With luck I'll have one in my possession tomorrow.
Denovich, please give us a report on your impressions of the rod and how it fishes for you after you have had a chance to play with it for a while. I bought an Nissin SP 390 and I am quite happy with that rod. Its a lot of fun to fish and it does more than I thought it could possibly do. Your coming rod should be even nicer and more capable than the SP 390 rod is. I am really looking forward to reading your report on the Air Stage 390 rod....Golden.
Perhaps Mark will have more to say to add to his response on T-Bum's sight. But until then here is what he had to say so far: http://www.tenkarabum.com/auspicious-beginnings.html
And, I have to say that looks like a really nice brook trout in spawning colors.
Damn. I spent too long working on a reply... it was cast into the void when my session was redirected to the login.
Anyway: I have a Kitoyaki 27, a Nissin SP 450, and a Diawa 43MF. My uncle bought my Suikei (soft). That left me with a gap in my range... right in the heart of the tenkara spectrum. Since I most often fish streams that are a bit wider/slower than traditional tenkara streams, I was looking for something with some reach... but not as tip-heavy/wobbly as the SP 450, but lighter and with a bit more finesse than the Diawa 43MF. The Zerosum 360 or 400 in 7:3 or the Pro Spec 2-way were near the top of my list... but I think I like the Seiryu/Keiryu corkless grips (I've only ever cast rods I've purchased, so I can't say for certain that I prefer corkless, but I can make a rational case for them.) I'd been pouring over the selection at plat.co.jp, and it was good timing when Tenkarabum announced availability for the Air Stage 390.
I knew from the first cast... actually I knew before I even put a line on it that this would be my go-to/favorite fishing rod. It feels so light, yet crisp. My first cast in the driveway confirmed my initial impressions. It was on target. I went from trying to hit a dinner plate, to aiming for the center of the dinner plate. The rod is not tip heavy. The casting stroke is very precise and controlled. It's just right. Oh, and it's rather pretty too.
Oh, it cast a size 8 BH wooly bugger quite well. And I mean it really cast/propelled it... it didn't simply chuck or lob it out there.
If you have any specific questions ask. I'm keen to try casting some longer/different lines on it and see how it does, but I have no reason to doubt that it will excel.
Denovich, thank you for the update. That's the kind of information that can really help someone who is trying to make a rod buying decision. I do have a few questions though, like what size line you like the best on your Air Stage 390? Have you cast it with level or tapered FC lines? Have you tried any furled lines on your 390? What line length do you prefer to use - short or long line type techniques? Are you fishing dry or wet flies? If wet, are they mostly weighted or unweighted flies? I am just trying to get a feeling for the way you prefer to fish and how that might have figured into your rod buying choices. Did you let the Suikei (soft) go as a favor to your uncle or because you were not all that fond of that rod? Thank you in advance should you go to the trouble to answer any or all of my questions.
On the matter of cork VS corkless rod grips, for what this is worth, I have some of each and I prefer the corkless grip rods for the lighter weight and added sensitivity you get from having your hand directly on the rod blank. But to each his own.
In a few minutes I will be leaving on a 6-day backpacking deer hunting and fishing trip, so I will be away for a while. I hope to do a little lake and stream T-fishing on the first and last days of my trip....Golden.
I heard about tenkara in late April. Since the start of May I've fished only tenkara, and only with flies I've tied. I've been out fishing >100 days since then. I fish mostly close to home (Pittsburgh) so the trout fishing is in larger streams for stocked trout or as the weather warms, in lakes and rivers for large and smallmouth bass, panfish and anything else. I fish both wet and dry... Wet mostly... the bulk of what I've caught has been on a weighted wooly buggers, but the balance is shifting as I become more confident fishing other wets and drys.
Oh, I do own conventional fly rods. But I don't have enough experience with them to consider myself proficient. The bulk of my fishing experience (mostly spinning) was acquired prior to becoming a teenager. I grew up next to a trout stream as a little kid, and my dad took me out 80-100 times a year before he got to sick to do it. I fished very infrequently thereafter, only really getting the bug again this year.
I only have 2 days experience with the AirStage 390. I've tried it with a rod length piece of #3 level line +3' 6x tippet as well as a 4.5m Midi line (hi-vis tapered mono) with about 6' of tippet (3' 3x + 3' 6x). It cast both as well as I could hope for. I was very surprised to find how well it did with the longer Midi line. I rarely fish long line tenkara... but that's mostly a confidence/convenience issue. In Autumn most of my best fishing opportunities are in clear, low, slow water. Stealth & reach have become an increasingly important factor in my success rate. The fact that I'm able to consistently put flies on target at a distance with the AirStage 390 means I'll surely be using longer lines more often.
I started fishing only level lines. First #3, then mostly #4 while I improved my casting ability. I then began to furl my own lines (with sewing thread.) The ones I made (around 12') I found to cast beautifully on all of the rods I've owned. I fished a month or two exclusively with the furled line. I then switched back to level lines again... thanks to the additional practice, I found them easier the second time around. I also began to place a greater emphasis on keeping the line off the water and the level lines help there. I haven't tried a furled line with the AS 390 yet, but I intend to.
