Wednesday, December 11, 2013

TenkaraUSA's new rods: the Rhodo and Sato

During the last few weeks, there have been many mysterious posts from prominent tenkara fisher and bloggers about new rods to be released by TenkaraUSA. No details could be shared but most indicated that those rods would be 'game changers'.

Yesterday was finally the big day where TenkaraUSA officially announced the new rods on their blog and made them available for sale. 

Early last week I was also able to get my sticky greedy little fingers on both of them and I was honestly wow'ed by what I was pulling out of the standard green fiberglass TenkaraUSA rod tube. The first thing I thought was that they look and feel 'Japanese' - light and slim - a departure from TenkaraUSA's 'solid' design of rods.

While I haven't had a chance to fish either of them yet, I didn't want to hold back posting about my initial impressions. 

This little rod is a triple zoom going from 270/8'10" to 297/9'9" to 320/10'6" and is designed for small, overgrown streams where you can fish it short when you things get tight and extend it when the stream opens up. It only weighs 2.1oz/59.5g and measures 21"/53.3cm when closed. 

This is the 'bigger' sister of the Rhodo and it will appeal to the Tenkara Angler that looks for an 'all-round' rod that can handle most situations. If you were fishing with a 11' or 12' Iwana but wanted also a 13' Iwana, this is the one rod for you. Just like the Rhodo, this is also a triple zoom rood and can be fished at 330/10'8", 360/11'10" and 390/12'9". It weighs 2.6oz/73.7g and measures 22.75"/57.8cm when closed. 

Other than the above, the rods have identical features:

'Keep your Plug' system (patent pending):
When you go fishing next time, instead of stowing the top plug in a pocket or fishing west (or lose it), you can store it in an indentation of the bottom plug. Why did not anybody else think of that before?  The rods come with a spare plug, so you can leave one at home in case you should ever lose the other.

top plug safely stored in the bottom
top plug removed
Top Plug:
The wooden plug comes pre-drilled with a hole and a length of spare lilian threaded through it. If you opt not to store the plug in the bottom, you can attach it through the loop to a carabiner, vest or pack. And you have some spare lilian, just in case.

dark red finish with wooden top plug, pre-drilled and with spare lilian
long enough lilian to add a knot yourself if you need one
Bottom Plug:
A departure from previous TenkaraUSA rods is that the plug is now made of what looks like plastic to me instead of metal. The material choice is probably due to the 'Keep your Plug" system and to reduce weight. There is no drainage hole.

plastic winding check with gold accent
Finish & Blank:
The finish is a glossy black with dark red bands at the top of the sections, gold lettering/logo and winding check. The zoom sections are also labeled so that you can easily identify how far the rod is extended. The blank is made from higher modulus carbon to reduce blank diameter and weight. As a comparison, the Rhodo's diameter above the handle is 0.375" while the Sato's is 0.44". The Iwana 12' is 0.51" and the Iwana 11' is 0.44".

labeling of the zoom sections, logo and winding check
this shows how much thinner the blanks are
from left to right: Ebisu, Rhodo, Iwana 11', Iwana 12', Rhodo, Ito
The handle on both is of good quality cork (Rhodo 9", Sato 10.5" ) that is similar in shape to it's "older sister", the Iwana, but more pronounced (less hip and more top and bottom - I am trying hard not to do an inappropriate analogy here...).

the handles of the Rhodo and Sato have more "curvature"....
from left to right: Ebisu, Rhodo, Iwana 11', Iwana 12', Sato, Ito
Action & Feel:
TenkaraUSA decided not to label the rods with the commonly used 5:5, 6:4 or 7:3 action but if I had to categorize them, I would say they are a 'high' 5:5 to a moderate 6:4. That being said, they have a nice crisp action that promises accurate casting. I expect that the rods will perform best with a no. 2.5 level line to a no. 3.5 level line, depending on the line length. 

Both rods sell for $215.

As mentioned, those rods look and feel unlike anything TenkaraUSA has released previously. The blanks are thinner, the rods are lighter and they feel very light in the hand, regardless whether in the shortest or longest configuration (in which the Sato just barely feels a bit top heavy but nothing like the Ito, TenkaraUSA's first zoom rod).

Since I haven't been able to fish with the rods yet, I recommend to also check out the rod's reviews on TenkaraTalk Teton Tenkara and Discover Tenkara who were already able to put them in action. 

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with TenkaraUSA nor did I receive any compensation to review the Sato or the Rhodo. Daniel of TenkaraUSA was kind enough to send me those two rods ahead of the official release date.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New Kid in Town - Tenkara Rod Co.

As you might have noticed, there are more and more places that offer their own tenkara rods, lines, flies, accessories and other tenkara gear. It sure looks like tenkara is becoming more popular and maybe even mainstream (no pun intended).

