Used as Designed: Karasu Tenkara Rod Reviews

6 CommentsThursday, 10 August 2017  |  PG

So just one day before the close of the launch promotion for our nail-biting, rollercoaster leap into producing our own, premium Japanese Tenkara Rods...

The thing that I was least prepared for (given the calibre of the development team in Japan and the final results when casting the most demanding level line tactics), was a slightly lukewarm review of the Karasu 400. Of course, it is part and parcel of the whole process and I truly thank all the people who have been kind enough to offer their time and attention to testing the rods. Thank you.

As just one of the folks who I need to thank, here's Russ giving his considered feedback.

I know it is a cliche - but anything that you sweat to create...once that is released into the world it doesn't only belong to you any more. And that is super frightening and super exciting at the same time. It has been a true privilege to see the joy in the faces of the earliest customers who have actually been able to try these rods.

But here's the conundrum, when folks have to try to decide from a distance whether they will like a rod, there is quite a leap of faith to take. The next layer to that (when your rod now belongs to the tenkara public) is that you have no idea if people will use them for what I can only call their "destiny tactics" - or not. Neil gives a flavour of the 360 and 400 having slightly different destinies...

What I really mean by destiny tactics are the Pure Sweet Spot Presentations and Specialised Rigs that each rod needs to be matched with to Truly Shine.

Of course we tried really, really hard to teach some of our most successful skills in the 3-lesson series - because as well as upping your catch rate; it would also show exactly what each rod should be used for.

BOTH cast light lines and so allow you to reduce "drape otsuri" to an absolute minimum - as well as slowing down the final delivery of the kebari so that it just kisses down with great delicacy.  This is especially important to the Karasu 400 - as its extra length is there for the prime purpose of extending reach. Including the softness needed to do that in a longer rod is incredibly important...and to do that with #3 nylon level lines up to 9-metres long is a massive challenge - especially when you want to retain some lower down power for casting big lines and getting hook-sets at range in hard-mouthed fish...

That ultralight long-line casting is what is missing from rods I've seen the Karasu 400 compared to (that just means those other rods have different purposes by the way). It also keeps it suitable for small fish - it is a delicate rod which becomes more powerful when you ask it to.

As we said ourselves, it was that casting performance when combined with the reserves of power for smoothly rolling out a long #4.5 fluorocarbon level line and large fly (or hook-sets) that defines what the Karasu 400 was "destined to do".  

You can see Alan demonstrating delicacy and some long line fishing here (notice his good skill that Go Ishii always emphasises - to always back up away from where you hooked the fish before you do anything else, if you can):

So, I suppose what I've taken from this experience (as well as the obviously satisfying responses when people love the rods) is just how difficult it is to ask someone to review a rod blind.

We are so near the beginning of learning the range of simple, but highly refined tactics used by the best anglers in Japan. It is really quite unreasonable of me to ask for reviews of rods for those tactics, when they are not yet practiced outside a small handful of folks (who all contributed to the development of and approval for the Karasu).

Viewed like that - the 360 is designed for what are largely much more familiar tactics - so of course it has a good chance to shine when someone uses it in that role.

It is also natural that the 400 (used in essentially the same role) would have less opportunity to show what it is about. A bit like that elite mountain leader out on an easy stroll in the park on a sunny afternoon...

You only really get to see what makes her great with a storm approaching on Everest... :)

Thank you once again to every single reviewer - and thank you for reading my own thoughts this far!

Remember the big special offer (shown below) finishes tomorrow at if you fancied a big early Xmas present while the trout season is still at it's prime, you know what to do:

Special Launch Offer in $USD

USD Karasu Bundle Special Offer


Special Launch Offer in £GBP

GBP Karasu Special Launch Promotion Offer


Neil McGhee
Friday, 11 August 2017  |  11:58

Such an even handed approach guys. Very British!

Paul Gaskell
Saturday, 12 August 2017  |  8:01

Why of course old bean, pip pip :) :)

Saturday, 12 August 2017  |  7:30

OK guys with 29" to go I decided to take that leap of faith and give you and your developer team a vote of confidence about the K400 & these on coming destiny tactics you speak of.

I have to admit pouring over the reviews and sales pitch I realized I needed to start paying more attention to what they weren't saying than to what they were saying to help me make a decision. It gave me a bit of pause about the K400. Truth is I mostly fish with 3.9 - 4m rods. Though I have some very nice 3.6m rods. Preferring to fish with the longest rod and lightest line I can get away with. From everything I read, including between the lines, I suspect I might like the K360 more than the K400. I also suspect the K360 also might be better for some of these new methods you've discussed in your most recent videos.

