November 26, 2017

Nissin Tenkara Ramon 7:3 360 pack rod -- review

Pack rods. There have recently been released a few new options for very compact tenkara rods, so called pack rods.  Let's see... there's the Nissin Pocket Mini, Tenkara Rod Company's mini(s), the Dragontail Talon, Tenkara USA Hane-2 and the TenkaraBum Traveler (which I use as my main travel rod), to name just a few. Also is the new Shimano Pack Tenkara ZW, which I haven't seen (yet).

But there has also been some controversy as to whether pack rods are even needed.

Recently there was a discussion on one of the forums regarding pack rods. One tenkara fisher stated that he doesn't feel the need for a special tenkara pack rod, because all tenkara rods are short enough to be packable. He doesn't mind if a regular tenkara rod doesn't fit in carry-on luggage, he just puts his rods in the overhead compartment on the plane. Other tenkara anglers felt that a pack rod would be nice if it would fit in a standard airline approved carry-on so that no other case would be needed. The discussion got a little thick with overbearing opinions and I left.

Well, if you like the thought of a rod that is even more compact than a regular tenkara rod, then you might want to take a look at the newly released Nissin Tenkara Ramon line of pack rods. They come in 270, 320 and 360 cm lengths. All are 7:3 flex profiles. I received a 360 cm version recently and have been testing it since.

Here's Nissin's published information regarding these rods -- translated from Japanese into English by Google:

"Nisshin's new model for 2018 season "Tenkara Ramon 7:3" is the series of pack rods. The folded length of the rods is only 48cm. Excellent portability. You may be able to put the rod in your daypack. We can say this model is the only packrod model of Nisshin at the moment. This 7:3 action model rods are pursuited of indispensable performance in tenkara fishing. Outstanding operability and spontaneity of the rods give us accurate casting."

The rod is dark graphite in coloration with the exception of the rod designation area which is white. This makes the rod very striking in appearance and aesthetically pleasing. There are some subtle gold ring accents on the tipward ends of all segments excepting the top two.

The handle is a departure from Nissin. It is high density black EVA foam with a cork header. The cork comprises about 25% of the handle. This too makes for a striking presentation when compared to other tenkara rods. The handle is 27.5 cm long and has the customary gourd or camel shape.

The tip plug is black nylon plastic, as is the butt cap. The butt cap has a gold accent ring, similar to the Zerosum and Royal Stage line of tenkara rods.

The lilian is red and the glue joint is small and perfect. The rod can be completely disassembled for cleaning and drying.

Here are my measurements:

Fully extended: 359 cm
Fully nested: 47 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 89.3 g
CCS: 24 pennies
RFI: 6.7

RFI comparison chart

The casting action is stiffer than any Nissin tenkara rod I have previously used. Most of Nissin's 7:3 rods flex like 6:4 rods, but not the Tenkara Ramon 360. It flexes like a 7:3 rod. This may be due to the design and number of joints, as well as the carbon weave.

Despite this flex action, I had no trouble casting a #2.5 level line with it. A #3 fluorocarbon level line feels a little better match for this rod, but it seems to be able to handle a lighter line as well. Like most well made tenkara rods nowadays it has no tip oscillation or overshoot. Rod dampening is also excellent both in linear and rotational movements.

Fishing the rod is fun. It weighs a little more than many tenkara rods of the same length, but it isn't a taxing weight. I fished a section of river that is high gradient and is challenging due to the fact that there is little room to fight a fish once it's hooked. In this situation a softer rod (lower RFI) would be detrimental. The Tenkara Ramon not only cast a heavier tungsten bead head fly well, but it fought the fish in the fast current easily. I took browns and cutthroats in the 9-14 inch range in very fast water and never felt under gunned.

As far as portability, I'm sure this rod would not have any issues fitting in any luggage that you'd use. It easily fits in a standard airline carry-on, a brief case, a backpack, and in a satchel. Here it is when compared to a couple other tenkara rods.

Nested length compared to the Tenryu TF39TA (left) and Nissin Zerosum 360 7:3 (right).

Conclusion: I like this rod. It is compact enough to be very packable and yet versatile enough to fish in most any situation that would arise. It casts unweighted flies and tungsten beadheads equally well on a variety of light level lines. It is a little heavy when compared to other 360 cm tenkara rods, but it's not burdensomely heavy. The balance is very good, as well. I'll still use my Suntech Suikei Keiryu Special GM39 (now more humanely named the TenkaraBum Traveler) mostly when I travel, but this rod makes a very nice "grab and go" rod.

Here is a video of my fishing the rod and catching some trout with it:

November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you get to spend some time with those you love, that you're able to make some new friends, heal damaged relationships, and maybe, just maybe, get to do some fishing!

