January 24, 2015

Rod Flex Index Chart Tab

As I have reviewed rods over the years, I have tried to tabulate my measurements of the various rod's flex index in a way that is useful to those seeking information regarding a certain rod. This has culminated in the Rod Flex Index (RFI) chart.

As you may have noticed, when ever a new rod review is published, the chart is updated with the data from that particular rod. This naturally causes that table to be ever changing, somewhat dynamic, as new rods are added. The problem is that if you want to see the latest RFI chart, you have to go searching through the blog to find the most recent rod review. This, I freely admit, can be somewhat cumbersome and inefficient.

Therefore, I have added a tab to the Teton Tenkara blog that has the most recent RFI chart. There is also a brief explanation of how the RFI chart came to be and how is can be used.

As I state in the narrative of that tab, I hope this information is useful to those interested in specific rods and in their comparison to other rods. The table is not all inclusive, there are way too many rods out there for that to be accomplished, but it should give you guys an idea of how the most popular rods cluster in regards to their flex index.

The Rod Flex Index Chart tab at the top on Teton Tenkara

I will continue to add to the RFI chart as I am able to get data for other rods. I can only buy, measure, use and sell rods so fast, so be patient. After all, I like to go fishing too!

January 17, 2015

Gamakatsu Ryokei 390 review -- part II

A while back, I owned a Gamakatsu Ryokei 360. I really liked that rod. I have fished a lot of rods and if you've been following my blog for any length of time you know that I have never stated that I loved a certain rod. I usually say that I like or really like, or on rare occasion, really, really like a certain rod. But the Ryokei 360 was as close to any that I've come to loving a rod.

Despite that, I sold the Ryokei 360. The main reason was that I already have a million 360 cm rods. But when I sold the Ryokei 360 I told myself that given a chance I'd get a 390 cm version.  Well, the other day I saw a used Ryokei 390 for sell. The price was right so I bought it. I'm very glad I did.

The Ryokei 390 looks exactly like the 360 so I'm going to cheat a little and copy my previously published 360 rod description (to save time). Sorry.

The rod comes in the typical Japanese plastic carton with a rod sock. There is nothing fancy in the packaging for sure. But I suspect that people don't buy this rod for its packaging. They buy it for its performance. The Ryokei series of seiryu rods are advertised by Gamakatsu as "competition" rods. Again, the emphasis of these rods is performance.

The rod is glossy black with red accents. The handle is cork-less but has a very efficient non-slip coating. This coating works well both when dry or when wet. The handle has a comfortable diameter as well. The rod is modestly long at 62.5 cm when collapsed (including tip plug). It is 391 cm when extended. It weighs an astonishingly light 48 g! Although it is a lightweight rod, there is no compression of the segment walls when they are squeezed. This is different from some other very lightweight rods that I have owned. Often times, ultra lightweight rods are just so because their wall are very thin; they deform when they are squeezed.

The schmutz on the handle is from fishing! 

weight without tip plug

The tip plug is wooden with a fluted rubber insert. It fits snugly into the end of the rod and, I think, would be unlikely to just fall out spontaneously. The butt cap is plastic with rounded rubber terminal portion. There is a rubber bumper to dampen the noise of the collapsed segments; there is also a drainage hole. The lilian is classic red and is attached with a perfectly executed micro-swivel. The tip section can be withdrawn through the second segment for complete rod disassembly.

This rod has excellent in-hand balance. There is no tip heaviness and casting is effortless. I used a 12 foot, #3.5 line with excellent casting accuracy and line control.  The casting arc is smooth. There is no tip oscillation as the rod dampens quickly at the end of the casting stroke.

The Ryokei has good lower section stiffness and therefore easily controls tenkara sized (12-16 inch) trout in fast water. I never felt out of control at any time when fighting trout in this length range, despite fast moving water. The tip is quite flexible, thus the Ryokei 390 has a Common Cents Scale rating of only 15 pennies. This gives it a Rod Flex Index (RFI) of 3.8. This shows that the Ryokei 390 has the same flex profile range as the Tenkara USA Ito (in the 390 cm configuration), but unlike the Ito, the Ryokei 390 weighs only 48 g, while the Ito weighs a heavy 116 g. That's over twice as much as the Ryokei 390.

Unlike all other fixed line rod companies (that I am aware of), Gamakatsu publishes the rotational moment for their rods. To review, rotational moment is a an estimation of torque or "swing weight" of a rod. The lower the number, the less tip heavy the rod and the less effort to make the rod travel through its arc. The rotational moment is the weight of the rod in kg times the radius (or length from butt to balance point of the fully extended rod) in cm.

From Gamakatsu's website -- here.

