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Non-Tenkara Rods for Tenkara Fishing. Part 1.

I have discovered that for many years people have been modifying rods to be used for tenkara fishing that were not originally manufactured to be tenkara rods. There seems to be a great deal of angst among some people about the use of non-tenkara rods for tenkara fishing that is not necessary. Some people think the use of these other kinds of rods for tenkara is something new and that their use somehow corrupts what tenkara is, and it ought not be done.

Others only seem to be surprised to learn that this is done in Japan. I have found many web sites describing the modification of these other kinds of rods for tenkara. I think it is not some new activity or something only done by people outside the main stream of tenkara. I would like to show you why I believe this to be true.

It is not my intent to provide information about how to modify rods for tenkara or to advocate the use of these rods for tenkara, or to discourage their use for tenkara. I believe that choice is up to the individual. During my exploration of Japanese tenkara web sites I have found many web pages showing how they made modifications of rods usually used for bait fishing to make their own tenkara rods.  Some web pages show only minor modifications to rods that they then used for tenkara. What your attitude about it is completely up to you, but I think it ought to be an accepted option for those who what to use these other rods.

Some web pages showing these rod choices were recently posted on the Internet. Other web pages were posted years ago. I am going to provide web links to a few web pages that talk about adapting these other types of rods for tenkara. For my purpose it is not important to understand the details of what was done. I’m not interested writing a “how-to” essay. I am only interested in showing that this activity exists and it appears to an accepted practice in Japan.

I have no way of knowing how many people modify bait rods for use as tenkara rods. On most web sites I have seen the authors own and use commercially sold tenkara rods along with the rods they have modified for tenkara. Some people appear to do this because they aren’t finding a tenkara rod that meets there needs, or because they just prefer to build their own tenkara rod. Others seem to do it for economic reasons. They buy a rod from an Internet auction site that is not suitable for tenkara, remove some sections to make the rod shorter, or stiffer, and wrap on a new grip on the rod. Others use rods without much modification. Basically they just wrap the grip to make it more comfortable to hold.

To make it easier for anyone who would like to do their own exploring of either the modification of tenkara rods or the modification of non-tenkara rods for tenkara you can search the internet using the following Japanese term. And you will find several web pages describing the process. Understanding them will be more difficult.

テンカラ竿自作  (Tenkara sao jisaku).  Google translator will translate this into English as DIY Tenkara rod or Homebrew tenkara rod, or Your own tenkara rod. Just click on the translated word and a drop down list will open with other suggested translations. Try a search using this term and see what you find. 

First I would like to list a few Japanese terms to make understanding the web pages a little easier.  These terms may help understand some terms on the links I will list or help if you want to search Japanese tenkara web sites yourself. I cannot read Japanese and must rely on electronic translations. Many electronic translations are very odd, and inaccurate. With a little experience you can figure a lot of it out and get many things right, yet sometimes still get it completely wrong too. Embarrassingly wrong. I hope I haven’t done that here. I will list a few Japanese terms this way. The term in Japanese, (the phonetic spelling), the English translation. Note that the translations of phrases will usually, but not always, reverse the word order that we expect to see in English. It is sometimes helpful to try to read phrases backwards:

