August 29, 2012

Hirame -ML-3909 -- Review

For some time now I have thought that I would like to try a 13 foot rod that is stiffer than my Tenkara USA Ayu or my Daiwa Sagiri. Although I do like both of these rods, especially the Sagiri, I wanted to try a rod that had a stiffer action so I could throw tighter loops further. Some of the waters I frequent are wide open and subject to a lot of wind. Also, I am experimenting with long furled lines throwing wind resistant flies such as hopper patterns, Madam X, and the Grumpy Frumpy. Although my 5:5 rods will throw these flies, certainly my 6:4 rods will, I wanted to try something different.

Tenkara USA currently doesn't offer a 13 foot rod in a 7:3 action. Daiwa does, but they are expensive and I worry about replacement parts availability (Chris Stewart, Tenkara Bum can get them from Japan). So with this in mind I decided to try the AllFishingBuy Hirame-ML-3909.

I looked for reviews of this rod on the Internet but I could not find a single one. That made me a little cautious, but then again, I have had a good experience with the Kasugo-4209 and there were no review of this either when I bought it. Taking some risk -- taking one for the tenkara community-- I decided to buy it, try it, and review it.

The rod cost is nice at $128.05 and comes in a plastic carton with a rod sock. The rod is very handsome, much better looking in fit and finish than the Kasugo-4209. The overall color theme is carbon black but with tasteful purple color accents on all of the lower segments. The finish is glossy.

From AllFishingBuy
Carbon weave with designation

Transition from carbon weave to color

Winding check

The handle is a reverse half wells and the cork is of moderate quality, but not excellent by any means. I'll talk more about the handle in a minute. The butt cap is metal (? stainless steel, doubtful) with a center hole and has an aggressively knurled edge. The butt cap has a small foam disc to reduce the collapsed segments from rattling. The tip cap is made of wood and is fluted so you can leave the lilian attached to your line when the rod is capped. It is a little loose fitting so it could be lost pretty easily.  My rod weighs only 84.4 gm without the tip plug. That is pretty light for such a long rod (not a light as the Sagiri, but this rod has a cork handle)!

Butt cap (Ignore the foam wrap for a moment.  I'll tell you about it a little further on.)
Tip cap

The lilian is dark maroon and is attached to the tip section with a metal swivel. This is a feature that is usually seen on higher end rods, such as my Daiwa LL41SF.

Tip on the left -- swivel in middle -- lilian on right

Back to the handle. As I mentioned earlier, it is similar to a reverse half wells. The sizing seems a little small, at least for my hand. This smaller size imparts some hand fatigue after hours of steady use. Because of this, I decided to modify my handle to better fit my palm size and make it more to my liking.  I prefer my longer rods to have a butt bulb -- similar to what is found on the Tenkara USA Amago (second generation) and the Daiwa LL41SF. To achieve this design I used RodWrap Grip Wrap to build up the butt end of the handle. Rod Wrap is very thin foam that is lightweight and has a slightly tacky surface. It made the handle of the Hirame-ML-3909 fit my hand much better.

The handle with RodWrap installed

Comparison: left- Daiwa LL41SF, middle-Hirame-ML-3909, right-Tenkara USA Amago

Fishing the Hirame-ML-3909 is very nice. I used it for 4 hours the other day with a 14 foot, #3.5 fluoro level line and also with a 13 foot Tenkara USA furled line. I cast the level line with a #10 kebari and a #14 beadhead UV Prince nymph. I cast a #8 Grumpy Frumpy with the furled line. I used 24 inches of 4X fluoro tippet with the level line and 4 feet of 5X fluoro with the furled.  The Grumpy Frumpy is a large, wind resistant attractor pattern and even despite that the Hirame threw it perfectly.

Beadhead UV Prince Nymph

Grumpy Frumpy

The fish I caught were 12-14 inches. The cutthroats took the UV Prince and the rainbows took the Grumpy Frumpy. No fish were caught on the sakasa kebari flies.

12 inch Cutthroat
Beautiful color!

Another nice cutthroat
A nice rainbow taken on the Grumpy Frumpy

Another, trying to swallow the fly
Conclusion: I like the AllFishingBuy Hirame-ML-3909 7:3 action tenkara rod. It is lightweight, beautifully finished, and has some nice features mainly seen on higher-end rods even though it is only $128.05. I have some suspicion that this rod may be a chinese copy of a Nissin rod, as it looks an awfully lot like other Nissin rods. Replacement segments are readily available from AllFishingBuy and are inexpensive. I don't like the shape of the handle, at least for such a long rod. The handle would be fine on a 10-12 foot rod but for a 13 foot rod I needed something more to grip near the butt end. It was easily modified though (RodWrap seems to be a nice product, by the way). The cork is not high quality, but still it seems a good rod for the reasonable price.

So if you ever wondered what this rod was like, now you know.

AllFishingBuy Hirame-ML-3909 Overview (* poor, ***** excellent)

Ease of purchase                       ***** 
Quality of materials                   ****'
Fit and Finish                            ****'
Physical Characteristics            ***'
Fishability                                 ****'
Overall                                       ****' (4.4 out of 5 stars)


  1. Nice review, sir, well done.

    1. Thanks. We still need to get together and fish. I was down on BSF the other day. The water level was nice.


  2. I know the Hirame is rated to bend at 7:3 and the Kasugo at 6:4. So, when casting, does the Hirame feel stiffer than the Kasugo? Will both rods handle the same type of flies? Since you closely compared the Kasugo to the TUSA Amago in another review, I wonder how the Hirame compares to these two rods. Does the 13" Hirame feel tip heavy after a day of fishing? Thanks.

    1. I wish you could stand in my yard and cast these rods, one right after the other. The Hirame and the Kasugo feel very similar even though they are labeled 7:3 and 6:4 respectively. The Kasugo-4209 is longer than the Hirame of course, so its casting arc is a little slower to go through. The Amago feels noticeably heavier than the other two. It also is noticeably tip heavy. Neither the Hirame or the Kasugo feel inappropriately tip heavy for a rod of their length. The Hirame does not feel inappropriately tip heavy after a day of fishing. It feels even better after modifying the handle.


  3. Tom - Always appreciate and enjoy your reviews. Very helpful.

  4. Thanks for another nice rod review Tom.
    I have been considering an Amago or similar sized rod. I am occasionally fishing a larger river and have hooked up and lost several bigger fish on my Iwana
    This gives me a couple more rods to consider.
    Much appreciated!

    1. Thanks for the kind comments. Its always nice to have rod options!


  5. Thanks for this rod review, the most complete and informative. I always like your reviews and had tried some of your patterns also.

  6. Thanks for the review Tom. Since I mostly fish warmwater, would you consider this as a big fish rod? Like many others I also feel like the Amago is tip heavy and cumbersome while casting. I would love to replace the Amago for a rod that is lighter but also have the same backbone. I recently purchased a Nissin Pro Square 6:4 4510. I really like this rod but it does not have the same backbone as the Amago.

    1. In full disclosure, I have not caught a fish ( trout) larger that 14 inches so far with this rod. That said, it was caught and fought in a brisk current. That made the fish feel larger. The Hirame handled it fine. Will it handle a 20 trout? Probably, depending in stream current and technique. Will it handle a 8-10 pound large mouth ? In all honesty, I don't know! I haven't caught a bass in years!

  7. I believe you stated in your blogs that you favor fishing 2 flies. One fly is tied up the line and a second (dropper?) fly is tied below at the end of the line. Is the fly tied up the line a floating fly that helps to hold up the dropper fly while it drifts below the surface going down the river? On the line connected to the dropper fly, do you tie the line directly to the hook bend of the upper/floating fly? Thanks.

    1. When fishing two flies I will either fish with a traditional dropper set up or use the New Zealand (dropper tied to hook bend of the upper fly) set up. Either of these configurations work great with two subsurface flies, or one dry and one subsurface fly. For the traditional dropper set up I use a heavier gauge line, like 0X flouro, and tie it into my tippet (4-5X) using a Seaguar knot. I then clip the lower knot tag off and tie the dropper fly to the upper tag. Keep that tag short though, so to minimize the dropper fly from getting tangled with the tippet fly. Also, remember when using two flies in either configuration to keep your casts open. Do not try for tight loops or tangles will happen.


  8. Thanks to this excellent review i emailed Alla and bought the Hirame 7:3 shorter version (ML 3608). It arrived last Monday and i was able to fish it today for 2 hours.

    About cosmetics mine is exactly what Tom described for the ML 3909. The tip plug that Tom described as being a little loose in my rod came with just the right fit.
    The only small issue is there was a little glue (epoxi?) overrun at the but cap screw area that was no cleaned properly but was easy to fix.

    About weight mine is 70 grams. I have a Iwana 12' and i feel the Hirame to be a little lighter and also smoother than the iwana. I feel that the iwana has a little more backbone tough.

    The rod is very sensitive, i caught a bunch os small tilapias ranging from 6 to 8 inches today and the 6 inchers were able to bend the first 2 section of the rod very nicely, the 8 inchers bent the rod to the third section and a bit of the fourth.

    I didn't measure it yet with CCS as to know how much weight it takes to bend in 1/3 of its length but i'm almost sure it will take less than the iwana does.

    I liked this rod very much.

    Just picture of a fish caught today:

  9. Thank you for well written review. I just placed an order for this rod and feel comfortable.