you will get rod flash - much more than on any other tenkara rod I've seen. Depending on the angle of the sun, that might not be an issue, and I think there is some disagreement among anglers on how important rod flash is, but if the sun is bright and the angle is wrong, the fish will know you are there.

As the 11 or 12" brown below shows, it won't keep you from catching any fish, but for someone who takes stealth seriously (and fishes in full camo), I do wish the finish was matte instead of gloss. The line between pretty and flashy is subtle, but I think the rods could do with a bit more subtlety.

Caddis Fly 330 and East Branch Brown

Caddis Fly 360 and East Branch Brown

The photo of the Stone Fly rods and the Caddis Fly rods on the Fountainhead site suggests that the Caddis Fly rods are more full flex than the Stone Fly rods. After seeing that photo and before receiving the rods, I had wondered if they would feel and perform like 11' and 12' versions of the Tenkara USA Ayu. The answer to that is a definite no.

They are in fact more full flex than the Stone Fly rods, but they are definitely Fountainhead rods and the action is much closer to the Stone Fly series than to the Ayu. The Stone Fly tenkara rods (330, 360, 390) are characterized by really pretty soft tip sections and quite a bit of backbone as you get closer to the grip. The Caddis Fly series has a different bend profile. The mid and butt sections are softer than on the Stone fly rods (more full flex) but the tip sections are firmer.

Though the bend profile is a bit different than that of the Stone Fly rods, the Caddis Fly rods also will allow you to cast just about any line. My preferences were for the light hand tied tapered hi-vis fluorocarbon line or the size 3 hi-vis fluorocarbon level lines. As always, though, when fishing in a breeze or with heavy or wind resistant flies, a heavier line will work better.

The difference in the bend profile is more noticeable on the Caddis Fly 360 (top photo) than on the Caddis Fly 330 (bottom photo). In both photos, the rods are held at the same angle and weighted with 10 pennies. The Caddis Fly rods appear to be at a lower angle only because their lower sections (out of the photo) bend more than those of the Stone Fly rods.

Bend profile Stone Fly and Caddis Fly 360

Stone Fly 360 and Caddis Fly 360

Bend profile Stone Fly and Caddis Fly 330

Stone Fly 330 and Caddis Fly 330

One thing you absolutely must realize when looking at the above photos, or the bend profile photos of any of the rods on is that the bend shown is not at all what you can expect when you have a fish on the line, unless the fish is only about 6" long (and that would be a 6" trout, not a 6" bluegill). The 11 or 12" trout above, caught on the Caddis Fly 330 and a killer bug put a severe bend in the rod. Not to say it was bent to the cork or bent double, (I did look, but I must confess I was looking at the trout a lot more) but bent more than a comparable trout would bend the Stone Fly 330, and WAY more than the bends caused by 10 pennies).

The different bend profiles are really much more noticeable when fighting a fish than when casting a line. Another difference between the Stone Fly tenkara rods and the Caddis Fly rods, which is noticeable when casting, is the weight. Fiberglass weighs more than carbon fiber, and even though the rods are a composite of 75% carbon and 25% glass, the Caddis Fly rods do weigh more.

The Fountainhead site lists the weight of the Caddis Fly 330 at 2.8 ounces and the Caddis Fly 360 at 3.3 ounces. That compares with 2.7 and 3.2 ounces, respectively, for the Stone Fly 330 and 360. If you fish with both rods back to back, or rather cast to cast, you will notice the weight difference but it is pretty small. However, compared to the 11' and 12' Iwana rods from Tenkara USA, it is much more noticeable, particularly with the 12' rods (3.3 ounces for the Caddis Fly 360 and 2.7 ounces for the 12' Iwana). Of course, 3.3 ounces isn't all that heavy for a tenkara rod. The Ayu and Yamame are both 3.6 ounces, and the Stone Fly 390 is 3.8.

Mostly because of the weight difference, I liked the 330 much more than the 360. With the longer rod, the weight of the glass is more noticeable, and I would bet that's why there isn't a Caddis Fly 390.

Caddis Fly 360 Tenkara Rod

There is another aspect of the Caddis Fly rods that I feel should be mentioned, although to me it isn't important (considering the cost of the rod). The grip is cork, but it isn't made of cork rings like most rod grips. It appears to be a layer of cork wrapped around the blank and glued down, and then sanded into shape. The layer is cut from strips glued together to make it look like rings. You have to look closely, but if you do you can see that the "rings" don't quite line up. Face it, this is a $50 rod - what can you expect? As long as the glue holds it should be fine, and I've never had a rod where the glue holding the cork let go.

One more thing that first time tenkara rod buyers should know - most tenkara rods aren't as long as you expect them to be. Although I'm comparing two 330 cm rods to an 11' rod, none of them are actually 11 feet long. The Caddis Fly 330 measures about 10' 6", the Stone Fly 330 measures about 10'7" and the 11' Iwana measures about 10' 10". Similarly, the Caddis Fly 360 is about 11' 8", the Stone Fly 360 is about 11' 10.5" and the 12' Iwana is about 11' 9".

The Caddis Fly tenkara rods come with a rod sock but not a hard rod case. The butt cap is metal (very shiny, but at least it won't scare the fish unless your casting form is so bad they would have nothing to worry about anyway). Spare tips are not available, but if you do break a tip send the rod to Fountainhead, and they will replace the broken section, check for other damage and return the rod to you for $25.

With the Caddis Fly tenkara rods, Fountainhead has created an entry level rod for people who are intrigued by the whole idea of tenkara, but aren't yet sold enough to buy even a medium priced rod. Someone getting their first tenkara rod will be happy with them. Someone who already has a Stone Fly or Tenkara USA rod and wants another rod of a different length or to lend to friends may be a bit disappointed.

In that sense, I guess they're like the fly rods in Walmart or Bass Pro Shops (and about the same price). I suspect people just starting out buy them to see what it's all about. Most will stick with it, and fishing rods are like potato chips - you can't stop at only one. Unlike some in the greater tenkara community, I think having low priced "starter" rods available is a very positive thing. In the final analysis, I think the Caddis Fly rods will bring a lot of new people to tenkara fishing (and almost all will eventually go on to buy better rods).

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