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.
Since we had all the rods we needed to cover our bases I decided to take some time developing this rod and its smaller brother, the Rhodo. We set out on developing these two adjustable rods sometime in late 2011 early 2012. They became available almost 2 years later on December 2013.
Adjustable rods were not a new concept, but I set out to address some of the issues with adjustable rods available in the market at that time. The main issue was that the way existing rod models were adjusted consisted of a bulge that would wear out over time and stop locking the segments in place after a couple of seasons. So we developed a way to lock the segments on the bottom of the rod that wouldn’t wear out and stop working over time.
And, talking about rod bottoms, after a few seasons of selling tenkara rods and their replacement parts it became clear that no matter how careful we may be it was just too easy to lose the plug that keeps a tenkara rod inside its handle. Tenkara rods had been around for quote a while, a few decades in their current form. I couldn’t understand why something had not been done to help anglers not lose their plugs. So, playing around a bit we figured we could make a place in the rod’s bottom plug to keep the small top plug in place. We called that the “Keep Your Plug System” and it is now available on the Sato, Rhod and Ito and we are waiting for the patent to be granted on it (always a process!).
So, in short, the Sato came about from a desire to offer one rod that could cover a wide range of conditions and would be my “ultimate” rod. I worked on it for quite a while and became very happy with how it turned out. So happy that I basically have had a hard time getting as excited about other concepts I have worked on since its release.
The Tenkara USA Sato has been my go to rod since I got one at the end of 2013. There are a few obvious features that make it the first rod that I reach for; the ability to be fished at different lengths, the bombproof construction (which includes and excellent warranty), and the noticeable difference in action from one length to the next.
The Sato quickly became the rod I use for guiding and for teaching tenkara classes. Maine has distinct regions which hold a variety of fish and I often guide all over the state where one day might be for wild brook trout that are in the 6”-8” range and the next day might be smallmouth bass that are 16”-18”. The Sato has proven itself and excelled in hooking, playing, and the variety that I often fish for.
In my time fishing the Sato I have used a variety of lines but settled on 3.5 level line because just like the Sato, level line is the workhorse of lines. I can cut it to any length I want, and then either add more line or cut line off as needed. So in a sense, level line is like an adjustable rod, it can be fished at different lengths as needed. That being said, 14’ of 3.5 line with 3’ of tippet ended up being the line most often used. When guiding or doing tenkara classes, the new Tenkara USA nylon tapered line has been my go to since it is easy to cast and does well in a variety of conditions. When doing this, I start people on the 3.5 meter and then use the 4.5 meter as needed.
While I don’t really branch out with my fly selection, I have used a variety with the Sato. My go to fly is an unweighted sakasa kebari but I have used flies such as bead heads and streamers and had not issue up to about a size 10 or 8 with streamers to about 4”.
Ok, reviews aren’t easy for me, and right of the bat, I admit there could be a conflict in a review of a rod from the company I’ve worked for for the last 4 and half years. You’re welcome to take all of this with a grain of salt, but we always sell out of the Sato’s, anyway (we’re sold out as I write this) so I don’t feel any need to BS you about why I love the Sato just so you’ll buy one.
I can’t remember the exact date I got my Sato, but it was about a week before they were released for sale. I ran down to the Gallatin close to my condo, which is relatively large water by tenkara standards. I put on a 15’ 3.5 level line that I had rigged up, and caught a nice brown pretty much right off of the bat.
I’m still fishing that same rod, and it’s been preforming the same way ever since. I grab it when I feel like going fishing, head to the river, and fish it with a line I have rigged up. I’ve used it with our furled tapered lines, 2.5, 3.5, and 4.5 level lines, played around a little with floating lines with it, and spent most of last summer fishing it with our new at the time nylon tapered lines. I’m sure if you want to nit pick, you can find other rods that are better for specific lines, but I haven’t found a tenkara line I couldn’t fish with this rod.