 竿(sao )Rod
 テンカラ竿 (Tenkara sao)Tenkara rod or pole
 テンカラロッド (Tenkararoddo)Tenkara rod or pole
 竿は穂先 (Sao wa hosaki)The pike pole, or The ear pole, or The ear tip pole. More or less it means the tip of the rod or tip section. I’ve not really figured it out myself.  It took me a long time to figure out what the ear or pike was
 穂先 (Hosaki) Ear tip, or Pike
 先  (Saki) Destination or Tip
 長竿 (Nagasao)Long rod, or Chief Pole, or Length Rod
 餌竿 (Esa sao)Bait rod
エサ竿  (Esa sao)Bait rod
 エサ釣り竿  (Esa tsurizao)Bait fishing rod
 ハエ竿 (Hae sao) Fly rod. This appears to refer to a fly rod. However, the word ハエ ( Hae) actually refers to a family of  freshwater fish, like chub or dace fish. Thus this term doesn’t refer to a fly or kebari (毛バリ) rod.
 テンカラ釣法 (Tenkara chōhō)Tenkara fishing method, sometimes it will translate as tenkara fishing law
 源流 (Genryū)Head waters  ( if terms are separated onto different lines, I get ; source or origin +  flow, stream, current )
 清流 (Seiryū)Clear stream, if I separate terms it will also translate as Qing style (a very odd translation) , or Kiyoshi style, Kiyoshi stream. I do not know why but the term , which will usually translate as flow, stream or current, will sometimes translate as style. The occasional odd translations cause confusion. Using the translation drop down menu will sometimes help.
 渓流 (Keiryū)Mountain stream  (or River Flow, River Current, etc )
 本流 (Honryū)Main stream
 藪沢 (Sōtaku )Thicket Swamp or Bush Swamp or better Yabu Sawa.
藪沢水場   (Sōtaku mizuba) Yabu Sawa Water Park to see pictures of these areas.
 源流竿 (Genryū sao)Headwaters Rod 
 清流竿 (Seiryū Sao)Clear Stream Rod
 渓流竿 (Keiryū Sao)Mountain stream Rod
 間違った調子竿 (Machigatta  chōshi no sao)Wrong tone of the rod. The phrase 調子竿 refers to the ratio number of the rod. Such as; 5:5, 6:4, 7:3. 5:5 would be 軟調子 soft tone. 6:4 中調子 medium tone. 7:3 硬調子 hard tone.
 竿の硬調 (Sao no kōchō)Rod of high contrast

Maybe this list is enough to help understand many things on the web pages linked here. Or help if you would like to search Japanese tenkara web sites yourself. Paying attention to the phonetic spelling is also quite helpful.

  • The first web page is Chapter 9 from an on line tenkara tutorial web page: http://www.ikufuan.com/tenkara/turiindx.htm.  This chapter is titled 竿の自作 (Sao no jisaku) Homebrew Rod: http://www.ikufuan.com/tenkara/tuduki09.htm. The table of contents is dated January 10, 1998. Fifteen years ago! You may have to translate these web pages or the page will only display ASCII characters. There are no pictures of the rod used. The text gives a description of the rod at point 8 near the bottom of the page, titled: My Personal Favorite Rod. Where it says: Actually I do not use a commercially available rod. What I like is a tenkara rod of 3.1m made from a 渓流竿(餌竿)Mountain Stream Rod (bait rod). He list the rod model that he modified to be his tenkara rod: シマノのα ZOOM の刀渓5.3MShimano αZOOM Sword River 5.3 m rod. 
  • If you do a Google search for シマノのαZOOMの刀渓 you will find this rod on several auction sites. Here is a link to one of these rods on an auction site. It is a 4-way zoom rod. It could be used at lengths of; 4.4, 4.8, 5.3 or 5.6 meters. Which may explain why it is a popular rod to modify: http://www.shaogood.com/shaogood/yahoo/k162980097.html.

I have found other web pages wherein they were modifying zoom main stream rods for use as tenkara rods. This appears to have at have often been done as a way to get a zoom tenkara rod before tenkara zoom rods were commercially available: 

