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Quality Counts: A Review of the Tenryu Furaibo TF39

by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)

The Tenryu Furaibo TF39 is a Beautifully-Crafted Rod

The Tenryu Furaibo TF39 is a Beautifully-Crafted Rod

Is the Tenryu Furaibo worth its price tag and worth having? I think all tenkara fishermen have enjoyed the photos of these beautiful rods, but then we’re a little surprised by the price. Can a rod with no reel seat and no line guides really be worth that many American greenbacks? Is it a good value, and — once you have it — will you be glad you bought it?

Eight months ago, when I first saw the glossy beauty of the Tenryu, I started saving my pennies. My wife and I operate on a careful budget, so this was no small decision in our household. But, I really wanted to test the non-zooming, less-expensive, version of this rod, so I started saving. I even told Chris Stewart at one point that I hoped he was keeping the TF39 in stock because it would be a shame to save for those months and then find that it’s no longer available! And, as expensive as these rods are, Chris has them cheaper than any of the auction sites I’ve visited. If I was going to buy one, it would have to be from Chris.

So, the day finally arrived, TenkaraBum still had them in stock, and I placed my order. Then I anxiously watched my doorstep. Sure enough, in a few days, it arrived; and I was like that kid at Christmas opening his favorite toy.

In tenkara rods, the carbon fiber blanks are the heart of performance, and the Tenryu Furaibo tubes are exceptional. You can feel that difference in the ultra-smooth bend profile, in the precise manner the sections slide together, and even when you disassemble the rod to dry it out. My guess is that the higher price tag is a reflection of these high-quality blanks, plus their fit and finish. I know there’s even a video where a Japanese expert says that Tenryu is known for having the highest-quality blanks. I believe it. There are other fine Japanese tenkara rods, but the smoothness of the Furaibo is a step above.

The Furaibo is also strikingly beautiful. In fact, I’ve had several people stop me streamside just because they admired the red-laquered appearance of the pole. If you prefer camouflage rods, this is not the one for you! (The bright color doesn’t seem to affect its fish-catching ability.) The TF39 looks good at a distance AND up close.

I have other tenkara rods, made by different companies, that claim to be super-nice, ultra-premium, and all that. It’s easy for companies to make such claims. The Tenryu Furaibo backs it up, and you’ll know the difference as soon as you handle one.

I should mention that the Furaibo says on the rod that it’s designed for level lines, but I use ultralight furled lines. They work just fine and cast as smoothly as the whisper of a butterfly’s wing.

No item made by human hands is perfect, and there will always be room for improvement. I don’t own any perfect rods. In the case of the Tenryu Furaibo TF39, there are three changes I’d make. One change is definitely a matter of opinion, one is a slight aggravation, and one is a design improvement I’d suggest.

First, I’d like a small change in the cylindrical shape of the Furaibo’s cork handle. For my extra-large mitts, a gourd-shaped grip is more comfortable for a long day of fishing. The straight cylinder of the Furaibo does allow you to grasp it anywhere for the same feel, but I still slightly prefer a curved handle. I should mention, however, that the Furaibo has the highest-quality cork that I’ve seen on any rod.

The second point is a small aggravation. The cushioned red rod case comes with a hook-and-loop type closure, but the “hook” part of the system is on the flap. That means that when you draw out the stretchy sock that actually holds the rod, the sock wants to drag, or catch, on the hooks. This, in turn, frays or fuzzes up the stretchy material. It would be an easy matter for Tenryu to reverse the hook-and-loop set up so that you can smoothly draw the rod from the cushioned rod case.

The third item deals with the grip screw cap. Right now, on the non-zooming TF39, there’s no O-ring or gasket to help secure the screw cap into the butt of the rod. This could allow the grip screw cap to loosen and fall into the water. The easy way for the owner to address the problem is to make sure that the grip screw cap is tightened at the beginning of each fishing trip. (I do that on all my rods anyway.) I also wrapped two turns of plumber’s thread tape around the threads on the cap, which helped.

So, in a perfect world, I’d reverse the hook-and-loop arrangement on the rod case, put a gourd-shaped cork handle on the TF39, and equip the grip screw cap with an O-ring. Perhaps TenkaraBum can pass along a couple of these suggestions to the good folks at Tenryu. These are minor concerns, however, compared with how the rod performs.

What’s the Tenryu Furaibo like? It’s wonderfully smooth, carefully crafted, and aesthetically pleasing. It’s a delight in the hand and on the water. This rod comes alive when you hook and play a fish. To date, I’ve caught panfish, largemouth bass, and Guadalupe bass with the TF39, and it’s handled all of them with style. Rated at 14 pennies, the Furaibo is not a big fish rod, but it’s more capable than one might imagine. It casts beautifully, and its manufacturing tolerances are precise. At 12’ 10” and 2.4 oz., the extended rod has excellent balance. It’s not “just another nice pole with a pretty paint job.” It’s a pleasure to own and a joy to use. Check out the video on the TenkaraBum website of Yuzo Sebata fishing with the zoom version of the Tenryu Furaibo, and you’ll see what I mean.

