July 28, 2014

Tenkara Rod Co. Owyhee tenkara rod -- review

I purchased and reviewed the Tenkara Rod Co. Sawtooth this past year. I found it to be a handsome and sturdy rod worthy of consideration by anyone looking for a nice entry level tenkara rod. One thing I noticed about the folks at the Tenkara Rod Co. is that they have a taste for style! The Sawtooth, as is their Teton rod, is very aesthetically handsome!

I recently received two of their rods, the Owyhee and the Cascade. I'll review the Owyhee (pronounced oh-WYE-hee) now. I'll review the Cascade in a future blog post.

The Owyhee comes in a glossy black rod tube and has a nice black rod sock to protect it. When I first saw the rod I was a little taken aback. It doesn't look like any tenkara rod that I have used. The finish is glossy and the coloration is striking. The pattern is alternating green and yellow bands all the way up the rod, except for the tip section, which is just green. I'm not quite sure what to say about this pattern other than is is quite bold and somewhat eye catching. When I say eye catching I mean that this is not a rod for stealth! I assume that it is better for rods to be less obtrusive visually so to maintain stealth, but maybe not. This rod's coloration will certainly test that theory.

The extended rod

The handle is good to very good cork with the usual filler. It is a reverse-half wells so common to many tenkara rods. I personally don't care for this shape, but that's just me. My extra large sized palms don't hold this handle shape very easily. I prefer a camel or double hump shape. I know a lot of people who like the reverse-half wells shape on their tenkara rods so that is why it is often chosen. The handle is 28 cm long. The winding check is gold metal and fits tightly to cork.

Winding check

The tip plug is the usual wood with rubber that is available on most all rods, but the butt cap is totally different than any I've seen. It too is gold metal (it has fine knurling on its edges to aid in removal) but it is solid and heavy! The butt cap weighs a whopping 38 gm! There is no rubber bumper, rather, the inside of the butt cap tapers to a conical point. There is no drain hole either. I have a theory on why the butt cap is so heavy and I'll expound on it later on when I talk about the rod's feel and action.

Tip plug

Butt cap

Butt cap

The lilian is bright chartreuse green and is attached to the tip section with a micro swivel. The micro swivel is glued on and is pretty straight (slightly off axis with the tip). The lilian-swivel glue point is neat and clean but is too large to come through the second segment for complete disassembly.

Micro swivel, glued on slightly off center.

Here are some specifications. The rod fully collapsed is 56.5 cm. Fully extended it is 387 cm. The rod weighs 125.9 gm without the tip plug. On the Common Cents System it measures at 20 pennies. Its Rod Flex Index score is 5.2. This puts the rod squarely in the 6:4 action range.

Rod Flex Index comparison chart

Holding the rod one immediately feels how heavy it is. I haven't felt a tenkara rod this heavy for quite come time and at first I was put off. But the rod casts very nicely. It's action is moderately slow with a nice finish to the cast. I could detect only a slight end of cast tip oscillation and targeting was quite good. I used #3.5 and #4 level lines with the rod and it cast them real well. Due to it's weight, my arm did get somewhat fatigued after a while, however.


Now we come to a major point. The rod is somewhat tip heavy. I talked about tip heaviness of a rod in one of my previous posts.  There are a number of complicated formulas to numerically quantitate the tip heaviness of a rod, but the easiest way to estimate it is to measure its rotational moment or torque. This is done by measuring its weight in kg and multiplying that by its center of gravity distance (fully extended) in cm from the butt of the rod. Torque = mass times radius. This measurement has been substantiated commercially and is used by Gamakatsu, a high quality Japanese rod maker. They list it for their tenkara rods.

For the Owyhee I get a rotational moment of 7.9. Anything above 5.5 is noticeably tip heavy. For comparison to some other commonly used 390-400 cm 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.

Now here's the interesting thing, I think the designers added the weight in the butt cap so to bring the center of gravity closer to the butt of the rod. This, of course, does this but it makes the rod heavier and does not help reduce tip heaviness. When you remove the butt cap the rod's weight goes down to 87.9 g (which is a respectable weight for a 390 cm rod). However, the center of gravity point moves out to 89 cm.  So, as we apply our rotational moment equation we get moment = 0.0879 X 89 = 7.8!! The moment, or tip heaviness, does not change. That's right. It does not change. This is where rod designers often make a mistake. Adding weight the to butt of the rod only makes the rod heavier, but does not change the rod's rotational moment (torque), or perceived tip heaviness. Numbers do not lie. To me, the rod feels just as tip heavy with and without the butt cap in place, but the rod is much lighter without it.


