The Tenkara USA guarantee means we’ll make sure your tenkara rod bearing our name gets fixed quickly and conveniently. Do not mail anything back to us, we will send you just the part(s) you need for your tenkara rod. […]
Most of our products go through minor iterations and revisions on a regular basis. We follow the Japanese philosophy of kaizen, or continuous improvement, and are constantly making the rods, lines and flies better. Many of these changes, we will never announce. But, today we’re releasing what is essentially a brand new rod, and worthy of your attention: The 13ft Ayu Series II, a redesign of one of the most popular tenkara rods around. This rod is a direct result of my last trip to Japan, which was followed up by a week spent with our factories and engineers in China to ensure we built the best tenkara rods possible.
In creating (and tweaking) a tenkara rod I pay particular attention to four criteria I feel are most important for a good tenkara rod: it must cast well (precisely and effortlessly); it must feel comfortable to be cast all day long; it must set the hook well; and it must play fish well.
For the current version, I wanted to strengthen the Ayu a bit more and make it capable of more easily landing some of the larger fish people have been catching. The previous Ayu, I started realizing, was a bit too soft; this made casting with it a delight, but landing some of the larger fish took a bit longer than ideal – Not that it couldn’t handle good size fish! I also did not want to lose the soft feel of the rod, which was the original vision for the Ayu. It is a rod that reminds many people of a fiberglass rod or a bamboo fly rod, and I did not want to let that go, many of our customers love the Ayu for that reason. We kept most of the original Ayu there, but gave it slightly more “backbone”, and also made it into a 6:4 tenkara rod. This change gives it a crisper feel (it recovers faster and makes casting more precise. Moving to a 6:4 rating also allows us to get away from a rating system that adds complexity into something meant to be simple. Our goal, going forward, will be to have the best tenkara rods, but eliminate too many decision making aspects to trying tenkara.
This photo shows our first iteration of the Ayu
The new Ayu still casts beautifully, effortlessly, but now also with much more precision. It will also handle fish much more easily, yet feel great when a smaller fish is caught. It is not as robust or as heavy as the 13ft 6inch Amago tenkara rod. Nor as light as the shorter Iwana. It is simply a great tenkara rod.
I felt these changes warranted a change to the look of the rod. Typically I like to keep the look of the rod the same. People start recognizing the rods by their stripes. Essentially we start building some “model equity” into them. People will certainly remember the recognizable green stripes of the old Ayu, and letting that go wasn’t an easy decision. But, in the end we also found a finish that would be more durable, and would, as one of the first people to see it said, “look sexy”. The new Ayu has a carbon scrim look at the handle, and clear carbon look throughout the rod. You can see the quality of the rod thorough its entire length. I realized there was no need to hide something that is well done, and you can see the uniformity in the carbon behind the finish and be assured we have taken every step in ensuring the quality is good.
And, lastly, a small detail worth noting that we’ll be phasing in for all our future rods. We’re starting to connect a segment of lillian (the hollow braided material that makes up the tip of tenkara rods), to the plug of the rods. This serves two functions: (1) it makes it easier to keep track of where the plug is, and/or connect it to your shirt/vest/fishing bag, and (2) it can be used for field repairs should you ever break the tip of the rod.
*PLEASE KEEP IN MIND PREVENTING BREAKAGE IS VERY EASY: Just put the hard tip inside the rod and put your finger on top of it as you tie or untie the line.
The Ayu is currently only available for shipping out of the USA (USA, Australia, South America, Asia and Africa), we’ll soon stock it in Europe as well. For those in Europe, we have a great deal going on for the Series 1 Ayu here, until supplies last.
Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Jay Pape at the first Tenkara Summit. Jay works for the National Forest Service out of Bozeman, Montana, and this year I had the opportunity to get to know and fish with him when I was visiting the area. I’m very thankful for his submission of the very helpful article that follows on gear maintenance.
Written by Jay Pape
Now that snow and ice has closed most of the local streams here in Bozeman, I use the long Montana nights to tie kebari and reflect on the many days enjoyed tenkara fishing this season.
Highlights of my last day on the water include sleet and snow plastered to my beard, a furled line frozen stiff by the wind AND a handful of beautiful rainbow trout. Back at the truck numb fingers struggled to collapse my 12’ Iwana and each section made nasty noises as they nested into each other. I didn’t
dare collapse the tip sections and quickly drove home to let everything thaw out. At this point the harsh realization set in- my season was over for a while and a bit of winter maintenance was in order.
Here are few tips to make sure your tenkara gear will be ready to go as soon as the streams open up:
Remove the end cap and slide out each section of the rod. I then place them on towel to keep them from rolling onto the floor.
