Since Tenkara USA was founded in 2009, we’ve heard a lot of different stories of rod breakage from our customers. Some of these are pretty obvious, some sneak up on you. It’s important to realize that all of these can cause damage that may not show up as a breakage at the time of the incident. The actual break may show up later while casting, making it appear that the rod can broke for no reason. Here I want to share some of the most common causes of tenkara rod breakages to serve as a heads up so that your fishing trips will be more trouble free.
1) Tip breaks on set up: When a rod tip breaks close to the lillian, it’s because of improper stress during setup/take down. To avoid this, be sure to keep the graphite of the rod tip buried inside the handle assembly and other sections when tightening down the line/lillian connection. It’s a good idea to keep your thumb firmly over the top of the handle assembly while doing this. This is by far the most common breakage for new tenkara anglers. Also, never try to tie the line to the lillian with the rod fully extended. It’s a recipe for disaster. You can watch this video on the proper setting up of a tenkara rod.
2) The rod broke when hit with a fly/weight: This one often shows up later, but the impact of a hook, beadhead, split shot, or just a heavy fly can damage the rod and weaken it at the point of impact. The fly/weight etc. doesn’t have to crack the segment, it just needs to weaken the scrim of the rod to make a breakage much more likely. This doesn’t mean you can’t fish a little weight with your tenkara rod, just be sure to keep your casting loops open and away from the rod (especially the more delicate tip sections).
3) Sections are stuck next to each other in the rod: Not exactly a breakage, but can still put a rod out of commision, and cause a breakage in the struggle to free the sections. This almost always the result of the rod being opened or closed out of sequence. Be sure when extended the rod to start by pulling the tip section out of the handle, and working progressively to the handle. Closing procedure is the reverse, start with the thickest section and work progressively until the lillian is in the handle. The process is the same with zoom rods, you’ll just have to move down to the staggered adjustable sections as open or close the rod.
4) The sections are stuck and won’t extend after I took the rod apart and put it back together: Again, this one isn’t exactly a breakage but can ruin a rod. Anytime a rod is taken apart, but sure that the sections are all going the correct way. If sections are reversed and forced together, they can become stuck to the point that they’re ruined and those sections will need to be replaced. Tenkara rod segments will usually have some sort of banding, and will always have a rough section at the bottom which can be used to orient the sections correctly.
5) Section snapped while closing the rod: This can be one of those incidents where earlier damage shows up as a breakage, but can also be the root cause. Be sure when closing the rod to put pressure straight down to collapse with as little side pressure as possible. Do not over-tighten the rod, just make sure the segments are snug while extending. Also, keep the hands close together while closing the sections. I like to rest my bottom hand inside of my top hand when closing stubborn sections. Keeping the rod clean will also help, as grit inside of the sections can cause them to be much more difficult to close. Sometimes use of the “rubberband ” method will help.
6) Rod broke when it hit an overhanging tree: This can happen to any of us. Just be sure to be aware of your situation when you cast, and especially when you set the hook on a fish. It’s also pretty easy to get the tip of the rod caught up in a tree while playing the fish, as it’s shape changes throughout the fight. Again, the best you can do is stay aware, and if possible move to an open spot to play and land the fish.
7) Rod broke on a snag: This may be the most common breakage for experienced tenkara anglers. The sudden immovable strain of a snag puts a strain on the rod that will break them, even if they’re only bent to a point that would be no problem with a steady building of force (like when playing a fish). It’s always best to get ahold of the casting line to pull a snag loose, looking away from the snag when pulling on the line to protect your eyes. If you can’t do that, close the rod as far as possible and point it directly at the snag to pull free, again turning your face away from the snag. This may cause the sections to be tighter than usual, but that’s usually less likely to cause a breakage than trying to force a snag loose by popping the rod.
8) The rod broke on a hook set: The same thing is going on here as the snag. It’s the sudden force that breaks the rod. In tenkara, a light quick hookset is all that is needed. It’s a quick motion, but if you’re activating your shoulder or back muscles, you’re probably using too much force. Think quick but light flick of the wrist, like a light backcast.
