February 06 2013
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.
The Ayu has gone through at least two different iterations over the last 3 years. We originally changed the handle, which used to be flat, to a contoured and more ergonomic handle. On a subsequent iteration we improved its strength and smoothed its bend. Now, we changed it enough that the 13ft Ayu is a very different tenkara rod.
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.