Suntech 33 Rod First Impressions
My Suntech 33 Rod showed up yesterday afternoon (10/13/12) VIA US Priority Mail, and oh what a beautiful piece of work it is. Eleven feet 3 inches long, and 1.1 ounces in weight before I put a 5/8ths inch hole diameter black rubber stool foot and EZ-Keepers on it, which required picking up some 5/16 X 7/16 X 1/16 inch O-rings for fly keepers and line storage because the rod blank is too slender that the standard O-rings that come with the EZ-Keepers to work as fly keepers. The big O-ring will work fine for holding the above the grip EZ-Keeper in place. The upper EZ-Keeper will be more secure if the smaller O-Ring is used. Whether I lost the O-ring on the butt cap or the rod did not come with it I do not know, but the other small EZ-Keeper O-ring fits the butt cap grove tight enough that it can not get lost. The friction fitt rubber butt foot provides protection and a solid footing for the rod, protection for the butt cap, and some counter ballance for the tip weight. The swell of the rubber foot provides a nice place to rest the heel of your hand against while casting and a knob similar to the Amago's grip butt configuration when casting with the rod as far forward in your casting hand as you can get it.
The take down length is 23.5 inches, and the rod came with a nice tie in place blue with black trim nylon rod sock. The rod fits in the rod sock just fine with the rubber foot in place on it. The 33 is about an inch longer than the Guide Model Ebira rod quiver is deep but the rod in its sock fits in the rod quiver just fine, eliminating any possibility of loosing the tip plug in transit when the rod is carried in its rod sock in the rod quiver. This also opens up the possibility of taking two rods, either a shorter one for even brushier creeks with over head tree limb problems or a longer, stiffer rod for lake Tenkara fly fishing. There is no flute milled into the tip plug for an attached line to pass through and the plug fits the rod blank very tightly. However there is a saw cut slot for the width of the plug diameter that could be aligned with the line for clearance.
The pictures on Tenkarabum sight do not rally do the rod justice, the red paint job is more of a non fish scaring dark maroon color than a bright red to my eyes. The grip is a hair finer in diameter and considerably longer than the grip on my 9 foot Soyokaze rod is, and this rod makes the 27SR Daiwa rod feel heavy by comparison. The grip has a convex curve running from the grip diameter down to the rod blank diameter that is most comfortable and natural for the index finger forward Tenkara hand casting position, which is also a noticeable improvement over the 27SR's grip design. The line swivel looks kind of clunky in the pictures on Chris's sight but is unbelievably tiny in person, on the rod. Chris sent 12 feet of #3, FL-Green HiVis Level FC Line with the rod at no charge to me (thanks ever so much Chris!), and the rod cast the line so well I couldn't believe it. I also cast it with a 6 foot long hand-tied 10 Lb. butt, tapered line in my back yard, and a 10 foot long 12 Lb. butt tapered line as well and the rod cast all of them very well even in a pretty good wind. It handles bow-and-arrow-casts a lot better than the Soyokaze 27SR rod does, and I would classify it as a 6:4 action rod, although I will give Chris the final say on that perception. All of these stated line casting lengths do not include the preferred tippet length of your choice.
What really sold me on getting the Suntech 33 rod was Chris's description of it being a good rod for people who enjoy fishing the fine blue line streams pictured on topographic maps, which is a perfect description of most of the stream fishing that I do. For sure this is not a big fish rod but it will handle most anything we are likely to catch in a little creek, and make playing even the smallest fish a lot of fun. The rod does not have any feeling of tip heaviness or noticeable oscillations at the end of the cast. The Suntech 33 is a pure joy to cast. Clearly, this Japanese designed and manufactured rod is a piece of high quality work. I have not had a chance to fish with the rod yet. Trout season is closed here until the end of next April, which can not get here fast enough for me this year....Golden.
Last edited by Golden; 01-09-2013 at 12:33 PM.
Reason: Additional information added.
