March 24, 2018

Shimano Maystone 36 NW review - part I

There has been quite some buzz on the internet regarding a new rod release by Shimano. Shimano has been known for it's high quality tenkara rods with design input from famed level line tenkara angler Hisao Ishigaki. Shimano rods in the past have had a stiffer flex profile (Mainstream ZE, LLSNX, LLSNB), but over the past few rod releases it is clear that Dr. Ishigaki is preferring more full flex rods now. The new Maystone 36 NW is no exception.

Dr. Ishigaki

The Maystone 36 NW seems to be a departure from standard, currently available tenkara rods for few main reasons. First, the rod comes in a very nice Cordura covered rod tube (like many western fly rods do). Second, a there's a wood insert near the middle of the handle. Third, it has a hook keeper. And fourth, there's no lilian! All of this makes this rod somewhat unique when it comes to modern tenkara rods.

After examining the rod and casting it for a little bit, here are my first impressions.

This is a beautiful rod. The overall coloration is Shimano green (dark, like Hunter green). The paint has a slight metallic fleck that is stunning in the full sun. There are no other adornments, such as paint rings or accents. This rod is more in appearance like a premium Daiwa rod than a Nissin, in this respect.

The rod designation is made to appear to be freehand script and is tastefully done. Between the rod designation and the handle is a small hook or fly keeper. I'm not sure if this is very useful, as there is no reel to tightened up the line once the fly is hooked. Maybe this rod was designed to be used with lines (including tippet) that are shorter than the rod. I don't know.

The handle is 28.5 cm long. It is mostly high quality cork (something that also seems to be a departure from most tenkara rods now days), but with a twist. There is a mahogany stained wood insert two-thirds of the way near the butt of the handle that causes that handle to take on the classic camel or gourd shape. It too is tastefully done.

Camera flash shows all the minuscule defects. It really looks better than this. 

The tip plug is wood, and fits snugly. The butt cap is blued metal. There is a rubber bumper, air hole and coin slot.

As far as the lilian, there's not one! This is new for me, as all of my rods have them. Instead of a lilian, there's a rotating metal connection which Shimano calls a "rotating super sense top". As this rod was designed to be used with level lines, the slip knot of the line attaches easily and directly to this connector. Shimano states that it increases sensitivity in feeling the fish take the fly. I've seen these rod tip-line connectors on keiryu rods for many years know and always wondered why they weren't on tenkara rods. I've heard many fixed-line anglers state that they prefer rods without cork handles, claiming that cork reduces the sensitivity of the take. I've always wondered the same thing about a lilian; shouldn't it reduce the sensitivity of the take? It seems like the perfect vibration dampener to me. On the Maystone NW there's a direct line-to-rod connection that overcomes this possibility.

the connector is small enough to allow the tip section to be withdrawn through the second section, thus allowing the rod to be full disassembled for drying and cleaning.

Here are some of my measurements:

Fully nested: 55 cm
Fully extended: 356 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 69.6 g
CCS: 14 pennies
RFI: 3.9

RFI comparison chart

Casting this rod is much different than most of the tenkara rods that I prefer. It feels somewhat similar to my Shimotsuke Ten, or my Nissin Air Stage Honryu 380, but much different from my TenkaraBum 36.  With this rod Shimano stays with their design of a full flex rod and a hollow tip section, which makes the tip stiffer. This design allows a very light level line to be used, and allows the rod to efficiently transfer its kinetic energy to the light line.

The rod is extremely lightweight and very well balanced, and I found the rod to be very smooth in casting, with a slow but effective casting arc. I used a 305 cm (10') #2.5 fluorocarbon level line with 91 cm (3') of 5X tippet. The rod seemed to be designed for this line! The line easily straightened out in the air, with the fly landing first every cast. There was no tip oscillation or overshoot. The Maystone NW has amazing dampening!

I then changed lines to a 405 cm (13') #3 nylon line from Discover Tenkara. Again, the rod came through beautifully laying this line out (most) every time. However, I definitely need more practice time with this type of line!

The wood insert makes a natural break in the handle, and forces your hand position to be around the butt of the handle. This is how I hold most of my 360 cm length rods anyway, so it was not a distraction to me. However, if you hold your tenkara rods with a western fly rod grip (holding the fly rod as you would with the golf grip, and then placing your thumb on top of the grip pointing down the length of the rod) you might have issues with this handle.


I was hoping to get on a small stream and fish the rod today, but this is what I woke up to:

Part II coming up - the Maystone 36 NW on a typical small stream. Stay tuned...


  1. Looking forward to your thoughts on how it fishes. I've toyed with the idea of attaching one of those "sensitive" tops to some Nissin rods of mine but haven't been brave enough to go through with it. Here's the item in question.

    Anyone done this? They also sell swivel lillians. I would feel a bit more confident in replacing the stock lillian with one of those. Maybe I'll get one from Amazon Japan and install it on an Air Stage with some epoxy..

  2. Interesting. I do like the lillian-less design.

  3. I am REALLY into the fact that there's no Lillian. I predict I would LOVE the action of this rod, probably would love to fish the crap out of it, but may not enjoy the handle positioning. I really wish they used the same handle design from the new Pack Tenkara rod... and I ALSO wish they'd have used the no lillian design on the pack rod... lol the struggle is real ;)