Two new tenkara rods
Tenkara USA recently brought out two new rods, the Sato and the Rhodo, earlier this month. I picked up one of each this week at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and celebrated a 60+ degree winter solstice giving them a work out on one of our local spring creeks. You can get the Rhodo and Sato in the store or online from Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and they don’t charge for shipping!
While it was warm, it was also breezy, giving me a chance to see how these new rods handled in the wind, a common tenkara nemesis. I took along my two current favorite Tenkara USA rods, the Iwana and the Ito so I could compare the new against the tried and true. I am not a level line guy (Tenkara Talk has excellent level line review here). I like lines that let me feel the rod load and level lines don’t do that for me. I fish the tapered tenkara lines and some lightweight, narrow gauge, fly lines that we have been using at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing for a year or so. The lengths are noted in each rod review.
Fish long enough in the mountain streams and you find yourself in tight cover. If you are fishing an 11’ or 12’ rod it can be challenging. TUSA invokes the pretty but incessantly fly grabbing rhododendron bush when it named the shorter of the two new rods.
The Rhodo is a “triple zoom” rod letting you fish it a three different lengths, 8’10”, 9’9” or 10’6”. This is a great option for our mountain streams. Over the years I have taken as many as three rods on trips to my favorite streams; a 12’ Iwana, a 9’3” Iwana and the Ito, using each as conditions dictate. Many times however, I didn’t want to hassle with switching rods, lines and flies and instead “just make do.” The ability to change lengths at will is fantastic, giving you a variety of presentations at your fingertips. When I saw the rods I was amazed at the difference in profile. The Rhodo is much slimmer than the Iwana. I was surprised because I had expected the rod to be thicker not thinner given that it was a zoom rod.
I noticed this slim profile was an advantage in the wind. Switching between the Iwana and Rhodo there was a marked difference in the feel of wind resistance casting the Rhodo. This translated into better casting accuracy and increased confidence in choosing tenkara in windy conditions. The Rhodo feels lighter as well. It is listed at 2.1 ounces and the 12” Iwana is listed at 2.7 ounces. The difference is even more pronounced when you cast them. The Rhodo “feels” lighter.
There is a logical, scientific explanation for this I’m sure having to do with weight, balance point and centers of gravity, but I never paid much attention to that stuff in school so I’ll leave that to others (Teton Tenkara does a great job here). What I did notice was that it didn’t change appreciably at the different lengths. From the start, defining action with tenkara rods has been a challenge and there are a variety of measures used these days. So far nothing has emerged as the standard and TUSA has avoided labeling the actions of these rods.
ACTION: We’re phasing out the Tenkara rod index system. We have decided that we will make the best tenkara rods around and the flex of a tenkara rod is not a crucial aspect of selecting a tenkara rod. If you have been tenkara fishing for sometime and want a frame of reference, the Rhodo is a fast 6:4.
When compared to the Iwana, this description seems fair. At all three lengths the rod feels a little crisper and more precise regardless of which line I used. I tested the Rhodo with an 11’ TUSA tapered line and 12’ fly line. I used the fly line to cast the bigger flies we fish on our Valley spring creeks. In the mountains fishing for brookies I fish the tapered line almost exclusively. I fished a size 16 parachute BWO, then added a size 18 bead head hares ear, a very typical combo in our mountain streams when chasing brookies.
I cast into, across and down wind at all lengths. Both rods delivered the fly to target but as noted above, I noticed a big difference in the wind resistance of the Rhodo. The ability to change rod lengths on the fly as I worked across seams made me an instant fan. I made some casts to tricky lies, like under overhanging branches, and the Rhodo was as precise as I could have wanted. Changing lengths allowed me to sneak the fly into those lies without changing positions or try contorted casts.
The “fish the close water first” mantra is a basic fly fishing tenet. With a long tenkara rod we sometimes have to stand back or shorten our casting stroke to hit the close water. Not so with the Rhodo or Sato. You can start with a shorter length and cast close with the full advantage of the rod action. Bottom line, for the mountain streams I will be packing one rod and that is the Rhodo!
As a Mossy Creek Fly Fishing guide I spend a lot of time on the glorious spring creeks here in the Shenandoah Valley. Those spring creeks hold browns and rainbows from 16” to 24”. Big fish eat big bugs and I need a tenkara rod that can turn over big flies. My tenkara rod of choice for our spring creeks has been the Ito. That is until I fished the new Sato.
The Sato, like the Rhodo, is a “triple zoom” rod letting you fish it at three different lengths,10’ 8”, 11’ 10” and 12’ 9”. While not as long as the Ito, it has a much more agreeable casting feel. Like the Rhodo the Sato is light in the hand at all lengths, a noticeable difference from the Ito that feels softer and tip heavy when fully extended. I’m not dogging the Ito, the extra length can be important. The Sato’s more refined feel is much more to my liking.
The Sato’s profile is significantly smaller then the Ito and this was advantage in the wind. The Sato weighs in at 2.6oz compared to the Ito’s 4.1oz or the Amago’s 3.5oz. Sato/Ito pix In the summer, the beetles, crickets and hoppers make for some of the best dry fly fishing around. Big fish eating big flies. Unfortunately level and furled lines have trouble turning over big terrestrials.
To start I fished a little bit bigger fly than I did with the Rhodo, running a size 12 parachute Adams and then adding a size 14 bead head pheasant tail. The Sato fished this combo with ease. Like with the Rhodo, the ability increase and decrease rod length was a terrific advantage. In order to see how the Sato handled big flies I put on one of our 14’ flylines with a size 8 PMX. This would be a typical rig for summer. Fished at all three lengths the Sato turned it over easily and accurately. I added a size 10 CK nymph as a dropper and the Sato handled it just fine. Upping the ante with a 17’ line the Sato still put the fly on target and with a much crisper feel than the Ito.
The take away
These rods are impressive. They provide tenkara anglers with options that static length rods just don’t have. If you are new to tenkara I envy you. You get to start with these rods and save yourself the multi-rod hassle. Tenkara veterans are going to want to give serious thought to adding these to the quiver.