With a turkey baster or syringe full of warm water I flush the inside of each section and blow any remaining water out before.
When everything is dry I use a clean cloth saturated with denatured alcohol to wipe down each section. This removes the residue on the thicker end and evaporates quickly. Warm soapy water also works well.
Before reassembly I inspect the Lillian for damage and lubricate each section with Tri-Flow applied to another lint-free cotton rag or pad. TriFlow is a dry lubricant that repels dust/dirt and isn’t greasy like WD40.
When my rod was new, I wanted to keep the cork grip from getting covered with black, sweaty grime. To prevent this, I applied a few coats of Zinsser Clear Shellac. If the shellac looks worn, I add a fresh coat.
To clean the mesh of the tamo I fill the kitchen sink with hot soapy water, soak and rinse. This should be done after every outing to prevent the transport of invasive species. This is also a good time to inspect the net bag and make any needed repairs.
Lastly, I wash my smelly waders and boots and let them air dry before storing them in my fishing bin.
I also go through all of my lines and replace the tippet rings or perfection loops. With everything put away in good condition I can tie kebari (and ski powder) knowing that I am ready to enjoy the streams as soon as the weather breaks.
This has been a great year for us here at Tenkara USA. We have far exceeded any expectations in sales and the number of new people taking up tenkara has surpassed our wildest imagination. Although we are a little late for it, we are thankful and this is our way of thanking the streams that allow people to take up tenkara, and our version of a BlackFriday/CyberMonday/GivingTuesday Sale – except that it will last until our supply of the super popular 11ft Iwana tenkara rod runs out.
Without further ado, we present you the Tenkara USA Pay it Forward Sale. Our most popular rod going for only $100 and $50 of that going to organizations that protect fish habitat. We expect this sale won’t last long, so get them while they are available for you, for your brother, for your cousins, for your wife, for your kids, and even for your neighbor!
Please note, the intent is to distribute the money to at least 4 charities and let you pick your own. We’re currently working on lining them up. Until then you’ll have the option to pick whether your money goes to Trout Unlimited, another organization (to be determined) or, if you’re outside the USA, to an organization with international ties.
One of our main goals is to make rods that are unbreakable. We have made improvements and with time are getting better rods. But, the reality is that rods do break and always will. So, we’ll strive to get your rod back in the water as quickly as possible. It is just good business: delight our customers by getting their rods fixed quickly and cheaply, and if they are able to go fishing the weekend after their rod breaks, there are more chances they will show our rods to someone else. So, yes, we want to get your rod fixed as quickly, efficiently, and cheaply as possible.
With that in mind, we’re starting an unprecedented way of getting your broken rods repaired. We’ll just send you the part that you need. We have made replacement parts (plugs and replacement tip sets) available for all our models for quite sometime. And, now we will extend it to the other segments too. This means we must stock over 49 SKUs in spare parts (7 rod models X 7 parts). This is a big effort, but I believe making getting your rod fixed a breeze will pay off.
We actually started testing this procedure a few ago. But, the communication with customers, and even between us, has been challenging. The best email exchanges usually went like this:
Customer: “I broke the 5th segment from the tip”
Us: “Is that including the tip? So, tip, 2, 3, 4, 5?”
Customer: “No, it’s tip, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5″
Not to mention that sometimes we thought we knew exactly what piece to send and would send the wrong one. So, from now on we must speak the same language when we need to say which segment needs to be replaced. Below is a chart on how we will describe the parts of a tenkara rod from now on. Start with the handle (which would be number one) and count up, thus: handle, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, tip-set. We had some debates on whether to count from the handle or from the tip. On the one hand we start extending the rod from the tip. However, if one is to break and lose one of the top parts, there wouldn’t be a way of counting. Moreover, if starting from the tip, we would still suffer from the communication issue above (“segment X below the tip”). So, we settled on counting from the handle.
To get your broken Tenkara USA rod fixed:
1) Please contact us first (email or phone) so we know what the issue was and what part has broken. This will allow us to learn more about what caused the breakage and use that to improve our rods; and to see if there is a quicker fix for you.
* In rare situations we will need to get your rod back; or you may choose to have us repair your rod for you. We’ll ask that you send your rod along with this form to the address on the form. Shipping and handling is $17.
We’ll strive to make your rods unbreakable and hope you do not ever break your rod, but until then we’ll make it as painless as possible to get your rod fixed. And, we’ll support all of our rod models.
