Need advice on what to buy for a Tenkara rod

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
WFF Premium
I have since purchased a Mizuchi from Dragontail Tenkara so I would have a telescoping rod in my arsenal. It is a very impressive rod, but the Nissin Zerosum is my favorite by a long shot.
Hello, I bought the Mizuchi on the Kickstarter intro and have used it on small creeks. I can (just) feel the rod load with a #3 line for the 6:4 action of the two longer 11' and 9.5' zoom lengths. I can't feel the rod load with the (on the stiff side of a) 7:3 fast/tip-flex action of shortest 8' length making it rather unpleasant to cast. So I usually fish small creeks with a 5:5 rod Tenkara Times Watershed 300 rod that has similar lengths.

I did lose one 14" fish in a small creek because the TT rod's full flex action was interfered with by brush and overhead branches when setting the hook and playing the fish. In another place though, I rested a lie after sticking a 13" fish that I couldn't get a good hookset on because of a low branch and had to wade into the lie to free my line and fly. After moving off about 50', I (re-composed myself), had something to eat and drink, and re-rigged my rod with a shorter 7' line; all taking about 15 minutes. I crept back into position and using the shortest 8' length hooked and landed it.

If I was regularly hooking BIG fish in the small creeks here on the westside I'd probably use the Mizuchi more.

The 6:4 - 5:5 11 - 12 penny Dt Foxfire (s-glass) is being offered on Kickstarter next week with a projected late Nov-Dec delivery. The action and two longer lengths are a very close match to my TT Ws but the Dt Ff also fishes at 6 1/2'. I'll probably give the Ff a try, and will probably wind up selling one of the two.
 

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
WFF Premium
I seriously doubt I will ever become a Tenkara-purist, but certainly I like the idea of a simple, easily packable fishing system will be a great addition to my arsenal.
I believe that learning what I could find and utilizing some traditional Japanese Tenkara techniques has helped me tremendously and I think being forced to approach within 20' of a suspected lie has really helped my angling with a fly rod and reel. However, I consider myself more enthusiastic than a purist.

Apparently prior to the beginning of my Tenkara journey, there was quite a row (similar to many of the frequent heated WFF discussions) going on (as I understand it, primarily) in the "western Tenkara community" over what Tenkara really is. There are a couple of articles that seem to indicate the Japanese Tenkara "Masters" may have been somewhat amused by this:
 

johnhornby

New Member
Great blogs. So Tenkara is actually not a huge thing in Japan any more. Whatever. It's all fishing.

Question: How do you think Tenkara rods would work fishing small midges to rising fish in the winter on western streams? We have some runs around here where the cuts come up for a couple hours straight one after the other. The issue is always getting a super accurate cast onto them that doesn't spook them, throwing size 18-22 midge patterns.
 

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
WFF Premium
Question: How do you think Tenkara rods would work fishing small midges to rising fish in the winter on western streams?
I can't say for sure what refusals I've had, but I haven't found it necessary to use anything that small with Tenkara or Keiryu rods. My experience has me thinking that the Tenkara and Keiryu manipulation techniques; several of which can be used with western fly rods, can largely take the place of "matching the hatch" and using tiny flies that are difficult to tie, tie on 6X-7X tippet, and see on the water with my 10 thumbs and old presbyopic eyes.

One of 3 similar sized fish from one day in January 2021, when there was almost a foot of snow on the ground, that came to a #14 Red Dart using my Keiryu rod.
shopping
1631733690018.png
In early May 2018 this weighted variation of the iconic Takayama "Sakasa" (reverse hackle) kebari profile brought me my 2nd fish on a Tenkara rod (Hydra) using a simple manipulation technique.
1631734907218.png

1631734249712.png
I'm not a one-fly guy but according to my logs, this and variations (mainly Olive Ice Dubbing Thorax, no wire, curved shank competition hook) of this Takayama Pheasant Tail fly with Peacock thorax on a (*oops, edited) #12 hook have put ~250 fish in the net, so it's a goto and I keep one pre-rigged on spools in a couple of line lengths. I carry some in #14 but don't usually use them because they get mobbed by dinks.
1631735160725.jpeg
*And BTW, *other body colors-materials with the Takayama sakasa profile have produced another 100 or so fish. The sakasa (reverse hackle) fly profile was developed in one region of Japan and is a minority of traditional Tenkara fly dressing profiles. But it works pretty well for me!
 
