Nissin Air Stage 390

The Nissin Air Stage 390 reminds me a lot of the Oni Rod - or at least the blank on which the Oni Rod is built. The Air Stage does not have the EVA foam grip and the resulting added weight. It is a rod that, at least in my opinion, casts very much like the Oni Rod but weighs half as much. With just the widened out blank for a grip, the 390 has the balance you would expect from a 1.5 ounce sieryu rod or a very light Japanese tenkara rod.

From a casting standpoint, both rods are remarkably similar - again, in my opinion. I do not expect everyone to agree with me on this one, because the rod's balance certainly does affect the feel of the rod when casting. If you can separate what you feel from the weight distribution standpoint from what you feel with regard to how the blank transmits the energy from your hand to the line and the resistance/inertia from the line to your hand, then you will understand what I mean when I say the feel very similar.

The two rods will cast the same lines. Whether you fish with a size 4 level line or a size 1.5 level line, a short line or a long line, you could use either rod interchangeably. I did fish the Tenkara Midi tapered lines with both rods but I did not fish any furled lines.

I caught bigger fish with the Oni Rod, but I don't attribute that to the rod. In addition to feeling similar when casting, the two rods feel pretty similar when fighting a fish. Neither one is really a big fish rod. Both will be very happy with fish up to about 12" in current and quite a bit larger in quiet water. As I mentioned in my August 17 trip report, a good sized fish, in current, when caught with a seiryu rod or the Oni rod at some point will just sulk on the bottom and the rod does not have sufficient backbone to move it.

The Air Stage and the Oni Rod are relatively soft rods. I measure the Oni Rod at 13 pennies and the Nissin Air Stage 390 at 12.5 pennies. However, just because a rod is soft doesn't necessarily mean you cannot land nice fish. If you can maneuver the fish into quiet water (or are skilled at hand lining) you can land much larger fish. I recently got an email from a guy who had just caught a couple 19-20" fish on a rod much softer than either the Air Stage or the Oni Rod.

Seiryu rods are finesse rods, not force rods. You can land good sized fish but you cannot muscle them around. They are not rods for fishing heavy nymphs and they are not rods for people who set a hook hard enough to launch 8" fish out of the water. Fish a tight line and lift the rod to set the hook, if you jerk the rod you risk breaking it. I have written several times that aggressive hook sets break rods.

The only other person I know of who has fished with both an Oni Rod and a Nissin Air Stage 390 said he felt the Oni Rod was closer to the Daiwa Sagiri 39MC (which is another 13 penny rod). I like the Sagiri quite a lot, but it strikes me as much more full flex than I recall the Oni Rod to be.

That brings up another point. For a long time, I have been a fan of full flex rods because I felt they were better able to cast light lines. Fishing with the Oni rod made me reassess that belief. The Oni Rod is an outstanding light line rod but it is not what I would call full flex. It has wonderfully light, responsive tip sections, which I believe are required for light line capability, but below that the the blank stiffens noticeably. The stiffer mid section allows you to make snappier casts, which increase line speed without overpowering the rod.

When I ordered my first Air Stage 390 I bought two, one 硬調 and one 硬中硬 (which is more mid flex). There is a noticeable difference between the two with respect to how much speed I could put into the forward stroke without overpowering the rod. The 硬調 could generate greater line speed and tighter loops than the softer  硬中硬. Not surprisingly, the stiffer 硬調 one is the one that feels like the Oni Rod. Both of the Air Stages did very well with light lines if the lines were relatively short and if there was no breeze. The stiffer rod was clearly superior with longer lines or when casting into a breeze. As I've mentioned many times, I'm not a fan of long line tenkara, but I know some people are.

To further test the idea that a stiffer or more tip flex rod actually might be a better choice for someone who wanted to fish light lines, I fished the 7:3 and 6:4 versions of the Zerosum 320, Pro Spec (at the shorter 310 length) and the Pro Square 320. With rod length lines, I did not feel either the 7:3 or 6:4 version was significantly better than the other. With longer rods, and more importantly, the longer lines they cast, it does become an issue.

