The Nissin Air Stage Hakubai are wonderfully light, extremely sensitive rods very well suited for tenkara fishing in smaller streams for smaller fish. Seiryu is generally translated as "clear stream" and these rods are about as nice as you'll find for fishing the crystal clear headwaters in the Catskills, the Smokies or the Sierras.
For years now, US anglers have known that light sensitive rods like the Suntech Kurenai HM30R are just ideal for modest trout in smaller streams. The only problem with the Kurenai rods is that there are lots and lots of streams that have trout but are too small, brushy and overgrown to fish with the 9'8" HM30R.
For most anglers, the 8'
Nissin Air Stage Hakubai 240 硬調 is about as short a rod as they can use
without spooking the fish they are trying to catch. The first thing you'll notice when you pick it up is that it is almost
unbelievably light. The rod weighs just .6 ounce!
The Vermont PBS station had a nice program on tenkara not long ago. Although the host kept referring to the rod used in the show as a tenkara rod, it was actually a Nissin Air Stage Hakubai 240 硬調. The fishing was pure tenkara but the rod is actually a seiryu rod. Nonetheless, if you are fishing for little wild brookies, it would be hard to find a better rod.
Although these are wonderful headwaters rods, they're really not backpacking rods. The collapsed length on all of them is a relatively long 23 5/8". (Of course, generations of fly fishermen backpacked with three piece fly rods, which when broken down are quite a bit longer than that!). The longer sections mean fewer joints, and fewer joints make a smoother casting rod.
Still, for smaller trout in smaller streams, the Air Stage Hakubai 240 硬調 is just a wonderful rod.
For streams that are too small for even the Hakubai 240, Nissin makes an Air Stage Hakubai 190. For that length I carry only the softer 硬中硬 (medium) rod. I see it primarily as a micro fishing rod, although you can use it to fish tiny streams for tiny trout.
However, the rod is indeed for tiny trout. I don't think I'd want to tangle with an 8 or 9 inch fish!
And if you happen to live too far away from little streams teaming with hungry trout, you'll find that the Nissin Air Stage Hakubai are also wonderful rods for little streams teaming with hungry sunfish. They're not big fish rods (to be perfectly honest, tenkara is not a big fish pursuit and seiryu fishing is very definitely not a big fish pursuit) but for smaller fish these are just delightful little rods.
The Nissin Air Stage Hakubai rods are superb for micro fishing.
It seems like little fish are the new big thing. A recent NPR segment on micro fishing has generated a lot of interest. Perhaps the best thing about it is that it is so accessible. You don't have to travel far to go micro fishing. Many town parks have a lake or stream, and they all have fish. Most won't be wall hangers, but if you fish with equipment that is actually designed for catching small fish, it can be a lot of fun.
Micro fishing can also get very interesting and challenging if you take it to the next level - seeking out and fishing for species in your area that you have not yet caught. It starts with sunfish and gets progressively more challenging.
Years ago, I carried the Air Stage Hakubai 硬調 in multiple lengths. I dropped all but the 190 and 240, lengths for which Suntech did not make the Kurenai. A couple years ago I switched the 190 from the firmer 硬調 to the softer 硬中硬. It turned out to be nicer rod for micros, in that a smaller fish could still put a bend in it.
In recent years, fly fishing for micros has become more popular. Seiryu fishing in Japan is micro fishing, and is done with either flies or bait, but what we mean by micro fishing in the US is much broader than seiryu fishing in Japan. Also, the common method of Japanese seiryu fishing with flies is not at all like what we do here. At least for now, I'll just continue to call it fly fishing for micros.
Given the increased popularity, and given that the Air Stage Hakubai 硬中硬 rods are softer and have considerably less backbone than the Kurenai rods, I thought these rods might be a better choice for micros, while the Kurenai would be a better choice for trout.
One thing that Coach and I have found when fly fishing for micros is that the shortest rods are often too short. Unlike tanago in Japan, most micros in the US are pretty skittish, and a longer rod is generally beneficial. For that reason, I decided to stock the Nissin Air Stage Hakubai 硬中硬 rods in 240, 290 and 340 lengths in addition to the 190.
In comparison to the Nissin Fine Mode Nagare 330, Air Stage Hakubai 硬中硬 is a soft mid flex, while the Nagare is a soft full flex. Both would be great for micros. It just depends on which bend profile you prefer.
The rods are soft enough to cast a line that will twitch when a micro takes your fly. I would use size 2.5 line (and I have some even lighter line in mind that I haven't yet received). The tippet rating for the
Air Stage Hakubai 硬中硬 is 9X to 7X. I absolutely would not exceed 7X, and would suggest 8X for the 190.
In addition to being light and responsive, the Nissin Air Stage Seiryu rods are really pretty. The finish is a clear coat over blue speckles and is unlike any other rod I've seen. In the sunlight, the rod changes from blue to green depending on the angle of the sun.