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johnhornby

New Member
Brian,

Just got my Hydra zx390 and accessories. I think I want to fish it in the short option setup. Trying to figure out how long to cut the level line. I am sure it is somewhere on your earlier advice. It is not actually mentioned on the DragonTail Website. I'm going to make a reel of 3.0 and a reel of 3.5 today. 4 foot 5x tippet. Heading out for a 5 day camping/fishing trip with the wife and dog next week. Will bring this along for the maiden voyage, but definitely bring some 4wt rods as well of course. I know you'll be with me in spirit as I fumble my way up the river making every mistake in the book.

Harry
 

jwg

Active Member
Fishing Sierra wilderness streams I found dry flies working best for me, or using bead head nymphs below indicators i could get down into plunge pools or run through chutes.

A dry fly seemed to get a commitment and hookup best.

I never got the soft Hackle or kebari stuff to work.

Perhaps I don’t know how or perhaps they were not the right type of runs, being a lot of pocket water.

?

Jay
 

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
WFF Premium
Hi Harry. Awesome! Wish I could come along.

The line (including a chartreuse-orange-white sighter) to the tippet ring should be the length of the rod to a couple inches shorter. 3 1/2' - 4' of 5X tippet is good.

Something to think about... using a line that is the length of the rod with a high "Tenkara Triangle" rod stop position:
  • In the shorter zoom length casting distance is about 18'
  • In the longer length the casting distance is about 20'
  • Drifts no longer than 3-5 seconds so the rod doesn't drop below a 35°-40° angle (low rod position won't absorb shock from BIG fish to protect tippets; don't ask me how I know :oops:)
2' doesn't sound like a lot but it can seem like a lot when you need to position yourself in casting range of a cast to a suspected lie or a sighted fish.

Try to get some casting practice in before you go. It's an overhead 12 o'clock to 2 o'clock (like a steeple cast) with a high rod stop. Afterwards don't drop the rod to lay the line on the water like western fly fishing.

Work on the fly first cast with a high rod stop forming the "Tenkara Triangle". It'll probably take ~ 20 - 30 minutes to get consistent with fly first. That will naturally begin putting where the fly lands into a fairly close "group" Then start aiming for a 10" pie plate (frisbee...) to see how many you can put in the plate. Move around until you're putting them into the plate; it's not terribly difficult once your casts are consistently "fly first".

If you have enough time repeat the process with a low (horizontal) 12 o'clock to (vertical) 2 o'clock sidearm cast with a sweeping motion at 2 o'clock to a high "Tenkara Triangle" stop position at the end of the cast.

And if you still have some time practice the bow and arrow cast.

Remember everything you can about hooking and playing your first fish; how the rod responds to playing the fish.
Remember everything you can about hooking and playing your first 11"+ fish; how the rod responds to playing the fish, how the line "sings" like a bowed violin string as its being pulled through the water. (if there are overhead branches, lower the rod and fight it diagonally-horizontally steering the fish and keeping the rod in its "power curve").
And for sure, let me know what that looked - felt like!
 
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johnhornby

New Member
OK, question. When I bring the fish close to me to net or grab the line to pull them in for release, how should I hold the rod, assuming I have clearance all around me (no branches anywhere)? I am assuming I would just want to hold the rod in some position so that if the fish lunges he is pulling against a fairly uniformly bowed rod, as opposed to pulling down hard on the tip and making it bend down sharply where it could snap. That might mean holding my hand up and away from my shoulder until I can get onto the fish for release?
 

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
WFF Premium
Fishing Sierra wilderness streams I found dry flies working best for me, or using bead head nymphs below indicators i could get down into plunge pools or run through chutes.

A dry fly seemed to get a commitment and hookup best.

I never got the soft Hackle or kebari stuff to work.

Perhaps I don’t know how or perhaps they were not the right type of runs, being a lot of pocket water.

?

Jay
The traditional "manipulation techniques" (they have Japanese names) made a big difference for me and some can be done with a western rod. "Precise drift control" with the high rod position and learning to use the wind, for steering the fly around boulders and "anchoring" the fly in pocket water eddies where there are high percentage of prime lies... Then there's fly design; specific hackle profile and stiffness help a fly float, sink (as a wet fly without weight), "anchor" the fly... There's a ton of stuff out there that can help.
 

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
WFF Premium
OK, question. When I bring the fish close to me to net or grab the line to pull them in for release, how should I hold the rod, assuming I have clearance all around me (no branches anywhere)? I am assuming I would just want to hold the rod in some position so that if the fish lunges he is pulling against a fairly uniformly bowed rod, as opposed to pulling down hard on the tip and making it bend down sharply where it could snap. That might mean holding my hand up and away from my shoulder until I can get onto the fish for release?
Dude! It's that kind of forethought and experience that put fish in the net!
From my presentation ppt... Don't over extend the arm too far from the torso.
1631993032050.png
Yes! the rod's "power curve" takes the place of a drag on a reel.
Fight fish under cover and BIG fish diagonally - horizontally to steer them, (seems to keep them for jumping and throwing the hook too) just like with a western rod.
 
