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A Great Micro-Fishing Rod . . . Really!

by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)

A Sunfish this Size will put a Deep Bend in the Hakubai

A Sunfish this Size will put a Deep Bend in the Hakubai

Do you enjoy exploring tight, brushy streams in search of micro fish? If so, there’s a rod you need to try: the Nissin Air Stage Hakubai 240. I’ve fished the one that I bought from TenkaraBum at least a dozen times now, and it’s an exceptional pole. It’s definitely a small fish rod, incredibly light at .6 oz., and amazingly fun to use. It casts smoothly and accurately for a rod that’s only 7’8” long, and it really comes alive when you play a fish. It’ll make you a kid again.

I have two rods that always bring astonished looks to people’s faces when I place them in their hands. One is the Suntech Kurenai HM30R and the other is this Nissin Air Stage Hakubai 240. The usual reaction is, “Oh . . . Oh . . . Wow!” Instinctively, people want to cast them. How do these two excellent rods differ? Obviously, the Suntech is longer, but it’s also more of a tip flex rod. The Nissin Air Stage has a full flex feel. I use my Kurenai for fish up to and including stocker Rainbows and Guadalupe bass. The Nissin is more of a micro-fishing rod. When I head for really overgrown streams . . . you know, the little creek just down the road that’s teeming with yellowbellies . . . the Air Stage is the one I pick. The Kurenai is splendid for the next size up and is also a delight to use. If you have both of these rods in your quiver, you won’t regret either purchase.

The Air Stage is not as popular as the Kurenai, but I assure you that it’s a special rod. How much do I enjoy the Hakubai? As soon as I ordered one from Chris Stewart and fished it, I immediately ordered another as a reserve. It really is that good. With the Hakubai you can delicately place soft casts under low-hanging limbs and around submerged roots—you know, right where the fish are! This rod allows a delicate presentation that doesn’t spook the fish as much.

How do I set up the Air Stage for micro fish? I typically use lightly-weighted size 14 or 16 Utah Killer Bugs with six feet of ultralight furled leader and a couple of feet of 7X tippet. I sure wouldn’t use any heavier tippet than that. The biggest fish I’ve caught was a half-pound male cichlid, but what a fight! Both the fish and I were tired when we finished. A six-inch bluegill will also push the Air Stage to its limit. I wouldn’t use this rod if I knew I was going to hook bigger fish, or I’d at least make sure to use extra-light tippet to protect it.

I always tell people that I don’t own any perfect rods, and there are usually a few things I’d change. In the case of the Nissin Air Stage, however, it’s hard to nitpick. I’m not a big fan of the Nissin soft plastic rod pouches, but you can easily fix that by ordering one of Chris Stewart’s TenkaraBum rod socks. Hey, the colors even match! The rod does have a fairly long collapsed length of 23 5/8”, but that’s never been a problem for me. In fact, the fewer sections help the rod to cast smoothly.

This is also a beautiful rod, sort of a deep sparkly green that really attracts the eye. The rod is also gracefully-proportioned. From the slender handle to the fine tip, it flows together in a pleasing way.

If you think you might like to try micro-fishing, or you already know that you enjoy it, this is one seiryu rod you must consider. Short enough for tiny streams, flexible enough to cast tenkara-style, and sensitive enough for even the smallest fish, the Nissin Air Stage Hakubai 240 is hard to beat. The first time you pick one up and extend it, you’ll know you have a winner.

Comments for A Great Micro-Fishing Rod . . . Really!

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Jul 04, 2017
Could have used that rod!
by: Les A.

I would have loved that rod for my time in Texas a couple of weeks ago. Might be a little too light for our high gradient streams, and sneaker 14 incher that might be hidden in the pool. Thanks for sharing your insights John.

Jul 04, 2017
Good Report, John!
by: Herb S.

Nothing like positive reports on potential future rods. Thanks! I have a Hakubai on the other end of the scale, the 390, which I dearly love, and it's not surprising your rod is a winner, too. Nissin makes really great rods.

The 390 casts like a dream with a #3 level tenkara line and is very accurate. Like you I use 7X tippets. Though I'm sure the rod will protect 8X or lighter, 7X is plenty hard enough to see and thread onto tiny hooks. Speaking of hooks, I tie a fly for mini-fish I call the Black Thread and Hen. It's tied on a #14 3XShort curved caddis hook. The body is just black 6/0 thread and the hackle is sort of palmered on the front half of the hook - just two or three turns. Shiners, chubs, baby bass and other sunfish seem to like it very well.

The small rivers in our area are mostly wide enough for a longer rod, and the 13' Hakubai is perfect for casting across weed beds to open spots. It's mostly flat, relatively slow flowing water and a little distance avoids spooking the fish, although very slow wading also works with shorter rods.

My wife and I sometimes go back to visit her home state, Virginia, where Shenandoah National Park has the cutest itty-bitty brook trout streams that your rod would be perfect for....

Happy Fishing and Fourth of July,

Jul 04, 2017
Question about "Thread and Hen"
by: John Evans

Thanks for the comments, fellas. Les, you're correct--you would not want to hook a 14" with the 240 Hakubai, or at least you'd hope the tippet broke before the rod! Herb, on the "Thread and Hen," do you use any wire? I'm thinking that in my water a few turns of .015 lead-free wire beneath the thread and hackle might help get it beneath the surface film. I'll have to give that a try.

Jul 06, 2017
Black Thread and Hen
by: Herb S.

John, I actually tie this fly on two #14 hooks, both by Mustad.

The one I posted is the M C67S, 2XH/3XS, so it has weight in the hook and sinks a bit. I call for black hen, but am certain if you can't find a hen neck with short enough hackle fibers rooster hackle will do just fine. By all means add weight, wire or bead, to meet your conditions.

The other hook is a little larger and easier to handle and tie, the M C49S, STD/1XS, which I use when fishing over weeds because it is lighter and stays near the surface. In relatively shallow, and sometimes not so shallow, water the fish will rise to it. Sure, weight this one too if you like or change sizes or hook models. Change hackle and thread colors. Experiment! What works, works. I hope it works for you; let me know please.

My idea when concocting this fly was to get something really easy to tie, black to stand out against the sky from below and buggy enough to attract fish. So there's a method to my madness.

Happy Fishing,

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

"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

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