9) I stepped on the rod while landing a fish: We get this one a lot. It’s best to find a way to hold the rod while releasing the fish. I hold it in the crook of my neck. Dr. Ishigaki can keep hold of the rod in his hands with the tip pointing up while he releases a fish. Throwing it down makes it more likely to be stepped on by you or someone else trying to help, and can also damage the rod on rocks, etc. that will scratch and weaken the finish of the rod. It’s also a good way to get the rod more dirty, which can result in grit in the sections as discussed earlier.
10) The rod broke while walking through brush while closed: This one happens most to those who leave the line tied to the lillian while in transit. We’ve also heard of it happening while the rod is in a car with a bunch of other gear around. A snag can grab the line, then pull on it enough to get the tip of the rod outside of the handle assembly, where side pressure can snap the tip. If you’re going to transport the rod this way often, please consider using a universal rod cap that will help hold the tip down in the rod in the event of a snag. It’s also not a bad idea to have the rod in a sock to block the line from sags. If you spend enough time practicing your setup knots, you may find this method of transport is not as helpful.
11) The rod broke while playing a fish: This one is surprisingly rare. If you’re staying below the 7lbs of break strength we recommend with our rods, the tippet should break before the rod. A lot of these breakages are earlier damage showing up, but if it’s early in the life of the rod, it could be a defect. If you are hand-lining the fish (i.e. line is longer than rod) be aware that grabbing the line at the handle when the rod is sharply bent can cause breakages too.
12) The rod broke while landing a fish: The process of landing a fish can put a lot of strain on a rod, especially if you’re trying to steer it to the net without grabbing the casting line first. This is one reason we recommend grabbing the line and trapping it with the rod hand before netting/landing the fish. That act should take a lot of strain off of the tip sections of the rod. This is also a good habit to develop if you wish to explore fishing longer lines, where hand lining will be necessary.
13) The rod broke while casting: Unless you’re using WAY too much force, casting the rod should put very little pressure on the sections. Almost always a breakage that shows up on casting was caused by damage that happened earlier, usually one of the above issues. If the rod does have an actual manufacturing defect, it will more than likely show up very early in the life of the rod. That does not mean every breakage early in the life of the rod is caused by a defect, but actual defects do usually show up in the first trip or two.
Breakages will happen, and they’re nothing to be ashamed of. But, they’re also never fun and can spoil a trip if you don’t have a back up rod. We hope this list will help you avoid them and have a better time on the water.
You can also listen to our podcast episode on rod breakages:
If you do have a breakage with your Tenkara USA rod, we can ALWAYS help, even if the breakage is obviously not a manufacturing defect. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 888 483 6527 and we can help you with the repair process.
For more information, please visit our “Tenkara Care” page
The Tenkara USA Sato Story (a collective review)
Tenkara was already getting established in the US for a couple of years, and by then I had heard the question: “what rod length should I get?” a few thousand times. I would answer that a 12-foot long rod is like your standard length, but if you will be fishing tighter waters a rod about 11 feet in length may be nice, and if you plan to fish bigger and more open waters a rod of about 13 feet would come in handy. We offered at least one rod in each of those lengths, so the bases were covered. But, what if we could say, just get this one rod and it will cover the main lengths we recommend for tenkara.
That was the original idea behind the Sato. It would be an adjustable rod, and its range would be from roughly 11ft to 13ft in length. It would become the rod I wanted to have in my quiver at any given time. It would travel from headwaters to main branches of rivers without the need for multiple rods.
The funny thing is that was pointed out to me that customer often bought more than one rod to cover their bases, and the creation of this rod would mean customers would now buy one rod instead of two or three. But, I figured it would be one great rod.
Got some news about the book: the files have been sent to the printer!!! YEAY! We are told about 2 to 3 weeks for delivery. The book will be printed in Denver, so I’ll be going to the press checks and keeping an eye on it as it comes out. I’ll be sending out a survey to ask for addresses from those who have pre-purchased it.
Meanwhile, as Jeremy worked on wrapping the files up yesterday I recorded a new podcast episode, in which I talk about my favorite rod, the Ito.
The Ito is The Ito is my favorite as well as that of many of the most experienced tenkara anglers. Yet, people are intimidated by its length. Listen to this episode to learn about what makes the Ito a favorite of so many anglers and why you should give it a try!
Referenced in this episode:
Landing a large brown on tenkara with the Ito
Facebook live video catching carp and bass with the Tenkara USA Ito
Unfortunately the Rip’Em & Lip’Em videos I mentioned are no longer available on Youtube, I’m trying to get the video files to share soon.
Mr. Sebata with the Ito
Shaun Lezotte with a large 29″ pike caught on tenkara
Me with a large size brown trout caught on the Ito (right after the header image for this podcast was taken)
In this video Daniel will cover how to open and close an adjustable tenkara rod (also known as “tenkara zoom rods”). The Tenkara USA rods, such as the Sato, Rhodo and Ito, can be fished at different lengths and it is important to know how to properly use them.
Further, here’s a short video on how to replace segments on a tenkara rod, including the adjustable tenkara rods.
Still looking for a holiday gift? What about the most innovative tenkara rods around?
Louis Cahill from the must-follow blog Gink & Gasoline, stopped by our booth at a tradeshow earlier this year and did a great video about tenkara and our new tenkara rods, the Sato and Rhodo tenkara rods. My favorite quote in the piece he wrote to go with the video is probably “tenkara has spread like pink eye in kindergarten“, I guess that’s true, but without any of the symptoms. Here’s the video he made:
The Tenkara USA Rhodo, an adjustable tenkara rod we released earlier this year, just received the “Kudo Award” from renowned author and tenkara angler Dave Hughes and Fly Rod & Reel magazine (and yes, we do love the fact that a magazine with “Reel” in its name just gave us a Kudo Award”).
When I emailed Dave to thank him for the nomination, he responded of how he was showing the rod to someone, “I held my fingers on each side of the +/- 3″ section that has the extension ferrules, and said, ‘This three inches of rod deserves the Kudo.’ Then I caught a fish on it.”
Along with the 12ft Tenkara USA Iwana, which received an award in 2012 as a Best of Show at IFTD, the Rhodo is the second award given to a tenkara rod by the mainstream industry.
Dave has been doing tenkara for probably longer than anyone else in the USA, and his latest book “Trout from Small Streams” has a terrific chapter on tenkara.
Even I can find myself with a broken tenkara rod tip in need of repair. The odds implied that it was bound to happen. After about 6 years of tenkara fishing and opening and closing tenkara rods thousands and thousands of times, this weekend I was fishing in the Pacific Northwest when I broke the tip of my tenkara rod, for the first time ever not on purpose. It was my fault, I hurriedly tried to pull the line out and didn’t heed to my main advice: always keep the hard tip of the rod inside the handle segment while pulling line out of the spool.
Still, even though we were almost done for the day I tried to make the best of the situation by making a field repair of my tenkara rod tip with some spare replacement lillian I had on the rod. It was my first time attempting a field repair of the tenkara rod tip out of necessity. Watch to learn what to do if you find yourself with a broken tenkara rod tip.
We’re starting to roll out new cases for our tenkara rods. I’m very excited about this new packaging concept. These tenkara rod cases were designed with the help of our design intern Luke Uyeda. Starting immediately, the Sato rods purchased in the USA will be shipping with the new cases, then we’ll slowly be repackaging all our other rods with the new cases in the next few weeks, and soon make them available for sale individually as well.
The new cases are ultra-light (2.8 oz compared to 7oz for the older cases, with option to use only nylon bag which is under 1oz), well-designed with functionality and simplicity in mind, and sleek looking. The new Tenkara USA rod cases feature an ultra-light plastic case for crush protection with a durable nylon sleeve covering it. The sleeve can also be used by itself for even lighter-weight protection against scratches.
Each case features the name of the rod stitched directly onto it, making it easy to identify which tenkara rod you’re grabbing on your way to the water.
They have strategically placed straps and loops, making it easy to strap the case onto packs or tie a should sling directly into the case. It even features a segment of lillian should you ever need to do a field repair. Though the design is simple, the possibilities of use are limitless and we’ll cover some ideas soon.
Lastly, we printed the most basic instructions needed for tenkara fishing directly on the packaging.
About the white color? We wanted it to be authentic and establish it as our brand’a cases (after all our initial green case got copied by everyone making a tenkara rod). Plus, we plan to hold some contests to see how dirty you will get yours. A white case will quickly help make the case that you fish often.
