August 13, 2014

Tenkara Rod Co. Cascade rod -- review

Recently I reviewed the Owhyee rod by Tenkara Rod Co. I must admit that I wasn't very nice. I wasn't trying to be mean, rather, I just outlined what I saw in the rod, its pros and cons. Today, I get a chance to redeem myself. Today, I review the Cascade tenkara rod by the Tenkara Rod Co.

The Cascade is described by the Tenkara Rod Co. as "... our smallest Tenkara Rod.  It's great for those tight spots where casting is difficult and makes catching even the smallest fish fun.  This would also be a great rod for your little guy/girl to learn on.  Our tenkara rods are ultra light weight and the swivel tips included on our tenkara rods also help keep your line from getting tangled.  This rod is finished with a custom colorful design that won't disappoint."

The Cascade comes with a glossy black rod tube and a black velvety rod sleeve. The rod itself is quite an eyeful in that it is bright sky or robin-egg blue. This is not your usual color for a tenkara rod, that's for sure! The finish is glossy. There are very subtly and tastefully done accents on the ends of the major section of the rod.

Accents,  nicely done!

The handle is foam with a cork veneer. It is pretty well done and every bit convincing that it is solid cork except that it is softer than solid cork and some of the "cork rings" don't exactly line up. My Nissin Pro Spec 2-Way has a foam-cork veneer handle and the Cascade's feels exactly the same. Besides, you can see the seam where the cork veneer comes together. I have no issues with this at all. More rods could have this as long as it is done well. The handle is a reverse half wells, like many western rods. I don't care for this shape but for this little rod it's not that bad. The length of the handle is 19.5 cm. There is a short section of cork composite at the butt of the handle.  This winding check is black anodized metal and fits tightly against the handle.

Cork veneer seam

The tip plug is the standard wood/rubber as with most tenkara rods. The butt cap is black anodized metal. It has a knurled edge, a rubber bumper and a small air hole. Unlike the Owhyee, this butt cap's weight is appropriately light.

The lilian is chartreuse green and is attached to the tip section with a micro swivel. This is done very well. The glue point is tight and smooth, however, it will not retract through the second section for complete disassembly.

Here are some specs: Collapsed, the rod is 45.5 cm. Fully extended, the rod is 238 cm. It weighs 54.2 g without the tip plug. On the Common Cents System it is a stiff 23 pennies. This gives this rod a very stiff Rod Flex Index of 9.6! That puts the rod well into the 8:2 action range along with some pretty stiff rods, like the TFO Softhackle.

Rod Flex Index comparison chart

The action of the rod is best described as very stiff. I have used some stiff rods, and this one is right up there with the stiffest of them. Since the rod is so short and so stiff, you can not feel it load or unload when you cast it -- if you use a level line like me. Even a #4 level line will not make the rod load. I freely admit, I did not fish a furled line, as I normally don't. The stiffness of the rod makes it difficult to cast --  not impossible -- just difficult. The casting stroke has to be very fast and short or the line will not lay out.

The balance of the rod is nice, but after all, it is a very short rod so it should have good balance.

I fished the rod on a small creek, with plenty of overhanging branches and snags. I usually fish this creek with a Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 24, so it's a good comparison creek for the Cascade. Because the rod is so short and when fishing tight creeks the line is short (I used a 7 foot plus 2.5 feet of 5X tippet) you have to get very close to your target. Stealth is an absolute must. But the Cascade is anything but stealthy. The bright blue coloration stands out against the riparian foliage like a beacon. I don't know what it looks like from the fish's point of view, but from mine it's really bright. For a short rod I think more subtle colors and duller finish would be better.

Bright blue in the shade

Really bright blue in the sun.

I caught fish from 6 inches to 13 inches. One nice thing about this rod is that it has plenty of backbone. When larger fish make a run for underwater snags after being hooked, the Cascade can easily and effortlessly turn them. That was very nice!

Conclusion: I wanted to like this rod, but I can't, not yet. Its design makes it too stiff to enjoy casting and too stiff to enjoy catching little fish. Also, the coloration is all wrong for a short rod that needs to be stealthy. If this rod is designed for children, then OK, keep the blazing blue color. But if is really designed for fishing small, tight streams then offer the rod in a non-glare dark color -- like graphite or charcoal. In fact, Tenkara Rod Co. should offer the rod is two color schemes, one for kids and the other for the serious stealthy tenkara fisher.

To make it funner/better to use, I'd recommend that the tip section be redesigned to be much softer and more flexible. When casting a short rod with a short line you don't have the luxury of line weight and casting stroke length to build up energy to throw the line. For short rods it is essentially the tip section that throws the line forwards and transfers the kinetic energy from the rod to the line. If the Cascade could be designed with a softer tip section it would be funner with smaller fish without compromising power for a larger fish's run.

So in summary, offer two colorations and soften the tip. Then I think I'd like this rod.

Here is a video of me using the rod:

Disclaimer: My opinions regarding this rod are just that, my opinions. Your opinion may differ.  No description can fully tell you how a rod feels or fishes. For this, you must personally hold, cast, and fish the rod then make up your own mind. Tenkara Rod Co. sent me this rod,  and after the review I mailed it back.


  1. Tom, another nice review. Unhappily i feel like tenkara companies don't take short rods seriously or they think a place tight enough to use a rod short like that don't hold serious fish. Today i was fishing a canopied, 6'6" wide, mangrove channel with a 10' ft rod. I was able to present the fly with bow_and_arrow casts but when fish took the the fly i was not able to lift the rod to fight the lunker that ran to the roots and broke me of. It was a 2 pounder at least... Guess this rod you reviewed here could have done it. But with that ugly, shiny blank a serious fish would be spooked away.

  2. I was hoping to read something great about Tenkara Rod Co. I really want to like their gear.
    I think they design very lovely looking rods but they aren't fun to fish. They are what Eiji Yamakawa would refer to as "closet fertilizer". I bought the 2 original rods, Sawtooth and Teton, and they just sit in my rod bin in a corner.
    Some of these other rod companies could learn from Tenkara Rod Co. esthetics.

  3. I received a Cascade to play with. I'm going to test it myself, but I intend to longer term give it to my 8 year old daughter, as she has the tenkara bug now. She seems to cast the RIGS floating line best with my other rods...based on your feedback, I think a modified version of the floating line (cut down to proper length) might be the ticket here. We'll find out. Great review as always!