As you can see, the Ryokei 390 has a rotational moment of only 4!  That is amazing for a 390 cm rod!! For comparison here are data of a few other rods: the Tenkara USA Ito has a moment of 7.84 at 390 cm, the Ayu II is 8.55 and the Oni type I is 5.2 (the Oni type I weighs in at a hefty 101 g, however).  Any number over 5.5-6 and the rod feels tip heavy. The higher the number also means more stress on your forearm and more chance of microtears being induced in the extensor tendon with repeated use (aka, tennis elbow).

So although the Ryokei 390 and the Ito have the same RFI, they in no way feel or cast the same. The Ryokei is much lighter in the hand and has a much lower rotational moment. In other words, they are night and day different.

I used the Ryokei 390 with a #3.5 fluorocarbon level line, which it cast beautifully. I did not cast the rod with a furled or twisted line as I normally don't use these types of lines. I used unweighted kebari, brass bead head nymphs and tungsten bead head nymphs (size #12-14). It cast the them all without complaint. When casting the bead head nymphs I used an open casting loop, so to avoid the fly hitting the rod.

Conclusion: I really, really like this rod!  It is about as perfect as a 390 cm fixed line rod can get (in my book). It is lightweight, has an ultra-low swing weight, has a relaxed flex profile, fights modest size trout well in fast water, and it is aesthetically beautiful. It is a competition grade seiryu rod that performs tenkara techniques without any hesitation.  I'm very glad I obtained this rod!

Downsides? It is a little long when fully collapsed. A new one costs a bucket of money ($359.00 on one site). And being a Japanese rod, it doesn't have a warranty. So there you have it, even perfection comes with a high cost and some degree of risk!

To see the rod perform on stream, see the video from part I of this review.

Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod are just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ.  Also, your rod may not have the same length, issues, or functionality as my rod. There are variations between rods, even in the same production run. No description can fully tell you how a rod feels or fishes. For this, you must personally hold, cast, and fish the rod then make up your own mind. 

I purchased this rod and have no formal affiliation with Gamakatsu..

January 15, 2015

Gamakatsu Ryokei 390 review -- part I

When reviewing a rod, I normally outline the physical description, attributes and performance first, then show how it works on the stream. Today, however, I'm going to do it the other way: show the rod on stream first. Part II, which is coming up, will talk about the rod in some detail.

Here is a short video of me using the Ryokei 390 on a typical mountain stream. I present POV and 3rd person view as well as some drift/take annotations. 

Suffice it to say, I really, really like this rod!

January 3, 2015

Zimmerbuilt Kaizen Ultralight Pack

I recently received a Kaizen Ultralight tenkara pack from Chris Zimmer of Zimmerbuilt. And like all of the tenkara items that I have from Zimmerbuilt, I know I'm going to like the Kaizen pack a lot.

Here is what Chris says about the Kaizen: "The Kaizen Ultralight Pack is a small light weight pack designed to carry enough gear for a day out on the water. The pack weighs in at 2.3oz and is made of Xpac VX21 with a front pocket made of Dyneema X. The pack features two internal pockets, a clip hook, as well as two external side stretch mesh pockets. The Kaizen pack is designed to be carried over your shoulder, making it easy to access fly boxes/gear in the pack. While fishing the pack can be swung to your back and be completely out of your way. The pack measures 6" wide by 4" tall and is 2.5" deep.  Pack design input and testing by Adam Trahan of Tenkara-fisher.com"

The Kaizen is designed to be worn at your side, like a mini purse or satchel, not on your chest like a chest pack (although it can be worn that way). It comes with a long, adjustable strap that allows you to adjust the height of the pack at your side. It's a simple but effective design.

The main compartment is large enough to carry a modestly sized fly box.  I have my tenkara flies in a small C&F Design systems box and it fits perfectly inside, without being too tight. Access into the main compartment is through an easy to open waterproof zipper. This is important since carrying your gear on your side does increase its change of exposure to water if you happen to wade into a deep hole expectedly. The pack is not completely water proof, but it will keep out the vast majority of the water during a quick dunking.

Inside the main compartment are two zip open pockets, one on each side. These are perfect for extra lines, tippet, or what ever you have a need to carry. I can carry numerous lines in these using my spool card lines holders.

On the outside is a front pocket perfect for holding a spool of tippet, some floatant (like Dry Magic) and/or a folded Wonder cloth.  There are also two stretch mesh pockets at each end of the pack. They are small but functional. The Dry Magic could go in one of these.

As Chris states in his product description, the Kaizen pack was designed with input from Adam Trahan of Tenkara-fisher.com. This is a testament that Chris listens to his customers. In fact, most of the products that he highlights on his website are custom made for customers, to their specifications.

I like the Kaizen Ultralight pack. It gives tenkara fishers another excellent option for carrying just the right amount of stuff to the stream without getting carried away (so to speak). Want one? You can but one here.