  • The parent web page where this web page was found has entries dated to 2000 to 2002. Though this specific page has no date, I assume this page was written over 11 years ago: http://www.geocities.co.jp/Outdoors/3256/tenkara.htm. The author states that many dedicated tenkara rods or rods for tenkara only are made for tapered line. (テーパーライン) Which he finds too soft (柔らかすぎます).He selected a high contrast stream rod (硬調の渓流竿, Kōchō no keiryū sao) for use as a tenkara rod. Recommending that you wind or wrap the rubber grip with tennis or badminton (テニスやバトミントン用のラバーグリップを巻い) tape. Wrapping the grip with tennis racket tape or cork tape seems to be a popular practice.
  • This next page was posted June 27, 2007.  This post is also titled 竿の自作 (Sao no jisaku) Rod Homebrew: http://tenkara77.blog96.fc2.com/blog-entry-22.html. It is a very short post, actually part 2, wherein he states that the last time he created a tenkara pole he was very discouraged. But he has tried again. Using a ハエ竿の硬調 (Hae sao no kōchō), Fly(think Chub) Rod of high contrast as the base or starting point. He writes that before the bending of the rod was weak. I am not sure if before refers to this rod or the one he tried to make the first time. But this time he chose a 1.1mm tip: 今回は先径1.1ミリ. As a result this time: 先を切ることなく、強度も十分です。(Without cutting the destination (tip), it is strong). Meaning ‘the rod is stiffer’.  I wouldn’t have known what ‘ cutting the tip’ meant if I had not read else where that if you think your rod is too soft you could cut an inch or two off the tip of the rod. Then reattach a Lillian and the rod would then be stiffer than before.
  • This next link is to the parent page containing 3 sub pages on how to make your own tenkara rod. This web site is another tenkara tutorial web site that is titled something like Tenkara Fishing for Beginners. Freestyle Tenkara.  (Tenkara tsuri o hajimeyou . Furīsutairutenkara) 「てんから釣りを始めよう。フリースタイルテンカラ」 The link below is only to the DIY or Homebrew tenkara rod section of the web site: http://kamihusa.biz/category/dougu/jisaku. The title is テンカラ竿の自作方法 (Tenkara sao no jisaku hōhō). That translates several ways. Such as; Own way of Tenkara rod, Homebrew how to for Tenkara rod, Your own method for Tenkara rod. You might notice that the picture shown in part 2, where he is wrapping the grip of the rod. Looks exactly like the picture on the tenkara77 link shown above. After some more exploring I discovered the reason for the picture match. The two web sites seem to be written by the same guy. Many other pictures on the tenkara77 web site are also the same pictures on the tenkara tutorial web site ( kamihusa.biz). This site seems to be a refinement of the previous work. 

I think the important thing about this post is that this way of making a tenkara rod is not just the work of an individual doing his own thing in isolation. It is the work of someone who has undertaken the task of teaching others about tenkara and this way of making your own tenkara rod from a non-tenkara rod is being taught to tenkara beginners as an optional way to make your own custom made tenkara rod. He list this rod as being the rod he starts with an  4,5メートル硬調万能竿 , (4.5m all-purpose/universal/versatile high contrast rod). I hope, one of those translations is accurate. In part 1 he states that section 2 is removed from the original rod: 竿を元から2節とり. He does not mention the final length of the finished rod in any of the 3 parts describing how he made this rod. However, if you look at the chapter of his tutorial where he makes recommendations on the things to look for in a tenkara rod, at this link:  http://kamihusa.biz/category/dougu/テンカラ竿, titled How to Chose a Tenkara Rod (テンカラ竿の選び方).

He recommends a tenkara rod of 6:4, 3.3 to 3.6 meters in length, less than 100g (3.5 oz) with a center of gravity 70cm from the butt end of the rod. My guess is his self-made tenkara rod will be 3.3 to 3.6 meters in length when completed. He also list one commercially available rod as an example of a good rod, the Daiwa Neo 32LLSC. You might find looking at the table of contents for this tenkara tutorial web site interesting. A long list of topics: http://kamihusa.biz/sitemap-2.htmlThe topics go from defining tenkara, to tools, to the tenkara mind, reading rivers, wrapping kebari (flies) and other subjects.