One new company has caught my attention, mainly by their marketing approach and their presentation of their products through the crowdfunding project site "". Basically, it is a way to find "backers" of a project or business venture. In the case of the Tenkara Rod Co, the project is tenkara and the goal is to get funding for the production of their tenkara rods.

On their Kickstarter project site, they present their project, objective, goal etc. They have posted details about the two rods they are currently producing - the 12' 5:5 Sawtooth and the 12' 6:4 Teton. Both rods are according to their website 3.4oz and both look very nice and attractively designed.
The Teton
the Sawtooth
As of this writing, they already have surpassed their fund raising goal of $3000 with a total pledge of over $9000 and 89 backers, further evidencing that their concept seems to appeal to a good number of folks. You can see more details about this Kickstarter project here. They also posted a video that just made me smile on several levels:

Looks like they already got off to a great start. Lets see what how their story continues.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The "Other" Colorado Grand Slam

Last Saturday, I headed over to Boulder for Daniel's first Tenkara Takeover on Boulder Creek where I met some old and some new friends. It was interesting to see how much interest of both tenkara and non-tenkara anglers this event has generated. Is tenkara becoming more "main stream"? Time will tell.

I spent about 2 hours at the event, fished a bit with the crowd and then decided to head further upstream to find some solitude.

It was interesting how each stretch fished differently. Downstream at the Tenkara Takeover, it seemed like easy picking. Then a few miles upstream I spent over an hour with no action whatsoever. No flash, no hit, no strike, nada. So I headed even further upstream where the creek had a significantly different character, much more "tenkara like". It seemed to me the flow was also lower. I wonder if there was a feeder creek I didn't notice when driving upstream.

Anyways, in the new stretch, I almost couldn't keep them off the fly. Mostly brown trout from fingerling to nice 10-12" specimens. Once in a while, I would also get a nice brookie. After a while, I decided to move again, I wanted to see if I could finally get a grayling, a fish that so far eluded me. I found a spot that looked promising and caught, of course, a rainbow trout. And it was tiny. I continued to fish and felt something hit my fly down in the pool and sure enough, I had my first grayling on! I was surprised how nicely it fought and how it felt in my hand. The body is much firmer and rougher than the one of a trout. And of course, I loved to see the few "freckles" close to the head and big majestic, purple fin. And of course, it smelled like thyme (the latin name for the European grayling is "Thymallus thymallus" for its scent). My first grayling since moving to the US 13 years ago!

Of course, I didn't bring my net and of course, I was very excited to catch a grayling. So excited, that while I was fumbling with my camera, the grayling escaped! I was pretty upset and my only hope was to try to catch another one... which eventually happened! This time I took precautions and was ready to take pictures right away. 

I continued to fish, headed back downstream to hit a few spots I fished last year and then packed-up once it started to rain for the third time that day. 

Overall, I was very thrilled how the day has shaped-up - old friends, new friends and lots of fish with a different kind of Grand Slam.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

North St. Vrain on Bastille Day 2013

My wife was flying today back to Atlanta to pick-up our daughter from "Camp Grandmere" and had to be dropped off by 6.15am at the airport. What does one do when you a full Sunday to spare? Go fishing!

I headed up to the North St. Vrain in Rocky Mountain National Park today to see if I could find some more greenback cutthroats. I heard that there should be a better population further upstream so I headed upstream where the NSV comes down from Thunder Lake. I took a short cut instead taking the route via Calypso Falls and Ouzel Falls and started fishing above the bridge where my short cut meets with the "regular" trail in the proximity of the Aspen Knoll campsite (note to myself: plan an overnighter). 

I started fishing with my Suikei in the shortest position (320) which proved too long for this little brushy, high-running little creek. Thankfully I brought also my Soyokaze 27SR which proved to be a much better choice. I caught plenty of brookies with whatever fly I tossed at them, some were nice sized and some still needed some growing up. Unfortunately, no greenback cutthroat. I think next time I have to hike even higher.

The day started out nice with sunshine that mid morning changed to cloud cover, then drizzle and then early afternoon into a nice soaker. Thankfully no lightning or else I would have packed up way earlier!

nice and really big pool below the bridge
it is getting tighter...

a lot of those guys...
and a few of these guys

this guy thought he could get some of my lunch...


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Back Country Trip

This weekend I had plans to revisit a little spring creek up in the high country and camp out with my friend Phil (since Graham bailed...). After a long drive and hike-in we setup camp and Phil took a little siesta while I took the first crack at some fish. A little over an hour or so later, I had already picked-up 30 brown trout so I went back to check on Phil. He didn't feel too well but I was able to talk him into picking up the rod and fish some.

We continued to catch some spooky yet gullible brown trout on whatever we were throwing at them. Key was to keep a low profile so not to spook them and take advantage of the wind blowing up the valley.

