Stiffer rods

Discussion on tenkara rods

Stiffer rods

Postby MNtenkara » Tue Sep 04, 2018 8:34 pm

I’m new to fly fishing as well as tenkara, so I’m asking for insight and suggestions about rod stiffness/flex.

I recently purchased the Hane and have read that it is a “stiffer” rod (with more “backbone”) than most Tenkara USA rods (except perhaps the Amago). Since I’m new to tenkara and don’t have anything to compare the “feel” to, I’m not sure what "stiffness" means or how it impacts casting, lines, etc.

I’d love to hear any opinions about “stiffness” of the various rods compared to the Hane as well as any suggestions regarding “stiffer” rod techniques and rigging options, including: line weights, tippet weight/lengths, fly weigths/sizes, casting tweaks, “loading” a stiffer rod, etc.

FYI: I live in Minnesota, so I fish some small streams or quarries with trout as well as lakes with panfish and bass. I know there may be different suggestions depending on the situations—and I’m open to hearing them.
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Re: Stiffer rods

Postby TJ @ Tenkara USA » Wed Sep 05, 2018 3:16 pm

Hi and welcome.

Think of it more as a flex point... a fast casting rod or a tip flex rod, like the Hane (some may call it stiffer), flexes more at the tip of the rod where a mid flex or mid stiffness rod would be a little further down the rod, and the soft or slow casting rod more around the middle or so.

So if a rod had 10 segments as example, a tip flex you will see more of the bend towards the tip, say on the last segments 7, 8, and 9 as we count at Tenkara USA. Soft casting rod more down in the middle, say about the 5th from the handle or tip.

My experience stiffer or tipflex rods like a tad heavier line, especially of you don't have a solid casting stroke. Starts and Stops very solidly are most important when casting a tenkara rod. Therefore a little heavier line like a 4.5 Level Line may cast easier for some as it helps load the rod.

I find tip flex rods to be the most accurate when I cast. I do prefer a mid flex rod like the Sato but for accuracy, the Hane is tight for fly placement.

I am a traditional tenkara user so only cast single flies so I don't get into rigging special lines or weighted flies. Just plain old 3.5 or 4.5 level line for me and a single say size 12 fly works great with the Hane, for me. But small nymphs can work great too so experiment and you will see what works for you.


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Re: Stiffer rods

Postby dwalker » Tue Sep 11, 2018 2:41 pm

I think about rod stiffness/flex a little differently from TJ. Or maybe I just have a different way of describing it.

In my view the curve a rod takes when flexed, often described as being; tip-flex, mid-flex or full-flex (and in the past as 8:2, 7:3, 6:4, 5:5). Is a completely different characteristic from how stiff or soft the rod is. The two characteristics do interact, but they are different things. You can have a tip flex rod that is stiff, or a tip flex rod that is soft. Or two different mid flex rods, one is stiff, the other softer.

A stiff tip flex rod flex rod will require more pull on the line attached to the rod tip to make the rod bend into the curve shape of a tip flex rod. A softer tip flex rod will only require a lighter pull to take on the same curve shape.

But what does that mean for understanding the difference between rods? In use rods have two basic functions. a) cast the line, b) fight and land the fish.

The combination of each rod + line length and line weight - will have its own sweet spot rhythm for how it will most efficiently the cast the line. And casting the line well is more about correctly synchronizing arm movement timing with the storing and release of the spring energy in the rod - created by how the rod flexes - than speed and power of your arm movement.

[think of it as how easy a spring loads and how far the spring stretches. iow with a stiff tip-flex rod the spring must be pulled harder to expand it & it doesn't stretch very far with out great effort. vs a soft mid-flex rod where the spring is easier to pull and the spring will extend to a longer length. ---- You can almost think of the difference between a stiff & soft rod by pretending you can buy a set of paddle ball toys. Then imagining the difference in how you would have to play with one that has a long stretchy rubber band connecting the ball to the paddle compared to a different paddle with the ball connected to the paddle with five short thick rubber bands. Maybe you can imagine with one you use a slower rhythm and the ball would fly farther out. With the other your rhythm would have to be much faster, the rubber bands wouldn't extend as far and could only be made to go a little farther by getting the timing exactly right with each swing]

I think I would agree a tip-flex rod may be a bit more accurate, and probably better on crowded bushy streams. Because the line can be cast with a shorter casting stroke with a tip-flex rod, once you've developed the skill.

