March 10, 2019

DRAGONtail SHADOWFire 365 - review

In 2014 I reviewed the Shadowfire 360 tenkara rod by DRAGONTail Tenkara. As many of you have found out since, it's a really great rod, especially for those just starting out in tenkara. Well, DRAGONtail has recently made a second iteration of this already very nice rod, and as you will see, I like it even better!

The SHADOWFire is 365 cm in extended length. It looks very similar to the original, but there a are few minor changes that I will point out below. The second generation rod comes with a rod tube and sock. It still has its non-glare finish on most of the sections, but not on the handle section, where it has a glossy finish.




The handle is cork and has a classic camel shape. The cork quality appears to be very good. There is one cork composite ring near the butt of the handle. The winding check is nice and tight and the overlying epoxy is well done. The handle is 27 cm in length.



The tip plug is standard wood with rubber post. It is slightly fluted and fits snugly. It has a loop of extra lilian running through it. Included with the SHADOWFire 365 is a universal rod cap as well as the tip plug. This allows you, the user, to choose whichever tip control system you'd like. That's a very nice option!

The butt cap is black nylon, is slightly knurled, and has a coin slot. No decompression hole is present on this version.




The lilian is red, and is not as long as what was provided with the first generation Shadowfire rod. The current lilian length is more appropriate. It is attached to the tip section with a well done micro-swivel. Much to my happiness, the glue joint on the micro-swivel has a lower profile than was on the first generation rod. The entire tip section can now be removed through the second section for complete rod disassembly for drying and cleaning. Way to go DRAGONtail!



Here are some of my measurements:

Fully extended: 368 cm
Fully nested (with tip plug): 59 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 84.3 g
CCS/RFI: 20 pennies/ 5.4

For comparison, here are the measurements for the original Shadowfire 360:

Fully extended: 361 cm
Fully nested (with tip plug): 52 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 84 g
CCS/RFI 19 pennies/ 5.2

Top to Bottom: Shadowfire 360, SHADOWFire 365


So when compared to the first generation Shadowfire 360, the SHADOWFire 365 is longer when extended, longer when nested, and 0.3 g heavier. But these increases are not necessarily a bad thing.

Also, the new version is very similar in CCS and RFI to the original rod, but this is just a little deceiving.  The first generation rod was quite stiff through the midsections and butt and had a very flexible tip. The flexible tip artificially lowered its penny rating. It had an RFI of 5.2 but it cast like an RFI of 6.2. This was OK if you used a furled line, but not so nice if you were casting a #3 fluorocarbon level line. If there's one thing I've learned from Dr. Ishigaki's collaboration with Shimano it's that an overly flexible tip is not necessarily good for casting a level line. A slightly stiffer tip, but with more flexible 2nd and 3rd sections from the tip, is more efficient in transferring the rod's energy to the line. I believe this is why the new SHADOWFire 365 casts a level line better than the old version.

Therefore, with the second generation rod having been adjusted so that the upper midsections are more flexible, and the tip section being a little stiffer, the SHADOWFire 365 measures at an RFI 5.4, and it feels like a 5.4. For me, it casts a level line much better and feels better overall than the first generation rod. BTW, it still casts a furled line well, so don't fret if you're a furled line user.





10 penny bend profile comparing the original Shadowfire 360 (sf360) to the new SHADOWFire 365 (SF365).


Casting the rod is very nice. It has a pleasing arc that requires little effort. It casts a #3 level line very well. There is no end oscillation or overshoot. Dampening, linear and rotational, is good as well.

Fishing the rod is fun! I fished with tungsten bead head nymphs (since its winter) and the rod cast these heavy flies without complaint. The trout I caught were easily handled by the rod, even when they ran into high gradient current. This rod is a utilitarian or work horse rod, not a pretty boy rod. I had no worries about fishing bead head nymphs with it, as the rod is rugged and durable. Also, as a practical matter, if the bead head did per chance hit one of the sections and nick it, causing it to break in the future, DRAGONtail's replacement parts are inexpensive! Some other company's rods replacement parts cost so much that it may cause the user not to fully utilize the rod due to fear of possibly breaking and having to shell out lots of money for replacement parts. Not so with DRAGONtail's rods. Use them! They are made to be fished!







Conclusion: The new SHADOWFire 365 is a great rod, and deserves a look for anyone looking for a modest priced, well made tenkara rod. Personally, I like it much better than the original Shadowfire 360, as I feel this new iteration casts a lot better. If you are looking for a new tenkara rod for 2019, then consider the SHADOWFire 365. It has a great action, is durable, and will not let you down. It's also backed by DRAGONtail's unbeatable customer service!

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 have no affiliation with DRAGONtail. I borrowed the rod and it was returned after the review.








6 comments:

  1. Brent Auger does put out some awesome rods! There are very few competing rods from other companies that can hit Dragontail’s price points and quality.

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  2. Wish I would have waited for the new version. Oh well they're inexpensive enough.

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  3. Thanks for another great review,Tom. I always enjoy reading about your impressions of a particular rod.

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  4. it is now available at
    https://dragontailtenkara.com/shadowfire-tenkara-rod/

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  5. The original Shadowfire was my first tenkara rod and is still in my quiver. I like it for targeting warm water species in local lakes, usually with a furled or floating line. I'm excited to see that Brent has developed a new version. Thank you for the review.

    P.S.-I couldn't agree more about Dragontail's excellent service and affordable replacement parts.

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