  • The next two web pages were posted Oct 6th and 8th, 2011. On the first page he shows a picture of 3 commercially sold tenkara rods that he uses. There is a picture of a rod he has just received from a tackle shop and modified rods he has made. 
テンカラ竿雑感 (Tenkara sao zakkan) Tenkara rod miscellaneous thoughts :http://jofu10kara.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2011/10/post-8fbb.html

餌竿からテンカラ竿への改造完了 (Esa sao kara Tenkara sao e no kaizō kanryō) Tenkara pole from bait pole remodeling to a completion: http://jofu10kara.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2011/10/post-49bc.html

How he modified these rods is difficult to follow. I will try to describe what I think he did to make this rod. Please note the color of the rod sections, the number of pieces of the rod (I think there are 9 sections, one still inside the handle section), and the shape of the handle section of the zoom rod shown in the second picture on the first page, and compare them to the pictures on the second page.

I think he has discarded one or two sections of the original rod. It appears to say something about extending 7 sections and retaining section 8 inside the handle section for balance. But I could be incorrect. The page as a whole doesn’t translate very well into English. However, I’m not trying to write a how-to article. Only to give a hint about what is done to modify bait rods into tenkara rods.

I think he is using a handle section from a different rod. He discards one or two sections of the rod. Inserts the lower section that he wants to continue using into the handle section. Then to build up the diameter of this section, so it doesn’t rattle around he wraps this lower section with line, then tape, then some cotton so it fits snuggly into the handle section. To complete the modification he wraps the handle section with tape then racket tape.

You may have noticed he list the names of two different rods in the text. On both pages in red text he list this model name: αZOOM 刀渓EX- 中硬 44 ( A zūmu tōkei EX - chūkō 44)

and in the text:   刀渓硬調5.3mをベースにパーツを組み合わせ (Tōkei kōchō 5. 3 M o bēsu ni pātsu o kumiawase) Combination of parts based on 5.3m high contrast sword valley.

On page one this is written in the text:

ワタシの現在の愛用竿は、シマノの餌竿..刀渓 硬中硬5.3m (Watashi no genzai no aiyō sao wa, Shimano no esa sao) My current favorite rod. A Shimano bait rod.  5.3m in hard hard sword valley.

作るだけでワタシ好みのテンカラ竿が出来上がりました。(Tsukuru dake de watashi konomi no Tenkara sao ga dekiagarimashita) Favorite tenkara rod I have just finished making.

Some people’s favorite rod for tenkara were made by them selves from rods originally made and sold for another type of fishing.

These next couples of links were posted recently. In March 2013. They describe two models of rods made by Shimano and Daiwa that have been used to tenkara fishing the so-called Yabu Sawa (藪沢) areas. As mentioned earlier 藪沢 will translate into English as Bush Swamp or Thicket Swamp.  I think the preferred term is Yabu Sawa.  One might wonder what that is. Looking at pictures of people fishing in these areas they appear much as you might expect from a name including the word thicket or bushy. Small headwater streams with a lot of close in bushes where it would be difficult to swing a long tenkara rod. 

The only modifications to have been done to these rods is to wrap the grip end with either tennis racket tape or cork tape. Following are links to the most recent post about these rods. In which the rods are identified as being Diawa or Shimano rods of 2.7 or 3.0 meters in length. Actually experiments with these rods began late last summer on into the fall. But the post made last year never identified the model of the rods. Indeed, in most pictures they seemed to have intentionally hid the identity of the rod models. I will post some links to the earlier post with out much comment about the content in the post. If interested you should be able to figure out the basics of what is written about these rods.

The title to this 18 March 2013 post is My Yabu Sawa tackle: http://yoshidakebari.jugem.jp/?eid=1096. He list the two rods used:

You can also see these rods on the tenkarabum web site if you would prefer to read about them in English: http://www.tenkarabum.com/

To summarize the March 18 post he gives some reasons for using these bait rods for tenkara in the Yabu Sawa areas. Small collapsed size, light weight, ability to cast in these brushy areas. Among other reasons.


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