Shimano LLS36 NX
by Jim B.
(Sante Fe, NM)
Every year at this time I decide to use some of the money that I have loaned the IRS for up to fifteen months at no interest to make a purchase. This year it's the Shimano LLS36 NX rod. I ordered it from AllFishingBuy and it arrived in two days.
The rod is beautifully packaged in a plastic box with a gold(!) interior, along with a warranty card (entirely in Japanese) and a cloth rod bag. The dark olive finish is impeccable - highly polished both inside and out, a real stunner to look at. The sections join smoothly with little effort (significantly less than TenkaraUSA rods). The handle is the standard tenkara shape and is made from good cork (although not flor grade). The butt plug is slotted for a coin and tightens securely.
The rod does not come with a rod case. I bought the AllFishingBuy case because of it's unique qualities: threaded on one end, a plug on the other, and the unusual "ALLFISHINGBUY/TENKARA ROD" label. It's a plastic case and 27" long as shipped, 8" longer than the rod. I submerged the threaded cap end in boiling water until the glue softened, removed the part, cleaned it, cut the tube down to 21", and epoxied it all back together; the result is an appropriate-size tube.
Lawn casting (couldn't wait to get to a stream), the rod seems to have a very smooth action throughout the entire length, slightly stiffer than a 12' Iwana. Shimano describes it as "medium light."
I took the 12' Shimano and 12' Iwana II rods to the Pecos River to compare them side-by-side. I used a 13' furled line with a 4' 6x tippet and a few different flies, from small nymphs to large dries (the ones shown on Daniel's home page). It was sunny with a 10 mph wind.
The Shimano is slightly lighter than the Iwana and has a more progressive action. The action difference can be seen in the tapers of the rods: the Iwana has a noticeably larger butt and thinner tip than the Shimano. This difference affects the casting: it's very easy to turn over the line and fly with the Iwana with just a wrist flip but it lacks the control of the Shimano in the wind. I found this to be significant, especially with the larger flies. Also it took me a few casts to get the fly to land properly (without some line slap) with the Shimano as the loop was wider. The Shimano grip is slightly thinner than the Iwana's and the cork is slightly lower quality than the grips on the Iwana II series, but better than the original Iwana's. (I noticed this because I'm a rod builder; most people wouldn't notice it). The grip profile is similar. I found the Shimano to be more comfortable to use, probably because the rod weight is lighter.
Overall, I prefer the Shimano but there is no question that the Iwana is a better value. If I wasn't a professional rod builder, rod collector, and a fly fisher with decades of experience I would not spend the extra money on the Shimano; there isn't enough difference between the two to justify the price. One other consideration is that the Shimano warranty is, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent and spare parts are probably impossible to get. What you buy is all you get, nothing more.