April 18, 2013

Rods, Rods, Everywhere -- are you confused yet?

As most of you are aware, I have fished with and formally reviewed a lot of fixed-line rods. To date I have reviewed 28 rods; that's quite a few but not all that are out there. Why do I review all these rods? Because I like doing it! I look at it as a way to help anyone who is considering buying one of these rods. It is frustrating when you are researching a certain rod and there are no formal reviews -- it makes buying the rod more of a leap of faith than if you could read unbiased product reviews (BTW, I strive to be unbiased).

You probably noticed that in the above paragraph I said "fixed-line" rods and not tenkara rods. This is because many of the rods I have review are not tenkara rods, but in fact are keiryu or seiryu rods. Do I care? No. They all look close enough and fish close enough that what's in a name. I however don't want to offend the tenkara-only crowd, so I will keep them separate in designation.

One down side to reviewing rods is that you, the reader, is subject to my likes and dislikes. Unless you fish the same waters, for the same fish, in the same way, with the same goals your likes or dislikes, particularly regarding a certain rod, will probably be different than mine. Take for instance my Internet friend, Chris Stewart (I say Internet friend because I have only met him once, briefly, at last years Tenkara USA Summit in SLC, UT, but I communicate with him probably more than he wants). Chris fishes for trout and warm water species in or relatively near NYC. Most of his home waters are smaller, more closed in, and flatter in gradient than mine. He likes a rod with more of a full-flex, moderate-to slower delicate casting action . He likes very light lines, #3 or less.  He frequently uses unweighted flies.

I on the other hand mainly fish for trout in moderate to large water, of moderate to high gradient, in wide open rivers. I frequently fish weighted flies, or even multiple flies in a dropper setup. Because my currents are generally fast, even small fish, 12-13 inches, can tax a rod's ability to control the fish, let alone if the fish is 16-18-20 inches! They don't call the big browns in Cardiac Canyon of the Henry's Fork "Screamers" for nothing (big trout in high gradient flows)! Those are the guys that can take you into your backing -- but I don't have backing!! Therefore, I prefer a rod that has an upper mid-flex (tending towards a tip-flex) faster action that allows me to throw my flies and control my fish in fast currents.

So you see, what I like in a rod you may not. You have to take what a reviewer says with a grain of salt.

To help differentiate the types of rods I have reviewed I devised a table. On the X-axis is flex action. This is divided into five categories: very slow-deep flex-4:6, slow-full flex-5:5, moderate-mid flex-6:4, fast-tip flex-7:3, very fast-minimal flex-8:2. Also included are the Common Cents Scale ranges for these rods, if they are available. On the Y-axis is rod length. Zoom rods, in their different configuration lengths, are treated as individual rods.  The rods are noted as (T) for tenkara, (K) for keiryu, and (S) for seiryu. TUSA=Tenkara USA; TW=Tenkara Worldwide; AFB=AllFishingBuy.  As you will see, I feel that some rod's actions may be transitional, that is, stiffer than a 5:5 but softer than a 6:4. These rods I place in between the two action ratings. And always remember, this chart is how I feel the rods should be placed -- it may not be how you'd place them

Click on Chart to Enlarge

One thing you may have noticed is that the Common Cents Scale (CCS), although a good approximation of a rod's action, is not always that helpful. For instance, the Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 24 has a CCS rating of 15. This is the same as the TUSA Ito in 390 cm mode. If you could cast these two rods one after another you'd quickly see that the Kiyotaki 24 feels much "stiffer" than the Ito. It requires a short, brisk casting stroke while the Ito has a much longer, slower casting stroke. Why is this? Well, I think it is that the Kiyotaki is such a short rod with little mass to flex when casting. Another reason may be that the majority of it is smaller diameter tubing than the Ito. This smaller diameter tubing can't hold up the pennies very well so it bends quickly, that is, fewer pennies. This same rod, in its 390 cm sibling, has a CCS rating of 33 -- much stiffer than the Ito! Although the Kiyotaki 24 rates a 15 CCS it feels like a 33 CCS when casting! So bear in mind that the CCS is a estimation of the flex of the rod. To really know how the rod feels when casting you must cast it!

So there you have it, the rods I have used/reviewed in a tabular format. Maybe it's helpful. Maybe it's not. I at least hope that it is interesting. Guess what? More rod reviews to come! Peg out the fun meter!!


  1. Excellent report ... thank you very much

  2. Good work. Love the somewhat graphical way you represent the rods.

    1. Thanks. I hope the table helps better visualize how these rods relate to others.


  3. You're my hero!

    I really like seeing the numbers and the table. I acknowledge that it may contain a "reviewers bias", but it is Way better than just 5:5, 6:4, or 7:3, Heavy, Medium, and Light, etc. Putting it all in one place, at a minimum, gives each rod a place relative to the others, and if I have one or two of those other rods (and I do) I can extrapolate to the others.

    I'm glad you're a "science guy" taking a stab at the "hard to quantify". You are certainly helping me with rod decisions.

    Thank You.


    1. Thanks, Greg. I'll add to this table as I test further rods. I have always liked to see data in a graphical or tabular format -- it helps me analyze it quicker.


  4. Great article! Perhaps the CCS system could be normalized for length by dividing the CCS rating by the length of the rod? This would correct for similar CCS ratings for rods of varying lengths, like the Ito (15 pennies/39 decimeters = 0.38 ) and Kiyotaki (15 pennies/24 decimeters = 0.63).

    While these numbers are arbitrary, I believe it offers a more accurate representation of the flex characteristics of the rod. I have been using this method for some time now when "evaluating my need" for new rods, and it has helped tremendously. It turns out, for the type of water and flies that I typically fish, I am a big fan of rods in the 0.45 to 0.55 stiffness range, regardless of length. For those interested, try this out when deciding on a new rod, it may really help you pinpoint your sweet spot!


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