Fixed Line Carp Fishing is a kick! Carp are big, powerful fish. You need a big, powerful rod - a carp rod, not a trout rod.
The video below was released not long ago. It shows a bunch of guys fishing for carp with tenkara rods. Several broken tenkara rods later, two things became obvious:
1) catching a carp on a fixed line rod is an adrenaline rush, and
2) fishing for carp with a tenkara rod is like taking a knife to a gun fight.
Tim Romano, coauthor of Field & Stream's Fly Talk blog, wrote a brief review of the video, stating "I don’t think this is a new fad bound to take off anytime soon." I agree, up to a point. I don't think this is a fad.
I do think it will take off, though, and soon, just not with tenkara rods. Face it, tenkara rods are trout rods, not carp rods. However, and this is a big however, there are carp rods. They look a lot like keiryu rods (which, by the way, have been used quite successfully for catching carp - with no broken rods to my knowledge). Even keiryu rods are trout rods, though. If you want to catch a carp, and if you don't want to risk your rod doing it, it just makes sense to use a rod actually designed for catching carp.
The first carp caught on a fixed line rod in the US that I know of was by Randy Knapp, back in 2011. The British have been catching carp with poles for years, but most of their poles have elastic bands that absorb much of the fight. It's not the same.
It wasn't until the Tenkara Guides in Salt Lake City released their video of carp fishing, though, that interest in it started to take off (and by the way, they coined the term "tencarpa" over two years ago).
Their video featured a Daiwa Kiyose 53MF but I think their rod of choice since then has been a Nissin 2-Way 450ZX stiff.
Not long after I arrived in Salt Lake City for the
ONI School in June, 2015 ERiK Ostrander took me to their secret carp hole. I had never before
hooked a carp, let alone landed one, but he and John Vetterli probably have more
experience landing carp on fixed line rods than anyone in the US. I figured I'd
have a better chance of success with him than just trying on my own.
I did manage to hook a couple carp using a Suntech Field Master 53 but I wasn't able to land either one. On one the hook pulled out pretty quickly and on the other, my lack of experience led me to make a rookie mistake. Rather than holding the rod sharply to one side, which will turn a carp, I tried to stop it by holding the rod and line directly behind it. As ERiK pointed out, that just pisses a carp off, and the result is a burst of speed and a broken tippet (or as in the case of the guys in the first video, a broken tenkara rod - no, actually three broken tenkara rods). The Field Master didn't break, but the tippet broke almost instantly.
As ERiK then demonstrated, and I later confirmed for myself, even though you can't stop a carp, you can turn it. The risk though, is still that a large carp will be too much for the rod. The rods that people have been using to catch carp are trout rods, and they're rated for 5X tippets.
I know ERiK pushes the envelope a bit and fishes with 4X. Even 4X, though, is probably a bit light for large fish.
The Japanese do fish for carp - and with fixed line rods. They just don't use trout rods. They use carp rods. Yes, they do exist. I think it is important to point out that the rods I am talking about are not hera rods, which are designed for catching herabuna (crucian carp) a fish which rarely exceeds 3.5 pounds. The rods I am talking about are designed for catching common carp, which seem to start at 3.5 pounds and go up - way up.
Carp rods are not rated for 5X tippets. Depending on the rod, they're rated for tippets of 3X to as much as 0X, which is equivalent to size 3 tenkara line!
So if you want to fish for carp, do it! But, do it with a carp rod.
I currently have five carp rods in stock, the Nissin Red Dragon, Nissin Flying Dragon, Nissin Kyogi, Daiwa Hagakure and Daiwa Hamon J. I have not yet completed the pages for the Kyogi or the Daiwa rods.
Of the two Nissin rods for which I have completed pages, the Flying Dragon is a lot more convenient because it collapses to about 22", the same length as tenkara rods. It is also considerably stiffer and considerably more expensive than the Red Dragon.
The Nissin Red Dragon is heavier and more flexible but is rated for a stronger tippet than the Flying Dragon (2X compared to 3X). The Red Dragon collapses to about 41". Since most people don't have to backpack or hike in to where they fish for carp, that may not be much of a disadvantage.
