April 10, 2015

Tenryu Tenkara FURAIBO TF39TA rod -- is it worth the money?

When comparing the cost of an average tenkara rod to the cost of a western rod, the tenkara rod will almost always be less expensive. This is one of the attractions of tenkara -- no guides, reel seat, wraps equals less expense. But when it comes to tenkara rods there is a wide range of retail prices.

I've used rods from the entry level affordable Dragontail Tenkara rods all the way up to the Gamakatsu Multiflex Suimu 40, a high end triple zoom tenkara wonder. But recently I got my hands on a rods that blows these away in price -- the Tenryu Tenkara FURAIBO TF 39TA.  Coming in at 57,000 Yen, it is the highest price tenkara rod I have used. But is it worth it?  Let's see.

The TF39TA comes without a rod tube or the ubiquitous Japanese plastic carton. It does come with a padded soft case and has a silky feeling stretch sleeve, however. The soft case is red with Japanese characters on it, while the sleeve is black. Both are really well made and very nice in aesthetics.

The overall coloration of the rod is red and the finish is glossy. There are subtle gold rings at the tip of each section excepting the 1st section (tip section).  This rod, like the Gamakatsu Multiflex is a triple zoom rod and while the three lower sections nest tightly together, the upper two can be extended when needed. The advertised lengths for this rod are 330-360-390 cm. It is unknown as to the carbon-to-glass composition, but its 390 cm non-zooming TF39 sibling is 83% carbon and 17% glass.

The handle is cylindrical in shape, without curves. It is fairly narrow in diameter (when compared to other tenkara rods), but not more narrow than many keiryu rods that I have used.   The handle is 25.5 cm in length. There is no winding check, rather, the colored epoxy of the handle section tapers into a flush joint with the cork. It is beautiful and nicely done. A leather overwrap is available for extra money.

Optional leather overwrap for the handle (I did not purchase this).

Notice how narrow the handle is.  Left to right: TF39TA, Daiwa LT36SF, Nissin Zerosum 360

The lilian is dark red, is plenty long to tie a knot in (if you want to) and attaches to the tip section with a gold colored micro swivel. The glue joint is fairly smooth, but I've seen better on lower priced rods. The tip section can be fully withdrawn through the 2nd section, allowing complete disassembly of the rod for cleaning and drying.

The tip plug is dark plastic and fits snugly into the collapsed rod. The butt cap is stainless silver colored metal, and has a thick post with two O-rings. These O-rings receive the two zooming sections. There is subtle knurling on the edge of the cap as well as a coin slot. There is no air hole. A rubber bumper is on the tip of the post, so to dampen the rattle of the collapsed segments. Another O-ring keeps the butt cap from spontaneously coming unscrewed.

Here are some specs:
Collapsed with tip plug-- 35.5 cm
Extended to 330 length -- 328.5 cm
Extended to 360 length -- 355.5 cm
Extended to 390 length -- 379 cm
Weight without tip plug -- 76.9 g
Common Cents System / Rod Flex Index / Rotational Moment:
     330 length -- 18 pennies / 5.45 / 4.8
     360 length -- 20 pennies / 5.55 / 5.7
     390 length -- 20 pennies / 5.3 / 6.8
For definitions of the Common Cents System, Rod Flex Index and Rotational Moment, please see my article on Tenkara-Fisher.com.

At 330 length.
At 360 length.

At 390 length.

Rod Flex Index comparison chart

As far as casting, this rod is very smooth in action and has a beautiful arc. There is no overshoot or oscillation. The rod loads and unloads with a satisfyingly rich feel. It balances in the hands well in the 330 and 360 lengths, but feels just a little tip heavy in the 390 length -- as would be predicted by the Rotational Moment calculations. The zoom features functions OK, but I found on my rod that it was a little loose collapsing from 360 to 330 lengths. Extending from 360 to 390 it feels too tight, with the last zoom segment binding in the handle segment. 

I used a #3.5 level line. It cast this line wonderfully and with little effort. I used both unweighted kebari and beadhead nymphs. The beadhead felt a little too heavy to this rod, but with an open casting loop it did fine. I like this rod best at the 360 length and only extended it to the 390 length when I was in the more open stretches of the stream. Please see the April 6, 2015 video log for a video of me using this rod. Also, I didn't care for the handle. It's too narrow a diameter for my hands, and I don't care for teh straight, contoured shape. 

Conclusion: I mostly like this rod. I have to say, this is a pretty nice rod, but for the money I'm not sure it really is any better than other rods available. You can get a Tenkara USA Sato for less than half of what this rod costs. One thing the TF39TA has going for it however, is that it is really, really compact. If you wanted just one rod for backpacking, a rod that was very compact, had multiple fishing lengths and yet be oh so smooth in casting, then this just might be the rod for you. But it requires a chunk of change. Personally, I'd either go with either the TUSA Sato or the Suntech Suikei 39 (a keiryu rod and my favorite travel rod).

So there you have it. I got this rod to satisfy both my and your curiosity. Is it worth the price? I don't think so. If you want one you may want to contact Plat or Tenkara-Ya. TenkaraBum might be able to get you one too.

Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ.  Also, your rod may not have the same characteristics 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 purchased the Tenryu TF38TA at full retail price. 


  1. Link from "Suntech Suikei 39" goes to Tenkara "Sato" web site. As always, a nice and accurate evaluation of a $475 Tenkara Rod.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out. I fixed the link.

    2. http://www.tenkara-fisher.com/search/label/Dr.%20Tom%20Davis

      All your writing at tenkara-fisher.com should be found there, individual article URL can be accessed at that address as well.

      Thanks for all that you do!

  2. Funny how, apart from Nissin, the japanese tenkara industry seems to be shrinking while outside Japan it is growing in a fast pace.
    I was in hopes that this one could be a "purple cow" but it is just an average rod with an expensive price tag.
    Thanks again Tom for the excelent service!

  3. I'm sure I could get one if someone wants one. I did get the non-zooming version (TF-39) for a customer, and felt it was a wonderful level line rod.

  4. Hi, I'm a somewhat recent convert to Tenkara and have fallen in love, fishing almost every day for the last two months. I live on a relatively small Idaho stream, fishing mostly for 6- to 12-inch trout, both on nymphs and dry flies. I'm currently fishing with a Temple Fork 10' 6" Soft Hackle rod I got as a gift. I'd like to get a second rod as my wife has also fallen in love with Tenkara. I'm thinking about getting a Japanese-made rod, reading all about the Tenryu, Nissin, and Daiwa rods on TenkaraBum and here. I'm wondering if you have an absolute favorite?

    1. Favorite? Currently the TenkaraBum 36 is my favorite 360 cm rod. But the Nissin Zerosum or Royal Stage 360 are also superb. I prefer the 7:3 versions. The Daiwa L LL36 is a softer but excellent rod as well.

  5. Generally, I don't take much notice of how rods look... but the color and trim on this rod looks absolutely trashy.