What Size Tenkara Rods (and How Many of Them) Do I Need?

I’ve found that all of my tenkara fishing can be covered with three rods:

  • A 400 cm rod for larger streams and rivers
  • A smaller triple-zoom rod for smaller streams
  • A tiny (150–160 cm) rod for very small and brushy creeks

And I want to have two rods in each of those three categories for two reasons: 1) redundancy/backup in case I break one and 2) to loan to people I take fishing.

Here are my thoughts about each of the above three rod classes:

400 cm Rod

This is the only one of the three categories that I currently have just one rod in. I have the Nirvana 400 by Dragontail. I really didn’t like it at first. It felt heavy in the hand to me compared to the TenkaraBum 40 that I used to have but sold because I got tired of spending lots of money on difficult-to-get replacement parts. But now that I’ve used it more, I like it. I don’t love it, but I like it. The second rod I get in this category (hopefully sometime this year) will likely be the Tanuki XL-1.

Triple-Zoom Small Stream Rod

I have the Dragontail Mizuchi and the Zen Tenkara Suzume. I like both rods. I find the Mizuchi better for streams that have larger fish. I’m really able to manhandle larger fish to get them to go where I want them to go (i.e., into my net) with this rod. If I’m familiar with a stream and know that it has smaller fish, I’ll fish it with the Suzume. I lose fewer small fish with the Suzume than the Mizuchi. Both of these rods zoom from roughly 8 feet to 11 feet.

Tiny Rod

Sometimes even an 8-foot rod is too long. I have the Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 180 and a $3 AliExpress 180 cm rod (here’s the link to that video) for those times. I’ve used each of these rods only a few times and don’t have much to say about them other than that the Kiyotaki is stiffer and seems much better suited to handling larger fish (I caught a 12-inch cutthroat on it). The Tiny Ten is the other one I’d consider in this category, but I never seem to hear about people using it to catch trout. They’re always using it to catch sunfish from a dock in a lake or something. I’ve heard that it’s very stiff. I don’t know how well it performs in a trout/small stream situation.

Other Thoughts

I don’t have any 360 cm (12 foot) rods, which is odd, as this is the “standard” length tenkara rod. But I don’t know how terribly useful that size is for me. If I’m fishing a creek that is open enough for a 360 cm rod, there’s a good chance it can be fished with a 400 cm rod, which will give a bit more reach. And that 360 cm length is just too big for what I consider to be small creek fishing.

All of this isn’t to say that I won’t get other rods in the future. I likely will. It’s fun to try new stuff. I’ll probably get more Japanese rods at some point. And an even longer rod would be fun. The Tenkara US Ito or Nissin Oni Honryu 450, maybe? But I think that rods in the three above-mentioned classes will cover just about everyone’s needs.

2 thoughts on “What Size Tenkara Rods (and How Many of Them) Do I Need?”

  1. Thanks for the detailed post and gear list!
    My current rods:
    Tenkara USA Iwana
    Tenkara USA Amago
    DRAGONtail HELLbender

    I was considering buying a Handy Pak InstaNet—but after reading your review, I’ve changed my mind.

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