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johnhornby

New Member
Understood.

By the way, that video... am heading to the same area on the Green mid-October for float/fish/camp with some friends, wife, and of course the dog. I wasn't planning on bringing the Tenkara rod, but now this has me thinking...
 

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Greg Price

Love da little fishies
I'm on my way, proofreading... View attachment 295087

Hello Harry. You didn't say if you are already a Tenkara angler looking for another rod for the specific purpose of backpacking.

I've been fly fishing for ~45 years. Since the late 1990s my primary freshwater fishing has been small to medium rivers and creeks for trout. In July 2017 my buddy who has fly fished since he was a boy and taught me how to fly fish, showed up on a 4 day trip to fish some mountain creeks and small rivers with a Tenkara rod. *As the trip progressed initial "amusement" turned to "very impressed" at how effective the tight line approach of fishing (primarily) wet, and dry flies with a long rod was. For 8 months I read-watched all I could find on Tenkara to learn traditional Japanese techniques. A big takeaway was that while Tenkara appears to be a "simple" - "minimalist" method of "fly fishing", Tenkara emphasizes basic skills along with many (often subtle) techniques rather than a lot of expensive equipment. But me being me, I now have a few Tenkara and Keiryu rods that each perform better for me in their own "niche in a niche in a niche of fly fishing". My 3 weight bamboo and graphite rods that I used on small to medium rivers & creeks have seen very little use since I began my Tenkara journey.

I'd say the two most current and most respected Tenkara rod review blogs in the "Western Tenkara community" are the "Teton Tenkara" website:
Dr Tom reviews rods by sold by many companies and I think have the most detail. He hasn't been as prolific of a reviewer over the last couple of years and I don't see an index of his reviews on the site. Doing a search for [name of rod] and adding "Teton Tenkara" to the search string usually bring up results for the rods he's reviewed.

And Chris Stewart at TenkaraBum for the MIJ (Japanese) rods he sells
Again, I don't see an index to specific reviews; add "TenkaraBum" to the search string.

After reading many reviews on the "Teton Tenkara" and TenkaraBum blogs, in November 2017 I picked up the DRAGONtail Hydra zx390 "dual zoom" rod that I think is an ideal all-round "first rod", plus everything to get started; 50 meters of (medium-light) #3.5 level fluorocarbon line to make up lines for matching the rod's 2 zoom lengths, a line winder for temporary storage when fishing, and spools to store pre-rigged lines for an "introductory price" of $125.

Brent @ DRAGONtail offers some real good rods he's designed but are mfg'd in china, at low prices and provides outstanding Customer Service.
I've purchased a Japanese rod and quite a few accessories from Chris @ TenkaraBum mentioned by @Philonius who also provides outstanding Customer Service and graciously answers email questions for me. The Japanese rods generally cost more; some a lot more, have a superior fit-finish and (in the hand of an expert caster) can cast better. Replacement parts (tips = very fragile) are also more expensive.
I hear from a few reviewers that with one exception of a single sold out production run of rods that appear to have been made by a highly regarded Japanese rod mfg, that Tenkara Rod Co, mentioned by @Squamishpoacher offers rods that are generally too stiff to easily cast light level lines which have less sag-"drape" and perform better with the traditional high-rod tight line "Tenkara Triangle" technique that is soooo effective.

However, a moderately stiff rod that can still effectively cast level lines is useful in creeks and streams with overhanging limbs and tight brush for setting the hook and fighting fish. Just how much stiffness is best for a specific spot (that can change depending how you are able to approach it, and can change with water level, etc...) can only be determined by You and your casting style - expertise.

Most so-called "backpacking" T-rods that are very short when collapsed are, with the exception of a couple of very expensive MIJ rods, very stiff. I have done some backpacking with T-rods and find the 21"-24" collapsed length of most rods is fine.

If you want an idea how some expert, and (I mean) hardcore Japanese anglers do it see the
GENRYUIZAKAYA (translates to "headwaters pub") YT channel. They bushwhack backpack some extreme terrain to fish the remote mountains where Tenkara was first documented some 400 years ago, and use standard length rods.
Unfortunately, only their first two videos have English translations *but I've watched all of them.
Makes me wish I was 40 years younger.

Let me know if I can answer any other questions for you Harry.
wow that looks like a big adventure. I thoughly
I'm on my way, proofreading... View attachment 295087

Hello Harry. You didn't say if you are already a Tenkara angler looking for another rod for the specific purpose of backpacking.

