I almost titled this report Long Rod - Short Line II, but the Nissin Air Stage 450 is also a brilliant long line rod. A customer had ordered this rod, primarily for lake fishing, and graciously allowed me to fish with it before sending it to him. I did fish with it in a lake, the Harleem Meer at the north end of Central Park, and it does indeed make a dandy lake rod.
He'll use it for trout to 16" but in the Meer, bluegills to 6" are the more usual catch.
I then took the rod to where I'd last caught 16" trout, but they eluded me once again. I started out where I had caught them before, but that spot is a bit tight for a 14'8" rod. Using 11' of size 4 line and 3 1/2' of tippet (making the line plus tippet about equal to the rod's length), the rod handled it beautifully. A little further up, the stream widens out and I switched to 17' of size 3 line. The rod handled it beautifully. A little further upstream and a little narrower called for another line change. I put on 15' of size 2 line. The rod handled it beautifully. Are you detecting a pattern here? This rod casts beautifully with just about any line you put on it.
On a stream that is a bit wider and a bit more open, I don't think I have ever been able to pick apart a stream so efficiently. I can just hear all the comments from people who already have a rod that will zoom to 14.5 feet saying that they can do that now. All I can say is this rod weighs 1.8 ounces, not 4.1 ounces, and casts a light line with much more authority. You can target your casts more precisely. I brought that other rod with me for comparison, but I quickly decided there was no comparison and I couldn't bring myself to even take it out of it's case.
My almost best fish of the day might have gone 13" but the knot to my fly failed after my first attempt at getting the fish into the net failed. Note to self: if a knot slides even a little when tightening it, start over and retie it. After you've cut the tag end, it doesn't have to slide much further at all to lose the best fish of the day.
What I discovered in fighting the 12-13" rainbow was that the Nissin Air Stage 450 shares a common trait with all of the softer rods I have fished (which list includes almost all the seiryu rods, the Daiwa Enshou LL rods, the Ayu and the Ito, among others). If you hook a nice fish, in current, at some point it will just go to the bottom and sulk. It will do this near enough to you that you can no longer put enough upward pressure on the fish to move it. If you are fishing a stream with streamside trees and overhead tree branches, your ability to put sideways pressure on the fish is limited because there will be branches which will catch your rod. You will end up having to hand line a fish that isn't quite ready to come in. I didn't hand line it quite far enough, and as the fish fell out of the net rather than into the net, the knot failed.
I fished the rest of that stretch and then headed to the two smaller streams where I had fished the Ito before writing the Long Rod, Short Line page. As I approached the first, I was about to wade through the stream to the other side (given a choice, I much prefer to fish from the left bank when looking upstream). I recalled some advice given to me years ago by a guide "Don't wade through any water you haven't already fished."
I don't have a certified guide program, but I will say that the lessons you learn from a good guide can pay off for years. DO NOT wade through any water you haven't fished. Fish can be in much shallower, slower, nearer-to-the-bank, whatever-er water than you expect. The fish above came from water I would have walked through (and did walk through after I had thoroughly fished it).
Just upstream from where I crossed, the stream is so narrow that I could touch the far bank with the Nissin's rod tip. Luckily, though, in this particular spot there are no low branches to catch an errant back cast. The spot almost always yields at least a couple fish, and today was no exception. I wish it was more than 50 yards long.
After fishing "the good spot" which yielded a couple fish, and the second "almost as good spot" which didn't, I moved to the other small stream from the Long Rod, Short Line essay. This stream is a challenge to fish with a long rod. Although it is wider, it has a canopy over much of the stream. Casts are either sidearm and low or tower and as high as you can manage.
There are fish here, though, nearly all wild and nearly always hungry. At the end of the day, after going through the photos, I realized I had brought more fish to hand than I'd thought. On the "one", "two", "a few" and "many" counting scale, it was a "many" day. Not as many as on some other days, but not a bad day by any measure. Many of the fish I had caught on the Long Rod, Short line day came on a CDC & Elk. Today I fished just sakasa kebari and Killer Bugs. All the fish came on Killer Bugs.
The Nissin Air Stage 450 is 14'8" extended and 23 5/8" collapsed. It weighs just 1.8 ounces without the tip plug. On the penny scale, the rod measures 15 pennies, the same as the Ito or the Daiwa LL36SF. When casting, though, it does not feel as soft as the Daiwa and is not even close to the noodle feeling of the Ito. This rod provides lots of tactile feedback when executing the cast, and has enough stiffness that you can punch a cast into the wind, which you cannot do with an Ito. Part of the difference is in the rod's own inertia, and is explained by the 1.8 ounce weight of the Air Stage compared to the 4.1 ounce weight of the Ito. Part is in the quality of the materials that went into the blank itself. Cork is expensive and any dollar that went into the cork didn't go into the blank.
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 length, I have adamantly maintained that you do not need to add tennis grip wrap. The Nissin Air Stage 450 has just enough inertia that you might want to have a slightly larger diameter grip - especially if you are going to be fishing from dawn til dusk. I have not experimented with adding wrapping to the grip because the rod I fished was not my rod.
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. I found the 450 to be comfortable with anything from a 2 to a 4.
If where you fish you have casting room for a 450 rod, this is the nicest I've found if you don't also need big fish capability. For larger streams where you would expect to catch fish up to about 12" or so, or for lakes where you would expect to catch trout to about 16" or bass to 12-14" this would be a nice rod to have. If I knew I was only going to catch sunfish, I'd probably take the Nissin SP 450 instead.
Perhaps I should state again that I am often told I underestimate the capability of rods. I just received an email from an angler who told me he'd caught a fish that probably went 21-22" on a rod I though was maxed out at about 16". Over the weekend, I received an email from another angler who landed 19" and 21" trout on a rod that I had though was a panfish rod. Given those results, the Nissin Air Stage 450 will very probably make short work of fish substantially larger than suggested above.
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Tenkara has no strict rules. Enjoy tenkara in your own way.
- Eiji Yamakawa
Same rod, different sun angle.