Excellent review, Karl. Tell us more when fishing-time returns to your neck of the woods. ~pfa
The rod model name is Kurenai, which means "crimson" in Japanese.
Originally Posted by Golden
Can you fish for bluegills year 'round? Or non-game species like chubs and shiners? If it has fins and swims it's worth fishing for in my book. A good sized golden shiner would put a bend in that rod and they're in your area. I've taken them on flies.
Glad you like the rod. I was pretty sure you would.
Chris, WoW! That's the biggest golden shiner I have ever seen. Around my neck of the woods golden shiners are commercially sold as bait, which are not legal to use as bait in the National Forests as bait fishermen tend to dump the unused bait into lakes where the shiners compete with and out reproduce the trout, requiring the lakes this happens in to be chemically treated from time to time to eliminate the rough fish populations, which also kills all the trout as well. We are having a series of storms come through right now, and after the poorest winter in a hundred years a lot of our ponds dried up last summer, so the bluegill fishing has also suffered. Hopefully, it will become ski season shortly. But I do plan on getting the rod out if I can find some fish to fish for.
I have edited my above rod review to add some additional information and impressions as well. Chris, you seem to have a real gift for anticipating and filling Tenkara angler's needs and desires. Please, keep up the excellent work that you do so well....Golden.
Suntech 33 Rod Update: Casting the Suntech 33 is so much fun that I would compare casting it to driving a sports car like the Subaru BRZ. I compared the 33 to the Daiwa Soyokaze first because it is the only other T-rod that I own that comes even close to being sports car like in its casting performance compared to the 33 rod. The 12 foot Iwana rod, by comparison, would be more like driving a Ford F-150 pick up truck than it is a sports car type of casting experience, with its weight and feeling of tip heaviness making it not comparable at all to the Suntech 33 rod in any way. I did Chris's 10 penny test on all of my T-rods the other day, and the 9 foot Soyokaze has a lot more backbone to it than the 11 foot 3 inch Suntech 33 rod has. No one could call the tip on the 33 rod stiff, but it is considerably stiffer in relation to the power contained in the mid and butt sections of the 33 than the near noodle-soft tip action on the Soyokaze rod is stiff. The soft tip on the Soyokaze works great on that rod, but it does not give the tactile feedback and the tight, precise casting loops that the 33 rod does. If I had to describe the 33 rod in a single word, that word would be "Refined". This is the most refined fly rod that I have ever owned.
My son gave me a spool of #3 HiVis Orange FC Sunline for X-mass, so I made up and cast a 7 foot and a 10 foot level lines, in addition to casting with the 12 foot long level line line that Chris sent with the rod, adding a foot long transition section made up of 4 inches each of 8, 6 and 4 Lb, test FC line on the shorter lines, to which I will loop on about a 3 foot long tippet of 3.6 Lb. test FC tippet material. The 33 cast them all wonderfully well, as it also did with an 8 foot 4 inch long AirFlow Braided Leader Butt, with 3 feet of 5X FC. and 2 more feet of 6X FC. used as a tippet extender, and also equally well with a 6 foot long Hand-Tied Tapered FC. line. The braided line I like for fishing streams late in the season, when the pools look like tiny ponds because there is not enough water left in the streams to make current in the pools in the low water conditions that late in the year. This is not a good line to use in any kind of breeze but it is more of a glider than it is a rocket-quick line in casting like the level FC. lines are, making it much easier to make gentle non-fish spooking presentations under the low water conditions found on the streams that late in the season.
I believe I will seldom use my 12 foot long Iwana rod again for small stream fishing in the future. The 9 foot Soyokaze rod will cover all the smaller brushy creeks, and the 11 foot 3 inch Suntech 33 rod will adequately handle the more open, slightly larger small streams that I fish to perfection, while still having enough backbone to muscle in the occasional 12 to 14 inch trout that I may catch in these little creeks. I feel that I am now all set in my rod requirements for the present and into the future....Golden.
