May 30, 2019

DRAGONtail Mizuchi zx340 -- a collaboration to achieve a goal

As most of you know, I love fishing small creeks and streams. Often these diminutive waterways have small fish (4-6 inch range), but the creeks in my neck of the woods frequently have trout in the 10-14 inch range. Obviously, you don't know what's going to take your fly -  a 6 inch beauty or a 14 inch top predator. This uncertainty makes choosing your rod somewhat difficult, although one thing is a given, it has to be short.

Of interest (at least to me), I have found that many of these creeks are too overgrown for 270 cm rods. Not in all places, some open up nicely in spots (like beaver ponds or meadows), but in most of the creek you can't effectively cast or set the hook with a 270 cm rod. This is because the tree canopy is too restricting.

I've used some nice 240 cm rods in these little, heavily overgrown waterways. Some of them include: Diawa Soyokaze 24, Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 24, Shimotsuke Gen 24, Tanuki Golden Trout, Nissin Yuyuzan 2-way, and Zen Suzume. Some of them cast well, loading the rod with a short level line, but fail to handle a 12-14 inch trout in small water next to snags and log jams (where many of these larger fish hide). Some of them have excellent hook set speed and controlling strength, but are so stiff that casting (traditional overhead casting) is a real challenge with a 6' #3-3.5 level line.

Because I'm a restless (and unsatisfied) small stream angler, I've been looking for a rod that meets the following goals that would make me more efficient on my small creeks. It must:

1) be no shorter than 240 cm length. I have found that shorter rods don't cast well (at least for me). 240 cm is about as short as I can effectively cast using the traditional overhead or side arm cast.
2) be able to "zoom" to a longer (not just longer, but practical and usable) length for use when the canopy opens up and a longer reach is desired (beaver ponds, meadow sections, an opening in the trees, etc).
3) have excellent balance at all lengths, especially in the fully extended length (in other words, it shouldn't feel great in the short length and weirdly heavy at the longer length).
4) have a flex action appropriate for the intended use of the desired length. For example, at the short length it must have a fast hook set and fish fighting control over rod loading during casting (it must cast well but that's not the top priority in the short length; power to hook and control the fish is). But in the long length it must have excellent rod loading and line control, and still maintain fish fighting power. Hook set speed now takes a back seat as the canopy is more open allowing a larger hook set arc (and the hook set should not be too stiff so to launch small trout out into the trees).
5) be dull in finish and non flashy in color scheme. I fully believe that rod flash and bright colors make me more visible to the trout when I'm only 8-10 feet away (in the clear waters of my home).
6) have great sling shot casting abilities (other name is bow and arrow cast). I want to launch the fly into tight places without having to pull the fly past my ear. Sling casting is mainly needed in the 240 cm length and is not quite as critical at long rod lengths. Also, it must have excellent non-traditional casting capabilities like flip casting and air roll casting.
7) be robust so to handle the unique stresses of a small creek. But it should also have great customer service and be easily and economically repaired if breakage does happen.
8) be able to be completely disassembled for drying and cleaning.

So, with those goals in mind I contacted Brent Auger of DRAGONtail tenkara. We talked about these characteristics and goals, and he thought is could be doable. He contacted his manufacturing engineers and soon we had the first iteration of the rod in hand. Testing ensued, both my static measurements and on stream performance. Adjustments were made and soon other iterations of the rod were produced and tested (I made a video of fishing the third iteration). Further adjustments were made and finally Brent came up with a rod that met all of my goals.

So without further ado, I would like to introduce the forthcoming small stream/creek rod from DRAGONtail Tenkara, the Mizuchi zx340. The rod is in the final stages of production and will be available from DRAGONtail in the near future. Why am I introducing it before it's available? Because I'm going away for a while (announcement soon) and Brent has given me the honor of introducing the rod to you.

The Mizuchi (water dragon) zx340 is a multi-length rod that can be fished in the 240, 290, and 340 cm lengths. That's a length spread of 100 cm making it very practical and useful in a wide variety of small stream conditions. It comes with a DRAGONtail rod tube and sock. The overall coloration is graphite gray and the finish is flat/matte. The rod designation is yellow/orange and is glossy, but this is only a small part of the rod. (NOTE: the pictures I present here are of the final prototype iteration. Some of the details will be refined in the production model to improve fit and finish).

