Recently there was a short but provocative post on Troutrageous! regarding the use of one rod in tenkara, sort of like using only one fly. I too, for some time now, have been thinking about this paradox: that it is perfectly fine to change your tenkara rod to match your local conditions, yet not change your fly if it is not doing its job -- that is, catching fish.
If you've been following my blog you will know that I am not a tenkara purist. I am more of a "Ten Colors" tenkara guy, or as others would say a "tenkara as a tool" guy. I don't speak Japanese; I don't desire to (I'd love to learn Spanish though). I don't do martial arts, but I admire those who do (I can't even touch my toes!). I have no desire to travel to Japan, but I'd love to go back to the UK and fish the Yorkshire Dales. And finally, I don't like sushi, but I love a good, juicy burger. Well, guess what, I change my flies when I want to! So there!! Does this make me a tenkara troll -- wielding a club instead of a rod? Does it make me any less of a fisherman?
I suppose that should be an easy question, right? It depends on what waters (type, size, gradient) you predominantly fish. What species of fish you generally target. What size of fish you almost universally catch. What rod action you prefer, and so forth. Yeah, really easy. Hah!
For me, I guess IF I had to choose just one rod to go with my "one fly" then I'd likely, probably, possibly choose the Tenkara USA Iwana 12 foot.
Why? Well, it seems to have a nice, relaxed "middle of the road" action that is effective for different types and lengths of lines. It casts, dare I say, different flies (light, heavy, dry, subsurface) well. Its price is reasonable. It's easy to get. It has replacement parts readily available. It's light in weight; under that holy 80 gm goal (if a rod is over 80 gm and certainly over 90 gm I think it's too heavy, at least for me). Its collapsed length is relatively compact and its extended length is just about the sweet spot for the various types of waters I fish. And, its fit and finish is about as good as it gets. Oh, I forgot, it has a life-time warranty and $11.36 USD of its purchase price goes to conservation efforts.
In choosing the Iwana 12 foot I want you to understand that I have other rods that I like better, but the availability of both rod and replacement parts is questionable, while you can get the Iwana pretty much at any time. Also, no other rod that I own has such a good warranty.
Does the Iwana have any downsides? Yes, it has a cork handle. I am not a cork handle guy, but the Iwana 12 foot is such a great all around rod that I can over look the cork handle.
Now, before you go out and shout that Teton Tenkara is a Tenkara USA groupie I must interrupt and say that I am not. I like many of their products, but I don't care for some. I like many other brands of rods including Daiwa (with cork and without), Shimotsuke, Nissin, and even some from AllFishingBuy. I am waiting for a Shimano to come, and you can bet that I will continue to try other rods from other companies and vendors. I am not a groupie. I try to avoid the herd mentality. I don't have a favorite team or even a professional sport. I don't have a favorite band or singer; I don't even have a favorite genre of music (however I know what I don't like!). I try to avoid being a brand slave.
So. That's said. All I have to say now is GO FISH! Use what ever rod you want (tenkara, keiryu, seiryu). Be brave and change your fly if you feel the need. Try a rod without a cork handle. Heck, use a dry fly with your tenkara rod every once and a while and feel the rush of being a rebel! When you've done this come back and we can start a support group like Tenkara Rebels Anonymous (TRA). We can introduce ourselves by saying "Hi, my name is __(your name here)__and I'm a tenkara rebel". We'll sing Kumbaya and eat Smores.
What would be your "one rod" IF you had to choose?