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a tenkara rod journey

by joe leal
(novato calif)

In early 2010 when I decided to buy a Tenkara rod for my trout fishing, I chose the TUSA Iwana. One year later, I purchased an Amago, another 6:4 rod, but the Iwana was my main trout rod. Another year passed, and then I bought an Ito, a “softer” 6:4 rod. The Ito showed me what a level flouro or horsehair line could do with a softer rod. I decided to buy a 5:5 rod, going against my fly rod preferences for a faster rod. I’m glad I did.

After reading many rod reviews, I decided on a DAIWA ENSHOU LL36SF and a LL41SF from Chris. What a revelation!! The slower, more full flex rods readjusted my outlook and casting expertise. The 5:5 rods really shine w/ flouro and horsehair lines of any length. Accuracy is much improved, effort is reduced in casting, and pure fly rod enjoyment started to take over. That was March 2013.

About 2 months later I purchased an ONI rod. I was on the path to slower, softer rods, enjoying it more each day.

I have a large backyard, with grass, trees, bushes, etc. I practice a lot with my rods and lines. It is imperative that any rod/line combo allows me to cast a straight, full length delivery of the fly of choice to a chosen target. These softer, full flex rods enabled me to use lighter lines as effectively as any heavier or furled line. I was able to use my standard line lengths, just lighter.

After the ONI rod, I started counting pennies. Let’s see:
July/2013 - Nissin Airstage 390-12p
See a pattern here?
Sept/2013 - Zerosum 360-14p
Dec/2013 - NISSIN PRO-SPEC 2way 6:4-11p (Christmas present to myself)

With the Pro-Spec I’m done. I don’t see any need for a shorter or less penny rod for my fishing. With practice and experimenting, I’m learning about and enjoying the “softer” rods more each day. I’ll have to keep the rod’s capabilities in mind as to where I use them, but I’ve always preferred medium-small streams anyway, so these rods will be perfect. I still have my heavier rods for larger waters.

My “journey” to softer Tenkara rods has taken a while. Wish I started much earlier, but my fly rod preferences clouded my thinking. I’m finding that my delivery and presentation is more accurate, more relaxing overall, and I’m casting the same distances as before, just softer and I’m using lighter lines, flouro and horsehair. You do the math.

All of my new rods, except the ONI, were purchased from Chris Stewart, of course. I would like to thank Chris for providing quality rods at a reasonable price, along with excellent service and advice. Tenkara in the US owes him big time.

I’ll write a report in a month or so with my rod/line combo’s that work the best for me. We nerds can compare notes.

Tight lines everyone.

Comments for a tenkara rod journey

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Jan 13, 2014
Rod choice
by: Anonymous

Thanks for a very well-written and informative offereing. It should be noted, however, that whether fishing western or tenkara style, rod choice is based primarily on water-type fished and the fish targeted. It's fun and informative to discuss pennies, ratios, rod momentum, etc., but rod choice comes down to how big is the water I plan to fish and the fish who live there. I've bought a quiver of three rods from Chris over the past year or so which 'for now' covers the Trophy water(read: stocked) in NC I fish for trout (Shimotsuke 3.6, 25p; Daiwa Keiryu 43MF, 28-33p)and my 'Christmas present' for pond and lagoon fishing the urban water here in my city(Nissin ProSpec 7:3). Water and Fish rule!

Jan 13, 2014
by: clyde l. olson

Didn't mean to be anonymous---I take responsibility for the above note.

Jan 13, 2014
Yes, but...
by: TenkaraBum

Clyde, your comments are true to a point, but the action (5:5 up through 8:2) really is a measure of whether the rod is full flex or tip flex, and they come in all lengths and stiffnesses. I have a wonderful 8:2 rod that is very definitely for smaller fish in smaller streams - for guys who like a tip flex rod.

Joe's "journey" from an Iwana and Amago to Daiwa, Oni and Nissin rods reflects a gradual realization that he prefers more full flex rods and softer rods. He'll be fishing the same streams for the same fish - and clearly could have stayed with the Iwana. Similarly, most people who buy an Iwana could just as effectively fish a Nissin or Daiwa.

For the fish that most tenkara anglers catch in the US (and that all catch in Japan), a 5:5 rod is just as effective as a 7:3. A 12 or 13 penny rod would be more challenging for 14-16" fish, but if most of your fish are 8-12" and you mostly fish streams with moderate current, whether the rod is a 12 penny rod or a 24 penny rod is purely a matter of personal preference. Neither would be a "wrong" choice. It depends on what you want to feel when you cast and when you have a fish on the line.

Jan 13, 2014
You're right
by: Clyde l. Olson

Can't disagree with anything you said, Chris, and probably the best advice to tenkara newbie's---which I didn't make clear as the point of my note---is that expert advice like I got based on the water and fish to be targeted will most likely result in purchasing the proper initial tenkara rod.

Jan 13, 2014
more rods
by: Alan Luecke

I'm really appreciating this topic. A year ago I had no idea what a fly line loop looked like, tight or other wise. I had spent the previous ten years fishing a small spinning rod out of a canoe and got it the habit of snapping it as fast and as hard as possible. Needless to say, my journey to an appreciation of soft rods has been a little rocky.

I've acquired a nice range of rods from small to large (all from Chris) which I picked for their function and use. Kiyotaki and Soyokaze for the little places, Daiwa Kiyoses for bigger fish and a Nissin Zerosum for most of the time. I spent months hopelessly overpowering the Zerosum. It was a revelation when I finally lightened up and let the rod to the work.

Still, as the season ended I found myself in between. With a small fly, a light line and a light wind, the Zerosum is pure joy. But in a tight place with poor conditions I am much more effective with the Kiyose 33SF or the Soyokaze. With the Zerosum I "cast", with the others I sort of snap my wrist around while watching the fish and things seem to work out.

The solution of course, is another rod! I will be getting one of the seiryu headwaters rod, probably a 29 or 30 to learn about soft rods in tight places.

High hopes for an early spring.

Jan 13, 2014
Personal preference
by: Terry Farmer

I started with a TUSA Iwana (which I still love by the way) and then purchased an Ito. I didn't like the soft feel of the Ito at all. Wanting a longer rod, but stiffer, I purchased a Nissin 450 ZX two way medium from Chris. For the water I fish, mostly urban ponds and channels, the Nissin is my "go to" rod of choice. I love it. It feels right, but that's just my personal preference. In fact, I then went ahead and sprung for the Nissin 450 ZX two way heavy for some serious carp action. I've also got to say that I couldn't be happier with Chris's level of customer service and advice.
A highly satisfied customer,

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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

As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.


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

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