Comparison: Shimotsuke Kiyotake 240 v Nissin Airstage Hakubai 240

by Pete

Back in March I purchased a Shimotsuke Kiyotake 240 rod on ebay for a ridiculously low price. It sounded ideal for fishing the narrow, tree-shrouded urban streams I fish and so it proved.... over the spring and early summer I caught hundreds of beautiful wild Brown Trout both on this and the 180 version of the same rod (which I bought a few weeks later). Although weighing only 1oz, the 240 could easily handle fish up to 14 inches and both rods were so cheap that I had no hesitation in using them in 'challenging' situations.

By July I'd decided that the only downside to the rods was their stiffness: in Chris's 'common cents database' the 240 weighs in at 15 pennies, which makes it stiffer than just about any other rod in its length class. The practical considerations of this were: a) casting was not really accurate or pretty — I'd just flick/lob a small bead-head nymph into the general area I was fishing and hope for the best... and b) although the rods were great with bigger fish (8" plus) I lost count of the number of 4" to 6" fish that would wriggle off my (barbless) flies at the last moment.

So... in August I decided to buy the highly rated Nissin Airstage Hakubai 240 to compliment my small stream set up. Including shipping, import duties and taxes, it worked out roughly four times more expensive then my Shimotsuke 240! I chose the stiffest of three versions Nissin offers for each length of the Airstage Hakubai (the medium-stiffness version of the 240 sold by Chris has a common cents rating of only 7 pennies, which seemed a little on the soft side for my requirements). Chris hasn’t rated the stiffest version of the 240 on his database but presumably it’s somewhere in the 9-10 penny range? Whatever…it’s noticeably softer than my Shimotsuke Kiyotake 240.

On my first day’s fishing with the Airstage I successfully landed a number of small brownies, some of which were so tiny I don’t think I’d even have felt the bites on my Shimotsukes, and since I’ve also been continually amazed at how accurately and delicately it casts tiny dry flies.

But…where bigger fish are concerned (10"-12”) I definitely lose more mid-fight with the Airstage than I do with the Shimotsuke 240 and I can only presume that the softer rod can sometimes make good hook-sets harder to get and maintain during the struggle. I’m not sorry I bought the Airstage — it’s beautifully made, unbelievably light and a true joy to fish with, but it just goes to show that in many situations there is no single ‘perfect’ solution.

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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..." -
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