Seiryu rods (often called hae rods in Japan) bridge the gap between micro fishing and either tenkara or keiryu. They
are ultralight telescopic rods, similar to tenkara or keiryu rods, but designed
for small fish in placid streams. Most Japanese anglers use them to
catch dace and chubs. In that sense, seiryu fishing falls into what we would call micro fishing. Tanago fishing would also be included in what we would call micro fishing, although it is very, very different from seiryu fishing.
Most in the US use seiryu rods in place of tenkara rods while fishing for trout,
as do some Japanese anglers. They are very light and very sensitive, and they cast light tenkara lines very well. It is not surprising that they have developed a bit of a cult following here in the US.
The photo above was taken from the Nissin seiryu rod web page. In Japan, seiryu rods are used with flies and or bait (using a small float rather than the markers used in keiryu fishing).
The shorter ones, such as the 2.4 meter Nissin Air Stage Hakubai, are ideal for micro fishing (in the broad sense of the term - fishing for small fish of any species).
If you are targeting micros in the narrow sense of the word - dace, chubs, shiners, mosquitofish etc. - the short seiryu rods will allow you to fish the tiniest of streams (where you are likely to find the tiniest of fish).
The slightly longer seiryu rods, 2.9 to 3.4 meters, make wonderful rods for tenkara-style fishing for sunfish or creek chubs or baby bass or small wild trout in smaller streams.
If the smaller streams you fish do not have particularly fast currents, or particularly large fish, a seiryu rod is all the rod you'd need. If you want to actually feel the fight of a modest fish, choose a rod that is actually designed to catch modest fish.
The 3.6 to 4.5m rods are outstanding for panfish in ponds and lakes, and for modest trout in streams that don't have fast currents. They are still fun with micros, though!
If you want to fly fish for micros, choose a seiryu rod. It will cast a line that is light enough to twitch when a micro takes your fly, and it will bend when the micro fights (and they do fight, you just can't feel it if you fish a heavier rod).
The longest seiryu rods really do quite well for keiryu fishing if the target fish aren't too large. At 5.4 or 6.3 meters, they are as long as most of the keiryu rods used by US anglers. They are lighter, although the 6.3m rods still aren't one-handers! You do have to know your waters, though, as keiryu fishing will tend to catch larger fish than you'll catch when tenkara fishing.
I can certainly understand the drive to catch bigger and bigger fish, the adrenaline rush when your rod suddenly bends more than you think a rod ought to bend as you try to stop the first run, your heart racing when you are not at all sure you are going to win the fight. If you do win the fight (and you don't always) there is a distinct sense of accomplishment. People in the East and Midwest go to Colorado and Montana for that feeling. People in Colorado and Montana go to Alaska.
The thing is, though, if you match the rod to
the fish, you can get that same adrenaline rush - and the fear that you
might not win the fight - even if the fight is with a surprisingly
modest fish. And, you can do it close to home!
Speaking of close to home, micros are everywhere!
A three inch creek chub might not give you a heart-in-the-throat adrenaline rush, but sometimes they are frustratingly hard to hook - or to keep on one of the super small tanago hooks.
Want heart-in-your-throat fights with small fish? Soft seiryu rods with 10X tippet! They'll give you all the challenge you could possibly want. It will also cure you of striking too hard!
With 10X tippet, you can also catch trout, but only the small ones! Anything over 9 or 10" will win the fight. Few seiryu rods are rated for 10X tippets, anyway, but most are rated for 9X. With 9X tippets you can certainly land the small fish, but for even modest trout you will have to hone your fish fighting skills. You will not have to go to New Zealand to find fish that can break your line if you aren't careful!
Confession time. I stopped carrying 10X or even 9X tippet. Even for the finickiest trout, you don't need to go smaller than 8X, and even for the smallest micro you don't need to go smaller than 8X. Besides, when (not if, when) you hook a fish much larger than expected, you will have at least a chance of landing it.
Seiryu rods are not fancy. They don't have $300 price tags - except for the Gamakatsu Ryokei, which is well over $300, (which is why I don't stock them). The Suntech Kurenai rods and the Nissin Air Stage rods are very reasonably priced.
They're not the right rods for big fish, but they were never intended to be. They were designed for dace and chubs - certainly modest fish. Most people here in the US use them for trout, and depending on the rod they're perfect for trout from 4 to about 12 or 14 inches.
As a VERY rough rule of thumb, divide the rod length by 12. The 6' rods are fine for 6" trout. The 13' rods are OK for 13" trout, but be sure to heed the manufacturer's tippet limitation. Even with the tippet limitations, I would not target 17" trout with the 5.4m rods or 20" trout and 6.3m rods!
By all means, though, do not overlook the sunfish, chubs and shiners that live in almost any body of water that doesn't dry up in the summer or freeze solid in the winter. They're there, they're fun to catch, and that's what the rods were designed for.
And speaking of modest fish, few are more modest than the creek chub.
Very few people in the US fish specifically for chubs, probably because the average fish is under 7" long. With the right rod, though, a fish of that size can still be a lot of fun. One of my most memorable catches was a creek chub caught on a dry fly with a very soft 2.9m seiryu rod. The fish was no more than about 7" long, but it was all I could do to keep it out of a downed tree that surely would have broken my 7X tippet. With the very soft rod it was really quite a battle.
It's all about matching the rod to the size of the fish.
Even if the fish aren't trophies, and even if you fish with a size 12 fly and 6X tippet tippet (so you don't have to worry about break-offs) seiryu rods are still a lot of fun with the little sunfish that live in the pond in the town park. If you have a couple free hours, most places in the country (even downtown New York City) are close enough to fishable water to have some fun with the fish that live there.
And if there are sunfish, there are probably bass. Seiryu rods will handle modest bass with no problems.
Just remember that seiryu rods protect light tippets, and light tippets protect seiryu rods.
Even though there are fish near where you live, no matter where you live, there are those who venture far from home, and far from the nearest road, not for the biggest fish but for those that hold a special place in our hearts.
They say "tenkara" means from heaven. Maybe so, but if you fish little wild streams for little wild brookies or rainbows or greenbacks or goldens, take my advice and take a seiryu rod. That is truly a match made in heaven.
Please click on the links or the photos to go to pages with detailed write-ups and Add to Cart buttons for the rods.
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