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First Look: Big Water Tenkara Rod

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The tail waters of the Owyhee Reservoir host german brown trout of mythical proportions that lure anglers from around the world to southeast Oregon.

With these big fish in mind, the Driggs, Idaho, based Tenkara Rod Company named its third out of four rods the Owyhee. I took the rod to its motherland to see how it could handle the lunkers.

Halfway through the day on the Owyhee River, I swapped my nymph for a steely-grey dry fly that seemed to match the hatch toiling around my head. Waist deep in a narrow, I cast out across the boil. Just as I begin to chip the line back upstream, my rod tensed and bent toward the water.

“You snag the line?” hollered my buddy.

The line vigorously tugged in series, sending a sharp surge of adrenaline through my body. Then it stuck to the bottom of the river, arching the rod once again.

“Nope, this ones a river monster” I called back to Jeff. The test was on.

The Gear: The Owyhee Rod by Tenkara Rod Company

Price: $160 for the rod. $190 for the package (including rod, tenkara line, line spool and three hand tied traditional tenkara flies).

Available: Now

Where To Test It: Large streams to small rivers

Who’s It For: Fly fisherman who enjoy pursuing big fish on light tackle

Important Specs: The nine segment rod extends 13 feet from a collapsed size of 21.5 inches. It slips into a soft sheath and carbon fiber tube for easy storage and transport. A small stopper keeps the segments secured in the rod and an aluminum cap twists the tube shut.

The back story: I sat down with Drew Hollenback, co founder of Tenkara Rod Co., for lunch last November to talk tenkara. What started out as an idea to make a few rods for friends grew into a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, tripling the company’s seed money. Two years later, Tenkara Rod Co added two new rods to the lineup, a lightweight rod (the soon to be released Cascade) and the heavyweight Owyhee.

Like the first rods, the Owyhee is very resilient, and like all tenkara rods, the tip is fragile and prone to break even under light force. Before following the inclination to whip the rod out like a lightsaber, carefully tie the tenkara line to the lillian (the green cord at the tip of the rod) with a simple stopper knot and girth hitch. Once the line is tied, then starting with the tip, pull each segment into place until it’s fully extended to 13 fish fighting feet.

The Owyhee comes in its alma mater Oregon Ducks yellow and green colors.

Made In: China

Awesome! The Owyhee picks up where the shorter rods in the series left off. The 13-footer gives you a little extra length to reach holes that were before just out of reach.

The play in the rod is outstanding. You really feel connected to the fight.

The rod comes with a lifetime warranty. I had a segment break while casting with the Sawtooth rod, which was quickly replaced by the company

Flaw: A quote from my friend may sum it up best: “Nice fish! How are you going to get it in?”

Landing a big fish with a 13-foot rod with a 13-foot line and five feet of leader is tough, and more importantly, can be hard on the fish. It’s a challenge to pull in a fish that isn’t entirely spent from the fight, making a quick, clean release tricky.

First Impressions: Jeff got into position with the net in hand. After what seemed like five minutes, the fish took a run down stream, and with it, the rod’s tip bowed closer to the water. The brown surfaced and flashed its caudal fin then tucked down for one last run. Honing my catch and early release skills, I pulled the rod up … and the line snapped.

“Big fish, light tackle, moving water … best enjoy while it lasts.”

I’ve spent my summer fishing exclusively with the tenkara style rods. For the most part, I’m sold. A rod, a line, a fly…it’s a familiar simplicity likened to trail running, single speed mountain bikes and three string ukuleles. It makes sense on small streams where you simply don’t need a reel. It makes particular sense when hiking, running or biking deep into the rough to fish.

Who Should Buy It: The Owyhee is for those who are enamored with the tenkara style and want to embrace it on larger rivers, swapping out their traditional western style outfits. If this sounds familiar, I raise my sake and toast “live simply, my friend”.

Contact Brand/More Beta: https://www.tenkararodco.com/

—Steve Graepel is a contributor. Our “First Look” column highlights new gear arrivals at GearJunkie.com. Photos © Monopoint Media LLC

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