So what do I think of this rod? I think that it weights too much. I'd get rid of the heavy butt cap. I personally don't like the coloration as much as I like the Sawtooth's, but that is a taste thing and I am not an artist or graphic designer. Also, all that paint has to increase the weight of the rod. If the green/yellow pattern is really desired, then at least have it only on the handle segment with the rest of the segments being just green, like the tip. Or, at least tone it down. I'd also change the shape of the handle, but again, that's just me and my preferences.

What do I like? I like the fact that the Tenkara Rod Co. is willing to step out of the box and make a rod that has some visual pop -- even though I don't care for it. They want their rods to be different and look different than all the other "me too" tenkara rod company's rods and they certainly have achieved that goal. Besides, many people may really like the look of the rod. I also like the fact that they provide a rod tube and sleeve, not just either/or. They have excellent product support and have passion for tenkara. Those are great qualities. I also like the casting smoothness of the rod. They got it right on that point!

Remember, I'm just a guy with a blog. I am not an expert in tenkara or physics, but I have fished with over 60 fixed line rods designed by manufacturers from around the world. This post is just my opinion. You may disagree with everything I've just said about the Owyhee and you may like it very much. I say great! We all have opinions. If we all liked the same rods life would be boring... and this rod is certainly anything but boring!

Here is a video from the Tenkara Rod Co. using the rod to catch some nice browns:

July 25, 2014

Green Willows, Blue Sky and New Waters -- July 19, 2014

I got a chance to get away and fish Wyoming for the first time this year. Most of the Snake River tributaries in and around Teton National Park don't open for fishing until July first, so to protect cutthroat trout spawning. I often hit the tributaries soon after the opening, but this year I couldn't. This past weekend I decided to try new waters.

I often fish the same rivers and the same reaches until I have a thorough knowledge of the fish lies as they change through spring, summer, autumn and winter. But I was determined to try some new creeks.

I had hiked some earlier this spring, during run off, so I knew where to go, but I wasn't quite sure what I'd find after July first, when the waters begin to return to normalcy. It was with this sense of excitement, of slight trepidation, that I headed off into the wild.

The first creek I went to had changed dramatically. During run off, it was booming. Now, it was very small and slightly turbid. Clearly it is mainly snow melt fed with very little spring water contributing to its flows. I caught a few very small Fine Spotted Snake River cutthroats. The largest was 3 inches. I left after 1.5 hours.

The first creek.

The next creek wasn't much better. I was a little bigger, but not by much. It's waters too were somewhat turbid; I found this disturbing, but maybe is was just from the recent thunderstorm downpours we've been having. Soon after arriving I think I caught the largest fish in the creek; it was 6 inches long! All the others I caught, as I worked my way upstream, were between 3 inches and 4 inches. I also left after about 1.5 hours.  Both of the canyons were very pretty though and would be nice for hiking (on a day when I don't want to fish).

The second creek.

The monster of the second creek!

Most were this size.

The third creek was much better. It had higher flows, the water was perfectly clear and the fish -- the fish were also much better! This made my day. I love finding new waters that are productive and isolated.

The creek flows through willows and carves deep bend pools that hold trout of all sizes. Also, there is room to get a fly under the overhanging will branches, thereby luring out the hiding fish from their deep and dark refuge.

The third creek. See the biting flies hovering around my head?

I used the Shimotsuke Ten with a 12 foot line at first, but I found the 12 foot to be a little to long for comfortable control in the wind that was blowing. I changed to a 10 foot, #3.5 level line with 3 feet of 5X tippet and this seemed to answer better. The air temperature was 87 degrees Fahrenheit and the water temperature was 56 degrees. There was a gusty breeze blowing. Since the day was very bright, and the area was open, I wore my skyward willow camo shirt and sky blue camo neck gaiter and hat. These protect me from the sun and biting flies, and I like to think that they also provide some degree of added stealth when I approach a lie. Maybe they do, but then again, maybe not.

All the fish I took were cutthroats. They were beautiful with very dark red slits under thier jaws. They ranged in size from 6 inches to 14 inches.

Fish on!!

