August 12, 2016

Not Tenkara: Two handed keiryu rods for larger waters

As I have mentioned many times before I don't pursue large fish. I did at one point in my fly fishing journey, but large trout attract fisherman, and I avoid fisherman. Large fish are generally in larger waters (Henry's Fork, Madison, South Fork - to name a few in my general area) and therefore I don't fish large waters either. But on occasion I'll go to more remote locations on larger rivers to fish.

I have used longer tenkara rods, but I don't care for longer tenkara rods; the swing weight is too high for my liking. The unavoidable fact is that the longer you make a rod the more tip heavy it gets. It's just a fact of physics. Longer than 400-410 cm in length and the rotational moment measurements go way up.

So instead of fishing longer tenkara rods, or standard tenkara rods with longer lines, I have gone with longer keiryu rods; two handed rods. Using two hands makes casting these rods much easier for me, and my shoulders, than casting long tenkara rods. I find them quite easy to cast and, due to their length, very easy to fight salmonid species, even in swift water.

I have two longish keiryu rods that I use for trout -- the Suntech Fine Power 56 and the Suntech Keiryu Suikei Sawanobori 63. I like both of them a lot. I say "longish" because they are not as long as some keryu rods can get. But just like tenkara rods, the longer a keiryu rod gets, the more heavy and difficult to manage it becomes -- a lot more inertia. Some keiryu rods get into the 8.0-8.5 meters range. Now that's long!

Two handed is usual for these rods...

...but the Fine Power 56 can be fished one handed also!

Chris Stewart, of TenkaraBum, has advocated the "long rod, short line" approach to fixed line fishing. I say that I have to agree with him. I know that there are tenkara lines in the 7m or longer range, but there is no way, unless you only fish downstream, to keep the line off the water with longer lines. After all, that's the point of tenkara fishing, keeping the line off the water and being in direct contact with the fly. If the line lays on the water then you might as well be fly fishing with a rod, reel and PVC line. [I've heard of that style of fishing somewhere before, but I just can't remember where ;o)  ]

Anyway, what I like about these longer rods is that they get the rod tip high enough in the air that even when using a longer line (at least for me) all of the line is off the water. More importantly, the angle of the line penetrating the water's surface is more nearly perpendicular than using a shorter rod with a long line. With the line penetrating closer to perpendicular there is less affect of the water's currents on the line than when it comes in at an acute angle. I can stay in "touch" with my bead head nymph easier and both see and feel the fish's take easier. Here are a couple of rudimentary cartoons to illustrate the point:

Tenkara rod with a long line. Note the angle in which the line enters the water. The water will float the line.

Longer keiryu rod with shorter line. Again, note the angle at which the line enters the water. Much less affect on the line.

Both rods have a nice smooth, mid flex action; they both throw a #3 line very well. Neither of the rods weighs too much for them to be comfortable. The Fine Power 56 weighs only 96 grams, while the Keiryu Sawanobori 63 weighs 122 grams.  I can cast the Fine Power 56 one handed without much difficulty if I choke up on the handle a bit (at its 5.2 meter length). The Keiryu Sawanobori is too long for a CCS penny measurement, but the Fine Power 56 is 25.5 pennies at 5.2 meters and 26 pennies at 5.6 meters. That gives it a Rod Flex Index of 4.9 at 5.2 meters and 4.6 at 5.6 meters. See, really nice actions!

Like I said above, I don't hunt large fish, but both of these rods could handle far larger trout than I caught the other day. I have landed fish up to about 18 inches with the Keiryu Sawanobori, with 5X tippet, without any issue at all. I'm sure both rods could handle larger trout than that!

So if you don't care for tenkara rods over 400 cm, or tenkara rods have let you down when hooking large trout in fast water, then consider one of these keiryu rods. The other option is a rod,reel and PVC line -- they still work great for big trout!


  1. Tom-
    As always I appreciate your thoughtful analysis. I am considering going to a keiryu rod for multiple reasons (long pole short line and targeting larger fish). Reading through some of your reviews I think we have some similar tastes in rods we like and those we don't. I bought an Ito sometime back as a big fish pole but actually got into trouble with tendinitis as the rod is too much for my body strength to sling hours on end and I never really liked to cast the rod. I started using an Amago which has served me fairly well but these 2 rods you mention look desirable due to length and lightness and your comments regarding the cast feel. Will either try the sun tech in a 53 or the fine power in a 56. Will also put my Ito up to sale. Thanks again for your contributions to the Tenkara community.

    1. Thank you for reading the blog and commenting!

  2. Tom-
    As I mentioned I am planning to buy a keiryu rod as soon as I sell off a couple of rods that aren't clicking for me. Both of these rods sound like they would fit the bill. I live in Boise and am a short 5 min walk to the Boise river and I also send some time on the Owyhee River as it is relatively close. These are larger waters with some larger fish and so this is way I am going in this direction. I am thinking I would like to stay under 56 for length and weight purposes I know there are options in this size for both rods. So my question to you is in regards to your opinion about your subtle differences between these 2 rods. Some day I hope to make it over to your side of the state to do some fishing. I will of course do my best to stay out of your way as I know you prefer to fish alone:) I actually feel the same way but often it is a bit more of a drive to get out to those waters for me and I definitely enjoy it when my fishing buddy is the only other guy I see the whole day. Thanks again for you time and insights.

  3. I totally agree. I've been using my Sagiri 54MC a lot more than I expected to. I'm amazed with its ability to land strong fish and protect light tippet. Last week I landed at 20" rainbow and a few others close to that size on sub-20 flies and 7x tippet. The best part is that the fights are quick, exciting, and I get the fish released much faster than with a reel or a lot of hand-lining. The rod protects the line as I move to meet the fish.

    The big downside to the soft Sagiri is that it doesn't cast wind-resistant flies well, nor can I get good hooksets with a fly heavier than a 3mm tungsten bead. I mostly fish small nymphs, wets, and dries tied on fine wire barbless hooks; as these provide the most secure hookups.

  4. I wholeheartedly endorse the long rod, short line method. You will never get a better drift. If you're looking for a long keiryu rod and a long collapsed length isn't an issue, I highly recommend the Suntech Kurenai Long 61. It's only 3.7 oz, and it's rated from 8x-4x tippet. I once used it with 8x and a size 26 bead head UKB all day long and never lost the fly. I lost some fish because keeping a fish hooked on a size 26 hook isn't always easy, but I was amazed how well the rod protected the 8x tippet in fairly fast water.

  5. I know this is late but just saw this. Do you feel the Fine Power would make a good nymphing rod with tungsten bead nymphs? Polish style nymphing?

    1. It will work but bear in mind that it does have a soft tip. For Euro nymphing I would think a rod with a stiffer tip would work better, maybe like the Suntech FMX Keiryu Stiff.


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