I normally fish the Sato on streams smaller than I’d use my Ito on, so my favorite line for it would probably be a 12’ or 13’ 3.5 level line with about 4 feet of 5x tippet. I almost always have at least an extra 15’ line with me of the same weight in case I need more reach,and have used a 20’ level line on it plenty of times. I don’t switch lines in the middle of fishing nearly as often these days, but I still do it when the creek gets wide and I can’t reach a spot I really want to fish.
I almost always use the rod fully extended, but if I run into a tight spot I’ll shorten it and go about my business. It’s not what I think of as a “big fish” rod, but I’ve landed some of my best tenkara fish on it. It hasn’t broken, even though I fish it a lot and I’ve hit a lot of branches with it.
It’s also my girlfriends favorite rod, and she likes it with more with the tapered lines so that’s what we usually fish, (we usually fish one rod and take turns fishing, better for the fishing and our relationship). She also likes to mix up fly selection and use western dries a bit more than I do, (I mostly fish sakasa flies with it). It doesn’t bother me a bit to fish the rod set up to her preferences when it’s my turn, and that’s part of the point.
Daniel designed the Sato rod to be an all around tenkara rod, one that would perform in a large variety of environments tenkara anglers would want to fish and handle being set up in a variety of ways they’d want to set it up. I think he did a remarkable job with that, not just because he’s my friend and I work for him, but because I’ve used the rod in exactly that manner and it’s held up to the challenge. It’s a rod I can grab and fish, and if I end up on a different stream than I expected, or forgot to put exactly the type of line set up I prefer in my kit, I just go ahead and fish. I’ve successfully fished it out of rafts on big water, on bass ponds, warm waters creeks for sunfish, and it’s my favorite rod for what I think of as “classic” tenkara streams. That’s what I love about the Sato; I can just plug it into a situation and fish. I know it will do its job. That’s a comfort to me.
The Tenkara USA Sato, I just can’t shake it. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve bought and fished other rods over the years, but undoubtedly always come back to the Sato.
Perhaps it’s the rod’s versatility that’s the draw; from small mountain stream trout to hearty warmwater bass, (and many other species in between), the Sato has been my rod of choice since its introduction almost four years ago.
It’s the perfect travel companion and travel we have. Colorado, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin. The Sato’s logged some serious miles zig-zagging across the USA, and the three length zoom feature removes any guesswork when packing your gear. I’ve never found myself wondering, “is this is the right rod for the water at my destination?”
I do have to admit, I rarely fish the Sato at its shortest length of 330 cm, rather finding the 360 & 390 positions to be much sweeter spots when extended. My preference in line at either length is usually a 3.0 or 3.5 level line. (I prefer the latter when fishing with a weighted fly.) I’d also be negligent if I didn’t mention that the Sato handles a length of tenkara floating line with ease as well.
Relatively well-balanced and light in hand, I’ve been most impressed by how rugged the Sato has been. In comparison to other tenkara rods of similar length(s), the Sato’s segments are a bit smaller in diameter, giving it an almost petite appearance. But when extended and in the fight, that doesn’t stop it from corralling some nice sized fish, including the exotic peacock bass that resides in the canals of South Florida.
Now is the Sato perfect? No. There are other more specialized rods I might grab first for fishing either of the big or small fish extremes. Interestingly, I’ve also lost both of the original rod caps that came with my Sato, the only rod of mine where I can claim that distinction.
However, in the end, utility is usually what wins the day for me. Knowing I have one rod in my collection that is light in hand, casts a line beautifully, adjusts in length to my environment, and allows me to handle all of the styles of fishing I enjoy makes rod selection for a day of fishing an easy proposition. Like I said, the Sato is a rod that’s tough to say no to.
I am digging deep in my memory in search of a product review or description that I have written, and I fail to find one. While I do appreciate good gear and by all means -buying them, my focus is on the experience, the fish, the hikes, the loneliness, the comradery and such components in fishing. Yet sometimes you stumble upon stuff that you feel others should know about.