Getting back to the Air Stage 390, I do not anticipate carrying the 硬中硬 version, but I have ordered and received a shipment of the 硬調. If you are looking for an incredibly light 13' rod for light lines and modest fish, this is a very nice rod.

Comparing the Air Stage 390 to the Suntech Kurenai rods, the Kurenai HM39R is a bit more tip flex than the Air Stage (and H39R is even more of a tip flex rod).

Air Stage 390 Features

The Nissin Air Stage 390 is 13'0" extended and 23 5/8" collapsed. It weighs just 1.4 ounces without the tip plug. On the penny scale, the rod measures 12.5 pennies, right in between the Suntech Kurenai HM39 at 12 and the Oni Rod or Daiwa Sagiri 39MC at 13.  This rod provides lots of tactile feedback when executing the cast, and has enough stiffness that you can punch a cast into the wind.

The Nissin Air Stage grip, like that on all the Nissin seiryu rods, is a widened section of the blank itself, covered with a very effective nonskid finish. For all the shorter seiryu rods, up through and including the 390, I still maintain that you do not need to add tennis racquet grip wrap.

air stage tip plug air-stage-grip-screw

As with the other Air Stage rods, the tip plug is plastic and has minute ridges either molded or machined into the part that goes into the rod tip. It is a very snug fit - much more so than on the perhaps more common wood / rubber plugs.  The grip screw is also plastic and screws into an aluminum insert in the end of the grip. The knurling on the screw cap allows you to tighten it securely or remove it easily.

The finish on the Air Stage seiryu rods is unique. Depending on the angle of the sun, the grip section and the accents at the section ends are either a lapis blue or an emerald green. This is one pretty rod.

On the Nissin Air Stage Seiryu Rods page, I indicated that for the 190 up to the 340, I would fish a size 3 line. With the 390, there is just enough more inertia helping the rod load that you can easily fish lighter lines if you can find them. The lightest I can find to offer is a size 3 and the rod will perform masterfully with it.

I have probably gone on too much with the comparison between the Air Stage 390 and the Oni Rod, but I personally think the Air Stage 390 feels remarkably similar when casting and will cast the same light lines. Please note that this report was written before the Oni Type II and Type III were released. I am not at all sure the rod I had is even identical to the current Oni Type I (and I suspect it isn't).

Nissin Air Stage 390 - $190


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Domestic shipping is $8 via priority mail 2-3 day delivery.

International Shipping

The Air Stage rods present a problem for international shipments. International first class packages cannot be longer than 24" but the rod cases that the Air Stage rods come in are longer than that. Either the cases have to be cut down or the rods have to be sent via priority mail, which is substantially more expensive. Please request a quote before ordering.

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Speak softly and carry a long stick. - Teddy Roosevelt (almost)

Tenkara has no strict rules. Enjoy tenkara in your own way.
- Eiji Yamakawa

The Air Stage impressed me as really, really special - such reach and accuracy and, for such a thin, light rod, such significant backbone.

John L, Colorado

I love this rod.

Mark D, Pennsylvania

'cuse my profanity and Aussie vernacular, but **** Chris, why isn't everyone going ballistic about these Nissin Airstages? They are bloody fantastic. Just landed a big carp on my 390 "slumming it" after work. The rod is a dream, casts a #1.5 perfectly in the calm, and a #3 into a head wind, nymphs and kebaris and dries.

Casts like a dream, feather in the hand, and MOST importantly, fishes. Lands fish well above boxing weight - you've underrated them on your site, my gain and others loss. Decision made, I'm ordering more from you.

Craig P, Victoria

I can't in good conscience recommend them for carp!

TenkaraBum, NY

The Air Stage is superb and I agree it is superior to the ONI rod, which is also excellent. Balance with the Air Stage is perfect, not that I tested it in any way other than fishing it, but it is one of those rods that disappears in use. I think you know what I mean. You aren't even aware you are holding a fishing pole, the line just goes where you expect it to.

Stephen M, Massachusetts

Airstage 390 with a 3.5 line is truly a great rod and lays out a beautiful line.

A very smooth rod. I think this will be one of my main go to rods this year. Very pleasantly balanced rod and shoots a fly where you point it.

Roger H, West Virginia

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