September 18, 2013

DRAGONtail Tenkara Tatsu360 rod -- review

Most all of the rods that I have used and reviewed have been mailed to me from the US, Japan, Czechoslovakia, the UK, etc. But just the other day I was able to drive across town and pick up a rod from a newly christened tenkara company, DRAGONtail Tenkara. I received the rod personally from Brent Auger, founder of DRAGONtail Tenkara.

He explained to me his own tenkara journey and why he started to have rod manufactured. He talked a little about the company, their products, and their product venture with Moonlit Fly Fishing, also a local company. So far, DRAGONtail Tenkara has one rod offering. It's an entry level rod for those just starting out, or those who want a less expensive rod with some nice amenities.

The rod is the Tatsu360. This is what they say about the rod: "This Tatsu360 DRAGONtail Tenkara fly rod is made with a high quality Japanese carbon fiber for superb performance. Its 12 foot length and 6:4 bend action is what we suggest for most situations, and especially for newbies to Tenkara. The 6:4 action allows you to feel everything the fish does, even the smaller fish will be a fun catch.

The Tatsu360 rod is well balanced for a great feel that allows you to fish it all day with less arm fatigue. The handle is long with a comfortable grip at the upper and lower end of the handle, giving you the versatility of change up your rod length as needed. The rod itself has a matte black finish that reduces rod glare from the sun so you don’t signal to the fish where you are.

Tenkara is traditionally used to catch small to medium sized fish in small mountain rivers but do not be afraid to seek out the big trout with this rod. The Tatsu360 has enough backbone to take the stress of larger trout, we have hooked into quite a few during our testing and they are a blast to fight."

I examined the rod, then took it to the stream for some on-the-water testing.

The Tatsu360 is a 360 cm 6:4 rod that at first appearance is quite attractive. This rod came in a black graphite rod tube; no rod sock is included.

The handle is 27 cm long and has a reversed half-wells style curvature. The cork is of moderate to good grading. The butt end of the handle doesn't feel full enough in my hand. Typically, it is the butt portion of the handle where my hand is most of the time. This handle feel too narrow, even right at the butt. The handle does feel better middle-front, however. The cork is more substantial at that location and feels better to my hand/grip.

The winding check is anodized black metal with epoxy coating. The blank is a handsome flat dark graphite (nearly black) with tastefully executed gold accents on the ends of the segments.

Winding check

Designation on opposite site of label.

Fully extended the rod is 355 cm. Collapsed, it is 56.5 cm. Without the tip plug the rod weigh 87.6 g. This is heavier than most 360 cm 6:4 rods, but I was told by Brent that the rod blanks he chose were a little more robust than most. This would explain the heftyish weight.

355 cm extended

The lilian is a dark brown, has no knot, and is attached to the tip of the 1st section with a micro swivel. You usually don't see this premium amenity on an entry level rod. The swivel is small enough that the 1st section can be withdrawn through the 2nd section. This is nice for completely drying the 1st section.

The tip plug is wood with a rubber insert. The butt cap is black anodized metal. It has a foam insert to dampen chattering from the collapsed segments. It also has a drainage hole and a coin slot. The edge of the butt cap has fine knurling to aid in its removal.

Micro swivel and lilian attachment

Tip plug
Butt cap 

Drain hole and Coin slot

The action of the rod feels stiff; more stiff than most 6:4 rods. This is clearly a tip-flex rod and a far cry from more mid-flex 6:4 rods like those from Nissin. When extended, the rod feels a little tip heavy, but I must admit that I might be a little too hard on this point. After all, the last few rods I have reviewed have been premium rods that were feather-weights and had no tip heaviness. I need to recalibrate my brain to be fair to this rod.

