April 16, 2013

Tenkara Worldwide River Master rod -- review

I recently received a rod from Martin Levy at Tenkara Worldwide. They offer a couple of different rods but the one I received was the River Master. This is a 13 foot rod and is rated as a 6:4 rod. I recently took it on my trip to Arkansas and also have used it on the freestone streams of Idaho.

Tenkara Worldwide is a UK company that currently offers two tenkara rods and a pesca alla Valsesiano rod. Their rods have been specifically engineered to be light and yet strong. They have been fully tested and withstood fish up to 6 pounds. Their Stream Master rod is 11 feet long while the River Master is 13 feet.

Martin was introduced to tenkara about 4 years ago when he met a Japanese fellow on a fishing trip. He loved tenkara's simplicity, and 3 years ago embarked on a project to design, and have manufactured, his own line of rods. Currently Tenkara Worldwide offers their rods in the UK, France, Italy, and Scandinavia. They are in talks with a US distributor so these rods will soon be available to tenkara fishers in the USA.

Martin and Tenkara Worldwide are actively involved in helping underprivileged children go fishing and experience the fun of tenkara.  He describes this in his own words: "One of my passions is teaching kids to fly fish and Tenkara is the idea tool for the job.  We promote a youth program where 5 or 6 times per year we take a group of children for a day out on the riverbank and provide then with tuition, the equipment and fishing permits to experience Tenkara. This is funded by us and supported by some of Europe's top fishing beats who donate their waters for the day.  Working closely with institutions and schools we offer kids with disabilities, underprivileged or inner city kids who simply wouldn't get the opportunity to try it first hand. Anyone under the age of 16 can participate and we believe contributes to encouraging kids to take up fly fishing (all disciplines) full time."  I think this is a wonderful cause and deserves support.




The Rod:
The rod came from the UK in a protective cardboard tube. It cleared US Customs without any problems. Inside the cardboard tube, the rod was protected in a fiberglass rod tube. This rod tube looks very similar to those provided by Tenkara USA with their rods. Also included is a nice, moderately heavy material rod sock or sleeve. It has tie closures and a flap at one end. Tenkara Worldwide's name and mission statement is printed on both the rod tube and sock.


Rod, sock and tube



The rod appears to be well made and attractive. It is glossy black with green and gold accents at the tips of every section (except the for the final two sections which are just glossy black). The glossy black finish with the green accents is reminiscent of the first generation Tenkara USU Ayu. This motif is straight forward and classical, but not too different to be out of step with other tenkara rods on the market.

Rod designation




The handle is AAA cork with appropriate filler. The overall shape is similar to a large version of a reverse-half wells. It is very comfortable to hold and offers different areas for different palm sizes. The winding check is gunmetal-blue metal and fits tightly against the handle


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The lilian is classical red and is attached directly to the tip section without a micro-swivel. The lilian attachment point is so thick that the first section (the tip section of the rod) can't be withdrawn through second section. This may make it harder to dry the first two sections. There is no terminal knot in the lilian, which I like. The end of my lilian was a little frayed but this was easily remedied with just a quick touch of a lit match.







The tip plug is different than other tenkara rods. It is metal with the standard black nylon insert, but what is unique is its flared shape. I have one other tenkara rod with a metal tip cap (Nissin Zerosum 360) but the River Master tip looks totally different. It is gunmetal-blue; not matted but not overly glossy either. Set in the crown of the plug is a marbled stone or faux-stone. This overall design makes the plug look like a piece of costume jewelry and makes this plug unique among tenkara rods. Personally I prefer either an all nylon plug, or one that is wooden, since I could then drill a hole through it and secure it with a loop of Dacron or lilian -- but that's just me. The plug fits snugly and shouldn't fall out, but with its current design there is not way of securing the plug. I suppose this doesn't matter though, since on the stream I use a Fuji KTC-16 cap to protect the tip anyway.


Tip plug

Marbled "stone" in end of tip plug
Rubber disc (with hole) that can be adjusted to tighten or loosen the fit of the tip plug
Universal rod cap I use on the water (not included with rod)




The butt cap is also gun-blue metal. It's rounded and as an effective knurling around the rim aiding in removal of the cap. But this cap is unique as well. Unlike any other tenkara butt cap that I own, this one has a small post with a mini-split ring attached. I'm not quite sure what this feature is for. Again, personally I'd remove this and leave just the butt cap with a small centrally positioned drainage hole. There is a rubber bumper on the inside of the butt cap which aids in reducing the rattle of the collapsed segments. The bumper only works for the smaller segments; the larger ones still rattle since the bumper doesn't cover all the metal of the butt cap

Butt cap
Rubber bumper -- doesn't cover all the cap.

Metal post with split ring
Tip plug and butt cap are "blued" making then not as shiny as silver or chrome
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My rod is 12 feet, 9 inches (389 cm) long when fully extended and 20.5 inches (52 cm) fully collapsed.  It weighs 89.2 gm (3.2 oz) without the tip cap. The rod is made of high carbon composite 30T and 36T fiber.






I understand that all of the above is pretty much mumbo-jumbo and what you really want to know is how does the rod cast and fish. Well, I can sum this up in one word: fantastically! I really like the action of the River Master. It has a smooth, mid-flex action that is a pleasure to use. I used three different types of line with it: #4 level fluorocarbon, furled Spectra, and PVC 0.024 running line. Each were between 13 and 15 feet long and had a 24 inch tippet. They all cast effortlessly. The rod dampens well and does not have annoying tip oscillation or overshoot. There is no inappropriate tip heaviness either, but rather an excellent in-hand balance. The rod is light enough to make casting easy and non-fatiguing over many hours of use. Cast targeting was precise with all of these lines.

I have caught fish ranging from little 4 inch bluegill to 16 inch cutthroats with the River Master. The rod is absolutely delightful to fish. It handled the larger fish in fast current without any issues. I had plenty of power to direct the fish anywhere I needed it to go. Yet despite this, the rod has enough flex to make smaller fish fun to catch. I used it again the other day and caught 10 wild cutthroats out of one pool -- I only have pictures of a few browns I caught though.





Conclusion: I like this rod. This rod is a pleasure to cast and fish. It is lightweight enough to be non-fatiguing, and it has an easy action that I enjoy. I haven't caught anything that is large enough to tax this rod, but if the rod holds up over time then I'd say Martin has a winner. It's action is reminiscent of the AllFishingBuy Hirame-ML-3909, but I like the River Master's handle much better than the Hirame. I don't like comparing rods to each other as part of a review, but if I had to compare this rod to any other, I'd say this is similar to the original T-USA Ayu in handle shape, looks and length, but with a really nice 6:4 action and much lighter weight (89 gm versus 102 gm).

The unique tip plug and butt cap design, and lack of complete coverage of the butt cap's internal rubber bumper do not make me dislike the rod. I do wish the tip section could be withdrawn through the second section since I worry about moisture damaging the tip section's finish. These, however, are small complaints that do not, nor should not, detract from this really fine tenkara rod.

You can purchase one of these fine rods through eBay or FishingMegaStore.com.




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