July 5, 2017

Discover Tenkara Karasu -- such passion for a rod that isn't out yet!

As many of you are aware, Paul Gaskell and John Pearson of Discover Tenkara have announced that they are releasing a tenkara rod designed by them, but with input from many Japanese tenkara anglers. The rod will be produced in Japan, rather than in China, where most of the other tenkara rods are manufactured.

I haven't seen the rod yet -- Paul is sending me one to analyze and fish soon. Since I haven't seen the rod yet, I will refrain from making decisive statements about it's performance and feel. But amazingly enough, this rod has really stirred up the internet. There are a lot of bold statements being slung out there for a rod that hasn't even been seen by most people! In short, the Karasu has created quite a stir in the tenkaraverse.

Most of the discussion has been about the rod's price. It is currently on pre-order in the US for $420.00 (for the 360 version) and $450.00 (for the 400 cm version). The rods are expected the ship August 14th. Some comments have been about the rod itself, like it having a foam handle and not cork. But most of the comments are directed at the price.

For some reason many tenkara anglers have gotten up in arms regarding the price. Sure, $420.00 USD is chunk is change for a tenkara rod, especially given that there are some really good rods made in Japan for nearly half of what the Karasu is starting at. But it's the passionate statements about this price that have me mystified.

Some people are using expletives to emphasize their distain for the price. Some are using various course adjectives to try to get their point across. While others are resorting to sarcasm. OK, I get it. They are upset at the high price. But here's where I'm left scratching my head -- why? Why are so many upset at the price? Why the incivility? What's the big deal?

The way I see it, is if the price is too high then don't buy the rod. You don't have to swear or be profane or mock or degrade someone over the price of an object. Just don't buy it; buy someone else's product. Do we (as a tenkara community) really have a sense of entitlement that every tenkara rod, even the ones that are carefully designed and manufactured outside of China, should be affordable to everyone who wants one? Really? Where does this come from?

Maybe it comes from the statement that tenkara is simple or simplistic. I have read hundreds of statements that try to elevate tenkara above western fly fishing just because tenkara gear "seems" to cost less. We have gotten used to inexpensive rods being introduced into the US market month after month over the past five or six years. Some of these rods have had direct, personal guidance over the design, materials, and manufacturing process -- that is, where a person goes over to China or wherever and speaks face to face to the producing company. I think this is rare when it comes to tenkara rods -- there are a few, but it's rare. Some rods have some level of input from the buyer but it's through email or text or Skype. They get samples mailed to them and either accept or reject the product. I think this is more common. And then there are many who just order tenkara rods from some factory, relabel or paint it for their needs, and sell it as some great new rod. These are "me too" rods and are usually stiff in action, poor in quality, and IMO over all pretty sad rods. Yet they sell because they are inexpensive.

It comes down to this -- you will pay more for that which you value more. I've seen mountain bikes that go for well over $1000.00 USD and they sell out. I wouldn't buy one. I've seen people line up for over a day just to get their hands on a new iPhone at a premium price. I wait for 2-3 months after a roll out to get it a little less. What about beer or wine? I don't drink but I seen people plop down some serious cash for something they are just going to drink away in minutes. I've eaten Filet Mignon because I like it more than ground round -- does that make me an elitist? I don't think so. We are willing to pay for that which we value. Let's just face it -- we all do it. So, since we all do it we don't have to be uncivil to someone else who is willing to pay more for something you would not.

Bringing it back to the Discover Tenkara Karasu, what about me? Yes, I have pre-ordered and payed a lot of money for a rod I've never seen. Will it be worth it? Heck if I know. But this I do know -- I trust Chris Stewart's judgement. He's seen the rod. He's handled the rod. And he likes the rod. I think I'm pretty safe. I guess we'll see.

As always, I'll let you know.


  1. Having fished with JP & spoken with paul I am a little worried that people are being so uncivil to either of them. They are passionate about all things 'Tenkara ' & I will always have great respect for all they do. M

  2. Tom
    Thank you for an excellent post.
    I look forward to reading your review of the rod in a couple of months time. Having had the fortune to attend a lecture by Paul Gaskell and John Pearson here in the UK and seen the thought and dedication that they have put into Tenkara I am sure the rod will prove to be a quality product and a success.

    A lot of people forget that Paul and John have already freely given a lot of their expertise to the Worldwide Tenkara community by way of extensive email tuition courses.

    Time Tom for you to forget the social media idiots and go fishing.

  3. It does seem really silly for people to get mad at the price.

  4. John and Paul are two of the most accomplished and dedicated Tenkara fishermen and guides in the U.K. They are highly qualified to specify what is required and with the help of some of the finest Japanese Tenkara fishermen I'm sure that what they produce will be top quality and of course produced in Japan.
    I to have ordered a rod and am confident that it will be worth it. How much is a Helios 2? The

  5. Thanks for the voice of reason. There is absolutely no need for any of us rational adults to troll fellow fishers, or anyone else, for that matter.

  6. Tom

    I look forward to reading your review. It always amazes me how brazen some people can be on social media.

  7. Higher end rods fill a niche, as do budget-friendly rods geared towards new tenkara fisherman and those not looking to break the bank. I am a frugal fly fisherman (and probably always will be), but I don’t begrudge others who are willing to pay a premium for the latest and greatest rods or the designers who produce them. That being said, it seems to me that the folks at Discover Tenkara invited some of the criticism by referencing the “watered-down” tenkara rods available to westerners. I’m sure the U.S. tenkara companies would disagree with that description of their rods, as well the anglers who fish them.

  8. Really heartening to see the comments on here and, by way of absolute clarification, it wasn't especially the rods I suggested were watered down,more the overall experience of tenkara compared to the richness of techniques used by the top folks in Japan. To use and enjoy those techniques to their fullest called for support from rods that didn't exist in the market yet, so we aim to fill that gap. Inevitably, when we describe what is unique about what we are offering, it could offend some people who feel it downgrades their own offering. I don't believe it changes what other folks offer now at all (how could it, it's the same whatever I say) and I've gone on record multiple times saying that products at all levels/price points are vital. In fact, the most affordable and widely available gear is absolutely critical to getting anglers into tenkara.

  9. Very sad this type of post seemed necessary in response to something originating from within the tenkara community. The internet when turned on often automatically turns off better judgment and decency among some people.

    Yeah a bit of a shock to see the price, but I had no angry thoughts about it. Only thinking - will this rod be in the same class as the Tenryu TF39 rods? What will the reviews be like? When will they appear? Could it possibly rival the Oni rods? Or have some outstanding trait that would justify to me spending the extra dollars? Probably not, however I do keep wondering what the Tenryu TF30 rods are like.

    Angry responses are just silly. In the same league with people who don't like certain tv shows and spend time ranting about them. If ya don't like 'em, don't turn "em on. It's a pretty simple concept.

    Personally I hope John & Paul find great success with these rods. That people will find them to be the bespoke rod of dreams. (Yep, I had to try to use the word "bespoke" in a sentence, Paul G keeps throwing it around often enough that I finally had to look up what it means. Those English people do such odd things with the language.)D.

  10. well in the traditional sense of tenkara I don't have all the vests, gear, reels lines and stuff anymore So what i save not looking like I'm going to fly fishing combat carrying 40 lbs of gear more than compensates for the little bit of price hike in a nice rod. personally I probably won't by one as foam is not allowed in my stuck up personal bubble of corkdom. That being said I don't have a reason to use expletives about the price. Even at the price it's being sold for I could by two of em for what many western style fly rods are being sold for so...............