Suntech Genryu Sawanobori

Genryu is the Japanese word for headwaters. Picture narrow canyons, high gradient streams, no roads and often, no room to cast. The fishing style is often lantern fishing, which is a very short line technique. The style is called lantern fishing because the long rod and very short line are reminiscent of the way lanterns were carried hundreds of years ago (the lantern was tied to a short line, which in turn was tied to the end of a long bamboo pole).

Rather than using a very short rod for casting in the tight quarters, which we generally do in the US, the Japanese use a long rod and short line, essentially lowering their bait or fly directly into eddies or current seams or using underhanded "pendulum" casts to get a bit more distance.

Genryu rods tend to be pretty stiff. The line is short enough in relation to the rod that when bringing in a hooked fish the angler has to collapse the rod at least partially in order to reach the fish. Anglers will often lift the fish out of the water and then collapse the rod. You can't do that with a whippy 5:5 rod!

I don't think that is something most anglers here would do, but the stiffness that allows lantern fishing rods to lift fish also makes them very effective for tight line Czech or Polish Nymphing. Now that is something anglers here definitely do. With a stiff rod, all the little "ticks" as the fly bounces off rocks or "taps" as a fish takes the fly are transmitted to your hand rather than being absorbed by the rod. The ticks and taps generally feel different, but you do need a rod that will transmit rather than absorb that information.

The stiffness also means you can get positive hook sets even when fishing in deep water or fast current.

The Suntech Genryu Sawanobori comes in 4.5, 5.4 and 6.3 meter lengths. To date I have only seen the 4.5  and 5.4 meter rods, but I am very impressed with them. While in Colorado for the Tenkara Winter Series (where my presentation was on Long Rod, Short Line tenkara and covered lantern fishing), I used a 4.5m Suntech Genryu Sawanobori in a smaller stream with a 6' line and 3' tippet to catch a number of fish in a fusion of Czech Nymphing and lantern fishing styles. I had absolutely no problem with hook sets. I didn't lift the fish out of the water, but I did have to collapse the rod a bit to be able to net them. I'll tell you, having a leaping 12" rainbow at the end of a 9' line is exciting!

I think the Suntech Genryu Sawanobori is an excellent rod for Czech nymphing. Most of the rods I've had in stock that I've describe as good Czech nymphing rods have been either 3.3 or 3.6m rods. The extra length of the 4.5m Genryu Sawanobori is very welcome indeed.

Although the 4.5 meter Genryu Sawanobori is considerably longer than the other rods, it is still light enough to use with one hand. It weighs only 2.8 ounces without the tip cap. That's less than many 3.6m rods, let alone 4.5m rods. The 5.4 meter rod and the 6.3 meter rod are two-handers. Don't knock two-handed rods until you have tried one! You get the benefit of extra reach without the tip heaviness you feel if you try to hold a long rod with only one hand.

I have not yet caught large fish with the rod but I am sure the rod can handle them. You'd probably want to use a line a bit longer than 9', though, from rod tip to fly. To fight a larger fish, you have to keep a bend in the rod to tire the fish and to give a bit when it tries to run. To do that, you have to keep the rod tip up or to the side and the 9' of combined line plus tippet I had on was really to short to do that effectively. I have a friend who routinely catches larger fish than I do and he maintains that to keep an adequate bend in the rod after you've hooked a large fish, particularly on the first run, you need a line (rod tip to fly) about equal to the length of the rod.

Largemouth Bass caught bouncing a Bunny Sculpin along the bottom
Bunny Sculpin

The Suntech Genryu Sawanobori is an excellent choice for lobbing heavy nymphs (or heavy sculpin patterns) but not for fishing unweighted flies. It's just too stiff for a light (or even medium weight) line to load the rod. However, if the kind of fishing you want to do involves bouncing  heavy metal along the bottom, this rod will do it and do it very well. And if you want to feel it if a fish even looks at your fly, this rod is as sensitive as they come. By sensitive, I don't mean soft, I mean it will transmit the sensations of your fly hitting a rock or a fish hitting your fly. You'll be able to feel what's going on as well as see it.

If you do want to cast the rod rather than just lob nymphs, I would suggest the Nissin PALS SP Pro lines, either 4 or 4.5m, which are heavier than comparable level lines. If you will only be lobbing heavy nymphs upstream on a tight line, I would suggest a very light line, either size 3 tenkara line with 4X tippet, or perhaps 2X or 3X tippet as a Tenjo line (the upper portion of an ayu or keiryu line) followed by 4X tippet, with keiryu yarn markers. The markers will be mostly just to tell you where the line is as you'll be able to feel most takes. (Please note: you can use very strong tippet material as the upper portion of your line, but you must have some tippet no stronger than 4X as the lower portion of your line to act as a weak link.) The only potential problem is that when you feel the fish, the fish feels you also.