On the Common Cents Scale this rod is 28 penny. This gives it a Rod Flex Index of 7.9. This puts the rod solidly in range what one would expect for a 7:3 rod. To me, this rod does feel more like a 7:3 rod than a 6:4 rod. The Tatsu360 has comparable numbers to the Daiwa LT360SF, and that is a solid 7:3 rod. The Daiwa is better balanced though. That should be expected since it costs hundreds of US dollars more.

RFI comparison chart

Fishing the Tatsu360 was nice, but mildly labored. Since it is on the stiff side, it is not a finesse rod. As it is only 355 cm I fished it on a smaller mountain stream that had trees and brush lining the banks. If it were a 390 cm rod I would have chosen a more open, larger water. As it were, the rod fished well, but casting was a little fatiguing due to its weigh and stiffness. I started with a #3 level line and found that was too lightweight of a line for this rod. I moved up to a #4, which was much better -- a #4.5 might have felt even better, but I didn't have one with me. I wanted to test the rod with a furled line by Brandon at Moonlit Fly Fishing, as this line is supplied with the rod if one purchases the DRAGONtail starter package. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm came in and by the time it had passed it was too dark to see. Still, I suspect the furled line would be a good match for this rod; a heavier furled line would likely make the rod load better.

I caught mainly 10-12 inch rainbows with the Tatsu360. One thing it does really well is keeping the fish out of the snags at the side of the stream. This rod does have some backbone! So where it has less than delicate casting, it excels in fish fighting control. I don't think this is a criticism; it is what it is. I think the rod would do well for more open waters where the potential for a larger (14-18 inch) fish may exist.

Here is a brief video of me using the rod. This is POV and without music, just a little narrative.

Conclusion: This is a solid entry level tenkara rod. It also would also make a dandy backup rod for someone who doesn't want to spend a lot of money ($72.00 USD +$7.00 shipping), but wants a rod with some nice features. I like the flat dark graphite finish. I appreciate the micro-swivel. I like the ability to disassemble all the segments, even segment 1 through segment 2. I didn't care for the handle curvature or small butt diameter, but I have extra-large sized hands; maybe someone with smaller hands would like the feel of the handle better. Also, I think the rod weighs a little too much for a 360 cm rod, but if this aids in durability then that could be overlooked. After all, it does weigh about the same as the Daiwa LT36SF so maybe its weight can be overlooked! I still prefer light rods, though. I just don't like it when they break!!

Addendum, Sept 19,2013 0745 MDT:  I just received an email from Chris at TenkaraBum. He pointed out that the TUSA Yamame 360 7:3 weighs 3.6 oz (102 g). He suggested that I might have been too hard on the DRAGONtail Tatsu360's weight since it weighs 87.6 g. He said, "Easy to get spoiled, isn't it?" To that I say, "Guilty as charged!" I freely admit that I have been spoiled; spoiled by being able to fish with some of the most premium tenkara rods in the world.Conversely, by being able to fish these rods I have been given perspective. So, I'll agree that I have been spoiled, but I also have been educated!!

Thanks Chris, for pointing out the Yamame's weight. I have never fished with one. Looks like I still need more education and perspective!

Want a Tatsu360? Contact DRAGONtail Tenkara!


  1. This one resembles me of the fountainhead stonefly rod wich are also from a USA based company.
    I owned the 390, 7:3, 102 grams, from them.
    Sold it cause i need to open space to a lighter 390 rod.
    But it used to cast, fight fish and
    protect light tippets very well.

  2. Looks like a great entry rod and I have had a few ask about a cheaper starter rod so if I can't talk them into the Shimotsuke 3.3 or 3.6 from Chris I can direct them that way. It is amazing on how light and balanced the premium rods are.

    Though the handle shape on this looks surprisingly like the Diawa curvature.

  3. I am curious if you are still using the same flies that you previously reviewed as your favorites, or if you have changed for this summer?

    1. I have tried to use fewer flies this season. I have caught a lot of fish on a white Takayama kebari. I use it in sizes 10 and 12. I use some other wool bodied flies as well, but I have been starting with the white Takayama.