Some anglers here may question the effectiveness of fishing with such a short light weight rod. For sure these rods are rather special tools for fishing special places. Here is a link to an article Chris (Tenkarabum) wrote that it explains it all a lot better than I can: http://www.tenkarabum.com/rethinking...-III-many.html
And here is another one: http://www.tenkarabum.com/picking-pockets.html
Last edited by Golden; 01-30-2013 at 11:35 PM.
Thanks for this update, and for the follow up. I had a chance to check out the Suntech Kurenai HM30 and HM33 this past November, and again (just the HM33) this past week at the Fly Fishing Show. I was impressed too by how refined (as you nicely put it) they are, and I'll add the word "elegant" in what it feels like to cast these rods. My only complaint is they are spendy. If I was made of money (or, heck, if I had just a little more money!), I would likely add these rods to my collection. But for now the Soyokaze series, for however long they will be available, are a great value (let's call them "the poor man's Kurenai"! ).
The issue of what constitutes a "Tenkara rod" shows up in the links you provided, and it's a horse that just won't die, I know, but I think it's time to start calling rods like the HM33 what they are - seiryu 清流 "clear stream" rods. Similarly, rods such as the Daiwa Kiyose HM43 should be called keiryu 渓流 "mountain stream" rods. We know these rods can be fished in many cases more efficiently and elegantly than rods labeled "Tenkara" テンカラ. To my mind, perhaps yours, and many others it isn't an issue whether they can be used to fish the tenkara method. So calling them by name/type/class allows us to better differentiate the pros and cons of these rods that can be used to fish the same method. The growing number of "Tenkara curious" out there remain focused on rods with a cork handle and a company on the west coast that sells them (albeit, increasingly through other dealers), but if the testimonial videos circling the Interwebs are any indication that they are blown away with what you can do with these lightweight cork-handled rods, how much more so will they be blown away to learn they can hit those pockets on small streams previously inaccessible to them even with their cork-handled rods, but with an even lighter weight, shorter and refined casting seiryu rod? Having some clear differentiation is a good thing if this activity is actually going to mature beyond "trendy" or "fad" status.
My 2 cents. End rant. Sorry to hijack your thread. I've apparently reached my proposed dose of caffeine for the day.
Clod, there is no need for an apology at all; the thread was not hijacked and I believe you have brought up an interesting and valid point. In talking (well writing and receiving responses on forums) to both Tenkara and non-Tenkara anglers alike, I have noticed that there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about just what Tenkara angling actually is, and also on what are and are not tenkara fly rods. There are probably just about as many ideas on that subject out there as there are anglers fishing. Rather than focusing on the terminology, I think it is more productive to concentrate on whether the fishing method being used and presentations being made are Tenkara style fly fishing adaptations. In other words if it looks like Tenkara fly fishing, if it fishes like Tenkara fly fishing, then it probably is Tenkara fly fishing regardless of the appearance (cork or cork-less on the grip) of the fly rod being used. As long as what we are doing is fun and rewarding, what difference does it make if the grip has cork or not? Actually, I find the cork-less rod grips to be much more sensitive and enjoyable to fish with than the cork covered grips. But it is all good and welcome as far as I am concerned and more a matter of personal preference than anything else the way I look at it. Rather than getting bogged down in trying to understand the differences between Tenkara, Seiryu and Keiryu rods, which over lap and are hazy at best, it probably would be best to refer to them all as Fixed Line Rods fish in the Tenkara style of angling.