Stiff or soft rod for nymphing?

My views on what makes the best nymphing rod have changed over the past year or so. The trip that prompted my Ultralight Worm Fishing  report proved, at least to my satisfaction, that trout will spit out even live bait if they feel tension on the line. Last year I had an email conversation with a customer who did extensive testing of stiff rods and soft rods, and found he consistently caught more fish with his softer rods. With the stiff rods, he felt more strikes, but by the time he tried to set the hook the fish were gone. With the softer rods, he saw the strikes rather then felt them, and was able to hook many more trout.

I think the stiffer rods are better if you are fishing a heavy nymph (or nymphs) with a short line in deeper water and faster current AND if you are essentially pulling the nymphs downstream with a tight line. If you pull them faster than the current they will look unnatural, so you you want to pull fast enough to keep the line tight but not so fast that they are faster than the current.

The goal is to keep the line tight enough that fish cannot spit the nymph back upstream while you are pulling the line downstream. Underwater video of fish taking nymphs shows that when they spit out flies they do so back upstream. You want the pull to be sufficient to prevent the nymph from going upstream, instead catching in the corner of the mouth as the line pulls the nymph downstream. If you are fishing across rather than up, the line is pulling the wrong direction and you will miss more fish. If you are fishing across and down, you will just pull the nymph out of the fish's mouth.

Alternatively, a line as heavy as the Nissin PALS SP Pro, which will be needed to load the rod well anyway, will have sufficient sag that you will be fishing by sight rather than by feel. What I found with the Ultralight Worm Fishing was that the line sag provided sufficient slack in the system for you to see the line start to tighten before the fish felt the tension from the rod tip. You will know the fish is there before the fish knows you are there.

Suntech Genryu Sawanobori Features

As with all keiryu rods I've seen, the grip is just a widened out section of the rod itself. It is coated with a smooth yet very effective non skid finish. "Sawanobori" is printed on the grip.

If you've only fished with cork gripped rods, you will be surprised at how much more you can feel with the corkless grip.

The grip diameter is considerably larger than on most keiryu rods. There'll be no need for tennis racquet grip on this rod - even for people with larger than average hands.

A feature I had not seen before on keiryu rods, but which makes a tremendous amount of sense, is a section of the same non skid finish at the front end of the grip section - where is where your upper hand would be when fishing two handed. Makes you wonder why all two handed rods aren't like that. The Suntech Genryu Sawanobori 45 is light enough to fish one handed, but the two longer models would be two handed rods. For smaller streams, or the tighter spots on larger streams, you can always fish the 45 two handed as well. With the butt end of the rod at your waist or side, rather than out in front of you, it effectively does shorten the rod.

The tip is a bit beefier than on most keiryu rods - and even on most of the genryu rods I've seen. The rod is rated for 4X tippet, which is stronger than most keiryu or genryu rods.

Unlike most Japanese tenkara rods, the Suntech Genryu Sawanobori rods are covered by a one-year warranty.

With the stiffness for greater sensitivity and constant contact with your flies, and the higher tippet rating for larger fish, the Suntech Genryu Sawanobori may be the best rod yet for "Japanese Nymphing."

Length extended
Length collapsed
Weight with tip cap
Weight without cap
Tip Diameter
Grip Diameter
Tippet rating 
% Carbon

G. Sawanobori 45
20 7/8"
3.3 oz
2.8 oz

G. Sawanobori 54
20 7/8"
4.6 oz

Suntech Genryu Sawanobori 45 - $235

Genryu Sawanobori 45 out of stock

Suntech Genryu Sawanobori 54 - $280

Genryu Sawanobori 63 available by special order.

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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin

"Study to be quiet." - Izaak Walton 1653

"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." Col. Robert Venables 1662


The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.

Beware of the Dogma

Currently processing orders that were received Mar. 16.

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What a stick!!! I fished streamers only on Monday. I got pics of the first 5 or 6 fish, one is pushing 19", handled her with no problem, I stopped counting but think I had about 12 to 15 fish. I will send you the pic's. I'm not able to send them on line from here.

Back to the rod though. That rod is a dream for streamers. I was using one of my fav's weighted on a 6 hook and had no problem sticking the fish. I'm going back out probably Friday and will fish nymphs if I can tear myself away from the streamers. That is a heck of a good rod for streamers!

Ken B, Montana