March 26, 2015

The Keeper by Tenkara USA

Tenkara USA has the distinction of being the first tenkara company in the USA and by providing solid products and education for the tenkara enthusiast. But over the past year, they are also becoming known for innovative offerings to enhance the tenkara experience.

Little over a year ago Tenkara USA came out with their new line of rods that had the Keep Your Plug system, a new way of keeping track of your tip plug. They also introduced a white rod case, breaking all the molds for this most prosaic of rod accessories. Now Tenkara USA has redefined, or redesigned, the line spool into the ultimate accessory for minimalistic fishing -- The Tenkara Line and Fly Keeper.

The Keeper (for short) is a line control devise that can also carry a few flies. Here's what Daniel Galhardo, founder of Tenkara USA, says about this new offering, "The Tenkara USA Line Keeper is line holder solution that also incorporates an integrated fly box. The Keeper is designed to hold two tenkara lines, or tenkara line and tippet. That way a minimalist tenkara angler can have the tenkara line, tippet and flies in a compact solution." Jason Klass has blogged about this product already and you can read his take on it here.

The item that Daniel sent me is identical to the one Jason received but it is not the final product. Daniel communicated to me that the spool that he sent out was a prototype (a pretty nice one, I might add) but that there would be some changes to the final product. Here is what he said,

"There are two main adjustments we are making for the final pieces:
1) One of the finger holes will be slightly bigger to sit on handles a bit better.
2) The flap that closes on the fly box has also been modified to close a bit more easily. The box piece is not intended as a replacement to a full fly box of course, it's there more to potentially hold rod plugs or some 6-12 flies for the minimalist angler on a casual trip."

Keeping those changes in mind, let me show you a little more about The Keeper that I was sent. For size, it is 80 mm in diameter, 17 mm thick and weighs 39.7 g. For comparison, a 70 mm Meiho spool weighs 17.5 g and an ONI spool by Raj Leica (70 mm) weighs 11.8 g, and finally, a Meiho 50 mm spool weighs 10.8 g. These other spool don't have the features or versatility of The Keeper, of course.

Left to right: The Keeper, Meiho 70 mm, ONI, Meiho 50 mm.
17 mm thick

The Tenkara USA Line and Fly Keeper 
Meiho 70 mm

ONI by Raj Leica

Meiho 50 mm

Two holes in the spool body are of different sizes; they not only make it easy to wind on your line, but they should also fit onto many tenkara rods during transport. These holes have a rubber insert that keeps the spool from sliding off the rod, without having to push the spool on too tightly. They also protect the rod and cork from damage. I agree that they could be a little larger, to accommodate different tenkara rods. The largest hole is even a tight fit on the Rhodo.

It's a tight fit on the Rhodo

There are two bars, one either side of the spool, that allow you to anchor your fly while it is still attached to your line. These bars will hold hooks from size #6 to size #22. Four corresponding notches on the rim allow the line to go from the fly to the spool without sliding.


#6 (2X long) foam hopper

The spool will hold two lines, one on the ribbed side of the diaphragm and one on the smooth side. Or, you could put tippet material on the smooth side and your line on the ribbed side. Either configuration works equally well. The ribs capture your line as you wind it onto the spool; no more annoying "escapes" as your line springs off the spool while winding.

The rubber diaphragm has three tabs, each with a hole in it. These could be attached to a zinger or neck lanyard for easy carry and access.

Finally, the spool has a small compartment that is perfect for storing a few flies. As Daniel stated, The Keeper is not designed to replace a standard fly box, but it can store a few flies or even your rod plug. Still, with this compartment feature, as well as the others, The Keeper could make a nifty minimalist package and let you carry, in a single compact spool, a line, some tippet and a few flies.  Just add a rod and you're ready to fish -- literally.

The Keeper is well built and solid in construction. I threw mine on solid ground a few times and it didn't appear to get damaged in any way. I tried to pull it apart, and again, it didn't budge. As I said, solid!

Conclusion: The Keeper will be a very nice addition to the Tenkara USA accessories line up. It is due for retail release in April 2015. Innovative thinking, ergonomic design and solid construction are a few of many things where Tenkara USA is leading the pack. Well done TUSA!

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