January 2, 2018

DRAGONtail Hydra ZX390 -- a great option for the "what rod should I get" question.

I get asked a lot, "what rod should I get". This question mainly comes from those just entering tenkara fishing, but sometimes from those that have been fishing  tenkara for awhile but want a second rod. The question is nearly impossible to answer, since I usually don't know the person (how they cast and their level of experience), where they fish (water gradient and speed), what type of line they prefer, what flies they use, or for what species they fish for. It's quite frustrating since I'd like to help.

There are some great entry level rods out there, some are fixed length and some are multi-length (so called "zoom" rods). But of the zoom rods that I usually recommend, the Tenkara USA Sato and TenkaraBum Traveler 39 (neither are truly entry level rods), the cost is usually higher than desired. Now there's another option, and it's a great one!

DRAGONtail has just released their new zoom rod. It's called the Hydra, although it doesn't have two heads nor is it sponsored by the Marvel Comic terrorist group. This version is branded the Hydra ZX390. It can be fished at two lengths, 350 cm and 390 cm. I borrowed one from Brent and he graciously let me take it out for a test drive.

The rod is matte graphite/charcoal in coloration with hunter green accents at the rod designation and the tips of most of the segments (a subtle green ring). Fit and finish are very good. The rod comes with a rod tube and rod sock.

The handle is cork, which I still prefer over foam, and is a gourd or camel shape. there is a cork composite ring at the butt of the handle. The handle is 26 cm in length.

Unlike most tenkara rods I've used, this rod doesn't come with a tip plug. Rather, it comes with a universal tip protector cap (not a Fuji, but a generic, no-name, which is more than sufficient). I like these caps better than plugs; I use these protector caps on all my rods. The butt cap is black nylon plastic and has a center post that receives the zoom segment. It has two O-rings that hold the zoom section snugly, but not too tightly. The cap is knurled and has a coin slot, but no air hole.

The lilian is red and of sufficient length. It is attached to the top section via a micro swivel. The glue joint is small and really well done allowing the rod to be completely disassembled for drying and cleaning.

Here are my measurements:

Fully nested (with tip cap): 54 cm
Fully extended: 350 cm, 389.5 cm
Weight (without tip cap): 91.3 g
CCS: 18 pennies @ 350, 20 pennies @ 390 cm
RFI: 5.1 @ both 350 and 390 cm
Rotational Moment at 390 cm: 7.5

The rod has a very pleasing action. It's flex action is much smoother and more flexible than DRAGONtail's initial offerings and softer than even their most recent premium offering of the Nirvana 370z (which is a nice rod in its own right). The balance is very good, and like most zoom rods the balance is best at the 350 cm length. The weight is just a little heavier than I generally like, but it's less than some rods of the 390 cm length.

The zoom feature works really well. Seating the zoom section is easy. It fits tightly, without any clicking or rattling. Extending the zoom section is also easy. The amount of pull to extend is appropriate, without being too hard or too loose.

I do detect some tip oscillation for less than a second at the end of the dry casting stroke, but it is minimal. This oscillation is more prominent at 390 cm than at 350 cm. Rotational dampening is very good.

The RFI at both lengths put this rod squarely in the 6:4 flex action range. Its RFI of 5 is near perfect for me and for the lines/flies I generally fish. It's a very nice flex action. I'm excited to see how this rod performs on the water! Time to fish it!

Part II coming up... fishing this rod with unweighted and bead head flies. Stay tuned....


  1. This rod looks very interesting. I just received a Hellbender that covers those same lengths and already have a couple of 360s. I don't think I could justify another rod at this time no matter how inviting it looks. I look forward to the on the creek review.

  2. I just received one from Brent I will be fishing with it this weekend