The Japanese Fly-Fishing Style – Tenkara – Fishing From Heaven…

You have probably heard of Tenkara Fishing which is a near 200 year old style of fly fishing but many haven’t tried it. Until the past year or so I was one of those people. After fly fishing for almost 20 years and feeling like I have a good grasp on it, why would I want to change things up or at a minimum add a different style to what I do? Because learning something new is exciting! That is the reason I gave it a shot.

As I said I am new to Tenkara Fishing being that I have only been doing it for a little over a year but my interaction with a few Tenkara companies has been extensive and one stands out above the rest. That company is DRAGONtail Tenkara. Over the past few months it seems like every time I have a question I will lob it their direction and within minutes I have an answer. If I need some type of fly tying supplies they guide and direct me in the direction I need to go. To say their customer service is outstanding would be a huge understatement. They are simply… OUTSTANDING!

Being that I am new to Tenkara I am going to give some basic information on Tenkara found on the internet. The guys at DRAGONtail will probably be screaming at the screen while reading this!!

Tenkara is a Japanese style of fly fishing that has been around for at least 200 years although historical documentation is limited so this is an estimate. According to Wikipedia Tenkara literally means “fishing from heaven” or “fishing from the skies” and is a simple style of fishing practiced in Japan. This style of fishing is primarily used for mountain stream trout fishing and is a popular fly fishing method in Japan. But.. don’t let that last statement fool you. There are numerous different types of Tenkara rods that allow you to chase a huge number of fish species like Trout, Bass, Catfish, Panfish and Carp.

When talking about the equipment let’s just say it’s simplistic unlike traditional fly fishing. Being a gear guy when I hit the trout stream, creek or river I have a vest or hip pack filled to overflowing with stuff that I may or may not need when I am out. I am a pack mule carrying half of everything I own. Yes it’s ridiculous. When Tenkara fishing it is down to a rod, tenkara line and a fly. No reel is used. It’s basic and it’s fun…. Oh.. Did I mention Tenkara rods collapse down into a rod that is perfect for easy transport or fits nicely into a backpack.

I’m not sure that the limited amount of information I gave you above would make anyone really want to jump at Tenkara Fishing but trust me.. if you haven’t tried it the investment is low enough you should at least give it a try. At a minimum it’s never too late in life to learn something and you actually may like it. I know I did!

If you have read this far now it’s time to talk about gear. Yes I know it’s taken a while to get to this point but we are here. Like I said earlier I have talked to a few different Tenkara companies here in the US and DRAGONtail is hands down the best in the way of customer service and response to my questions. As an example. Yesterday I had a couple of questions and I messaged the guys at DRAGONtail a couple of questions and they responded in 51 minutes. In comparison I emailed the head of another competing Tenkara rod company 87 days ago and I still haven’t heard anything back. Yes I went back and counted the days from my sent email. There is a chance I am asking too much when looking for a response and he is probably busy…. The DRAGONtail guys are busy but somehow find time to respond. I like that….

So like I said earlier, Tenkara is a very simplistic way of fishing with a Rod, Tenkara Line and a Fly.. throw in a piece of tippet as well.. let’s dig into the offering from DRAGONtail in each of these areas.

Buckle in.. there is a lot of gear offered by these guys!


Looking at the DRAGONtail website it looks like they have nine different Tenkara Rods for sale.. As a side note.. I own two of the nine. Let’s look at each one very quickly. Hey DRAGONtail guys.. Yes I used used the images and information from your site! This is one of those times where you ask for forgiveness! All product information comes straight from the DRAGONtail site. Let’s be clear.. they know how to describe their gear far better than I do.

The MIZUCHI – A Small Stream Tenkara Rod which was Co-Designed By Tom Davis$159.99

The MIZUCHI zx340 Tenkara rod can be fished at 3 different lengths with its two locking zoom sections, making it an excellent choice for small stream fishing to open water fishing.

The 11ft (340cm) long length is excellent for when you have open casting room such as wider sections of the stream, a river, or even on still water. The 11ft length is a great general purpose length for a Tenkara rod that will work great in most types of water where there is room to cast. 

The 9.6ft (290cm) middle length is great when the stream or canopy are a bit to tight for a long rod but don’t require a super short rod.

And the short 8ft (240cm) length is perfect for when there is lots of canopy overgrowth. You can also perform an excellent bow-n-arrow cast if things are to tight for this length.

These 3 different lengths in one rod allow you to cover many different waters with the same rod.


The Shadowfire Tenkara Rod 365 – $99.99 – (I Fish This One)

Although the Shadowfire 365 model is price comparatively to entry level rods it is a high performance rod that will out perform other Tenkara rods within $50 of it’s price range. 12 foot (365cm) 6:4 soft action rod. This rod has a light balanced feel and a soft action for an amazing Tenkara experience.

The 12ft length and soft action make the Shadowfire 365 a great rod for most purposes. It is a great choice for small streams to rivers where the fish are mostly under 18 inches and as small as 4 inches. The Shadowfire rod can handle larger fish than 18 inches, depending on your Tenkara fighting skills but it is not really a big fish rod.

