The Suntech Kurenai rods are just delightful rods for little wild brookies (or greenbacks, or goldens, or redbands). They are to the average tenkara rod what a tenkara rod is to the average fly rod. They are light, they are sensitive, they are incredibly fun to fish with. The Suntech Kurenai HM30R is a 3 meter rod (9' 7") that weighs just .9 ounce. The rod has a wonderful feel to it. With a size 3 level fluorocarbon line, it almost casts itself. Even though size 3 level line is a light line, you can feel the rod load as you begin your forward cast.
These rods will spoil you. If you're not already obsessed with little
wild trout in little wild streams, after fishing with these rods you
will be. The rod's action is just perfect for the 4" to 8" trout one would find in such streams. The rod has enough reserve backbone to handle the unexpected 10 or 11 incher, but a fish of that size will give you a fight you won't soon forget. The longer HM33R and HM39R rods will handle larger fish, and several customers have reported memorable catches of trout in the mid teens.
The HM30R is not a rod for the main stream, or even the larger tributaries. It is a headwaters rod. A rod for people who delight in finding and following the narrow blue lines on the topo maps.
I first got in the HM30 rods to take to the 2012 International Fly Tying Symposium, where I sold every last one of 'em - before I even had a chance to write a page for them.
At the show, all we had to do is put a rod in someone's hand (and watch as their eyes got wide, their jaw dropped and they said "Wow!"), then put a line on the rod, have them making beautiful casts in just a couple minutes, and then write up another sale. They really are that nice.
Even today, people who've heard about the rods but never seen one say "wow" when they pick it up. I warn people that this rod will cast a spell on you. If you even touch it you will want it.
The Suntech HM33R, which is the next longer rod, is 11'2" and almost as light at just 1.1 ounces. The casting feel is very similar. Most of the medium to small streams that tenkara anglers fish are wide enough to use an 11'2" rod. The "standard" length of tenkara rods in Japan is probably the 3.6 meter rod, which generally run from 11'6" to 11'10" in length.
The Suntech Kurenai HM33R is just a few inches shorter than the average tenkara rod yet weighs less than half as much. It will easily handle the fish that Japanese tenkara anglers catch, which mostly run 8-10". For that matter, it will easily handle most of the trout that US anglers catch, which on average are probably only a few inches longer.
You might not land the rare 18 incher, but you will certainly maximize the enjoyment of the fish you do actually catch on a day to day basis. (And that might be a better way to choose a rod!)
By the way, the HM33R also makes a dandy sunfish rod! It will cast far enough to reach them, it is sensitive enough to transmit the smallest "tick" when they take the fly, and boy will they put a bend in it!
The HM39R rods, at 12'10", may not be headwaters rods anymore, but if you have casting room for a 13' rod they really will spoil you. They weigh 1.5 ounce - less than half as much as most 13' rods. They aren't tip heavy! You'll never again be able to pick up a 3.6 ounce 13' rod and think it is anything but clunky.
Regular readers know that I often fish with a friend I call "Coach" (because with his coaching his granddaughter won both largest fish and smallest fish at a local fishing contest). The Kurenai HM39R is his "go to" rod. He likes it primarily because it is so light but also because it is surprisingly capable. He's caught trout to the mid teens with it, as well as hand size bluegills and bass up to a couple pounds. And despite my descriptions of the rod as a light rod with an incredibly soft and sensitive tip, he generally fishes the rod with a tungsten bead head nymph and a half inch thingamabobber. The tip is indeed soft, but there's some backbone behind it.
On a slightly wider stream, the Suntech Kurenai HM45R is just a truly sweet rod. It has all the reach of an Ito, yet weighs less than half as much. For fish up to maybe 15" it is just more pleasant to fish with than any of the other 4.5m rods out there.
Coach often says that I underestimate the capability of the rods I sell. That may be true, but he's not the one who gets the emails when someone breaks a rod. I received an email from a guy who loved his Kurenai HM45R, but was surprised that it broke in three places when he hooked a 21" rainbow (he managed to grab the line and land the fish, which is how he knows how big it was).
The Kurenai rods are seiryu rods. In Japan, seiryu rods are used to fish for chubs and dace - none of which get bigger than about 7". These are not big fish rods. Even with 6.5X tippet, I definitely would not fish any of the Kurenai HM rods in a stream where hooking a 21" fish is a possibility.
The longest of the Kurenai rods, the HM54R and HM63R are fun rods for modest fish in bigger waters. They are the lightest rods you'll find for their length. Who would have thought a 17.5' rod would weigh less than 3 ounces? Who would have thought a 21' rod would weigh less than 4 ounces?
New York stocks 9 1/2 to 10 1/2 inch trout. These rods are just
ideal for those fish, and also for the holdovers, which are generally in the 13-14" range.
I think they
would also be ideal for fishing ponds or lakes for bluegills and
crappies or pretty modest bass. I would
stay with tippet no stronger than 7X.
A little while ago I was pining for my Suntech Suikei ZPRO 54, which I truly loved but sold after Suntech discontinued the rod. I do like the FMX Keiryu ZPRO 53 quite a bit, but the Suikei ZPRO was a bit lighter and a bit softer. There is something about fishing with a rod that has a maximum (not minimum, maximum) tippet rating of 8X. Well, I just realized the Kurenai HM54R is even lighter than the Suikei ZPRO 54!