The handle is very good quality cork and is a gourd or camel shape. It is long enough, 26 cm, to have many hand hold positions, depending on need. There is a cork composite ring near the butt to hold your fly. The winding check is executed very well.

The rod comes with both a tip plug and a universal cap (may be a different shape or style than shown). You can choose which to use. Personally, I use the universal cap. The butt cap is black plastic nylon, is knurled, has a coin slot, but does not have a decompression hole.

The lilian is thin, red, and joins to the tip section with a non-swivel glue joint. The tip segment can be fully removed through the second section to allow complete disassembly of the rod for cleaning and drying.

My measurements:

Fully nested: 64 cm.
Extended lengths: 240 cm, 292 cm, 339.5 cm.
Weight (with out tip plug or cap): 79.2 g.
CCS/RFI: 16 pennies/6.6, 17 p/5.8, 18 p/5.3.

RFI comparison chart - click to enlarge.

Casting the rod shows that it is fast at 240 cm (as designed) and gets progressively slower as it is lengthened (again, as designed). I can cast a 6.5 foot #3 fluorocarbon level line at the 240 cm length with ease and accuracy. I chose that weight/length of line as it really tests a short rod and is what I often use on my small creeks. At the longer lengths the rod loads very nicely with the same line.

The casting stroke at 240 cm is quick with very little arm motion required. This is desirable for my creeks as I can't move my arm much without hitting or hooking a branch. Because the rod is so short and has an RFI of 6.6 you won't feel the rod load with a 6.5' #3 line. You don't need to. The tip section is a little stiffer than the second and third (from the tip - Japanese numbering for segments). This was designed so the rod will launch the line quickly without causing cast destroying line oscillations. Your fly shoots straight towards the target. Overhead casting at the 240 cm length takes practice, and practice is encouraged. Sling shot casting at 240 cm requires only a little deflection of that specially designed tip segment. The line shoots forward with vigor, therefore your execution of the sling shot cast needs to be adjusted so not to splash the fly down too hard. This gives the user a lot of options for this very useful cast.

Casting at the 290 and 340 lengths are smooth and well balanced. To me the rod feels well balanced at all three lengths. Casting accuracy is excellent at the longer lengths as well. This is critical on a small creek.

Rod tip recovery and dampening is great. I don't detect any linear or rotational oscillation or overshoot.

I fished the rod (all iterations) on a variety of small creeks. It casts extremely well, hooks quickly, controls trout in slow and fast water and is a joy to use. The rod is robust, like all of DRAGONtail rods, and held up to every abuse I could give it. Needless to say I was very pleased how things turned out. One scenario that I often come across is where a tree or log has fallen into the creek and causes a hydraulic cushion upstream. Trout ride this cushion, lying just under the log. To catch these trout I have to cast upstream and let the fly drift towards and then under the log. I almost always take a fish when doing this. Hooking and fighting a 12 inch brown under a log, when the fly is coming towards you can be a challenge. When hooked the fish immediately dives further under the log. The Mizuchi is one of the only short rods that I have used that has the strength to set the hook like lightning and pull the trout out into more open water.

Of note, Jason Klass of Tenkara Talk, the premier tenkara blog, saw the third iteration of the Mizuchi at the recent 2019 Fly Fishing Rendezvous in Denver. This is what he said, "I was also lucky enough to wiggle one of their new rod prototypes. All I can say is that it’s a triple-zoom (with a spread that actually makes a significant difference in length) and has a really different stealth finish. It’s super light in the hand and I think it’s going to be a hit when it goes to production." 

So if you are a small creek trout fisherman, you should consider getting the DRAGONtail Mizuchi zx340 and giving it a try on your waters. I've really enjoyed the process of helping to design and test this rod and I want to thank Brent (and Brandon of Moonlit Fly Fishing) for allowing me the opportunity to do so. And just so everyone out there is clear, I won't be receiving any money for my "consultation" on the rod or the use of the trademarked Teton Tenkara logo. I might get a "free" rod, but I'm not even sure of that. The process was my reward.

If you would like to get on the Mizuchi zx340 notification list CLICK HERE, or if you have any other questions about their tenkara products, contact Brent at DRAGONtail Tenkara.

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. Don't just take my word for it.
I have no affiliation with DRAGONTail Tenkara. 

1 comment:

  1. As usual, a thorough write-up Tom. After reading all the thought that went into its design, now I wish I had taken the rod to the casting pool and given it a little more attention. Seems like a small-stream dream.


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