Rods, If I knew then what I know now

Rods are funny. Over my years as an angler I tend to come full circle on equipment. I also know that understanding and embracing equipment takes some time and discipline. There is no perfect rod so I tend to stick to a short list. For me this short list has been fairly consistent since my start in tenkara.

We all tend to do a broad sample whenever we start something new. Try a broad range of equipment then refine to what we enjoy the most. This thread is open for everyone to share what they feel the title means to them. The objective is to share our journey with anyone new entering this wonderful sport.

On a recent thread I posted that the perfectly sized tenkara rod for me would be a 320 sized rod as it can be used in both large and small water. This is not for honryu (larger river) but could in a pinch. In general for me, Tenkara shines in the fast freestone streams that are 5-25’ wide. Anything wider it could be argued that a traditional flyrod and reel might start gaining some traction as being an advantage. I am not discounting tenkara honryu fishing . It is fun and effective, but rather just stating a personal preference to smaller water.

bold are rods I still own.

Year One: — TUSA rhodo / TUSA Sato
My first rod was a TUSA rhodo. On my first outing I caught three fished, but was underwhelmed by my casting range. So, I bought a TUSA Sato. A bit better on my reach and definitely beefier.

Year Two: ---- Nissin flying dragon 53
I went large this year after hooking( not landing) a 24-26" atlantic salmon on my sato. Fished rivers and the salt with this rod

Year Three: — TB36 / Oni Honryu 450 / suntech GM 53 /suntech kurenai 30m
Had the bug and went a bit haywire. Bought a bunch of rods to play around with.

Year Four: ---- Nissin Kyogi 18
Fished rivers and the salt with this rod

Year Six: ---- Nissin Royal Stage 320 6:4
This is the best rod I have ever casted. I also casted the 360 version which equally suits me.

If you consider the time I have been fishing, I have not rotated through many rods. The two carp rods are not even tenkara rods and are not used for trout, they could be easily omitted. So really I now own 4 rods.

My two favorites for tenkara are the Nissin Royal Stage 320 and the rhodo. The rhodo for its utility and the Royal Stage for its finesse. I do still fish the Sato a bit, but just on stocked water.

The reason I like a 320 sized rod as I feel that it is a fantastic rod to get into technical water and tight casting. I live in the Northeast and if the water is wild then it can be pretty tight casting. It is not that I cannot fish a 400 sized rod, it is just that it is not as versatile as a 320. If it is windy, I always tend to choose a shorter rod. The air closer to the water always seems less effected by gusts.

I suspect those TUSA rods have a touch of fiberglass in them as they tend to be a bit thicker and heavier than comparable rods. They also can take a bit of substantial abuse, which I would not put on my other rods. Most people will raise an eyebrow upon hearing that I use TUSA rods. They are not very sensitive or great casting rods, but they are not bad, and if I had to pick a rod to fight a large fish it would be be one of the two. The sato has landed a 24" brown and the rhodo has landed a 17" brown in incredibly heavy current. The water on the 17" was cranking and the rod was completely doubled over…hahahaha.

For the money the Nissin Royal Stage 320 is a gift. Such an incredible rod. Makes me look like I am an excellent caster…hahahaha.

Some guys say 360 is the perfect length. I like it a touch shorter and feel it is not much of a penalty. It may really boil down to the water you like the most. For me it is the smaller water. 5-12’ wide and found deep in the woods.


I also enjoyed the Rhodo and Sato (don’t own them any more) and agree with your assessment of them. I just gravitated toward some of the japanese for no particular reason. Much of the water I fish (until the high elevation is accessible around July) is bigger than I would fish with a 320 (400-450 is my go to). That being said, small streams are my first choice in the summer time and the Zerosum 320 6:4 is the next rod on my buy list this year. My understanding is that it is very similar to the royal stage, albeit barely more expensive/lighter. I really enjoy all of my rods and my choice on a given day depends on the water, fish size, the fishing technique I anticipate/want to use, and my mood. It is not out of the question for me to carry 4 or more rods during an outing or on a week long backpack trip. If I had to sum it up, I would say that I like to use as small of a rod as I can, but as long of a rod as I need to. My ideal water would be a stream 5-10’ wide, fair amount of pocket water and wadable everywhere…oh, and it would be 7-9k in elevation with difficult access to deter 99% of the people. Although, here in MT, with all of the famous trout destinations, very few people go out of their way to find tiny trout in the mountains.