Today is day 4 of spending time with our factories in China. It was a very productive day. Margaret joined me in evaluating working conditions at the factory that makes the Yamame rods for us. She provided a keen eye for detail; requesting that workers put on their mask even as they may not like doing it and those are available to them. A good portion of the day was dedicated to teaching tenkara to our rod engineers and evaluating rod designs and processes to ensure good quality control going forward.
I don’t have a whole lot to write about today. Normally this would be a quick writeup with pictures posted on our socialnetworks/microblogging platforms, but unfortunately I do not have access to those where I am. I will leave it at that so I don’t lose access to this blog as well.
I have been in China for about 3 days now (5 more to go), following a 2-week long stay in Japan. This tour of Asia is very important and I believe will translate into ever-better Tenkara USA products. And, I’m already seeing concrete insights and results from being here.
For about 4 years I have focused on developing authentic tenkara rods. I do not copy any rods and have my own design philosophy when it comes to making (and releasing) new tenkara rods. Futher, for the last 4 years I have been taking your feedback into account into everyone of our rods. As you can see, I brought all those notes here with me.
AH! Tenkara rod caps. A necessary evil; a love-and-hate relationship with some; a piece destined to be lost by others. Couldn’t there be a solution that is more versatile and less prone to being lost?
We just received shipment of the “Universal Tenkara Rod Caps”. I think some of your may really like it. They are available here.
This little piece of gear will offer the following benefits:
1) It fits any tenkara rod
2) The line can stay attached to the rod tip with it (just be careful when removing it so the tip doesn’t come out and snap)
3) It’s easier to keep track of and may be even wrapped around the rod itself while fishing.
4) It offers better protection for the end of the rod.
An interesting note, Jason Klass of Tenkara Talk discussed this product on this post. Unbeknownst to him I had placed an order for this item almost exactly 24 hours before his post went up! Now, his wish and those of others in his blog have been answered.
Tenkara USA was just awarded a “Best of Show” award at the International Fly Tackle Dealer show (IFTD)!!! Wohooo! We received the prize for “Best Gift” for the 12ft Iwana tenkara rod, a tenkara line and tenkara flies.
Many people realized that a tenkara rod, tenkara line and tenkara flies make up for the best gift. Either they will be something the experienced fly angler will not already have, or it will be the ideal gift to get someone started into fly fishing.
Here is the Tenkara USA team with the award: (left) Thomas Ferreira (TJ), Daniel, and Masaki Nakano
We also submitted one of our rods as a “Best Freshwater Fly Rod” category. That was a tough one to compete in given that we were going head to head with all the conventional 9ft fly rods in the market. I knew the chances of that prize were extremely slim, but as they did not have a category for “Best Mountain Stream Fly Rod” that was our only chance.
When I asked my friend Tom Sadler what he thought the odds were of the tenkara rod winning the category prize, his response was “exactly the same as the percentage of people doing tenkara within the of fly-fishing”.
Zoom section of the Tenkara USA Ito showing its different lengths
Anyone who has followed my writing probably already knows that my tenkara rod of choice is the Tenkara USA Ito. First and foremost, I love the action (I generally prefer softer rods) but my second favorite thing about it is that it’s a zoom rod.
If you’re not familiar with zoom rods, they are rods that can be adjusted to different lengths by simply sliding a section of the rod. For example, the Ito adjusts from 13’ to 14’ 7”. While tenkara rods are long by nature, they are already versatile enough to handle a variety of situations but zoom rods offer two unique advantages that I have come to really appreciate.
In his website Ryan Jordan says of tenkara, “If you think roping a bull in a cattle chute with a piece of dental floss sounds totally cool, then you’ll really like tenkara fly fishing”.
I was finally able to visually exactly what Ryan was talking about when I watched the video below. This video has been around for a little over a month, and although we have shared it on Facebook and Twitter I just noticed we never shared it here on this blog. Our main post for today is on how to choose a tenkara rod, and though we make it clear tenkara is not made for targeting very large fish, we have designed two rods with larger fish in mind.
Below is a must-see video of Guillaume Durand, a tenkara guide in France, catching, fighting and landing a beautiful 7lb brown trout in New Zealand. He was using our Yamame tenkara rod. The video was shot by another tenkara guide in France, Mr. Yvon Zill.
The number one question we are asked by new tenkara anglers is, “which rod should I get?” It certainly can be confusing since tenkara rods come in different lengths and actions. We always like to tell people that they really can’t go wrong, any rod will work just fine. But, in order to assist you with understanding what our rods are designed for, we have put together the video below with Daniel walking trough the entire lineup of Tenkara USA rods. We have also put together the chart below the video, which we hope will help with the decision making process and some pointers about the key aspects of tenkara rods.