The Nissin Kyogi 18 is the nicest of the carp rods I have in stock. It is lighter than the other 5.4 meter rods. The "18" is 18 shaku, which is a Japanese unit of measure that is just barely shorter than a foot. An 18 shaku rod is about 17'9", just an inch or two longer than the Red Dragon 5.4m rod. The Kyogi is also a bit more flexible, at 57 pennies, compared to 67 or 68 for the Red Dragon 5.4 and Flying Dragon 5.3, respectively. However, it is rated for 0X tippet (which for Varivas is just over 13 pound test). That is substantially stronger than the other Nissin rods (Daiwa does not give a recommended tippet strength for its carp rods).
The collapsed length is longer than for the Red Dragon, and much longer than for the Flying Dragon, but if you can drive to where you fish that shouldn't be a problem.
The Daiwa Hamon J is very nearly as light as the Nissin Kyogi. It is more flexible at 49 pennies compared to 57. Because Daiwa does not give a recommended tippet strength, it isn't possible to say if it is as capable as the Kyogi.
The Daiwa Hagakure (photo upper right) is heavier, at 5.7 ounces, but considerably less expensive at just $155. That is less expensive than the Red Dragon, which is heavier yet, but the Red Dragon is rated for 2X (9.6# test) and the Hagakure is unrated.
Nissin Kyogi 21 (Red)
*The 18 for the Kyogi, Hagakure and Hamon J, and the 21 for the Kyogi is 18 or 21 Shaku, which is a Japanese unit of measure that is just barely shorter than a foot (11.9").
The two Daiwa rods seem to be very competitively priced, but because Daiwa does not provide tippet ratings for the rods it is not possible to tell if they are the functional equals of the other rods. On the other hand, Daiwa does list them as carp rods and people here have caught carp on the Daiwa Kiyose 43MF, which Daiwa does NOT list as a carp rod, so they are likely to be up to the task.
I have seen a report of carp caught with a Daiwa Hagakure using 10 lb tippet, which would be close to the Varivas 2X (9.6 lb test).
These are all two-handed rods, even the Red Dragon 450. Carp rods do come in shorter lengths, but for carp of any size I really think you'll want a longer rod. That said, if you do want a shorter version of one of the rods listed here, do not hesitate to ask for it. I will order one for you.
I get a lot of questions about rods for steelhead or salmon, and at the Marlboro MA and Somerset NJ Fly Fishing Shows, a lot of questions about rods for schoolie stripers. There are no "striper" rods in Japan, but both Daiwa and Shimano have rods specifically designed for salmon. They're long. Daiwa's Salmon Hunter is an 8.3m rod. Shimano's Super Game Special Salmon is an 8.3-8.9m zoom rod. They're also very expensive. The Daiwa is about $600 and the Shimano is over $900.
Would a carp
rod be sufficient for steelhead or schoolie stripers? I haven't tried for steelhead yet, but I can say that the Red Dragon is sufficient for schoolie stripers!
I have used size 4 flouorcarbon level tenkara line and the Nissin PALS SP Pro 6m lines. The Nissin PALS SP Pro line is heavy enough to turn over well with any of the rods. If you are fishing with weighted flies or split shot, you could also use the heavy Varivas tippet as a keiryu rig, with the -2X or 0X as the upper portion of the line, yarn markers for strike detection and the tippet that the rod is rated for as the lower portion of the line.
As long as you have a rod strong enough to catch carp, and strong enough to use heavy tippet, use heavy tippet! Varivas makes excellent tippet and they make it in the sizes that the carp rods are rated to handle.
The Nissin Kyogi is rated for 0X tippets.
The Nissin Red Dragon is rated for 2X tippets.
The Nissin Flying Dragon is rated for 3X tippets.
Daiwa does not provide tippet ratings for the Hamon J or Hagakure rods.
Carp are big, powerful fish and you will want big, powerful hooks to hold them. These hooks were intended for boilies, but you can certainly use them for carp bugs or clousers -- or corn, for that matter.