The color is carried into the grip section, which, as on all the other seiryu rods I've seen, is just a widened section of the rod blank, to which has been applied a very effective nonskid finish. The lack of cork between you and the blank gives you tremendous feel for what the fly is doing (and what the fish is doing).
I truly do not understand why some of the Japanese anglers, who do use seiryu rods like the Nissin Air Stage for tenkara fishing, cover the wonderfully sensitive grip with the rubber wrapping used on tennis racquets. You need it in tennis to cushion the shock from hitting line drive serves. In tenkara? I don't think so.
The tip plug is plastic and has minute ridges machined into the part that goes into the rod tip. It is a very snug fit - much more so than on the perhaps more common wood / rubber plugs. It is definitely not going to slip out by itself. However, they are small and easy to misplace. Do not lose the tip plug! Replacements are available, but they are expensive.
The grip screw is also plastic and seats securely in an aluminum insert in the end of the grip. The knurling on the screw cap allows you to tighten it securely or remove it easily.
I would recommend size 2.5 or 3 line and 7X tippet except for the 190 硬中硬, for which I would recommend 8X tippet. Nissin recommends tippet up to 6.5 for the 240 硬調, but I'd still use 7X.
Like a set of fine china, replacement pieces are available but there is no warranty. Handle with care and you'll be able to pass it on to your grandkids.
The Nissin Air Stage rods are made in Japan.
The penny numbers for the 190 and 240 are correct. The 240 is softer.
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|My oh my oh my! A lovely thing - only cast to lawn trout in the back yard with 9' of #3 but - my oh my oh my!
.....fished two rivers and one pond today with the Air Stage. The Air Stage works. I like where it bends but I felt it was underlined today [with a size 3 line].
I like the rod a lot. The grip is perfect for the rod length. It has authority with a fish on even though the grip is slim and the fish didn't push the rod much. It can handle 12"+ trout easily I feel, though I wouldn't take it to a tailwater.
Dry flies went right where the were supposed to. An accurate rod. It reminded me something we often forget.....all you have to do to cast is get the line moving. You don't have to backcast unless you want to. The rod did all those circular casts Mr. Sakakibara does in the vids easily. The rod has vocabulary, if you know what I mean.
Stephen M, Massachusetts
|I took the rod  out today on a small stream in eastern WV with mostly brookie natives. The rod handled remarkably well for such a short length and is substantially fuller working than the Kiyotaki.
I am amazed at how close I can get to the fish in the faster sections of the stream. I had numerous strikes and did manage to land about a dozen in 2.5 hours of fishing with the largest brookie being around 12 inches but most in the 4-8 inch range.
It does take a while to get used to such a short rod but it allows me to place some real tight casts and that is how I got the 12 incher under a tree on a quick bend. Really a very small pool. I think this rod will be very nice when things get really overgrown. The rod is so light and small one hardly knows you're holding anything and I can still get 6-36 inch drifts with it easily.
Roger H, West Virginia
|I was very pleased with the feel of this rod both in the casting and in the "fighting" with the fish. The Air Stage 190 is the perfect rod for close quarters fishing on tight mountain streams for smaller fish.
John C, Massachusetts
|You were correct, this is one sweet rod. After hours of use all I can say is you can't make a bad cast with this rod.
Bob H, New Jersey
|I received some micro gear from Chris today. I couldn't wait to try it out so off to the local pond I went. My new Nissan Air Stage 190 is pure delight. It's not only beautifully finished but it's sensitive enough to play micros and tough enough to land bluegills. I caught some of each. I tied a single strand knot of black killer bugger yarn around a few of the Owner New Half Moon Tanago hooks and trimmed the excess yarn forming a little ball. The fish thought it was a little bug of some sort. I also got to use my new micro photo tank. It provides a nice photo format for identification and keeps the little critters in water to be safely released. I'm stoked! Some guy pointed out a 20" Rainbow for me to target. I said no thanks, I'm going tiny. He just shook his head and walked away. Thanks Chris. Micro fishing's a hoot!
Terry F, New Mexico
|Nissin Air Stage 190 is a blast!
Kyle Q, North Carolina
|I love the rod! It's the best rod I have ever fished! 8" Rainbow is a blast to hook and land (What a fight).
Ted F, North Carolina
| I think that seiryu fishing in the neighborhood creek may be one of the last "frontiers" in angling. One time I was fishing a little neighborhood creek that almost no one else fishes. A hiker came by and said, "You catch fish there? RIGHT THERE IN THAT LITTLE DAB OF WATER?" He couldn't believe someone could be so desperate, gullible, and naive as to fish that little creek that wasn't six feet wide. About that time, my Nissin Air Stage 240 almost bent double with a cichlid. I smiled, and he just looked
John E, Texas