Over three years I have tried to explore how effective fixed line rods are for the different types of freshwater and nearshore saltwater fishing I regularly do. 2.4m to 3.9m Tenkara rods have been superior for freestone streams I can wade across that are 5’-25’ wide, especially with complex pocket water currents. However I haven’t figured out how to make fixed, long-line management as “easy-simple” as using a fly rod and reel yet and (as a result?) have had repeated issues with break-offs occurring using 5X to 6X tippet when trying to reach beyond 20’ in high water I can’t wade across. That’s where a 4.5m to 5m rod allows me to keep the rod at an angle that can absorb the shock of a big fish’s aggressive take. But carrying that much line in the air and sometimes even a long rod’s movement to fight a fish can be problematic with riparian trees and brush, so as I learn as I go to adjust my effective CFS scope for future trip planning. I’ve caught fish in mountain lakes with a 3.9m rod and 4m-6m lines but conditions were just right with a nearshore hatch shortly after ice-off and facing into a breeze that was pushing the fish’s prey to me and rippling the surface to help hide my presence from cruising fish so they would come in close enough.

Also, many-many years ago I developed a habit of setting the hook a second time on fish as they begin to run and fight with western gear. It’s not as strong as the initial set but I believe it helps ensure a solid hookup, and I seldom lose a fish after doing so. I carried this over into my Tenkara fishing where it seems equally effective.

Year 1 - I have only owned or tried a few different rods but I still find my first T-rod; a 6:4 DT Hydra (3.9m 3.5m) is my most versatile rod and has been successful in the smallest stream I fish to streams where I need to reach out to 20’ or so with dry-wet flies as well as weighted nymphs. However it can take a bit for me to learn to give a lighter hookset with the moderate/mid-flex action and 3.9m length to avoid launching dinks.

So far a very-light 1.9 oz 5:5 TT Watershed 300 (3.0, 2.7, 2.4) that casts like a dream has been ideal to use with dry-wet flies for native Cutthroat-Rainbow & Brookies to 14" in fast riffles and runs on the smallest-tightest western Washington streams I fish. I’ve only had two instances where I wasn’t able to get a secure hookset on a larger fish because the flex would put my rod tip into branches. One of those times retreating, rigging a shorter line, resting the lie, and creeping back into position to make a slingshot cast landed me that fish. And I don’t launch dinks very often with the shorter slow/full-flex action. I am interested in knowing how the upcoming DT Foxfire that’s 15 cm shorter would compare to the Watershed 300.

Year 2 - I purchased my Suntech GM-53 Keiryu Special (5.3, 4.9m, 4.5m) that has allowed me to cast and control the drift across a 30’ - 35’ wide coastal river in high water conditions when I couldn’t wade close enough to reach football-shaped Sea Run Cutthroat just off the far bank while keeping a high rod tip to avoid breaking off at the take using weighted nymphs in early spring and late fall. Also it’s worked well in a much larger mountain river with fast pocket water using wet flies with smaller fish that I couldn’t wade close enough to reach using a shorter rod. I tried it in saltwater with #8 streamer type flies and can’t get the distance I feel I need to get fish to see, follow, and take a fly in the typical northern cold water (blind casting) “flats fishing” scenarios we have here.

I haven’t yet fished a stream in western Washington where the characteristics of my 6:4-7:3 DT Mizuchi (3.4, 2.9, 2.4) has been an advantage over my TT W300. So far I guess my main reason for keeping it is to have a durable loaner for my western ff friends to try, or for a trip to more fertile small streams in eastern Washington that can support larger fish.

Year 3 - When small streams widen and on larger streams that the Hydra works well for, the 4:6-5:5 DT Mutant (3.8, 3.5, 3.2) with dry-wet flies gives me a reach out to about 20’. It casts like a dream, and so far has handled all but the size of the largest fish I hooked - landed with the Hydra (a personal best with any gear), and I don’t have to be as careful with hooksets to avoid launching dinks into the brush.

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Here is my quiver. I have kept it this way for a few years. I think as Stephen pointed out it is natural to play around in the beginning and I have owned many more rods than this over the years. I honestly have not “hated” any of them…just found a group of rods that I am comfy with. My “main” rod is the Shimano Pack Tenkara. Super portable and feels good to me so I tend to just grab it the most.

  • Nissan Royal Stage Tenkara 360 6:4
  • Oni Type III - 340cm
  • Shimano Pack Tenkara 301; 334 6:4
  • Badger Rocky Creek 260 cm 6:4

“If I knew then what I know now”
I think that’s pretty much the same for all of us.
When I started trying tenkara, after at first scoffing at the whole thing, I didn’t really know anything… literally nothing.
Slowly I discovered what waters I enjoyed fishing the very most, and optimized my rod collection through trial and error for those waters.
I think that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be… and I’ve enjoyed the journey very much.
I’m all Nissin now, from a 240 Air Stage Hakubai to a 450 Zerosum Oni.