Stone Fly 360 Rod Review
The Stone Fly 360 is the middle length of the three Stone Fly tenkara rods offered by
The others are the 330 (11') and 390 (13'). Fountainhead also offers the Caddis Fly series of rods, which are a composite of 75% carbon fiber and 25% fiberglass, in comparison to the 98% carbon content of the Stone Fly rods. With a 12' length and 6:4 action, the Stone Fly 360 could be considered Fountainhead's entry into the "all around rod" category. And the 360 is worthy of consideration.
The first time I fished with the 360, I thought "Wow, I really like this rod." The second time, I was a little surprised that I didn't like it as much. The third time I just felt like I was under too much pressure (self imposed, of course) to try to compare it to the 12' Iwana and the Ebisu.
It's just, well, different.
In Search of the Goldilocks Rod
Not too stiff. Not too soft.
For some time I've kind of wanted a rod that was just a little bit stiffer than the Ebisu but just a little bit softer than the 12' Iwana. I think the reason I really liked the Stone Fly 360 that first time I fished it was that I thought it was a bit stiffer than the Ebisu and a bit softer than the 12' Iwana. I think the reason I felt a little differently the second time was that I had already made a mental classification of the rod, and as I fished it more it turned out that the rod wasn't what I thought it was. (The rod didn't change, my initial "classification" was incorrect and too simplistic.)
Stone Fly 360 and 12' Iwana with weight of 10 pennies
It would be wrong to think of the Stone Fly 360 as just a softer version of the 12' Iwana. (Or a stiffer version of the Ebisu, for that matter.) It has a very different bend profile, with a stiffer butt section and a softer tip section. The photo above makes it look like the rods were held at different angles, but the angles of the unweighted rods were identical. The Iwana begins a gradual bend further down the rod. The Stone Fly's stiffer butt keeps more of the rod at a higher angle, before the softer tip sections really start to bend. When casting, they feel different, but you might have to take a while casting one and then the other before you could really describe what the difference is.
To me, fishing the Stone Fly 330 and 360 really underscores a feeling I've had for some time - that the classification system we now have for tenkara rods is less than ideal. Not that it's bad, just that there's more I'd want to know.
All the tenkara rod importers classify their rods with the 5:5, 6:4 and 7:3 ratings, which are often explained as the number of stiffer sections and the number of softer sections. Given that most tenkara rods don't have 10 sections, it really should be percentage rather than number, but even then, the system does not give an angler enough information to understand how the rod will feel before he has a chance to actually put a line on it and take it to his favorite stream.
This 12" rainbow put a bend in the 12' Stone Fly
What the 5:5, 6:4, 7:3 system lacks is an indication of the rod's stiffness. My understanding (which of course may be imperfect) is that the rating system will tell you where the rod bends but not really how stiff the rod is. The impression I had gotten initially from the first few tenkara rods I was able to fish with was that 5:5 rods are fairly soft, 6:4 rods are a bit stiffer, and 7:3 rods are stiffer yet.
The Stone Fly series of rods prompts the response "Yes, but..." The reason is that the top 7 sections of all the Stone Fly series of rods are identical. In the 330, the 8th section is the grip. In the 360, the 8th section does not have cork - there is a 9th section which is the grip section. The 390 has a 10th section, which is the grip. And although the butt sections will bend if you have a large enough fish on the line, the last two or three sections do not have any perceptible bend when casting.
What you end up with is a series of rods where the 330 feels like a fairly soft rod, the 360 feels a bit stiffer but with a soft tip section, and the 390 seems like a fairly stiff rod with a very fast tip. The tip action on all the rods is the same, but with the longer stiff butts, the 360 and 390 feel both stiffer and faster.
The same soft tip sections give you the same feel when playing a small fish. The longer, stiffer butt sections give you more backbone in the longer rods to fight a bigger fish, and the greater length gives you (and the fish!) more leverage during the fight. You may find that it really does take two hands to handle a whopper.
This bigger brown put a bigger bend in the Stone Fly.
