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.