I believe Nissin has discontinued the Air Stage Hakubai rods. I have a few of the 240 medium rods left in stock but I will not be able to get more. Replacement parts should still be available, though.
The Nissin Air Stage Hakubai are wonderfully light, extremely sensitive rods very well suited for tenkara fishing in smaller streams for smaller fish. They are actually seiryu rods. 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, the Rockies 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" Kurenai HM30R.
For most anglers, the 8'
Nissin Air Stage Hakubai 240 硬調 (what I call "stiff") 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 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. And just to be clear, even though I call the 硬調 rod stiff, it is stiff only in relation to the 硬中硬, which I call the medium.
For even smaller trout in even smaller streams, it is hard to beat the Air Stage Hakubai medium. The medium is a 5 penny rod, which is the softest I have ever measured. It does not take a large fish to put a bend in the rod!
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.
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.
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 or the YGK size 2. The rods are capable of casting the YGK size 1.5 if you are. The tippet rating for the Air Stage Hakubai 硬中硬 is 9X to 7X. I absolutely would not exceed 7X!
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.
Grip Screw Cap
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 line and 7X tippet. Nissin recommends tippet up to 6.5 for the 240 硬調, but I'd 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.
240 硬中硬 (medium)
7' 11 1/2"
*Hakubai rods are used in Japan to catch fish that don't get much bigger than 6". Japanese anglers do not break rods on 6" fish, so I am convinced that tippet ratings are no more than a rough guide, explaining what anglers generally use with the rod. I do not believe they are meant to state the strength of tippet that will break before the rod does.
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