November 11, 2017

Shimotsuke Tenkara Gen 240 -- a fun little rod for tight canopy streams

I LOVE fishing small streams and creeks. The more technical the better. Certainly this is not tenkara, as it originated in Japan, but I don't care. Also, this type of fishing doesn't require rods that will cast a #3 nylon line (which seems to be all the rage right now), but it does have specialized requirements of it's own.

One of the challenges with rods that will fish creeks with a really tight canopy (creeks where even a 270 cm rod is too long) is that short rods tend to be rather stiff. This is great for after you've hooked the fish, but it makes casting a pain. The Shimotsuke Kyotaki 240 is a great little creek rod, but it is on the stiff side with a rod flex index of 6.3. The Zen Suzume is pretty nice in it's shortest configuration, but, well, it's pretty ugly in it's design and if you fall and break the lower section you have to buy the whole lower three sections all over again (since they don't disassemble).

240 cm rods are specialized tools that are not required very often, but when you really need one that 30 cm shorter length makes all the difference.

I recently received a rod that looks like a promising compromise. It's the Shimotsuke Tenkara Gen 240. It's a 240 rod that casts a light level line well, but it will also play trout in tight quarters. It's made well, looks good, collapses into a short length, and (a big plus) is inexpensive.

Here it is sitting alongside a standard length tenkara rod (Nissin Zerosum 360).

The cork handle is done nicely and is 23 cm long. The blank's finish is matte graphite (much appreciated when you are only 8 feet away from your quarry) with green accents on the tipward ends of the lower sections. The tip plug is wood with rubber insert and the butt cap is black nylon plastic. The lillian in red and the glue joint allows full disassembly of the rod for drying and cleaning.

Here are some of my measurements:

Fully nested: 50 cm
Fully extended: 246 cm
Weight: 42.6 g (without tip plug)
CCS: 13.5 pennies
RFI: 5.5

I've been fishing the Tenkara Gen 240 on some of my most challenging, tight canopy, creeks and streams. These are the creeks that hold trout in the 6-10 inch range, but can deliver a 14 incher on occasion. These creeks have very little room to cast, so the rod has to load casting a line under 7.5 feet long (total length, with tippet). Also, there is no room to fight the trout because the water is only 2 feet wide and full of snags, so the rod has to be just stiff enough to be able to control the fight. These are highly specialized requirements and not all rods will deliver equally.

The Tenkara Gen 240 casts a 6 foot #2.5 line really well. The flex profile is more mid flex than the Kyotaki 240, is more mid flex than the Suzume, it's much, much more mid flex than the Nissin Yuyuzan ZX 290 2-way (a zoom rod that fishes at 240 and 290 cm lengths), and, dare I say it, it's radically more flexible than the Tenkara Rod Co. blue broom stick, the Cascade! Also, it's more stiff in the mid section than the Daiwa Soyokaze 240.  The casts are smooth and you can feel the rod load, even with such a short line.

As far as fighting the trout, it does great. Small trout are more fun on it than either the Kyotaki 240 or the Suzume. Because it has a little more flex in the midsection than these two other rods, you do have to move your arm more to keep the trout in the fighting zone of the creek. That means the rod hitting branches and the line getting caught on those same branches -- but that's just a fact of life when fishing tightly canopied creeks.

Here's a video of two of the creeks that are very challenging for me to fish. The last fish of the video is a 14 inch brown. It's that size that really can challenge a small rod.

Conclusion: This is a fun little rod that works great for small, tight creeks. I like its looks, construction and function. It would probably also be a fantastic rod for kids, as it casts really well and weighs next to nothing.

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 have no affiliation with Shimotsuke and I purchased this rod.

November 5, 2017

Hunting Trout: Fishing in Autumn

Like many of you, autumn is my favorite season for fishing. The water levels are perfect, the air temperatures are refreshing and the fish seems very cooperative as they begin to prepare for winter.

In my part of the world autumn seems to thin out the number of folks on the stream as well. Hunting season has begun and many who would be fishing are out chasing deer, elk or upland game birds. Also, the weekend campers have all gone home, and school has restarted leaving the previously over used camping areas empty. Amazingly enough, some of the best holding water is where weekend waders have modified the stream  making little weirs and dams that alter the stream flow.

I like throwing beadheads but I really like throwing unweighted kebari and sight fishing for selected trout. Autumn allows me more opportunities to do the latter. Sure, it can be challenging; if you can see the trout, it can see you. But that is part of the fun.

In autumn, while many are hunting large mammals, I hunt trout. I delight in stalking them, hooking them, and exercising them for a minute or two before releasing them back into their watery world.