So when asked to write a few words about it, I had no problems doing that. And these words will just add to all the positive things already written about it.
Like for many others the Sato is my go-to rod, it’s my choice for almost every situation I find myself in. Lucky enough, I happen to have a great variety of water within biking distance from my doorstep, from the tiniest creeks to big rivers. Brown trout are the main species, followed by brook trout and grayling.
Even in really tight situations I have not felt the need for a shorter rod than the Sato in it’s shortest configuration, I’d rather shorten my line before I shorten my rod.
My line is nearly always a 3.5, in different lengths, it works and I want to keep things simple and carry as little as possible. I like the way it handles a long level line.
Sometimes I throw a 5m. furled line on and the rod handles that just fine too.
With variation in river sizes, comes variation in fish size and the Sato handles big fish really well, it’s amazing how strong a big grayling can be in a heavy current. The rod is sensitive enough for smaller fish to put a bend in it too.
All in all I could not ask for a more all round rod.
I would even go so far as to say I have yet to find a situation around here wishing I had a different rod.
One Fly – One Rod
Many of you may know I am one of those “One Fly” guys. Been rocking the same kebari for many many years and now that I look at things… I am kinda a One Rod guy too.
4 years ago this coming winter the Tenkara USA Sato popped into my life. Ever since then it has become my One Rod. It goes everywhere with me… well almost everywhere .
Attached is a picture of the last state my Sato was in…. thrown into the back of my Toyota FJ after playing tenkara at a local creek. Was a bit lazy this last time and instead of putting it back into its tube, I just chucked it into the back seat and with no worries, drove on. After all, a tenkara rod is its own case. Battle scars and scratches don’t scare the Sato. It prefers to be set free and do what it was designed for, catching lots of fish!
The Sato is one strong multi-purpose rod. If rumor of the average tenkara rod length is correct at 12’, the Sato covers that and then-some. You see, the Sato is an adjustable or “zoom” tenkara rod and it can be fished in many lengths. A feature I have grown to love for sure.
Most of the time I use the Sato fully opened at nearly 13’ long but there are times using it at 10.5’ is a godsend for me. Small NorCal Sierra creeks that are ultra tight, the shorter rod serves me well.
What some new-comers into tenkara may not know is the Sato has become that next Iwana. In my honest and humble opinion, the Tenkara USA Iwana is what really kicked the tenkara market into what we know today. The Iwana became synonymous with tenkara back in the early days of the tenkara movement much like the Sakasa Kebari is synonymous with tenkara. It has seemed for years that everybody and their mother knew the name Iwana and what a great rod that it is. Now, in my opinion, the Sato has taken over that prestigious honor.
I guess look at it this way… Orvis…. a fly rod manufacturer that only sells their own brand of rods, became a Tenkara USA dealer and market the Sato Kit to their customers. They also sold the Iwana before the Sato came out. That does not happen every day now does it? A big name in the fly fishing market and them selling another brand of rods says something big. How cool of an honor was that! Now LLBean also sells the Sato Kit. I love the bean!
Tenkara USA is here for a reason and our passion is tenkara. Daniel strives to make the best tenkara rods out there and the Sato has become a huge hit and success. It has become my rod of choice no matter where I travel to fish.
For me personally, the Sato is a fantastic tenkara rod. Covers that magic 12’ mark, can be used even shorter for tight spots, has tons of strength to land some fairly hefty fish (my personal best a big fat 22” Rainbow), well balanced in all 3 casting lengths so feels nice in hand while casting, lite weight, and has become my “One Rod” no matter where I fish.
Iwana = Tenkara …
Sato = Tenkara Personified.
The Sato was released in December of 2013. It has been three and a half years after it’s release. Significant only for me because it took that long to realize the potential of this rod for me in my quiver.
It’s a quiver killer.
