April 20, 2017

Tenkara Times 1st Step tenkara rod -- a very nice entry level rod.

A couple of years ago I reviewed the Tenkara Times 1st Step tenkara rod. I had bought one for my son in-law and he has used it ever since. It was a really nice entry level rod for a very low price. well, The other day I received the latest iteration of that same rod.

The new 1st Step doesn't look at all like the old one. The new rod has had some major cosmetic upgrades and the handle has been retooled, so if you set the two rods side by side I'm not sure anyone would say they were the same rod. Maybe they are, or maybe they are not; maybe only in name.

The new rod is glossy in finish. That right there is a major departure from other Tenkara Times rods. In the past, Tenkara Times has been one of the only tenkara rod companies who designed their tenkara rods to have a flat (not even matte) finish on the blanks. Most of the Japanese rods I have have a glossy finish. A few rods from American companies, like DRAGONtail and Badger, have matte finishes on their rods.

The rod comes with a stretch sock and clear rod tube.

In the past, each of the larger sections had a purple paint accent near the tip-ward end, but this new rod doesn't have that. Instead, there is a glossy black paint accent. It's hard to see in a photo, but its really there. That's much more subtle than the old purple accents.

The rod designation has a carbon fiber cross-hatch that is seen on a lot of other rods. It is done very nicely and is quite handsome. The classic Tenkara Times purple accent is on the rod designation area and is also nicely done.

The handle is a major departure from past rods as well. The handle on the new 1st Step is mostly very good quality cork sandwiched between two rings of cork composite. That's not what's new. It's the shape that's new. The shape is almost cylindrical excepting a very slight taper on the leading edge and a scooped out contour near the upper middle of the handle. I think this design makes the handle look clunky, and less elegant than other Tenkara Times rods. I really like the cork (better than foam); I just don't care for the shape. The handle is 28 cm in length.

The tip plug is wood with rubber insert. The tip plug on my rod fits snug, but not too tightly. The butt cap is similar to other Tenkara Times rods. It is black anodized metal, has a coin slot, very slight knurling on the thin edge and no air hole. The rubber bumper in the inside has been redesigned and works well.

The lilian is bright red, has a pre tied knot, and is attached to the tip section by a very nicely executed glue joint. This joint just barely slides through the second section, allowing complete disassembly of the rod for cleaning and drying.

Here are some measurements:

Fully extended: 365 cm
Fully nested: 56.5 cm
Weight: 88.3 g (without tip plug)
CCS: 20 pennies
RFI: 5.5

As far as action, the rod has a 6:4 flex action. It is pleasing to cast and handles light level lines very well. I used a #3 fluorocarbon level line and unweighted fly for lawn casting. There is no overshoot or tip oscillation at the end of a casting stroke. The blank taper is designed to give a smooth casting action and I feel that it achieves this goal. I didn't have to "push" the forward stroke to properly propel the fly to its intended target.

I fished the rod using a tungsten bead squirmy wormy (the water was high and murky, due to run off). The rod handled this fly well. I had to use an open loop, but I would have used this casting loop with any rod throwing such a heavy fly.

Conclusion: I think this is an excellent choice for an entry level tenkara rod for anyone who prefers a rod that can handle lightweight level lines. So many of the entry level rods I have reviewed seem to be stiffer and more 7:3 in flex action that they fish better with heavy lines or furled lines. That's just fine, but I personally believe that the essence of tenkara (moving water tenkara) is keeping as much line off the water as possible. This is much easier with level line tenkara. This rod achieves this goal well.

This new iteration of the 1st Step is a very good rod for the money. It's a couple grams heavier than its predecessor and I'm not that taken with the handle contour, but other than that, I think it's a winner.

Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ.  Also, your rod may not have the same length, issues, or functionality as my rod. There are variations between rods, even in the same production run. 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.  I receive this rod from Tenkara Times to review, but this does not imply a favorable review of their products. 

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