The Shimotsuke Kiyotaki rods work where others won't.
From the very beginning, I have recommended fishing with the longest rod you can get away with. On some rivers, you can get away with very long rods (and you can find rods as long as 7 meters on TenkaraBum.com). However, on some streams even a 7 foot rod is too long.
For years, people in the Southeast and Northeast US would scoff at the very idea that tenkara was meant for small streams. They would point to streams where you couldn't even extend an 11 or 12 foot tenkara rod, let alone fish with it. For years, I carried the Shimotsuke Kiyotaki rods for just those streams. And for years, no other US company had rods shorter than 11'.
The Kiyotaki rods come in a wide range of lengths, but the ones that work where others won't are the three shortest ones, the Kiyotaki 18, 21 and 24. The Kiyotaki 18 is right at 6'. The Kiyotaki 21 is 7 ' and the Kiyotaki 24 is just under 8'.
Initially, I sold the Kiyotaki 18 as a micro fishing rod, and truthfully, it's not a bad choice for micro fishing.
For micro fishing, sometimes you do want a pretty short rod. Much of your fishing will be sight fishing for fish that are not particularly skittish or at least will soon get used to your presence. Precise placement of the bait becomes more important than stealth. The six foot rod is very well suited for that.
What I found, though, was that people were using it for trout fishing in spots that were so tight that a longer rod just wouldn't work. That was made painfully apparent at this year's Marlborough, MA Fly Fishing Show. Lots of people stopped by the TenkaraBum booth to talk about tenkara, but it seemed they all wanted rods for tiny, tiny streams.
For many of them, the Nissin Air Stage 240 that I had at the show was nice, but was too long. They wanted shorter rods, rods that I didn't have with me. What they wanted was the Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 18.
The next longer rod, the Kiyotaki 21, proved to be a very useful length on a stream where I had always used longer rods. As I wrote in the "Picking Pockets" essay, I was really surprised at the number of spots I could effectively fish with the short rod that before I'd always had to pass up - spots that I'd never even realized I couldn't cast to. I don't mean whole sections of stream, but a lie here and there where there just wasn't room to cast the 11' rod I also had with me. Not surprisingly, many of those hard-to-fish spots held fish!
It turned out to be a very respectable day - with almost all the fish coming on the 7' rod. The most heart-in-the-throat exciting was a 10 incher in a pool not much bigger than a bathtub with low branches protecting the pool and little room for a backcast. There is no way I could have made that cast or that catch with an 11' rod.
The Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 24 is a bit longer, a bit heavier (all of one ounce), and surprisingly capable. I first fished it in Utah, where parts of Big Cottonwood Canyon (shown below) were tight enough that everyone else just walked past them. With a shorter rod, I could fish those spots that no one else could fish.
Fishing another stream, right at the edge of Salt Lake City, one so tight that there was a lot more walking than fishing, I managed to catch this nice 13" cutthroat with a Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 24 - the longest rod I could get away with.
Some tenkara advocates suggest that on narrow, brushy, overgrown
streams you can collapse a section and choke up on the rod. With a
section collapsed the rod rattles when you cast and the sensitivity that
allows you to feel the slightest tick on the line is gone. If you
frequently fish tight overgrown streams, you would appreciate a shorter
rod. I still maintain you should use the longest rod you can get away
with, but face it, for some streams the longest rod you can get away
with is shorter than any tenkara rod.
If you have ever
wondered whether those brush-choked little streams hold fish, or if it
is worth even trying to fish them, watch the following video shot by Tom
Davis of Teton Tenkara, fishing with a Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 24.
Or this one:
There's something about catching nice sized wild cutthroats in a stream
that you can just tell by looking no one else ever fishes. That's why I
carry short rods and that's why the people who say there is no reason to
have a rod shorter than 9' (they used to say 11' before they bowed to
the pressure and came out with a 9' rod) are missing out on some
A well respected blogger admits to just walking past all those spots that are too tight for his tenkara rods. The thing is, though, surprisingly often, those spots that no one can fish hold really nice fish. If you did want to fish where no one else can fish, and catch fish that no one else can catch, these are the rods you need.
I think Dave Hughes got it exactly right when he wrote in the second edition of Trout from Small Streams "In the future my traditional tenkara fishing, with longer rods, will be done on streams that are either open or on the border between small and medium in size, and my tenkara fishing on truly small waters will be done with these truly small rods."