There are other good rods out there, but the Tenryu Furaibo TF39 is near the top of the list, where quality counts.

Comments for Quality Counts: A Review of the Tenryu Furaibo TF39

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May 24, 2017
Velcro patches
by: Chris Stewart

When my wife went to Japan earlier this spring, she stopped in to visit Tenryu. In a FaceTime session (Apple finally brought us the "videophone" that people have forecast for the last 50 years) I asked them to switch the placement of the velcro hooks and loops.

The reply was that they had tried that and the hooks caught on the white knit inside of flap on the case.

Just earlier this week I got an email from Tenryu with a solution to the problem. Starting with next year's production, there will be a nylon lining on the case flap that prevents the the hooks from snagging it. That will allow them to reverse the positions of the hooks and the loops, so the hooks will no longer snag the rod sock.

They also said I could purchase the new cases for my existing rod inventory. Unfortunately, I do not yet know the cost of the replacement rod cases.

I must say I am very happy with Tenryu's response to my request. I did not ask them to change the grip because it fits my hand well. Personally, I haven't noticed that the lack of an O ring is a problem. The flange of the grip screw tightens against the cork of the grip, which seems to hold it well in my experience.

May 24, 2017
Thanks for the Review
by: Les A.

Sounds like you made a great choice. They are beautiful rods. Chris has way too many awesome choices. I'll admit, I have daydreamed of what it must be like for him when he thinks about what rods to test when he goes fishing. I debated several times over getting one myself. I have been selling off sporting equipment I don't use, and replacing it with Rods from TenkaraBum. Now you are making me look hard and long again at the Tenryu Furaibo rods! If I sell my Sage and Able reel setup, I might pull the trigger. The problem is I find the quality of the Suntech Rods to be really really good too. Do you have a Suntech? I would like to hear a comparison if you do. My other hesitancy is the one I really want is the TF39TA and it is as you know over $500.00. I would use it for backpacking as as Chris said, I go into the high country to fish. I am also more and more gravitating to the longer rods. Thanks for all the food for thought!

John, I am planning on fishing in the Lost Maples on June 21st. I'll be there about 3:00. What rod length would you recommend? What flies should I bring? I am thinking about bringing my Diawa 300 cm. rod.

May 24, 2017
Some Additional Thoughts
by: John Evans

I own several Suntech rods and enjoy them all. A person can't go wrong with either brand (Suntech or Tenryu)--both are top-notch equipment. For what it's worth, I think the Furaibo is more eye-catching and, perhaps, a bit smoother. In a general way, I would say that my Suntech rods (keiryu specials and so forth) are better for deeper water and weighted nymphs, while the Tenryu Furaibo is definitely a full-flex rod that is extremely smooth and sensitive. Of course, my little Suntech Kurenai 30 is in a class all its own, as far as a smaller fish rod. Don't know much about backpacking, but when you pick up a Furaibo, you'll know it's a special rod.
Les, on Lost Maples, as I've mentioned before, the rangers will normally steer you toward the "ponds" but all of the low water crossings are much better for tenkara fishing. There's lots of brush in some spots, and you'll go from 3" sunfish to 3-lb bass and catfish. Something fairly short (270 cm-320 cm) with some decent backbone is best--like the Suntech Keiryu Special 27 on up to the Field Master fished at the shortest length. The big green sunfish in my Furaibo photos is from Lost Maples.

May 25, 2017
Thanks for the info
by: Les A.

John - Thanks for the reminder of your reviews of several Suntech rods in the past. The Tenryu is still on my radar, but has drifted to the backseat again. What is on the forefront of my list is a new Suntech rod that Chris told me about that is a zoom rod from 8.4 - 9 meters.

For my trip to Lost Maples, I am going to bring my Diawa Kiyose 30 SF. I really like this little rod. I find myself using it more often than I expected. We have Wednesday afternoon off for our conference. Fishing or a tour of historical sites? I am going fishing! Thanks for all of your help!

Most of my close fishing is on big rivers, the Snake, the Weiser, the Payette, and the Boise. I am still trying to figure out the best rods for where I live.

May 25, 2017
Daiwa Kiyose 30SF is just right!
by: John Evans

I, too, have a Daiwa Kiyose 30SF and have used it to good effect at Lost Maples. It is, perhaps, a little stiff for most of the fish, but is just right for the bigger bass and catfish. For what it's worth, and I tell you this in advance, the bass at Lost Maples FREQUENTLY swallow any sunfish that you have on the line. Of course, they're not hooked, but it can be pretty exciting for a few seconds!

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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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The hooks are sharp.
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