The soft smooth casting action of this Tenkara rod with very very low oscillation will help you cast more naturally and accurately. If you are using level line, you will want size #3 or #3.5 for best performance but it will cast smaller sizes if desired. It will also cast any furled lines or tapered lines with ease.

Shadowfire 365 Specs:

  • Rod Length: 368 cm (about 12 feet)
  • Soft 6:4 action
  • Rod Weight: about 2.9 oz
  • High Quality Carbon Fiber
  • Collapsed Rod Length: 23.25 inches
  • Handle Length: 10.25 inches
  • 8 segments
  • Swivel Tup Lillian
  • Universal & Regular Tip Cap
  • Matte Black Finish
  • Hard Storage Tube: 24.75 inches

This is a great rod for the money. You can’t go wrong with the Shadowfire 365. How do I know? I have one and it’s actually going out on the river with me tomorrow. And.. it’s the only rod going out with me tomorrow.

The HYDRA zx390 Zoom Tenkara Rod – $139.99 – On Sale At The Time $124.99

This rod is a 6:4 soft action rod can be fished at either 13′ or 11.5′, it easily zooms between the 2 lengths. The HYDRA zx390 zoom Tenkara rod is a great choice for fishing small streams and rivers as well. Great for targeting trout in the 4″ to 20″ range.

Whether you are a beginner in Tenkara or been in the game for quite some time, this is a good rod choice to consider. It provides an enjoyable action and performance UN-matched by other rods in this price range.

Tom Davis of Teton Tenkara called it a great option for the “what rod should I get” question. He also said “Its softer action made casting a #3 level line effortless… If you are looking for a rod that will cover most trout fishing situations, and yet won’t tax your wallet, you should consider the DRAGONtail Hydra ZX390”

HYDRA zx390 Rod Specs:

  • Rod length: zooms between 390cm/350cm (about 13ft/11.5ft)
  • Soft 6:4 action
  • Rod weight: about 3.2 oz
  • High quality carbon fiber
  • Collapsed rod length: 21 inches
  • Handle length: 10.3 inches
  • 9 segments
  • Stealthy Matte Black Finish
  • Hard Storage Tube: 22.5 inches
  • Stylish Rod Sock

The Talon Tenkara Rod (Great Backpacking Rod) – $84.99

The Talon backpacker Tenkara rod is a great choice for streams and backpack fishing, I would recommend targeting fish under 15 inches.

Also a option for kids and beginners at its budget friendly price. We have taught many new Tenkara anglers casting on the Talon and they have found it quite easy to learn on.

The matte black color keeps the rod from reflecting the sun and possibly alerting the fish of your presence. Despite being matte black, this rod is very appealing to the eyes and has a quality finish.

This rod feels quite weightless in your hand with no tip heaviness at all.

Talon Rod Specs:

  • Rod length: 325cm (about 10.6ft)
  • 6:4 action
  • Rod weight: about 2.9 oz
  • Rod with case weight: about 6.9 oz
  • High quality carbon fiber
  • Collapsed rod length: 17 inches
  • Handle length: 11 inches
  • 10 segments
  • Metal butt cap
  • Matte Black finish
  • Hard Storage Tube: 17 13/16 inches

The KOMODO Zoom Tenkara Rod (Great For Small Streams & Kids) – $129.99

The KOMODO zoom Tenkara rod is a great choice for small streams and tight fishing, I would recommend targeting fish under 16 inches.

Also a Great Kids Rod option and with 2 lengths it can grow with them.

The soft casting action of this rod will help you cast more naturally and accurately. If you are using level line, you will want size #3.5 with this rod for best performance.

The Zoom Section lock at the butt cap and at the joint of the sections to hold it secure when collapsed.

We also redesigned our handle to fit the hand more comfortably to reduce hand fatigue and to give you more casting control. You will most likely be pleased with the feel of the handle shape.

The matte black color keeps the rod from reflecting the sun and possibly alerting the fish of your presence. Despite being matte black, this rod is very appealing to the eyes and has a quality finish.

KOMODO Rod Specs:

  • Rod length: zooms between 320cm/275cm (about 10.5ft/9ft)
  • Stiffer end of a 6:4 action
  • Rod weight: about 2.8 oz
  • High quality carbon fiber
  • Collapsed rod length: 22 1/4 inches
  • Handle length: 10.25 inches
  • 8 segments
  • Metal butt cap
  • Matte Black finish
  • Hard Storage Tube: 24 3/8 inches

The HELLbender Zoom Big Fish Tenkara Rod – (I Have This One Also) – $139.99

Before I get to the DRAGONtail description of this rod.. I can tell you that I own this rod and it’s fantastic! It’s my go to for all things Bass!

The HELLbender is a great Tenkara rod for those chasing bigger fish when you don’t want to cast a very heavy rod or a super long rod. The 13ft length gives you good leverage and the 7:3 action backbone to control the fish. We made this rod with a higher grade of carbon fiber to keep the weight down but still keep the rod strong. I would recommend this rod for Tenkara anglers who fish waters with decent size bass or trout in the 16in – 22in or even bigger if you have the skillz for it. This rod is rated for tippet size up to 3x, I generally use 4x tippet most of the time with it.