I continue to look for “my tenkara” which is what keeps this form of fly fishing so interesting to me. Since day one, I have tried to make it harder than it is, specializing, simplifying, researching and ultimately coming to the same conclusion, “tenkara is what you make it.”
The Sato has become a “one rod” sort of like TJ has written above.
My Tenkara USA quiver consists of the Ito, Sato and Rhodo. The longer I fish tenkara, the older they become in my quiver. With these three rods, I am covered from tiny mountain streams in choked steep valleys to open meadow alpine waters and further downstream to large western rivers and the big trout that live in them.
Here is the core of my tenkara quiver and the approach towards choosing rods to meet my needs.
The Ito serves up big western streams with varied trout sizes from 6″ to 20″ It’s the rod I have caught the most largest fish in a small stream. I took it to Japan and caught Iwana with it out of respect for Daniel on my first tenkara trip to Japan. I’ve caught my largest fish at home with it and the Ito is the oldest rod in my quiver.
The Sato is my go to rod when I am exploring or need a rod that is capable of level line short and long rod situations. It is becoming the most used rod in my quiver as I continue to grab it more and more to fish my favorite mountain streams with the “sweet spot length” The Sato is so versatile, it is an easy decision to choose time after time for streams that do not require a specialized rod. It will cast my one fly with precision and casts a weighted wooly booger for large browns in boulder caves, quite a versatile rod. It is truly a quiver killer rod that I suggest as a first rod to new tenkara anglers.
The Rhodo is my tight quarters rod, headwater streams with overhanging tress and stream tunnel casting. It is a hardy and robust rod with excellent support and should be, I beat the shit out of this rod casting it in tight spots getting stuck, casting it getting banged up against trees, this is the rod that gets beaten up the worst in my quiver.
Graham “Tenkara Grasshopper” Moran
The Tenkara USA Sato rod in my opinion is one of the leading rods in tenkara innovation. It has become my go to rod for virtually every trip I take.
The Sato has replaced my Tenkara USA Ito for the majority of trips I take. I enjoy the Sato for a number of reasons. For one, with the potential of fishing a rod at different lengths I am able to fish multiple water sizes. I have been able to fish Bear Creek outside of Morrison, CO as well as the South Platte River near Deckers, CO.
Bear Creek is considered perfect tenkara water by many due to its smaller width and abundance of pocket water. There are spots on this creek that I find having a rod starting at 10’ 8 is a benefit because of either overhead obstructions or minimal shore to shore width. Bear Creek has a number of spots that are either are not obstructed or require a bit more reach to not spook fish. Being able to carry one rod like the Sato allows me to extend from 10’8 to 11’10 or a maximum of 12’9.
When I fish the South Platte near Deckers, CO I am able to utilize the Sato to give me the reach I need. When the Sato is fully extended to 12’9 and loaded with a 15’ to 16’ level line I can reach virtually any and all water.
Another aspect of the Sato that I have come to appreciate is the action and backbone of the rod. The casting action of the Sato is one of the more amazing aspects of this rod. I have found no matter what length I have the Sato set at, I always get a positive and accurate cast. Seldom do I ever get, what I would call backlash at the end of my casting stroke. Because of this, my presentations are extremely consistent as long as I am paying attention to what I am doing.
The backbone that has been built into the is also extremely impressive. I have been able to land fish ranging in size from 6 to more than 20 quickly and safely. It never ceases to amaze me every time I hook into a fish how well the Sato performs. Each and every fish I hook into with the Sato cements my feelings for using this rod as my goto rod.
I consider the Sato to be one of the best additions to my rod collection and probably the standout rod on my tenkara wall. I am also using the Sato as my client rod of choice when I am guiding.
Hopefully this has helped you out in making your decision on whether to purchase a Sato for yourself.
- Weight: 2.6 oz (73.7 g)
- Closed length: 22 ¾”(57.78cm)
- Open lengths: 10’8”/ 11’10”/12’9” (330/360/390cm)
- Handle length:10 ½”(26.7cm)
- Segments: 9