In my own fishing what I do would not be considered true Tenkara fly fishing on the more "Orthodx Oriented" Tenkara fly fishing boards, those who's primary concern is to spread and preserve what is perceived to be orthodox Tenkara fly fishing doctrines, orthodox Tenkara fly fishing tackle, orthodox Tenkara flies, and orthodox Tenkara fishing methods around the world today. Contrary to how Tenkara fly fishing has been and is being characterized on these orthodox forms, Tenkara as it is being practiced in Japan today is much more diverse, varied, and open to interpretation, especially as it is going to be spread to other cultures and other countries around the globe than we have been lead to believe that it is. Many Japanese fly fishermen (and even Tenkara Masters as well) enjoy fishing with many different kinds of fly patterns and catching trout on dry flies on their respective Tenkara rods. Japanese Tenkara fly patterns are not generally insect based fly imitations. The One Fly Concept is based on the fact that trout living in high gradient mountain streams with low levels of fertility are opportunistic feeding fish. The speed of the current requires aggressive feeding patterns on the part of the fish to earn a living in the waters where they live. Anything that remotely resembles food has to be seized quickly before the current takes the food item away from the fish looking to eat it, forever. In Japan, Tenkara fly fishing is almost exclusively dedicated to fishing for trout living in running waters. On these kinds of streams I fish only dry flies, with both western and fixed line fly rods. I spend a lot of my Tenkara fly fishing time fishing for bass, bluegill and trout on ponds and high lakes, with fly patterns that more or less imitate the food forms that are living in those waters, at the times when those food forms are available for the fish to eat them. In lakes the fish are considerably more selective because of the lack of a fast flowing stream current that requires the fish to rush to take its food. The fish in still waters have an unlimited amount of time to investigate your offering, so presentations, fly behavior and imitations have to be more realistic and accurate than is required in running mountain water fishing. Consequently I fish midge pupa patterns when lake fish are feeding on midges, and terrestrial fly patterns when the afternoon thermal winds begin depositing land based bugs into the high lakes, and my Sheeps Creek fly patterns (which strongly resemble the traditional and orthodox Tenkara Sakasa Kebari fly patterns in a backwards kind of way) are used during the time after the fish quit feeding on the midges and before they begin to feed on the terrestrial insects later on in the day.
Yes, the Suntech Kurenai rods are Elegant casting machines and well worth the cost in my view. But rod costs are a relative thing. If you look up the cost of a top of the line Sage, Winston, Scott, Orvis and other fly rods of that ilk, you will find that even the moderately high priced Tenkara fly rods are a real steal by comparison. At present I own a TUSA Iwana 12 Ft. rod, a TUSA 13.5 Ft. Amago rod, a 9 Ft. Soyokaze rod, the Suntech Kurenai 11 Ft. 3 in. rod, and the Diawa 43 MF, Zoom 12 Ft. 5 in. X 14 Ft. 1 in. rod, a FishPond Tumbleweed chest pack, a Guide Model Ebira rod quiver, EZ-Keepers on all the rods to store the lines while changing fishing locations, and hand tied FC tapered lines in a number of lengths, level FC lines in a number of lengths and weights (including a Rigs Floating Tenkara Fly Line that I use for fishing stillwaters when it is windy with dry flies), and a couple of Traditional Furled Tapered lines as well, and I still have not used up the total dollar value of what one top of the line Western fly rod would cost, let alone the cost of a reel, backing, and the Western fly lines it would take to fish that Western fly rod effectively. With the fixed line rods you get a much greater value for the dollars spent than you get with the Western fly rods. And a good deal more enjoyment as well in my view for what you are spending. With fixed line rods being so much more reasonable for what you get, and the lower cost rods performing so well, the low comparative cost factor allows Tenkara anglers to acquire and fish with fixed line rods tailor made for different fishing conditions and situations relatively easily. I think that is pretty hard to beat, and I have been fly fishing for more than 40 years....Golden.
Last edited by Golden; 02-01-2013 at 01:48 AM.
Wonderful response. I agree it is much more productive to concentrate on the fishing method (as you say, “As long as what we are doing is fun and rewarding”), but I do think how we talk about what we are doing matters – if only to better communicate with the uninitiated and each other more clearly and get past the marketing (which as you may know was all the buzz in tenkara circles this week). You mention you’ve noticed so much confusion out there (as have I). I think it’s precisely because one particular company has tried to narrowly define “Tenkara” (with a capital T) that the confusion has come about. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but it becomes important for the rest of us to use terminology that allows us to more broadly and inclusively talk about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it.
