The Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP is a honryu (main stream)
tenkara rod, designed for larger streams. Despite its length and its classification as a main stream
rod, this is a finesse rod, not a force rod.
At first wiggle the rod will seem too soft to handle trout of any size. However, Dr. Ishigaki has caught 18-20" trout with the prototype, and one of the first people here in the US to have one of the production models has caught bass to a couple pounds. He said the rod does bend easily, but you get to a point on the power curve where you are in control.
The ten incher above certainly put a deep bend in the rod, but I never felt out of control. I am sure the rod could handle much bigger fish - which would only put an even deeper bend in the rod and even bigger smile on your face.
The Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP is very clearly in the same family as Shimano's Keiryu Tenkara 34-38 ZL. Both share the same basic grip design, which is a camel shaped (two humped) black EVA foam grip with just a couple inches of cork at the front of the grip. The rods share the same classy, understated paint job. They differ in that the 34-38 ZL is a zoom rod and the 44 NP does not zoom.
The 44 NP feels a lot closer to the 34-38 ZL at the longer 38 length than at the 34 length. I measured the 34-38 at 19 pennies at the shorter, 3.4m length and 14 pennies at the 3.8m length.
According to my measurements, the 44 is a 15 penny rod. Tom Davis measured it at 16.5 pennies. I'm not going to say I'm right and he's wrong, and I freely admit that all my rod measurements are closer to back-of-the-envelope than scientific study. Even before measuring it, though, I thought the rod felt softer than the Daiwa LL41SF, which I had measured at 16.5 pennies.
"Soft" isn't really the right word. "Full Flex" is a better description. They are not the same. The Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP is a full flex rod and a fish of any size will bend it to the cork.
Given the overall length, the long collapsed length and the Honryu classification, it seems natural to compare the rod with the Nissin Air Stage Honryu 450. Casting the Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP is almost unbelievably silky smooth - much more so than the Nissin Air Stage Honryu 450 and the Nissin Zerosum Oni Honryu 450 which are quite a bit firmer overall (and measure 20.5 and 20 pennies, respectively).
I'd have to say comparing the Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP to the Nissin Oni Tenkara Honryu 450 is like comparing apples to oranges. They are just completely different rods. The Shimano is very definitely a full flex rod, while the Oni Honryu is very definitely a tip flex rod. The Shimano grip is relatively thin, especially at the front of the grip, while the Oni Honryu grip will be most comfortable for someone with big hands. I'm not sure any one person would like both rods. They really are that different. The Nissin Air Stage Honryu 450 is in between the two.
I think the one thing that surprised me about the Shimano was that I preferred it with a size 3 line rather than a 2.5. Although the rod "loads" just from it's own inertia, this is a rod with which you very definitely have to slow down your casting stroke and let the rod do the work. I found that a very short casting stroke worked best for me, but this is something you will have to experiment with. I preferred the size 3 line because with a slow stroke you cannot generate much line speed, and I found the size 3 line held its momentum and turned over a bit more easily. If you fish a fly with any weight at all, even a Killer Bug or Killer Bugger, the weight of the wet wool and copper wire underbody should eliminate any turnover problems.
Length (extended) - 14'3"
Length (collapsed) - 40 3/8"
Weight (without tip plug) 2.9 oz
Sections - 5
Tip Diameter - 1.3mm (hollow tip)
Tippet Recommendation* 5X
Pennies - 15
*Tenkara rods are used in Japan to catch fish that are rarely larger
than 9-10". Japanese anglers do not break rods on 10" fish, so I am
convinced that tippet ratings are no more than a rough guide, explaining
what anglers generally use with tenkara rods. I do not believe the ratings are
meant to state the strength of tippet that will break before the rod
does. I would not fish any tenkara rod with tippet stronger than 5X (and that is not an assurance that 5X tippet would definitely break before the rod does).
The Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP grip is similar to their Keiryu Tenkara 34-38ZL grip, in that there is a short section of cork followed by a shaped EVA foam grip. The foam is very firm to the touch and does make a nice grip. Given the high price of good cork, I am certain we will be seeing more tenkara rod grips made from EVA foam.
The grip screw cap is gold colored aluminum, with a coin slot for removal. Even though there is no knurling, I found the cap can be removed with finger pressure (as long as you didn't tighten it too much with a coin previously).
As with all the Shimano rods I've seen, the fit and finish are excellent. It really is a very nice rod. Given the full flex action, it is a rod some will love and some will not care for. If you are very sensitive about tip heaviness in rods, you may not want the Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP, but then you also might not want any rod over 4 meters. At a 4.4 or 4.5 meter length, at least some degree of tip heaviness is pretty much one of the laws of physics.Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP - $350
Rod made in Indonesia
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International purchases may be subject to import duties and taxes. I cannot keep track of all import regulations in all countries written in all languages. Understanding and paying import duties and taxes are the responsibility of the buyer.