Even though replacement parts are available – it is still a pain in the butt to break your rod – so it’s best to learn how to minimize the risk.
Tenkara rods are inherently quite a bit more fragile than western fly rods. In order to cast those ultralight level lines the rods have to come to a pretty fine point and they need to be pretty flexible compared to western rods. Does that mean that tenkara rods can’t land decent sized trout? No it doesn’t. But it does mean that you need to consider the special nature of the rods, learn how to handle them carefully and be conscientious.
Breaks can easily occur when opening, closing and rigging rods. You need to be especially careful when doing so.
When extending the rod I like to keep my index finger and thumb on the rod, positioned just above the top of the first segment. Extend each segment, and when the joints come through your fingers apply just a little pressure – there’s no need to excessively engage the joints. If you pull too hard you risk getting the segments stuck.
Collapsing the rod is much more dangerous than extending the rod. Graphite fishing rods (western as well as tenkara) are much more fragile under compression than in tension or bending. Start by applying pressure and pushing down on the second segment, just above the top of the handle segment. Always apply the force just above the top of the handle segment – thus it will be applied on the thickest part of each segment. Once the joint is disengaged the segment will fall easily. Continue with all segments. As you proceed be very careful – the last few (especially the tip) are very thin and can be broken easily during this process if flexed while pushing down in an attempt to disengage the joint.
When attaching the line do so with the rod collapsed, make sure to extend only the lilian – not the rod tip. I usually tuck the rod under my arm so that I have both hands available to attach the line. See the pictures below for examples of of how to open and close the rod and how to attach the line safely.
For details on rod rigging – see the ROD RIGGING page
Some other, less obvious ways to break a rod are yanking on a rod trying to undo snags and also overzealous hook sets.
Though I haven’t done so – it has happened that people have broken tenkara rods while setting the hook on a fish. It doesn’t have to be a big fish. The tenkara rod is not made to set hooks like a western fly rod – please do not yank back on it and bring it way back high over your head and behind you, like some do with a western rod. Hooksets should be nothing more that a gentle applying of pressure.
With a western rod one must usually overcome the friction of water on a bunch of large diameter fly line, and take out the slack of line and leader. With a tenkara rod, one is usually fishing a light, comparatively short, tight line, held off of the water, and there is no significant friction and slack line to worry about. I like to set the hook by moving my entire arm and lifting the rod – without rotating the rod at all. This will keep rod tip movement to a minimum, avoid shocking the rod, and will also have the added benefit of not launching the fly and line into the trees on every missed strike – and also not launching the littler fish as well.Also if, what you think is a fish, is really a snag – then an aggressive hook set may break the rod on that snag.
A word on snags. A good way to break your rod is yanking on it to release snags. If you find yourself snagged on the stream bottom – you might try applying some gentle, smoothly applied pressure by leveraging the rod back slowly – within reason. Never, ever, ever do that rapid, popping, quick snappy thing to try and release it like you might do with a western rod – that is an absolutely great way to break your rod. The tenkara rod is simply not made to take that kind of shock – it can handle deep bending while playing a fish – because there’s give with a fish and it’s also much more gradual, but that quick, repeated shock of trying to pop a snag loose can break it – definitely avoid that. Same goes for snags in trees or other stream side obstacles. Always try to collapse the rod and pull on the line – or move to the snag and remove it directly.
DON’T JERK THE ROD TO RELEASE A SNAG!
Also never pull straight back, in-line with the rod to release a snag from the creek bottom, or from a snag in a tree. If you do this you run the risk of jamming the segments together so that they cannot be undone – making it impossible to fully collapse the rod. If segments become stuck it is very easy to break them while trying to force them apart. Graphite fishing rods are very fragile in compression – and therefore tenkara rods are especially vulnerable while trying to collapse them – especially if they are sticking.
The best way to handle snags in the stream is to move to a point where you can release the snag by pulling on the line itself. If you cannot move close enough, to do that, collapse the rod completely to access the line, being careful to make sure the rod tip is completely inside the rod. Same goes for snags in trees – move to directly under the snag, and pull on the line itself. Often it is best to collapse the rod completely for this process too.
Tenkara Rod Maintenance
There is really not that much to do in the way of maintenance.
- After each fishing trip (and before putting away for the winter) it’s a good idea to unscrew the handle cap, take the rod apart and wipe it with a soft cloth to dry it and remove any dirt or grime that may have gotten on it. Let the whole rod sit out (disassembled) at least over night. If the cork got wet, make sure that the cork is dry before storing.
- If the lilian has became a bit frayed on the end you can dab it with some super glue to keep it from continued fraying. Be careful to just use a small dab on the frayed tip.