Our newest tenkara rods are now in! ***
RHODO – Triple-zoom 8’10”/ 9’9”/10’6” (270/297/320cm), with “Keep your Plug™” system (patent pending) – $215
SATO – Triple-zoom 10’8”/ 11’10”/12’9” (330-360-390cm), with “Keep your Plug™” system (patent pending) – $215
***Ship date: Friday, December 13th for North America orders; Friday, December 20th for European Union orders.
With several years of experience designing tenkara rods under our belt now, and with a lot of great customer feedback over these years, we have been able to develop two of the nicest tenkara rods we have designed to date. Whether you’re an experienced tenkara angler or just about to give tenkara a try, we wanted to give you the best possible tenkara rod anywhere.
The Sato and Rhodo are very lightweight – in actual weight as well as feel – something people have been asking for. And, because sometimes you will want to get a couple of feet closer to the fish without spooking it; and sometimes you will want to stay away from the pesky trees above, we designed them with the innovative triple-zoom system which allow you to fish either rod at 3 different lengths. These rods also have two patent-pending features: a new and more durable system to lock in place the zoomable sections and the innovative “Keep your Plug™” system which allows you to store your tenkara rod plug in the rod while not in use.
Despite its beautiful flowers sometimes anglers find themselves losing flies to the overreaching branches of the rhododendron. We developed the Rhodo, a tenkara rod that can be fished short when things get tight, or longer when the stream opens up. Since we began Tenkara USA people have been asking for a sub-9ft tenkara rod. We felt that a short rod could come in handy in some cases but for the most part anglers would miss the advantage that comes from fishing with a long tenkara rod. So, for years we have been working on developing a rod that could be the best of both worlds: short when you need it, long when you want it!
The Sato rod is named after Mr. Ernest Satow, an avid mountaineer who was the first person to make a written record of tenkara. The Tenkara USA Sato is a compact and lightweight tenkara rod. At its shorter length it is perfect for tighter streams, and at its full length it will be ideal when the stream opens up again or when you find a bigger pool to cast your fly. The average length for a tenkara rod is 12ft long, we like to recommend rods that are closer to 13ft, yet many people are intimidated by such long lengths for rods intended for smaller streams. So, we felt a rod with the 3 most common lengths would be an easy choice: short to ease you into tenkara, long to give you a taste of the advantages presented by a long tenkara rod.
After hearing that no one has ever been able to keep their tenkara rod plug for longer than a year we decided we should find a solution for you to never lose your plug again. We designed the “Keep your plug”™* system (patent pending).
Although it is a very simple solution, Tenkara USA is the first to have designed and incorporated this into its tenkara rods. Next time you go fishing, remove the plug from the top end of your rod and insert it into the hole at the bottom of your rod.
Our friend and tenkara enthusiast Aaron “Tye” shared a cool DIY idea for keeping track of your rod plug. He cut a small piece of bamboo, drilled the node off it, and reinforced one end with Kevlar cord. While we are working on a new system for preventing plug loss, this one is easy for anyone to do. Great ideas are usually the simplest and we really like this.
Tenkara USA is running a special dealers-only sale on the Ayu II and 11 ft Iwana. The rods will be on sale through our dealers for $125 (regular price is $169.95 for the Ayu, and $157.95 for the Iwana 11ft).
As many of you know, the Ayu II had a relatively short run with us. We intended to discontinue the rods and sold them all out a couple of months ago. THEN, our factory informed us they had produced an extra batch of the rods. So, we took them and decided to make them available until we sell out again. We promise these will be the last of them. As with all our rods, they will always carry a full warranty and we will continue to carry every segment and replacement part of the rods should you need it down the road.
The 11′ Iwana is an old favorite, but this may be the last chance to buy one as a unit. We will continue to offer the conversion handle to make the 12ft Iwana into a 11ft. But, to accomodate new rods in the future, these will be the last of the complete 11ft rods. As with the Ayu II, the rods will always carry our full warranty.
Please check our dealer list below to find a dealer near you and check their inventory of these rods, and remember that many of our dealers sell online or over the phone if you do not have one close. Enjoy the rods and please support our dealers on this special offer. If there are left over rods that our dealers didn’t buy, we’ll make these rods available for sale on July 20th.
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.
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.
- Once everything is dry, I apply a fresh wrap of white, PTFE (plumbers) tape to help keep the screw cap snug [note from Daniel: the newer tenkara rods have an o-ring on the caps, which prevents them from unscrewing, PTFE tape should not be necessary]. The rod tube also gets a thorough cleaning and the threads are dabbed with Tri-Flow to keep the end caps from binding.
- 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.