July 26, 2017

Tenkara - July 25, 2017

I got out yesterday and fished a section of stream that I really like. The water was just getting into proper condition after a long couple months of run-off.  I fished with the Nissin Oni Honryu 395 and then the Gamakatsu MultiFlex 4.0. Both rods did great handling the fast water. Because the water was still moving pretty decently I use beadhead nymphs to quickly get the fish's attention. This strategy worked well.

Here's a video of some of the fish:

July 20, 2017

Wild Flowers and a Few Wild Fish

My local stream is finally clearing up. There is still snow that is visible from the stream bed, but it is high enough in elevation that it is no longer affecting stream flows.

I drove my motorcycle over the mountain the other day and was met is a stunning array of wild flowers and new greenery. The forest smelt so fresh and new; the promise of spring in high country come at last.

Because the water now clear, it also meant that it was much lower than at run-off. A bright sun and clear water demanded stealthy approaches to any potential trout lie. If that could be accomplished, and if your cast was correctly adjusted for the wind gusts, you were rewarded with a wild, native cutthroat.

I was there only for about an hour, then I needed to get back, but it was a nice outing and good to be back on the stream again.

July 12, 2017

Discover Tenkara Karasu 360 Tenkara Rod -- review

The other day I received in the mail a very special package. It was the new Karasu 360 tenkara rod by Paul Gaskell and John Pearson of Discover Tenkara. I know that this rod, and some of the statements about this rod, have created quite a stir in our little tenkara universe and therefore, I like you, was very interested in seeing it first hand. Because of that I also know that writing a review about this rod (or any other rod for that matter) carries with it some responsibility -- the responsibility to try to be as objective as possible, and the responsibility of trying to relate to you how this rod feels and performs. I take that responsibility very seriously, so here goes.

Before I begin (skip over this part if you want), let me mention some of the tenkara rods I have used and fished with. I do this to illustrate that I am not new to using premium tenkara rods and I think I know a little about how they should feel and perform (no guarantee though). I have used Oni rods, Nissin Zerosum and Air Stage rods, Shimano Mainstream and Keiryu Tenkara 34-38 ZL rods, Daiwa Expert rods, TenkaraBum 36 and 40, Shimotsuke Ten, Gamakatsu Multiflex and other Gamakatsu rods (whose names are a mystery to me), Tenryu rods, and the Sakura Seki Rei. I have also fished with some other very nice rods such as those from Tenkara USA, Tenkara Tanuki, The Tenkara Times, and many others. In other words, I've fished with a lot of rods -- Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, etc.


The Karasu that I received came by itself without rod tube, carton or sock. Paul says that it will come to customers in a Japanese-style plastic carton and have a black fabric rod sleeve with tie cords. The over all coloration of the rod is black with a glossy finish, but the 3rd through 7th sections (holding to Japanese tradition, the tip is the 1st section) have a a gradual color gradient from black to grey. They also have a sliver accent ring on their tipward portion. The rod does not have the usual warning stickers as do many other rods. The rod designation is simple and the "Made in Japan" is quite prominent (but no more prominent than what is seen on the TenkaraBum rods). The fit and finish of the rod is top notch. The blanks are unsanded and show the craftsmanship of the manufacturer.

The sections are black at the bottom and transition to grey towards the top.

The handle is black EVA foam and is 30 cm long. It has the classic gourd or camel shape of most tenkara rods, but the curves are less pronounced than some others rods. The handle fills the hand nicely and comfortably.

The tip plug is black nylon and fits snugly into the handle section without slipping out. The butt cap is anodized metal, has knurling to aid in removal, and also has an air hole. It also has a rubber bumper insert. Interestingly, both the tip plug and the butt cap look exactly like the ones for the Suntech TenkaraBum tenkara rods.

The lilian is dark red and thicker than most rods. The rod I have came with a pre-tied knot in the lilian, but I'm not sure if it will be supplied that way. I did not untie the knot but the glue joint is perfect, and without the knot the rod could be easily completely disassembled for drying and cleaning.

Here are some of my measurements:

Fully nested: 56 cm
Fully Extended: 361 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 85 g
CCS: 18 pennies
RFI: 5.0

RFI comparison chart

The rod feels substantial in the hand. It's not heavy by any means, but it feels solid, substantial, robust. The rod has wonderful balance in all positions. Because it's a 360 cm rod I did not measure the rotational moment. That would be a more important piece of information for the 400 cm version.

The rod casts very smoothly. There is no overshoot even when the casting stroke is forced, and tip recovery is very quick. I can't perceive any oscillation. I fished the rod with a #2.5 fluorocarbon level line of 300 cm. I added 90 cm (3') of tippet to this making the line a little longer than the rod. The rod cast the #2.5 line effortlessly and I could easily place the fly first onto the water with every cast.

I fished the rod on a small mountain stream of moderately high gradient. I fished a #10 wool bodied sakasa kebari and small dry flies. I caught trout in the 8 -14 inch range. The rod performed perfectly.

As a point of comparison, I also fished my TenkaraBum 36 using the same line and flies. I'd fish the Karasu and catch a few trout, then change the line to the TB36 and catch a few trout. Here is what I think I felt: the Karasu is a little smoother and damps a little better (probably due to its more substantial handle and weighing 20 g more overall than the TB36 ). The TB36 feels lighter and I think a little better balanced (lighter definitely, but the balance is pretty close between the two). The TB36 was able to keep the trout out of the streamside underwater snags easier (likely because it is just a little stiffer in the midsection than the Karasu. This is important for my tight streams, but this may not be that important for you and your streams). And finally, most importantly, both rods make me look really good -- you know, like I actually know what I'm doing!