And as Patrick C from Norway proves, small waters don't always have truly small trout.
One thing that may take a bit of getting used to is the extreme narrowness of the grips. There isn't much flare from the diameter of the blank itself. The photo to the right shows the three rods with a ruler for scale.
Keep in mind, though, that the Shimotsuke Kiyotaki rods are almost unbelievably light. The 6' rod weighs just .6 ounce. When I fished with the 7'10" rod the narrow grip really wasn't a problem. You grip the rod with your finger tips rather than with your fist.
In addition to their light weight, the rods collapse to only 15 1/8", so they will easily fit completely within a modest daypack. A fishing rod doesn't get much more convenient than that.
The nonskid on the grip is also quite a bit different than on other rods. For the Kiyotaki it is applied in bands that give the impression of the thread wraps used to provide a nonskid finish on traditional bamboo tanago rods.
The lillian is attached by the same type of swivel mechanism found on the high end Daiwa tenkara rods. The rods are small, but they are not lacking in features.
These rods are very light weight and very compact, and should be very well suited for micro fishing and to exploring the little tributaries that hold trout no one fishes for. Part of the lure of fishing for micros is that they are everywhere and anywhere. For a go-anywhere rod, the Kiyotaki rods are hard to beat.
For a while, I stopped carrying the Shimotsuke Kiyotaki rods because I had a problem with replacement parts that didn't fit. However, I was always able to find a part that did fit so no Kiyotaki fisherman got left with a rod that couldn't be used. Also, the number of people at both the Marlborough MA and the Somerset NJ Fly Fishing shows who wanted short rods convinced me I had to bring them back.
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I broke away for a few hours yesterday afternoon to try the Kiyotaki 18.
I caught a few crappie in the 3-inch range on a bit of worm threaded onto one of your tanago hooks, but the fish were actually more interested in the float. So I attached the length of high-visibility fluorocarbon you sent me, along with one of your Killer Kebaris you sent me last year, and caught a bunch of little crappie and some shiners.
This is a great little rod. For some reason, I didn't expect it to cast a fly well, but it does.
I caught a bunch more crappie and shiners on a size-18 Elk hair Caddis (see the attached photo).
George R, Massachusetts
My friend Brad and I spent last Sunday on a small stream in New Hampshire. This stream could not have been fished with most of the rods you sell, and none of the rods ever sold by Tenkara USA. A 9-foot rod just would have been too long for this place.
I did all my fishing with the 6-foot Kiyotaki, and Brad used his 7'8" Kiyotaki. We each caught five wild native brook trout.
I caught all my fish on a small elkhair caddis fished with a 6-foot high-visibility furled line. To the end of this line I attached about 4 feet of 5X tippet. As I said, you could not have fished this stream with a 9-foot rod.
George R, Massachusetts
Just wanted to comment on the Kiyotake 18.
I bought it from you some time ago knowing you didn't recommend it for my kind of fishing. I bought it anyway and yesterday took it out on my favorite river and caught Brown trout from 14" to 22". The little rod performed very, very well.
The river is very bushy and small with a lot of overhang. I've tried my regular "Tenkara" rods here. It was ugly! This little rod is a joy to use in tight conditions; and, obviously, can handle fish well beyond its recommended limits.
Thought you'd like to know.
Dick L, Ohio
|Chris, can't wait to try out the new Kiyotaki 18 and all the other things.
I always fish for Panfish with Tenkara.
Size is not an issue with me. It's about their beauty and catching them on my own tied flies.
Thanks for sharing the micro side of the story and bringing this to the marketplace.
Don S, Kentucky
|Just spent the last 3 hrs fishing with the 1.8 kiyatoki rod for monster goldfish.
That is a great rod! I really like it. Handles the little fish without totally overpowering them and has the power to bring in the big guys with ease. Very sensitive tip.
I lost count at 65 fish. A great afternoon with a great rod.
John V, Utah
It [Kiyotaki 24] is fun!! It casts well. It fits in your pocket. It weighs next to nothing. It has plenty of backbone for little (and sometimes not so little) fish. I definitely like it and will use it where my other rods can't go!
Tom D, Idaho
I went micro fishing at Cibolo Nature Center yesterday with my Kiyotaki 18 and caught 63 little ones on two lightly-weighted killer bugs. What fun!
John E, Texas