June 19, 2016

Zen Fly Fishing Suzume review - part 2

I described the Zen Fly Fishing Suzume in part 1 of the review, but now I'll describe how it worked for me on stream.

As previously mentioned, this rod is designed for small creeks and streams. On these waters there are often very tight and closed in canopies, making casting a challenge. For these sections a short rod, often shorter than 270 cm, is required. The Suzume really shines here, as it is around 247 cm in its shortest configuration.

But occasionally, on the same small waters there might be more open areas, like beaver ponds. When these areas are encountered a long rod is desired. Again, the Suzume shines in these situations, because it can be extended to around 328 cm.

So one thing that I really like about this rod is its versatility. If you fish small streams, like I do, this rod does away with needing to carry more than one rod. It covers most all situations.

I tend to fish all sorts of flies on these small waters, even bead heads when needed. The Suzume has very flexible tip (1st section) and second sections which make casting bead heads more difficult. I didn't care for this characteristic but it does cast an unweighted fly quite nicely.

But fortunately I found out, with some experimentation, that the tip and second sections of the Tenkara USA Iwana fit and replace perfectly those same sections of the Suzume. The Iwana sections are just a little more stiff and make the Suzume cast even better, at least in my hands. You can get these sections from TUSA for about $17.00 USD. Like I said, these sections are just a little more stiff, but not by much, However, that little bit makes a big difference in the casting and fish fighting dynamics of the rod. In the Suzume's shortest configuration, with it's supplied sections, it has a Rod Flex Index of 5.2.  With the TUSA replacement segments in place, it's 5.6. Like I said, not by much, but that little bit helps cast heavier flies and fight fish in tight quarters better. Also, the TUSA Iwana tip section doesn't have that silly micro-swivel and can be fully removed through the second segment.

Another thing I don't really care for is the inability to fully disassemble the rod. The tip section will not come through the second section, but the zoom sections will not come through the handle, due to their design. Here in the arid west where humidity is low, drying a rod after use is not an issue. But in areas of the country where the humidity is high, disassembling the rod is pretty much necessary or the finish will bubble and blister. Not being able to disassemble the rod completely may be an issue in those humid geographic regions.

Also, not being able to disassemble the rod makes it harder to clean. Little bits of dirt and sand, which adhere to the rod by water tension, can scratch the rod and weaken the carbon fibers. This happens when the rod is collapsed and then re-extended. Personally, I like to keep my rods clean and scratch free.

Finally, not to belabor the point, if you happen to break one of the lower three sections you will have to buy all three, as they don't come apart. This will make the replacement very costly. This is a major design flaw.

Here's a video of me fishing a typical small stream with the Suzume for small wild, native cutthroat trout:

Conclusion:  In general, I like the rod. I like it enough that I will continue to use it on my small streams. I like how it casts and how it fights fish, even more with some slight modifications. I really like its versatility of lengths. There are a few things I'd change in its design, but that's just me and what I look for in a rod. I'd like to see it cost less as well.

I bought my rod from Zen (full price) and therefore I feel that I can modify the rod anyway that I like, with no apologies. I owe nothing to Zen, and expect nothing from them, but in this rod I think they have a good solid start to an all around great small stream rod. Hopefully it will improve over time by Zen making the appropriate design adjustments.


  1. Interesting post. Wouldn't have thought to hack one rod with parts of another.
    Would you say for someone who fishes unweighted flies, the hack is unnecessary?

    1. No, the modification would not be necessary, unless you wanted to tailor the casting action to your liking.

  2. I'm sure you get asked this often and I've missed it. However, where do you get the line holder that you are using on the rod? Thanks.

    1. http://www.ebay.com/itm/2pcs-Line-Winder-for-3-6meter-11-8ft-Tenkara-rod-/171153178332?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item27d9863edc

    2. Hey, Tom.... Thanks for experimenting for us...:)
      Quick question: did you try the third section of the Iwana to see a difference by chance? I hacked mine as you did...thanks for the advice/guidance as you always provide. I've been looking for a rod stiffer than the Rhodo at the 10'8" mark as I really love the Suntech Kieru 39 action that you suggested a couple years ago...or, rather, rfi of the Suntech.

    3. The Iwana third section does not fit properly. Only the tip two sections do.