The HELLbender is a Zoom Rod that fishes at both 13 feet or 11 feet. This allows you to use this rod on smaller or tighter streams as well as the big water areas. This is a also great rod for casting weighted flies & nymphs. It is also a great rod for getting started with Tenkara if you want a rod that can handle bigger fish but still great for the small fish as well.

HELLbender Rod Specs:

  • Zoom Rod lengths: 13ft-11.3ft (390cm-340cm)
  • 7:3 action
  • Rod weight: about 3.4 oz
  • High quality carbon fiber IM12
  • Collapsed rod length: 24 inches
  • Handle length: 12.25 inches
  • 8 segments
  • Matte Black finish
  • Hard Storage Tube: 26 inches

Now we step it up to the DRAGONtail Tenkara Premium Rod Offerings….

The NIRVANA 400 Premium Tenkara Rod – $179.99

The NIRVANA 400 Tenkara rod is made for American streams and rivers with a smooth cast and good backbone. This rod will be fun whether you are catching small mountain trout, blue gills, or good sized river trout. With it’s long length and strength you will be able to fight larger trout in the 20 inch range or take on a good sized bass. The rod is made to cast both Level Line and Tapered Line very well with a smooth casting action. This is no entry level rod, it is a high end series rod that also looks fantastic with graphics that are made to stand out.

WOWing Graphics and Aesthetics !
We spent a lot of time and money in developing the graphics and aesthetics of this rod to make sure it looked as good as it performed, in other words we did not skimp on any of it. From the graphics to the butt cap, handle, and winding check, it all looks great. When you hold this next to any other rod it is going to stand out in a good way. This may not affect how well you fish but you will enjoy fishing a fantastic looking rod.

High Strength Design
This rod is made with a super high-grade of carbon fiber (a blend of IM12 carbon fibers) with an improved carbon weave pattern to increase the strength and durability of the rod blanks as well. These two factors make this a rod you can depend on.

Smooth Rod Action
This Tenkara rod is a tip soft rod with a slight flex down through the mid sections rod for a smooth cast but has backbone and length for bigger sized fish. The rod will flex quite deeply when the fighting a decent sized fish to distribute the pressure through the rod. It is designed to cast both Tenkara Level Line and Furled/Tapered Lines.

Fantastic Handle
The handle come with either Hi-Quality Cork or Quality Foam, choose your preference. Both the cork and foam handles have a section of durable burl cork at the tip end of the handle for a nice look and also so you can hook you fly in it without damaging the cork or foam. The handle fits your hand very comfortably at two positions so you can switch up positions when desired.

Butt Cap
The butt cap of this rod is made with hi-quality nylon that is very durable, unlike cheap plastic. The butt cap is a rounded shape to allow a comfortable grip even if the rod is held at the very butt of the handle with the butt cap in your palm.

What Is Up With The “NIRVANA” Name?
Many of us go fishing to escape the troubles, worries, and busyness of life. We want to find a state of perfect happiness on the water or in nature away from the world, we want to help you achieve that state of “NIRVANA” on the fly by providing hi-quality products that improve your experience in seeking that goal.

If you are looking for a beautifully designed and rod that is pleasing to the eye and in addition want a rod that is just a at a premium level.. Pick up a NIRVANA Tenkara Rod.

The NIRVANA 370z Zoom Premium Tenkara Rod – $179.99

Behind The Design
NIRVANA ON THE FLY wanted a rod with the quality feel of Japanese Tenkara rods but have more backbone for American sized trout. We also like to fish both light Level Lines and quality tapered furled lines (like Moonlit Furled Lines). The look of a rod’s aesthetics also improve our feeling about the rods we fish and we feel like we went a little overboard on this rod and we love it.

NIRVANA 370z Rod Specs:

  • Rod length: 373 cm (12.25 ft)
  • Soft 6:4 action
  • Rod weight: about 3.1 oz
  • Very High quality carbon fiber (IM12)
  • Collapsed rod length: 22.7 inches
  • Handle length: 10.25 inches
  • 8 segments
  • Brand: NIRVANA On The Fly

The Tanuki 275 Premium Tenkara Rod – $199.99

Tanuki 275 is designed for small streams. It is perfect for brook trouts and other wild fish that are 10″ to 16” in size. It is the lightest rod compared with other rods of similar length. Ultra light and high flexible tip section is designed for better casting with level line. Flexible tip and light weight is what Tanuki 275 provides.

With a good backbone of Western Tenkara rod and delicate flexibility of traditional Japanese tip, it is built for pinpoint casting. It is designed for anglers who like to fish with a small dry fly as well as European modern nymphing style.

Blanks are built with Japanese carbon fiber by Toray and grips are in high density synthetic EVA foam.

Tanuki 275 Specs
Extended: 9′, collapsed: 23″,
weight: 1.5 oz, segments: 6,
handle length: 9’1/2″

Now that we have talked about the different rod options from DRAGONtail, next we will move on to the Tenkara Line options they have. Check back soon for another post.

The Girl Loves Her DRAGONtail HELLbender Tenkara Rod !!

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