Larger spots than a typical Snake River cutt. Variation?

I used a beadhead at first but changed over to a dark kebari. Both were taken readily. I came across a caddis hatch, and the kebari was taken very soon after hitting the water, just under the surface. It was great fun!

The kebari I used.




The afternoon was excellent. I'll be back to this creek for sure. I've got miles to explore! I also hit some other creeks in the area that showed promising results. Sometimes the exploration of new waters comes up empty, but sometimes things work out. Let's here it for successful exploration of new waters!

Here is a 3rd person video of some of the fish:

July 22, 2014

New Tenkara Store -- Three Rivers Tenkara

Anthony Naples, author of the popular tenkara blog Casting Around, as recently teamed up with Oleg Stryapunin of Tenkara Times to become the US distributor of the Try series of tenkara rods. His store, Three Rivers Tenkara, makes it now possible for US tenkara fishers to buy Try rods from a North American vendor.

Anthony states, "Why “Three Rivers Tenkara”? I’m from Pittsburgh and the term “Three Rivers” is practically synonymous with this city where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers come together to form the Ohio. Pittsburgh sits at a great confluence of three rivers."

A cutthroat with my Try 360.

As many of you know, I really like the Try series rods. They are refreshingly new tenkara rod designs from the mind of Oleg Stryapunin. They are very light weight, ergonomic in feel and highly functional. They cast beautifully, have very little tip heaviness and are dynamic rods capable of handling most everyone's tenkara fishing needs. I've caught trout up to 18 inches in very fast water with the Try 390 rod; the rod handled the fish easily.

An 18 inch rainbow with my Try 390.

Try rods are available in a choice of lengths -- one to fit your needs: 330 cm, 360 cm, and 390 cm. From Anthony's store: "All rods come with an one year unconditional guarantee against manufacturer defects. Rod breakages, caused by general use, and user error, are not covered by the warranty. If a rod proves to have a manufacturing fault we will replace the damaged segment free of charge within that period. All you need to do is return the damaged rod to us for inspection to confirm the warranty claim. The exception is that the first 3 sections are not covered by the warranty because they are so easily damaged by user error."  Replacement parts are available. Again, from his site: "You can purchase spare parts at a low cost – $10 per segment (except handle segment) and note that the top 3 segments are actually sold all together at $10 for all three."

from Three Rivers Tenkara
Anthony was a one of the early adopters of tenkara in the US, having started fishing tenkara in 2009. He has used a lot of rods and his experience is invaluable for those seeking opinions on rods that would fit their particular purpose. In short, he knows great rods when he sees them and now he offers them to others. He's also a very nice guy -- I met him at the SLC Utah Tenkara Summit a couple of years ago.

If you are looking for a light weight tenkara rod for small, medium, or larger streams, then consider the Try series of rods.  I'm sure Anthony would be happy to help you with all aspects of your tenkara fishing.

Disclosure: I have no financial relationship with Anthony Naples or Three Rivers Tenkara. I personally own the Try 360 and Try 390. Anthony let me "test drive" his personal Try 330.  After I test it I'll be mailing it back to him as promised.

July 20, 2014

Hot Weather Tenkara -- July 14, 2014

I decided to hit the river the other day. The air temperature was hot at 101 degrees F. Getting in the water was nice; it helped me cool off.

The river was down to 79 cfs but the current was still very strong. I was wading in places up to my waist, and with the current I had some fun trying to stay on my feet!

I measured the water temperature to be 66 degrees F. This temperature caused the fish to be a little off, but I still took four species: rainbow, mountain whitefish, brown and cutthroat. This river doesn't have brookies in it so I'm counting this as a modified rocky mountain grand slam.


Mountain Whitefish #1


Mountain Whitefish #2


The whitefish were big. Both came in at over 16 inches and the largest was likely almost 18 inches. They don't fight as aggressively as a trout, but with their size and weight they are still a challenge in high gradient streams like this one. When hooked they dive to the bottom, swimming aggressively against the current. It's sort of like hooking a heavy swimming log!

To control the fish I had to use my power rods. I started with a Shimano LLS36NX but switched over to a Daiwa LT36SF when the current got faster. Both of these rods are excellent. They can easily control fish in fast, heavy currents when other rods would feel over whelmed.

Anyway, I enjoyed being in the water, even if it was just for a few minutes.

Here is a video of some of the fish: