August 7, 2014

DRAGONTail Shadowfire 360 tenkara rod -- review

The other day I received an email from Brent at DRAGONtail Tenkara stating that he had a new rod that they were getting ready to offer. I had heard briefly of this rod from Brandon at Moonlit Fly Fishing about a couple of months ago, but nothing seemed to materialize until I received the email from Brent. Brent invited me to test out the rod and to render an opinion.

Since DRAGONTail Tenkara is based in Pocatello, Idaho, all I had to do to get the rod was drive over there and pick it up from Brent.

The rod comes with a standard rod tube and sleeve, with the tube sporting the DRAGONtail Tenkara inscription. The rod is flat dark charcoal grey with a maroon coloration on the lower portion of the handle section. This makes a handsome combination and pushes the looks of the rod over DRAGONtail's last offering.

The handle is moderately good quality cork with the usual amount of filler. It is 26 cm long and has a subtle camel for double hump shape. It fits the hand well and is comfortable to hold. The winding check is nickel metal and fit tightly against the top of the cork handle. There is a short section of cork composite at the butt end of the handle. The winding check wrappings are black. They are tightly wrapped and covered with epoxy that has just a few small bubble defects.

Winding check and epoxy

The tip plug is the standard wood with rubber insert offered with many tenkara rods. It fits snugly into the tip of the handle section. The butt cap is black anodized metal. It has both a knurled edge and a coin slot to aid in removal. There is a small rubber bumper and drain hole in the butt cap.

Tip plug

Butt cap

The rod segments have a minimal gold accent on their tips. This offsets nicely with the dark charcoal color of the blank. The tip section has a microswivel to which the dark brown lilian is attached. The microswivel on the rod that I used was glued on to the tip segment slight off axis. This was readily apparent when looking at the swivel, but the function of both the swivel and the rod did not seem to be affected.  The glue profile of the lilian to microswivel is too large to allow the tip segment to be retracted through the second segment.

The rod I used had a lilian that was about 4-5 inches long. Brent stated that the rod most likely will be sold with this long of a lilian. I cut the lilian on the rod that I borrowed to a proper length and tied a knot in the end. The rest of the lilian could be saved for a tip repair.

The microswivel is glued on not quite straight.

Here are some rod specifications:  Collapsed length is 52 cm. Fully extended length is 362 cm. Weight, without tip plug, is 84 g. Common Cents System measurement is 19 pennies. Rod Flex Index score for the rod is 5.2. This puts the rod in the 6:4 rod flex range. Interestingly, the rod feels stiffer than a 5.2. This is likely due to its stiffer lower sections combined with a more flexible tip.

Rod Flex Index comparison chart

The Shadowfire 360 casts smoothly. It balances well, with just a little tip heaviness, but this is minimal. The action is less stiff than the Tatsu 360, DRAGONtail's other rod, but a little stiffer than you would expect from a RFI 5.2 rod. Again, I suspect this is due to the flex profile of the rod in that the lower segments are quite stiff while the tip is more flexible. I cast the rod using #3, #3.5 and #4 level lines. Of these, the rod seems to perform best for me with a #3.5 line. I did not use a furled line with this rod, as I normally do not fish with furled lines. The rod has a little tip oscillation, but it dampens relatively quickly. Accuracy with the rod was good and I could place my fly pretty much anywhere I wanted it to go even with a slight breeze.

The Shadowfire 360 under load with a 10 inch trout.

I fished the rod on a moderate gradient mountain stream where there is a fair amount of riparian vegetation. The rod performed very well and is the perfect length for streams of this size.

Most of the fish I caught were 10-11 inches, with a couple coming in at over 12 inches. The rod easily handled all of these fish in the moderate gradient current.

Here is a POV video of me fishing the rod and catching some of the trout:

Conclusion: This is a nice entry level tenkara rod for those fishers who prefer a softer action. DRAGONtail has built a reputation of providing products at a very affordable price and backed by stellar, rock-solid service. If you are looking for an inexpensive softer 6:4 rod for your initial tenkara rod, or as a backup, then consider the Shadowfire 360 from DRAGONtail Tenkara. Both Brent of DRAGONtail Tenkara and Brandon of Moonlit Fly Fishing would be happy to answer any of your questions. You can buy a Shadowfire 360 here.


  1. Hi Tom! From the pictures in the article I find the handle shape similar to Tenkara Times Try rods. Did you try the Shadowfire with bead headed nymphs and how did it feel?

    1. Hi Chris, Yes, the handle is somewhat similar to the Try series. I did use beadheads (brass, not tungsten) with the rod and it did well. No issues.

  2. I think I could design a small, light clamp that would allow me to shorten my 360 by clamping the first or second section. Would this allow me to fish a shorter rod without damaging either the rod or the action? PS - I am new to both Tenkara and fly fishing. I am currently reading Mathews book that I purchased with the rod at the Boise Expo. It suggests that a shorter rod would be usefull for certain types of fishing.