Without the tip plug, it weighs just 2.6 ounces, which is phenomenal for a 17'8" rod! It has the same insanely light tip as the Kurenai HM30R, which means even a small fish can put a bend in it. It also means that if you are fishing with a keiryu rig (light tippet for your main line, a light split shot and yarn markers) there will be no bite that is too subtle to detect. And you know, there's no reason not to use 8X with the Kurenai! I feel better already.
You can use the longest of the Suntech Kurenai rods for keiryu fishing if you know the waters and know you will not hook any large fish. This 14+" brown trout was caught with a a Suntech Kurenai HM63R and a light keiryu rig with 8X tippet to protect the rod. It worked just fine.
For modest fish in bigger water, it just doesn't get any better!
After having had these rods for a couple years now, and after having done micro fishing for quite some time, it finally dawned on me that the HM30R is also a superb micro fishing rod.
While it is considerably longer than all the other rods I list for micro fishing, at times a bit more
length is an advantage. What sealed the deal, though, was recognizing
how amazingly sensitive the tip is - even compared to the other micro
fishing rods. I caught a 2" bluegill and was really a bit surprised that it put a good bend in the rod tip.
This is a rod whose tip will bend from the fight of an extremely small fish, yet not be at risk if your extremely small fish gets eaten by a much larger one as you are bringing it in - which has happened! And if you happen to catch a 9" brookie when fishing for black nose dace (which has also happened) you can enjoy the fight without worrying about your rod. And of course, if you are fishing for baby bluegills and happen to see a 10" bass, you can yield to the temptation to cast to it, secure in the knowledge that the rod can handle it.
If you fly fish for micros, the Kurenai HM30R can cast a line light enough that you can see it twitch when a black nose dace takes your fly!
Do not think that only the HM30R is suitable for micro fishing, though. The HM39R has some significant advantages. Not all micros are skittish, but some are. There will be more than a few times that the difference between a 30 and a 39 is the the difference between not catching and catching. Sometimes bait or fly placement is absolutely critical and with the HM39R you will be able to just lower the hook into the right spot.
These rods are an excellent choice for people who enjoy catching smaller fish, whether they are 12" long or 1.2" long. They bridge the gap between fishing and micro fishing better than any other rod.
I know that most tenkara anglers are not micro fishermen. Most of the people who buy the Suntech Kurenai will fish for trout. These rods are sensitive enough for micros and beefy enough for trout and modest bass. Plus, they're almost certainly the lightest rods you've ever fished. They are just wonderful rods.
One last thing. The Suntech Kurenai rods are used in Japan to catch chubs. The chubs there are different than the chubs we have here (much prettier) but they are chubs nonetheless.
Personally, I think creek chubs are horribly underrated as a quarry, and are an awful lot of fun with the right equipment (and a Kurenai is definitely the right equipment). The photo below shows a nice creek chub caught by Alan L. You can be sure it put a good bend in the rod!
*weights are without tip cap.
**Kurenai rods are used in Japan to catch fish that don't get much bigger than 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.
The Suntech Kurenai grips are smooth to the touch but the covering is still a very effective non-skid finish. A grip that is smooth but not slick may not be what you expect, but it works. A change to the current non-skid grip is what lead to the minor name change - from HM30 to HM30R.
The grip is narrower than on the tenkara rods you may be familiar with, but the rod is incredibly light. You grip it with you finger tips, not your palm. I have not felt the grip is too narrow, and I doubt you will either. In Japan, anglers who use similar rods for tenkara fishing occasionally build up the grip with the wrapping material used for tennis racquet grips, but I have never felt it was necessary.
The rod has a swivel attachment for the lillian similar to that that used by the high end Daiwa tenkara rods. It really does help reduce line twist and they are carefully engineered so that the tip section easily passes through the #2 section for disassembly.
The tip cap on the shorter rods has a very snug fit and will not slip off by itself (as I have had happen with tenkara rods from more than one manufacturer). However, the tip cap for the HM63R is expremely loose and I would highly recommend either putting a small piece of Scotch tape on it to slightly increase the diameter (it doesn't take much) or purchasing a Fuji KTC-20 for a robust and reliable tip cover.
The grip cap has a hole for ventilation, but I would recommend taking the rod apart after each use to let it dry completely. Putting a rod away wet can ruin the finish. Be sure to keep it in a safe place while it is in pieces, though.
Suntech is not a name that most Americans are familiar with, and when my supplier in Japan first suggested sending me a couple to evaluate I politely declined. I'd never heard of them and didn't think a rod no one's ever heard of would sell. She then sent an email, in Japanese, to my wife and explained that Suntech made rods for Daiwa before Daiwa moved production to China, Vietnam and Thailand.
The Suntech rods are made in Japan and they are beautiful rods. And truly, all it took for me was seeing the rod and then casting it and I was a believer. It was just the same at the show. Once you've seen the rod, handled it and cast it, the name is no longer important. Although actually, the Suntech name now means something here in the US - it means top quality, beautiful rods made in Japan.
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