The Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP is a new honryu (main stream)
tenkara rod. 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, the rod felt softer than the Daiwa LL41SF, which I measured at 16.5 pennies.
"Soft" isn't really the right word. "Full Flex" is a better description. They are not the same, and as an illustration, I will mention the Nissin Pro Square, which I carry in 6:4 and 7:3 (and a couple 8:2). The rod also comes in a "Level Line" version, which like the Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP is designed specifically for level lines and is very definitely a full flex rod. The Pro Square Level Line 320 has exactly the same penny rating as the 6:4 320, so it isn't any softer but it very definitely is more full flex.
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. To me, though, the Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP is a bit more reminiscent of the 15.5 penny Nissin Air Stage Honryu 380 than the 450. Both the Nissin Air Stage Honryu 380 and the Shimano Honryu 44 are almost unbelievably silky smooth - much more so than the Nissin Air Stage Honryu 450, which has quite a lot more backbone (and measures 20 pennies).
The biggest difference between
the Nissin Air Stage Honryu 380 and the Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44
NP is the weight. The shorter rod is noticeably a lot lighter - which
is to be expected.
Tom Davis mentioned in his review of the Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP that he felt it was tip heavy - enough so that he knew immediately that he didn't want to keep it so he didn't fish with it. The first time I picked up the rod I didn't notice it (I guess fishing with 6.3m rods does seem to make most 4.4m rods feel pretty light by comparison).
When I fished with the rod (and all the other honryu tenkara rods I have in stock) I did notice it, but then, I noticed it in all the honryu rods with the exception of the Nissin Air Stage Honryu 380. It think it is just a fact of life with 440-450 length rods.
In that respect, to me the rod does not feel substantially different than the Oni Honryu 450 or the Nissin Fujiryu Honryu 450. The center of gravity for the Shimano is about 2" closer to the rod butt than it is on the Fujiryu, and both rods weigh exactly the same without their tip plugs (suggesting the Shimano should feel a little less tip heavy). The Oni Honryu weighs a half ounce more than the Shimano, but its center of gravity is about 2" closer to the rod butt than the Shimano's. I noticed the weight difference more than any difference in tip heaviness.
When casting the rods, though, there was a huge difference. The Shimano is by far the most full flex. The Nissin Pro Square 6:4 450, which I measure to be a penny softer, is more mid flex. The Pro Square 7:3 450 and Nissin Honryu 450 are closer to tip flex, and the Nissin Oni Honryu 450 is more tip flex yet. Out of curiosity, I had a Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 44 with me, and it is more tip flex than the Oni rod.
I'd have to say comparing the Shimano Honryu Tenkara 44 NP to the Nissin Oni Tenkara Honryu 450 was 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 Fujiryu 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-4X
Pennies - 15
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 foam has TENKARA molded (cut?) into it, which is a nice touch I had first seen on Luong Tam's "Fat Monk" Tanuki tenkara rod.
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 much over 4 meters. At that length, at least some degree of tip heaviness is pretty much one of the laws of physics.
Rod made in Indonesia
| It has handled white bass, largemouth, and spotted bass well (up to a few pounds.) It is a full flex rod but has handled the larger fish fine for me. It is for sure an amazing level line rod!
Jeff R, Texas