Replacement parts will be available, but it remains to be seen what the US price will be for each section. Paul says that the UK price for the top three sections will be something like £17, £19 and £22 GBP, respectively.

I saw this beauty after fishing. We sized each other up then went our separate ways. 

Conclusion: This is a premium, top of the line rod, and I really like it. Its simplistic aesthetics and fit and finish are second to none. It has near perfect (if not perfect) balance, dampening, and recovery with a very smooth casting arc. It is a joy to use -- pure and simple. Do I think it is the best rod I've every used? I'm not sure I can say yes to that question, but it definitely is one of the best rods I've used. Do I like it better than my TB36? $200.00 better? I'm not sure about that either. Both rods are wonderful and perform at the topmost limit. Would you like this rod? I don't know -- why don't you buy one and see for yourself! I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ.  Also, your rod may not have the same length, issues, or functionality as my rod. There are variations between rods, even in the same production run. No description can fully tell you how a rod feels or fishes. For this, you must personally hold, cast, and fish the rod then make up your own mind. 
I received no revenue or enticement from Discover Tenkara for a favorable review of their products. I was loaned the Karasu 360 and returned it after this review.

July 9, 2017

Nirvana 370z Tenkara Rod by DRAGONtail Tenkara

I recently visited Brent Auger at the DRAGONtail Tenkara home office. He had sent me a text asking me if I would be interested in taking a look at their new tenkara rod. I responded "Yes!" and zipped over.

The new rod is called the Nirvana 370z Tenkara Rod. Officially, it's the first rod offered by the Nirvana Rod Company, a subsidiary of DRAGONtail Tenkara. The Nirvana line of rods are DRAGONtail Tenkara's premium rods, with high quality materials, advanced design and actions for American waters. The first in the line is the 370z. Here is what they say on their website:

The NIRVANA 370z Tenkara rod is made for American streams and rivers with a smooth cast and good backbone. This rod will be fun whether you are catching small mountain trout, blue gills, or decent river trout. The NIRVANA 370z is a zoom rod so you can fish it full length 12.25 ft when more reach is desired but zoom it down to 11 ft when fishing tighter streams. The rod is made to cast both Level Line and Tapered Line very well with a smooth casting action. This is no entry level rod, it is a high end series rod that also looks fantastic with graphics that are made to stand out.

The rod that Brent loaned me had a cork handle, but the rod is available with an optional foam handle (for those preferring foam over cork). It is very handsome with a charcoal/red crosshatch design on the rod designation portion of the handle section. The overall rod color is charcoal, but the handle and zoom section have red accents in their tipward ends. The rod can be fished in two length configurations: 330 cm and 370 cm. The rod comes with a stretchy sock.

The handle has a camel or double hump shape, but it's subtle, and fits your hand nicely. The cork quality is high and without many defect. Cork composite rings are on the leading and trailing ends of the handle. Go ahead and stick your fly into them -- they will be fine.

The tip cap is a universal cap, rather than one of the plug-type. I like this -- most every rod I buy I store the tip plug and use a universal tip cap anyway. The butt cap is black nylon, rounded, and does not have any knurling or air hole. There are some subtle dimples, but they don't really help in removing the cap. The zoom post is a covered rubber style, rather than one with O-rings. It holds the zoom section very well, yet releases the section when you want to extend the rod.

The lilian is red and the glue joint is flawless. It is small enough for the rod to be completely disassembled for drying and cleaning.

Here are some of my measurements:

Fully nested: 22.5 cm
Fully extended: 332 cm, 370 cm.
Weight (without tip cap): 88 g
CCS: 20 and 21 pennies, respectively.
RFI: 6 and 5.7, respectively.

The rod is a nicely balanced. I fished it predominantly in the 370 cm configuration. There is no significant tip heaviness. The action is fast in both configurations. Yet, the tip is flexible enough to throw a #3 level line without effort. I did not fish the rod with a furled line. Casting accuracy was very good, even in a breeze.

I fished with rod using unweighted sakasa kebari as well as tungsten beadhead nymphs on a #3 level line. It handles both types of flies equally well. I caught about two dozen trout in moderately high gradient flows and the rod easily controlled each fish. I didn't catch anything very large, but the current flow added a significant amount of water resistance to each fish. Hook sets were quick and decisive.

Here is a video of some of the fish and conditions in which I used the rod:

Conclusion: This is a very nice rod. I have been fishing tenkara long enough to have seen the evolution of the tenkara rods available to American anglers from non-Japanese companies. As the years have gone by the rods have gotten better and better. This rod is no exception. Although it is a premium rod, it is still very affordable. If you are looking for the next evolution of tenkara rods, and yet one that is still affordable, consider the Nirvana 370z.

Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ.  Also, your rod may not have the same length, issues, or functionality as my rod. There are variations between rods, even in the same production run. No description can fully tell you how a rod feels or fishes. For this, you must personally hold, cast, and fish the rod then make up your own mind. 
I receive advertising revenue from DRAGONtail Tenkara, but this does not imply a favorable review of their products. I was loaned the Nirvana 370z and returned it after this review.