August 31, 2017

Tenkara Tanuki XL-1 -- review

A few weeks ago I received a new rod from Tenkara Tanuki. Labeled the XL-1, it is a rod that has been anticipated by the tenkara community for some time. Luong Tam, owner of Tenkara Tanuki, is not shy about letting us know what he's up to, and because of this, his projects are followed with excitement.

Here is what Luong says about his new rod: "Tanuki XL-1 Project - From US to Italy

Tanuki XL-1 is considered to be a long tenkara rod with the length of 405 cm (13’4”). The main benefits of Tanuki XL-1 are it casts like a good 360 (12’ rod) and fish-on is like Tanuki 325. The main challenges of making long tenkara rod are better ergonomics, casting accuracy and handling the fish like a shorter rod.

Using a lighter and softer rod would put less pressure on fisher’s wrist. In order to build a light rod, I need to use higher module carbon fiber. Higher module carbon fiber is lighter and stiffer than lower module one. The challenge is to make it softer with higher module carbon fiber. I asked myself, “Can I have a softer feeling rod with higher module carbon?”. I want to push the boundary a little bit on Tanuki XL-1. I took the initial Tanuki XL (395 cm) to the Oni School in summer, 2016. I have received mostly negative feedbacks like, “It is too soft and lacks Tanuki characteristics”.

I built several new prototypes that are a notch softer than Tanuki 425 rods and extended the length of 395 cm to 405 cm, then took those rods on the road with me to the Tenkara Jam in North Carolina. After months of endless testing on fly fishing trade shows and other fishing related events here in the US and Italy. The results were overwhelming positive. I am surprised to learn that European fishers like a little softer prototype than US fishers."

Luong loaned me the black version of the XL-1 and I was able to put it to the test.

The rod came in a clear plastic rod tube along with a red fabric sleeve. The rod is very handsome. It is dark charcoal in color, with the rod designation a rich, deep red. The finish is glossy. There are a couple of red color accents and gold bands on some, but not all of the segments, as well.

The handle is EVA foam; red "camo" pattern on this rod. It has a subtle camel shape and is very comfortable to hold. The handle is 28.5 cm long.

The tip plug is anodized metal, has the Tanuki "swimming fish" logo on it, and has a length of extra lilian material to discourage it from being lost so easily. The insert is plastic and fits snuggly into the rod blank. The butt cap is gold anodized metal. It has a coin slot and knurling to aid in its removal. It also has a small air hole.

The lilian is red, and is moderately thick. It is attached to the tip segment with a perfectly executed glue joint. The rod can be completely disassembled for cleaning and drying.

Here are some measurements:

Fully extended: 402 cm
Fully nested: 63.5 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 72.4 g
CCS: 16 pennies
RFI: 3.9
Rotational moment: 5.6

Casting the rod is a real pleasure. The rod is so light and well balanced, with such an impressive rotational moment for a 400+ cm rod, that it feels as if there is no swing weight at all. The action is relaxed and smooth. There is no appreciable tip over shoot or oscillation noticed. Both linear and rotational dampening are excellent.

I fished the rod a number of times. I mainly used a 390 cm #2.5 fluorocarbon level line with 3 feet of tippet. I could place the fly anywhere I wanted it to go, and place the fly first on the water on every cast. That right there is a testament to the quality of this rod. The fish I caught were "standard" sized western trout -- 8-12 inches.

The only issues I had with the rod was due to its "soft" RFI I did loose a few fish when they jumped. I think this was due to the soft hook set. This was pretty infrequent, however.

Here is a brief video of me fishing the rod. The first scene has the sun angle just right so you can see the cast in its full arc, as well as seeing the flight of the line. Notice that the line never touches the water; the fly lands first on each cast.

Conclusion: I really like this rod!  The Tanuki XL-1 is a beautiful rod and performs wonderfully. It is a joy to fish and would be a prized addition to any tenkara anglers rod quiver. With its light weight and perfect balance, it can be fished for hours without arm fatigue, or without even noticing it's there! It feels like a natural extension of your casting arm.  I just might have to pick one up for myself!

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. 
I was loaned this rod by Tenkara Tanuki  but liking it so much, I purchased it after the review. 


  1. Hi Tom,
    One of FB comment on my feeder:
    謝小林 The CCS index seems not correct,. 16/4.05= 3.95, it means the action is quite “soft” ?

    1. The RFI of 3.9 is correct. The XL-1 is a soft rod comparable to the Oni, type 1. The bend profile is a little different from the Oni, T1 however.

    2. I'm guessing the type 1 has more bend in the mid-section?

  2. "Give me unspoiled country, no people, and cutthroat trout and I'm in heaven! -- Disclaimer: I don't always fish traditional tenkara as defined by experts."

    My sentiments exactly. I've been located in the Bozeman area for the past 15 years and graduated to tenkara to simplify my flyfishing enjoyment. I found your blog early on and have found it very helpful and relative to our common neck of the woods (ie. winds, snow, temps and small unspoiled streams). Your videos of small stream fishing are inspiring in the fact that fish holding water is everywhere. I've slowed down, fish more, walk less.

    Thank you so much for a well written informative blog.

    Conrad Janzer - currently on the road- full-time RVer

  3. I was lucky enough to acquire one of these in the limited green. It is wrapped up until chistmas but I cant wait!