However, having a preference for fishing with a 4m rod. Would I actually fish with the K360 that often? Maybe not. It needed to be the K400 or nothing. I know I'd prefer a 4m length rod, but the 71.4 cm center of balance point of the K400 had me concerned I might not like the balance, the tip heaviness of this rod, and the energy needed to swing this rod.

I spent the afternoon in my yard swinging about 3 different rods that I judged might be as near as I could get in hand to what I suspect the K400 might feel like. I think the closest one is a zoom rod that I had modified in such a way that the center of gravity was shorted by 12.6 cm at its shorter length & by 22.2 cm at its longer length from what it was when purchased. That made it less tip heavy, but it didn't change the amount of torque needed to swing the rod.

I decided the K400 might feel somewhere in the middle of the two lengths. It might swing as easily as this rod at its shortest length. Hopefully very slightly easier. Which would be acceptable to me. But may have the tip heaviness of this rod at its extended length. That was tolerable only after my modification. If the K400 needs the same effort to cast as this zoom rod at its longest length, I doubt it will become a favorite rod. But I think / hope the K400 may be easier.

While I generally prefer a rod that swings easier than my test zoom rod and is also less tip heavy. I also have another rod, same length as the extended zoom rod. It's 60g lighter, but with a longer center of gravity point. It only needs about the same amount of effort to cast as the zoom rod at its shorter length. Much less effort than the zoom rod when fully extended. However, It is such a great smooth casting rod I don't mind its tip heaviness, Which isn't terrible, it's just a bit higher than some of my other slightly shorter rods. That mostly don't cast as smoothly.

After these test I took six hours to think it over. Ran some errands, cooked dinner, reviewed my afternoon's notes a few times, tried to think of a new scheme to get the money to buy a new fuel pump for my BMW, (slightly more expensive than the K400) if the money was instead used for a new rod. I finally decided to give the K400 a go.

So yeah. The expectation is that the K400 will fit a space of characteristics not yet covered by other rods I have. Or currently available. That I will find the K400 balance will be good, or acceptable, if not excellent. Tip heaviness and weight acceptable, and that any short comings there will be far out weighted by excellently casting a light line, with precise, easy F^3O, (fly first fly only) cast, and with good hook sets.

I can't imagine ever needing or wanting to fish with the 9 m line you mention. Or even a 7m line. I generally fish a maximum of a 5.5m line. 6m once in a while just to see if I can. More often a 4.5m or 5m line. Once in a while a shorter line. Therefore, the discussion about the K400's being good at casting a 9m line, wasn't much of a draw for me.

Here's to the leap of faith being found worthy! That the K400 is as new, unique, and different from previous rods as the story line. If so. I'll forget I sacrificed a new fuel pump, and hours of motorcycle riding to pay for it. [Geez, do you think anyone else followed such a meandering path toward making a decision for go or no go?]

Antonio Wright
Wednesday, 16 August 2017  |  3:24

Oh yes! I spent over $1K and years of my life on modern fly equipment in the hopes of getting back to tradition before finding Tenkara! Hopes Fulfilled!

Paul Gaskell
Saturday, 12 August 2017  |  8:14

Ah, the art of motorcycle maintenance.... 'Quality is the perceptual experience before intellectual construction ' :) :)

Remarkably appropriate in this case!

You're a legend David, I love the depth you always go into. A fully immersed experience. I think you will enjoy the 400 with a 5 or 5.5 metre #3 nylon level line...

In my experience, the 400 is a little better with the ultralight lines than the 360 just because of its extra length and how that slightly slows the cadence of the casting stroke as well as very slightly softening the action.

Thank you as always for your thoughtful contributions, the tenkara community always benefits from your input.


Monday, 14 August 2017  |  16:25

Oh, I agree. My experience has been that it is easier for longer rods to put more energy into the line than with shorter rods. Making it easier to cast lighter lines. I think of lines as being thrown, or flown if you will, by the momentum put into the line. Maybe the physics is wrong, but that's the way I think of it.

Seems it will be another three weeks or so before I (we) can begin to explore the enigma of the テンカラカラスロッド . [ ;- ) ] Tenkara Crow Rod.

My perception is that you, and your group of collaborators, expect people who purchased Karasu rods to also take on the responsibility to not just use them the same way they fished with previous rods of the same lengths, but to expand the possibilities of tenkara by exploring new or yet little known fishing techniques, and which you believe the Karasu's characteristics make easier or possible to achieve.

Of course we have our own expectations. That you achieved your goals with both the design and the product as built, and we will be able to develop, perhaps in isolation & after sustained correct effort, the required new techniques to witness the anticipated results. The dream and not a delusion. Sorry, I had to toss in that last bit to make sure we dream with our feet on the ground or in the stream & not in the clouds. Cloud dreams are the path to disappointment. Grounded dreams may lead to a reality that exceeds what we or others thought possible. ;- )