Later in the afternoon, Phil still didn't feel to well so we decided to pack-out; we didn't want to chance a medical emergency off the grid

Still, the during the 5 hours in the valley I was still able to catch 60+ brown trout, with the last one being the biggest - who says one more cast doesn't pay off?

the view from our camp site
camp is setup and I am ready to fish!
can you see our camp?
average fish...
a side channel that holds nice fish...
this little pool was chock full of fish and boiling when we were leaving

last fish of the day, he had a nice little kype going
on our way out of the canyon
still live in the mountains

see you soon!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Gear Review: Tenkara Times NEXT 360 5:5 Y13 tenkara rod

Most tenkara anglers know that Tenkara is not confined to Japan and the US but has also infected anglers in Europe and as such there are now a number of European blogs, websites and shops.

The Tenkara Times is all of it - a blog, a knowledge library and a shop. They are distributing various tenkara tackle, starting with lines, flies, line holders and of course, rods. Rods offered include rods imported from Japan in their "Le Boutique" but also inludes their own line of rods.

A few weeks ago, Oleg Stryapunin who calls himself the lone tenkara angler in the Czech Republic and who is the driver behind Tenkara Times, reached out to me whether I would want to review the updated 2013 Tenkara Times NEXT 360 5:5 rod. Always happy to play with some new gear, I agreed.

Sure enough, shortly thereafter, I received a nice package from my ancestral home country with the NEXT, an Aluminium Tube that can be ordered extra and some flies. Also, I understand that each rod comes standard with a stretchy rod sock unlike any I have seen yet.

the Tenkara Times NEXT 360 5:5 Y13
EVA foam handle
clear simple labeling 
butt cap - closed 
butt cap - open. no drainage hole
purple band, lilian and standart plug 
tubular stretchy rod sock - I like it!
kebari selection
aluminium rod tube

Note: this is the same rod/rod blank as reviewed here by Jason Klass of Tenkara Talk but with a cosmetic update to the 2012 version. 

Rod Specifications:
Length: 365cm (12')
Closed length: 56 cm (22")
Weight: 69 grams (2.43oz)
Handle length: 27cm (10.5")
Number of segments: 8

There are 3 new for 2013 "unique" features that are worth mentioning:

1) A purple band at the top of each segment but the tip segments. While this choice of color is unusual it is toned down from last year's pink band (more in Jason's review) it might not suit everybody's sense of aesthetics, especially here in the US. I personally think it suits the color setup of the rod in general (as would have other muted colors) and I think I am "man enough" to pull off a purple banded tenkara rod, lol. I had a long conversation with Jason a while ago where I made a point that while I appreciate aesthetics and like to fish a "pretty" rod, it is not at all important to me as long as the quality of the rod and workmanship is good. The most important feature of a rod to me is whether it feels good in the hand, fishes well and does the job it is supposed to do. After all, a tenkara rod is only a tool. That being said, the workmanship and quality of the rod is not lacking at all.

2) A gray unfinished blank. All my other rods have either black blanks or finished high gloss colored blanks (black, blue, brown, woven carbon fiber etc.). This gives the rod a different look that I needed to get used to first. Having used the rods a few times, I actually like it, there are no shiny parts that could spook fish and then, see above point 1) and here.

3) An EVA foam grip. Now this is what is the most striking visual feature of the rod since not many rods on the market here in the US have EVA foam grips - I only know of one other rod, the Shimano Keiryu Tenkara 34-38 ZL which I only heard and read of. Being used to cork handles or the lack thereof completely (as can be found in seiryu and keiryu rods) I was curious how the foam grip will feel - and I do like it a lot! It feels a bit softer than cork but firm enough. And it is very comfortable. I am sold on EVA foam grips but I assume the handle will require additional care to wash/clean it and if it is only for aesthetics. Dust and dirt will show more on a black foam grip than on cork.

So, how does it fish?
The rod feels very light and and comfortable in the hand and it requires little effort to cast a no. 3 level line. Casting in the wind is somewhat challenging since the rod is clearly a soft 5:5. It bends well into the middle (and past this with a big fish on). I see this rod as a good choice for smaller rivers where you can expect your average trout to be in the 8-12" class. That being said, I know that the rod can also handle bigger fish, like this feisty 20" rainbow from the Blue River in Colorado:

job well done
in action on the Roaring River below the Alluvial Fan in Rocky Mountain National Park
shortly before catching the big rainbow trout above
I think this rod will find a permanent spot in my rod quiver.

Other reviews of the NEXT:
Tom Davis of Teton Tenkara
Christophee Laurant of Tenkara Normandie
Jason Klass of Tenkara Talk

You can purchase the NEXT through Tenkara Times' website here - US residents (and residents outside the EU) can expect a reduced pricing due to a VAT refund.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Tenkara Times nor did I receive any compensation to review the NEXT. However, I received the NEXT, Aluminium Tube and a set of flies free of charge for testing & reviewing from Tenkara Times.