(I didn't look to see if it was bent all the way to the grip!)
Not being a rod designer, I don't know whether that design philosophy is better, worse, or just different.
I guess that explains my feeling towards the Stone Fly 360 as well - at least with respect to the 12' Iwana. They are different rods. The softer tip sections on the Stone Fly allow it to cast a very light line, and a light line needs only a flick of the wrist to cast. The soft tip sections will propel the line forward with very little movement of your rod or your arm. A quick flick will do it. My favorite of several lines I tried with the rod was the lightest of the
Hand Tied Hi-Vis Fluorocarbon
lines, which is a very light line indeed, starting from the size 3 TenkaraBum Hi-Vis Fluorocarbon level line and tapering down from there.
However, the softer tip sections make it imperative that you don't try to overpower a cast. Trying to punch a cast into a breeze with a light line isn't going to work well. You'll need to go to a heavier line (or a stiffer rod). I suspect that trying to fish a heavy or wind resistant fly may not work as well with the Stone Fly 360, either. For "inviting" a strike with the
though, or dancing a
CDC & Elk
across pocket water, it'll do fine.
If you like faster rods, lighter lines and smaller flies you may prefer the Stone Fly 360. If you like just a little bit more stiffness when casting and you'll also want to fish bass bugs, woolly buggers and beadhead nymphs you might prefer the 12' Iwana. I know that Paul at Fountainhead fishes beadhead leeches and foam bugs with is Stone Fly 360, though, so the rod will certainly handle them. Personally, I would prefer a slightly stiffer tip for beadheads, bugs and buggers, and would use a
which has the stiffness to handle the extra weight or wind resistance.
The Stone Fly 360 comes with a rod sock but not a hard rod case. The butt cap is metal, with a slot (in which a quarter fits pretty nicely) to tighten or loosen it. The rod does not have quite as much damping (the speed with which the oscillations stop when you stop wiggling the rod) as the comparable Iwana. Spare tips are not available. In case of breakage, send the rod to Fountainhead, which will replace the broken section, check for any other damage, and return the rod for $25.
I like the rod. It is a nice rod and offers a good value. I'm kind of still looking for my goldilocks rod, though.
If you have questions about the Stone Fly 360 or any of the other rods reviewed here, please go to the
September 26, 2011 Update
Yesterday while fishing with my Stone Fly 360 I got a snag on the other side of the stream, at a spot where I could not wade close enough to reach the line. I pulled straight back on the rod, as I have done dozens of times before with other rods. To my surprise, the lillian came off. I have heard of this happening but it had never before happened to me.
No longer bound by the length of the line, I made my way upstream to a spot where I could cross and came back down to retrieve my hook, line and lillian. It turns out that the metal sleeve by which the lillian was held onto the rod had let go. I don't know whether it had initially been glued on or merely crimped on, but in any case it was no longer on.
In my initial review of the Stone Fly series of rods, I had mentioned misgivings about the metal sleeve, although my concern was over breakage rather than slippage. Of course, that was before I discovered that the metal sleeve, with its built-in swivel to reduce line twist, was a feature generally found only on much higher quality rods. I had subsequently gotten a photo from one of my customers of a new Stone Fly rod showing a glued lillian, so I removed the portion of my reviews that outlined my concerns over the metal sleeve - I assumed it would no longer be a factor.
It turns out it may still be a factor for those who purchased earlier rods, though. As I see it, if you have a Fountainhead rod and the lillian comes off you have two choices. You could send the rod back to Fountainhead, which will repair the rod and send it back for a charge of $25, or you could buy anything at all on the TenkaraBum site, and in the "instructions to seller" box, just ask me for a replacement lillian rather than a Tip Grip. For that matter, the same offer holds if the lillian comes off your Tenkara USA rod, or Shimano, or Sakura, etc.
You'll receive enough lillian cord for one rod. On my repair, I wet the last half inch of the tip section with superglue, slid on the lillian about that far, and then saturated the part of the lillian on the rod with more superglue.
Lillian Replacement "Before"
Lillian Replacement "After"
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