I've been fly fishing for ~45 years. Since the late 1990s my primary freshwater fishing has been small to medium rivers and creeks for trout. In July 2017 my buddy who has fly fished since he was a boy and taught me how to fly fish, showed up on a 4 day trip to fish some mountain creeks and small rivers with a Tenkara rod. *As the trip progressed initial "amusement" turned to "very impressed" at how effective the tight line approach of fishing (primarily) wet, and dry flies with a long rod was. For 8 months I read-watched all I could find on Tenkara to learn traditional Japanese techniques. A big takeaway was that while Tenkara appears to be a "simple" - "minimalist" method of "fly fishing", Tenkara emphasizes basic skills along with many (often subtle) techniques rather than a lot of expensive equipment. But me being me, I now have a few Tenkara and Keiryu rods that each perform better for me in their own "niche in a niche in a niche of fly fishing". My 3 weight bamboo and graphite rods that I used on small to medium rivers & creeks have seen very little use since I began my Tenkara journey.

I'd say the two most current and most respected Tenkara rod review blogs in the "Western Tenkara community" are the "Teton Tenkara" website:
Dr Tom reviews rods by sold by many companies and I think have the most detail. He hasn't been as prolific of a reviewer over the last couple of years and I don't see an index of his reviews on the site. Doing a search for [name of rod] and adding "Teton Tenkara" to the search string usually bring up results for the rods he's reviewed.

And Chris Stewart at TenkaraBum for the MIJ (Japanese) rods he sells
Again, I don't see an index to specific reviews; add "TenkaraBum" to the search string.

After reading many reviews on the "Teton Tenkara" and TenkaraBum blogs, in November 2017 I picked up the DRAGONtail Hydra zx390 "dual zoom" rod that I think is an ideal all-round "first rod", plus everything to get started; 50 meters of (medium-light) #3.5 level fluorocarbon line to make up lines for matching the rod's 2 zoom lengths, a line winder for temporary storage when fishing, and spools to store pre-rigged lines for an "introductory price" of $125.

Brent @ DRAGONtail offers some real good rods he's designed but are mfg'd in china, at low prices and provides outstanding Customer Service.
I've purchased a Japanese rod and quite a few accessories from Chris @ TenkaraBum mentioned by @Philonius who also provides outstanding Customer Service and graciously answers email questions for me. The Japanese rods generally cost more; some a lot more, have a superior fit-finish and (in the hand of an expert caster) can cast better. Replacement parts (tips = very fragile) are also more expensive.
I hear from a few reviewers that with one exception of a single sold out production run of rods that appear to have been made by a highly regarded Japanese rod mfg, that Tenkara Rod Co, mentioned by @Squamishpoacher offers rods that are generally too stiff to easily cast light level lines which have less sag-"drape" and perform better with the traditional high-rod tight line "Tenkara Triangle" technique that is soooo effective.

However, a moderately stiff rod that can still effectively cast level lines is useful in creeks and streams with overhanging limbs and tight brush for setting the hook and fighting fish. Just how much stiffness is best for a specific spot (that can change depending how you are able to approach it, and can change with water level, etc...) can only be determined by You and your casting style - expertise.

Most so-called "backpacking" T-rods that are very short when collapsed are, with the exception of a couple of very expensive MIJ rods, very stiff. I have done some backpacking with T-rods and find the 21"-24" collapsed length of most rods is fine.

If you want an idea how some expert, and (I mean) hardcore Japanese anglers do it see the
GENRYUIZAKAYA (translates to "headwaters pub") YT channel. They bushwhack backpack some extreme terrain to fish the remote mountains where Tenkara was first documented some 400 years ago, and use standard length rods.
Unfortunately, only their first two videos have English translations *but I've watched all of them.
Makes me wish I was 40 years younger.

Let me know if I can answer any other questions for you Harry.
Really enjoyed the Japanese video. Looks like a huge adventure. Fishing and the hiking/camping. Thanks for posting
 

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
WFF Premium
wow that looks like a big adventure. I thoughly

Really enjoyed the Japanese video. Looks like a huge adventure. Fishing and the hiking/camping. Thanks for posting
Their YT channel is awesome. Some of their trips are 5 day loop trips of "waterfall climbing" (translated sawanobori) and fishing their way up over multiple 6000' ridges down into valleys and up and over again and again. Yoko is a very good videographer, Tenkara angler, and is also a bear hunter. *Taisho is a very good climber, bushcrafter, and a gourmet (backcountry) chef.
 
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