Since all Tenkara USA rods will work for most trout fishing and smaller fish scenarios it’s hard to pin each one down to a specific use or to match your exact preference. Further, we believe people will just grow into the rod they get anyways.
It was never our intent to make things more confusing, nor necessarily for people to buy multiple tenkara rods when we developed the 6 rods that are in our current lineup – as a small company things would be MUCH simpler if we only had to worry about managing inventory of one rod model. But, each of the rods in our lineup were developed to fill a specific niche or preference. However, there are certain applications where we believe each model shines and the following table attempts to simplify the rod selection process:
These rods are very easy for us to recommend, with the other rods in the lineup being considered more “specialty” tenkara rods.
The main difference between the Ito, Ayu and 12ft Iwana will be their length. So, if you fish wider streams and are looking for an excellent premium rod the Ito will be a great choice. If you’re fishing wider streams but don’t want to spend as much money on the rod, the 13ft Ayu is a great option. And, if you fish a mix of stream sizes, the 12ft Iwana is a great no-brainer.
If in doubt: just get the 12ft Iwana.
Bigger Fish – two more choices
We have developed two rods with more backbone if you’re always catching fish that are 17″ (43cm): the 12ft Yamame and the 13ft 6in Amago have more backbone and make landing the larger fish a bit easier. The main difference between the two is their length, with the Amago being a better rod for larger and more open streams, and the Yamame being the best tool for smaller streams.
Smaller Streams – one more choice (erhh, two actually)
The last choice in our lineup is if you’re fishing pretty small streams all the time. In that case we offer the 11ft version of the Iwana. You’ll have less reach, but if you’re fishing tighter streams that will be a good choice.
Actually, if you get the Iwana, you also have the option of purchasing a separate add-on handle to transform your rod into its shorter cousin. We only recommend you take advantage of this option after you have been fishing with tenkara for sometime and REALLY wish you had a shorter rod. In our experience it just takes a little getting used to the longer rods, but once you’re used to them they will likely work well.
Some further thoughts on what how we make our recommendations
Length, start here
The first question you should ask yourself is which length is right for the majority of fishing you plan to do. Generally speaking, we always recommend using the longest rod you can get away with. This will give you more reach, help you keep more line off of the water and give you more control over your fly (one of the main benefits of tenkara).
A 12ft (360cm) tenkara rod is a very standard length for tenkara. But, if you live near pretty small streams with low, overhanging branches, then a shorter tenkara rod (say 11ft / 330cm) might let you cast more easily under the canopy.
In either case, you should target your rod choice toward the waters you’ll fish the most. AND, keep in mind a longer rod will have the added versatility of giving you reach in more open sections of a stream, while having the ability to be “fished shorter” by holding the rod above the handle and potentially even collapsing one segment. Further, pairing a long rod with a short line is a very effective combination in smaller streams. Both Jason and I usually fish a 13ft tenkara rod (even on small streams) and you might be surprised how well it fishes in pretty tight quarters.
Action, this is more subjective
Action is primarily a personal preference. Some people prefer stiffer rods, while others prefer softer actions. There is no right or wrong here.
We tend to prefer softer rods (5:5 or soft 6:4) because they load easily, making for very effortless casting. Softer rods will also protect tippet well. Our rods will lean towards the softer end of the scale as we believe they are the best tool for tenkara. Two of our 6 rods are stiffer. The stiffer rods will often have more backbone to put pressure on large fish and will be better at precise casting at short distances (though this can be made up for with technique and practice). The Yamame and the Amago, are both stiffer and also have a good deal of backbone and were designed with larger fish in mind.
Tenkara rods are relatively soft compared to western fly rods, and all our rods have soft tips to assist in casting very light lines. So if you’re used to a fast-action western-style fly rod, you might prefer a slightly stiffer action tenkara rod like the Iwana 6:4, the Yamame 7:3 or the Amago 6:4.
Fish Size, last consideration
All tenkara rods are made for the average trout and other smaller species of fish: 8″ – 18″ (20 – 45cm).
All tenkara rods will handle the occasional 20+ incher (50cm +). So, if your targeted fish size is within those ranges, fish size should have little bearing on the rod choice: ANY ROD WILL WORK FINE.
If you’re constantly catching fish that are over 17 inches (43cm), then we have two tenkara rods that have more backbone (stiffer and with more mass): the Yamame and the Amago. We consider those more specialty rods and they sell very well in places like Montana and Idaho.
With each rod being so versatile, it would be hard to make the “wrong” choice. Hopefully, the chart and video above will help. If you’re still struggling with which rod is right for you, feel free to post here, or email Jason at Jason@tenkarausa.com. He will be happy to help you make the best decision on your first tenkara rod.