Trip Report - 10-18-20

When I first imported Nissin Pro Square Super Tenkara rods for evaluation seven years ago, I ordered a number of their 6:4 and 7:3 rods. I also imported one of their Level Line rods - not the Tenkara Level Line rod released a couple years ago, but the Level Line version of the Pro Square Super Tenkara rod.

I decided not to carry the Level Line rod, thinking most people would prefer a rod that was not quite so full flex. The Level Line 320 has the same penny rating as the 6:4 320, but it is definitely more full flex.

A few weeks ago, when I was ordering more of the Nissin Pro Square 6:4 320, which I offer as a Kid's Rod, I noticed that the Pro Square Level Line rod has a thicker rod tip than the 6:4. The tips of the Daiwa and Shimano level line rods are thicker because they are hollow. I couldn't remember if the Pro Square rod tip was solid or hollow, though. I really like the way hollow tip rods cast so I had to order one to find out.

When I received the rod I discovered that it has a solid tip (which I had expected based on the low price). However, when I took the rod out for a trial run the following weekend I was not disappointed. Not at all.

Angler holding small brook trout and Nissin Pro Square Level Line rod.

It was the last weekend before most streams in New York closed for the season, so I just had to make a trip to the Catskills for some small stream brookie action.

With a hi-vis size 3 level line a foot shorter than the rod, five feet of hand-tied leader tapering from size 3 to size 1 (equivalent to 4X) and then a couple feet of 5X tippet, the rod performed beautifully. I was reminded again of a comment John Vetterli of the Tenkara Guides LLC had made years ago. I don't remember his exact words, but the gist of it was that the right line to fish with a rod is the line that loads it the best. With a size 3 line, I could feel the rod load as I started my forward cast.

It actually felt a lot more like a fly rod casting a fly line than a tenkara rod casting a tenkara line. Generally with a tenkara rod, most of the loading is from the rod's own inertia because the line weighs so little.  With a soft enough rod, though, you definitely can feel the line load the rod. Watching the cast, I could see the deep bend in the rod as I made the forward cast. Very smooth. Very nice.

I also fished with a size 2.5 line for a while. The rod will cast a 2.5 line just fine but it loads better with a size 3. I didn't try a 3.5, but I am sure it would feel a bit too heavy.

Brown trout in net. ProSquare Level Line rod resting on net hoop.

After having fished with the Pro Square Level Line 320 a couple times now, I still suspect most people would prefer a faster rod. After all, 7:3 rods consistently sell better than 6:4 rods. I am confident that 6:4 rods would sell better than Level Line rods. I don't think any manufacturers even label rods as 5:5 anymore. Tenryu, Daiwa and Nissin have rods labeled "Level Line," though.

I can't prove it, but I suspect that the Nissin Royal Stage 6:4 320 is more accurate than the softer Pro Square, and I suspect the Zerosum 6:4 320 is more accurate than the Royal Stage. Realistically, all of them are capable of more accurate casts than the average angler can manage, though, so the choice should be made on a combination of preference (either slower/softer or faster/firmer) and budget.

The Pro Square rods are not expensive rods, and I am seriously considering carrying them again to give budget-minded anglers the choice of a much better rod than the cheapo Chinese rods beginners often turn to solely because they're less expensive than the well-known brands.

Small brown trout held at water's surface.

One serious disadvantage of the cheapo rods is that they are uniformly on the stiff side. They tend to be sold with furled lines, because the heavier furled lines are necessary to get the rods to cast even reasonably well.

The Nissin Pro Square 6:4 and Level Line 320 rods both measure just 10 pennies. That's soft. That's down into seiryu rod territory. Both rods are ideal for smaller fish, and in fact would be excellent choices for people who like the idea of a seiryu rod but really wished they came with cork grips.

For that matter, they also would be excellent choices for people who want to concentrate on fishing unweighted flies in small streams. And if that sounds a lot like "tenkara" - pure tenkara - it is. I know that many, many American anglers want to fish bead head flies with their tenkara rods, and I have some tenkara rods that will do that very well indeed. I have not fished a bead head fly with the Level Line 320, but I am pretty sure the rod is too soft and too full flex to do it well.

If you want to learn pure tenkara, though, a rod designed to cast an unweighted wet fly with a level line would not be a bad choice. And if budget constraints limit you to a Nissin Pro Square or a no-name, stiff Chinese rod, well, the Pro Square is the only choice that makes sense.

Angler holding brown trout alongside Nissin Pro Square Level Line rod

I didn't catch any large fish on either trip, but I am sure the Pro Square 320 rods, either 6:4 or Level Line, could handle trout into 14-16" range. The Level Line rod in particular would not give you much control over a 16" fish. It would be a wild ride, though!

I have not fished the Pro Square Level Line 360 or 390 rods, but I have one of each on the way. I am not at all sure I will keep the Level Line rods in stock, but if you think you'd like an inexpensive, soft, full flex level line rod, use the Contact Us page to let me know. It would be easy to order one for you.

Small brown trout with Hen and Hound fly visible in its mouth.

On my second day with the Level Line rod, all but one of the day's fish were caught with a Hen & Hound fly, which is a pattern I developed years ago when visiting my sister in Colorado. It was essentially thrown together using the materials that were at hand, a ginger feather from one of her Buff Orpington hens for hackle, brushings from her yellow Labrador Retriever for a dubbed thorax and Pearsall's Hot Orange silk thread, which is what happened to be in the bobbin holder at the time.

Hen and Hound fly in vise.Original Hen & Hound: Buff Orpington hen, Yellow Lab dubbing and Hot Orange thread.

I fished the fly in Rocky Mountain National Park and in the Big Thompson River below the park. I like the fly for two reasons: 1) it catches fish, and 2) the hackle is light enough that I can often see the fly under the surface. Depending on the light and the color of the bottom, sometimes I can watch the fly as opposed to watching the line. Trust me, you get more hits than you'll see by watching the line, and many more than you'll feel.

Hen and Hound fly - tied with materials at handLocally sourced Hen & Hound: Tan hen cape, Golden Retriever dubbing, Hot Orange thread.

In preparing for my trip this past weekend, I tied a bunch of Hen & Hound flies, unfortunately using the very last of my "hound" dubbing. It seems I cannot get more.

There is a federal law that makes it illegal to sell "dog fur" but the term “dog fur” means the pelt or skin of any animal of the species Canis familiaris. It is not a federal crime to give, sell or trade dog hair that is not attached to the skin i.e. what you get from brushing or grooming your dog. In New York, though, in New York it is illegal to trade the hair.

Ah, well. I may have to tie up some Hen & Coyote. It'll probably work just as well, but it just doesn't sound right.

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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” - Benjamin Franklin

"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." -
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