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 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. 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.
For smaller trout in small 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!
The Air Stage Hakubai stiff really isn't very stiff. It is a 7 penny rod, compared the the medium, which is a 5 penny rod. It is just a little firmer and just a little more tip flex than the medium. However, even a good sized shiner or very small sunfish or bass (see below) will put a bend in it.
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.
That said, I know there are well respected people in the micro fishing community who will argue that not one of the fish pictured on this page, save the blacknose dace below, is really a micro. To be honest, I don't care. I am much more interested in providing equipment (and encouragement) that will make fishing for small fish fun.
If "Oh boy! I got it!" turns into "Oh crap, I already got this one!" or "Oh crap, its a bluegill sunfish (not micro) not a blue spotted sunfish (micro) that's not fun in my book and that's not why I offer the gear I do. If you enjoy the fishing, and the catching, and learning what you have caught doesn't disappoint you, then you and I are on the same page.
In recent years, fly fishing for micros has become more popular. Seiryu fishing in Japan is micro fishing (at least the way I define it), 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 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 line no heavier than the Nissin Oni line size 2.5, and the YGK size 2 or 1.5 would be more sensitive for strike detection. The tippet rating for the Air Stage Hakubai is 9X to 7X. I absolutely would not exceed 7X! For that matter, if you are fishing for small fish, there's really no reason to fish with tippet stronger than 8X. Pushing it to 7X only increases the risk to the rod if you hook a much larger fish, or if a much larger fish eats the micro you have hooked before you land it.
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.
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"
240 硬調 (stiff)
7' 11 1/2"
*Hakubai rods are used in Japan to catch fish that don't get much bigger than about 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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TenkaraBum.com no longer ships to the UK. The new VAT regulations are too onerous for a one-man shop that rarely ships anything to the UK anyway. I apologize.
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Canadian buyers have the option to prepay import duty and VAT (which also eliminates the CAN$9.96 Canada Post charge for collecting the import duty and VAT). The prepayment option costs a flat US$6.95, which can yield a substantial savings for larger purchases. This option is only for packages under $400 in value AND 24" or less in length.
The Air Stage rods present a problem for international shipments. International first class packages cannot be longer than 24" but the rod cases that the Air Stage rods come in are longer than that. The plastic display case will be cut to fit.