The Dragonfly Test

by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)

This Damselfly really liked my Nissin Zerosum 360.

This Damselfly really liked my Nissin Zerosum 360.

I’d like to suggest a new “on-the-water” test to measure the sensitivity of a tenkara rod, based on a recent fishing expedition.

Some weeks back, I was fishing at Cibolo Creek near Boerne, Texas, with my Nissin Air Stage Hakubai 240. This beautiful, sensitive rod weighs just over half an ounce and is a real delight to use. Anyway, I kept getting what I thought were light strikes from sunfish, but I just couldn’t set the hook. I’d cast softly, let the fly land gently on the water, let it sink a little, then tap . . . tap . . . tap—but I couldn’t catch the fish! “What’s going on here?” I thought, with growing frustration.

Then, I happened to glance at the rod tip, and guess what? A dragonfly was landing repeatedly on my pole, which I could feel through the super-slim handle of the Nissin Air Stage! How cool is that!? There are nearly 300 species of dragonflies and their close cousins, damselflies, in Texas; and, in my experience, they all like tenkara rods. These insects are real fans of fixed-line fly fishing.

So . . . if you don’t have any specialized scientific instruments . . . and you want to know how sensitive a rod is . . . just ask Chris Stewart at TenkaraBum if it would pass the “Dragonfly Test.” In my rod collection, the already-mentioned Nissin Air Stage Hakubai and my Suntech Kurenai HM30R easily pass. My Nissin Royal Stage Syunki also bends to the weight of a single dragonfly.

Think about this for a moment: a single dragonfly or damselfly may weigh .0001 ounce, or about .003 grams. Is it not a wonder that you can hold and fish with a rod that registers the landing of a single dragonfly? And doesn’t this help to explain why tenkara fishing is such a delight? Such sensitivity is nearly unmatched.

There are a couple of stretches of water I frequent that are covered in dragonflies and damselflies. I guess the sunlight, stream, and vegetation are just the right habitat. It’s fascinating to watch the buzzing, swooping, shifting needles of emerald greens, blues, and reds dart about. What a wonderful part of being outdoors! The aerial circus is stunning. Did you know that dragonflies have four wings that can move independently of each other? This explains why they’re the acrobats of the insect world, able to fly up, down, shift sideways, hover in mid-air, and even fly backwards. They can speed along at 30 mph. Did you know that some dragonflies migrate, just like Monarch butterflies, and scientists are just now deciphering those migration patterns? There’s a worthy project for a young scientist!
If you’re wondering how to tell them apart, dragonflies rest with their wings flat, while damselflies land with their wings folded over their backs. Also, dragonflies have eyes that pretty much cover their heads, while damselflies have eyes that are smaller and barbell shaped, with a space between them. My two photos above show damselflies.

Perhaps one of our excellent tenkara companies will consider developing a super-light, sensitive seiryu rod named “The Dragonfly” in honor of this amazing insect. C’mon, what tenkara angler wouldn’t want to own a one-ounce pole, painted emerald green and black, named “The Dragonfly”? (Maybe coupled with an even lighter, shorter, half-ounce rod named “The Damselfly”? This one in glitter blue and black.) Well, as a friend of mine says, “Everything is easy as long as you’re not the one who has to do it . . .”

So, there’s a lot going on when you see dragonflies buzzing a stream. They provide a way to measure the sensitivity of tenkara rods. They paint an amazing kaleidoscope of vibrant colors. And they remind us of the wonder of participating in nature. Do you own any poles that are dragonfly approved?

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