Whether that (tip-flex) rod requires a heavier line or a lighter line depends on whether it is a stiff rod (heavier line line) or soft rod (lighter line). Generally it is a good thing to keep the line of the water. It is easier to hold a lighter line off the water than a heavier line because it will curve down less due to gravity's pull.

I think a mid-flex softer rod may be easier for a beginner to cast adequately well (than a stiffer tip-flex rod) because it may be a little more forgiving of having the rhythm of your cast not as perfect as it ought to be. But there are many opinions.

My personal preference is for soft tip-flex to mid-flex rod using as light a line as I can get away with vs the wind speed. I also find longer rods easier to cast than shorter rods. (the rod tip moves faster making it easier to generate higher line speed required to cast a lighter line). Stated the other way rod, you may find it easier to cast a heavier line with a short rod ( 3.2 m ~ 3.6m < 12ft) until your casting skill increases. But most people can soon learn how to cast a shorter rod with a lighter line, and that's preferable for lower line drape and keeping the line off the water. (I mostly fish 4m rod, with a # 2.0 or #2.5 line if I can. - sometimes 3.9m or 4.5m. Much less often 3.6m or 3.2m rods)

A full-flex stiffer rod might make it easier to land bigger fish. If you read about the Shoku ryōshi (職漁師) the professional tenkara fishermen. Most of them preferred stiff rods. But there goal was to catch as many fish as possible each day to make more money. Fun of playing a fish with a soft rod was in no way a consideration.
However, a case can also be made for a softer rod also having its advantages for landing big fish, perhaps just a good or a better choice for sport fishing fun. A softer rod will be more fun with smaller fish. I don't catch that many big fish, but I do primarily go fishing to have fun.

What combo of rod flex and stiffness that puts the most smile on your face may only be discovered by trial and error to find what you like better and what works best in the conditions where you fish. Good luck. :)

Oh. I can't comment much about current TUSA rods. I either don't own them, or own older models no longer made. I'd even bet my Iwana is much different from Iwana rods made today.
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Re: Stiffer rods

Postby Adam Trahan » Wed Sep 26, 2018 11:24 pm

David, I appreciate the time you took in explaining your view.

As a rod maker, I agree with your take.

People think a tip flex rod is automatically “fast” and a full flexing rod is “slow” however there is more to the shape of the bend of the rod than meets the eye.

The carbon fiber cloth used can vary in the amount of carbon fiber in it which will affect the speed of return to a a relaxed or unflexed state. The epoxy resin used to bind the carbon fiber cloth also affects the tension that is created by the rod flexing and returning to straight. The compactness or compression of the CF cloth, low void compression will also affect the bend. The amount of sections or doubled areas can effect both the bend and speed. The taper or thick at the handle gradually decreasing diameter towards the tip is used to shape the bend shape as well.

You can make a slow tip flex rod or a fast full flexing rod with the variables above.

The Japanese often describe their rids in ratios (5:5, 6:4, 7:3 and 8:2) with a hard tone which is fast or a soft tone which is slow or medium hard, you get the drift...

TJ always does a great job at laymen’s terms or making it easy to understand for the beginner and I appreciate that too.

But I really like what you wrote David.
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Re: Stiffer rods

Postby TJ @ Tenkara USA » Mon Oct 01, 2018 12:13 pm

Indeed, it can get deeper into all the characteristics of rods and brands... and I can only speak of our TUSA brand, and since we got away from the 5:5 and 6:4 and all that, I try to keep my own personal answers simple.

I normally discuss flex points and the feel of our rods to my own hands.

Example... the old Yamame and current Hane are tip flex rods, and in my opinion stiffer compared to our other models.

I don't use other brands of rods myself so don't have experiences with softer/slower casting rods that are also stiff or tip flex as example.

But for me... keep it simple and general... and in the end it comes down to what the caster interprets.

I am not a penny weight numbers kind of person.... used to be.... now it is mostly cold, warm, or hot. hehe

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