“Fixed line fly fishing” is one way of putting it, but “Tenkara” at this point is the buzz word. It’s like saying “Kleenex” when you mean “bathroom tissue” (as Tom Sadler put it), and in this regard the marketing around the activity has been helpful. It’s when we start confusing the tenkara (little “t”) style or method of fishing with the tools we use to fish it that things become problematic. It’s the method that has a hold on us, that drives the interest and exploration (and fun!) of the activity, and to that end I, for one, have very much enjoyed your posts here detailing the methods you use to fish this style. I’m benefitting from them enormously (I’m totally going to try working terrestrials during afternoons on my lake trip to Maine this year, and I have read and re-read your earlier posts about fishing tenkara in lakes). Still, I think we need to get to a point where we can say “I use a seiryu rod to fly fish for brookies on small streams” or “I crushed this weekend baiting live meal worms at the end of my tenkara rod (!) on the [X] river” and anglers know we’re talking about the tenkara method of fishing.
I’m not an extremely experienced angler (this will be my second year fishing tenkara, after years of spin fishing…), and like you I fish more often for bass and bluegill on ponds and lakes (trout, however, will be my primary fare this coming season). I’m pleasantly surprised to learn I have come to own similar rods to yours (Soyokaze 9’, TUSA Iwana 11’, TUSA Yamame, Kiyose 43MF zoom…), and I want to read more about how others fish them. But there remains the frustrating obstacle of getting past the vague terminology. I have a feeling tenkara will remain “just a fad” (to quote Lefty Kreh) until the business of tenkara starts talking more about the methods that can be used with their products, instead of blurring the lines between the two.
I should probably switch gears here if I'm going to earn the coin I’m going to need to get a Kurenai. Thanks for reading.
The Seuryu rods are probably the preferred rods for dry fly fishing in small headwaters streams. The Keiryu rods are what are needed for fishing one or more heavily weighted nymphs in just about any kind of running water situation, while the Tenkara rods are most likely the best rods to use for fishing single Sakasa Kebari style flies with level and hand-tied tapered fluorocarbon lines, as well as with furled tapered Traditional lines in running waters in the traditional Tenkara style of fishing. Chris has said that cork grips are a carryover from Western fly fishing rods, which may very well be true and was probably a necessity in order to sell Tenkara rods in this country to anglers used to seeing and using conventional fly rods and spinning rods.
I do not think Tenkara style fly fishing with fixed line rods will be just a fad in any way. Only time will tell for sure on that score, but the fact that Orvis and TFO are now selling Tenkara rods will help Tenkara to become much better known and more mainstream. And actually I believe we now have more fishermen fishing Tenkara style in America than they have fishing that way in Japan. The reason I believe this is because of the small production runs of all of the above mentioned fixed line rods that are made compared to our Western fly rods, and the seasonal unavailability of those rods is in such small numbers compared to what the American and English fly rod makers produce and sell on the market here. One of the things I would really like to see done with the Japanese fixed line rods would be the inclusion of English language in the rod instruction booklets that come with the Japanese company rods. That's one area where TUSA really is a head of the foreign rod companies they are now competing with, even though as you said TUSA, and the like minded people who are supporting them, defines Tenkara fly fishing in a very narrow and dog mental way. Not much has happened with rods at all with TUSA in a long time. Where all the action and excitement is with fixed line rods is on the TenkaraBum board, with Chris.
And Finally, on the matter of the "coin needed to get a Kurenai Rod", for comparison the last Scientific Anglers Floating Fly Line that I bought - a Sharkskin GPX Taper WF5 weight line - the cost was $99.95 plus tax, shipping and handling for just that one floating fly line, which would go a long ways toward the purchase of any fixed line fishing rod on the market. In a down economy and a poor job market, fixed line rods are a real bargain in my view. The simplicity of the tackle and the ease with which fish can be caught on fixed line rods has a great and lasting appeal that will go far beyond just fad status....Golden.