I started with the Kitoyaki 27 as it was cheap way to dip my toe into the game. I quickly understood how effective tenkara would be, and a week later I bought the Suikei (soft.) It had enough backbone for most of what I fish for and zooming between 320-390 it covered just about anything I really needed. It was a perfect all-around rod. As Summer warmed I found myself fishing more and more for bass. I caught a few 20"ers on the Suikei, but it was clearly getting outside of it's comfort zone. I began to eye up a beefier rod. I was also finding my range fairly limiting on lakes, so I was also tempted to go longer. The SP 450 was my next purchase. I dig it, but it requires a more delicate touch than I can usually muster. I'm a naturally shaky, intense, death grip kinda guy. The SP 450 just magnifies those traits, making it difficult for me to cast accurately (I can but I really need to think about it.) It is also frustrating in a breeze. It doesn't have enough zip to punch a fly through the wind. The AS 390 was clearly superior in this regard... even with that lightweight Midi line.
Around this time my uncle who has been fly fishing for quite a while started taking notice of what I was doing. When he got a chance to cast the Suikei he was hooked and asked me to buy a rod for him. He's wired a bit differently than me... I knew that a good all-rounder would be the best bet as he was unlikely to buy 3 or 4 different rods to cover a range. So he got the Suikei... I was sad to see it go. If I didn't have the luxury of owning several rods, I would not have let it go. But this way my uncle got a great rod for him, cheaply, and I got a Daiwa 43MF, knowing that I'd eventually buy a lighter pure tenkara rod in the future.
The Daiwa has been an excellent rod. I bought it to go after some big fish. I also got it knowing it would be more capable of fishing heavily weighted flies and for czech nymphing. The spring flows are WAY higher, and I struggled early in the season getting my flies down were they needed to be. Although I will be going into next season with way more experience in getting a fly where I want it to go. With the Daiwa I caught some carp, a big catfish from a kayak, and a ton of bass. What I noticed though was that some of the thrill was missing because the Daiwa so confidently controlled anything short of a real monster fish. And while I got pretty good at casting it, I couldn't effectively toss the smaller unweighted dries that seemed to be necessary now that the water is clear, low and slow. So that began the hunt that ended with the AirStage 390.
The argument that swayed me in cork vs. corkless, is that it's way easier to clean fish slime off a corkless rod. Although in practice I've noticed that the more petite the handle, the more gently a grip it. I think I cast better as a result.
So something I don't like about the AirStage 390: the part where I snapped it in half.
I was fishing in gusty conditions, in full sun, casting to dozen or so feeding stocked trout in a large slow moving pool. This was a rare opportunity to fish dries if I could reach them. I was using the 4.5m Midi line + 6' tippet. This is not a "match the hatch" stream... I think they were after whatever presented itself.
Fishing a parachute Adams, I caught 3 browns and one smallmouth bass. The fish 10-12" were typical for stockers and were big enough to be fun but clearly within the capabilities of the rod to keep them under control.
Taking advantage of a swing in wind direction, I put a small unweighted kebari in the film at max casting distance, right on the nose of a feeding trout. Bingo! I set the hook, and *SNAP*!
I stood there stupefied, half of rod in one hand... the other half swimming its way across the stream. I quickly came to and resigned myself to getting wet (I had been fishing from the bank... wading gear was tucked away in the car.) I pulled off socks and shoes and waded in... the water looked shallow, but the mud was deep. I was in up to my waist before I managed to get ahold of the top rod section. I made my way back to shore with the fish still on the hook. I sent him on his way before sadly collecting the pieces of my rod and heading for home.
The #5 section (right in the middle of the rod) snapped in two places, right at the #6 junction, and somewhere right in the middle of #5. I think the break was due to a number of factors... the biggest being that my hooksets might be a touch on the heavy side after a Summer of targeting larger fish with deeply submerged flies. I was also managing to keep most of the line off the water. I think when fishing wets there is a more progressive loading of the rod on the hookset. The trout made matters worse by taking the fly and turning sharply away from me. So, no slack, no drag from the water, and a fish moving in the opposite direction resulted in a sharp shock that was more than the AS 390 could handle.
So Chris is popping a new #5 section in the mail today for me. I'll be back in business for the weekend. One bummer is that my uncle was visiting today, and I was keen to have him try the AirStage. I was interested to see if a less experienced tenkara angler would see the same dramatic improvement in casting that I did. On the other hand at least I won't make him green with envy.
The SOB that broke my rod:
Denovich, What a great write up! Thanks for all the most useful information. I am so sorry that you had a rod breakage problem. I have broken a few T-rods myself but never on a fish. Mine were all due to a lack of experience and operator error. But I believe there was some sort of structural flaw present in your rod blank section that broke, it was not the fish's or your fault that the rod failed in my opinion. The tippet should have broken long before the rod did. You have certainly progressed and learned a lot in one season. Next year you will undoubtedly grow by even more leaps and bounds. Thanks so much for answering all of my pesky questions....Golden.