I've done a LOT of tenkara rod fishing over the last several years, but sadly, little of it has been in the Appalachians. Luckily, an excuse to visit GSMNP came up at the onset of my traveling. The day I arrived, I hit Little River Outfitters in Townsend for some local info and to replace my recently defunct pair of nippers. "Send me someplace where I wont be around people" I asked, "I am looking for wild fish in small water." I walked out of the shop with new nippers and a hand drawn map sketched in pencil. Drove up a long access road to a trailhead, then proceeded on foot. It was soon evident that I had left the normal traffic behind. No fresh boots tracks anywhere to be seen, I made 3 wet crossings and then bushwhacked my way a few hundred yards through rhododendrons to the creek. The tributary of a tributary of the main branch was only 30 minutes from the trailhead but it might as well have been 3 hours - it was clear that this trib rarely saw hikers, let alone anglers.
The water was 4-10 ft wide, with plunge after plunge creating a series of beautiful pools. Moss covered rocks the size of cars lined the main bank, with smaller rocks providing excellent structure along the entire watershed. The air was heavy and humid, no breeze could penetrate the thick Appalachian canopy surrounding the creek. Wind would not be a factor...but I instead discovered the almost magnetic snagging power of the Rhododendron. Being used to open casting on Wisconsin creeks, I have a lot to learn about fishing claustrophobic streams like this, I left several flies in the trees. That might be an understatement.
Here is how it works:
High flex tenkara rods offer unique fishing action
One gentle flick of the wrist, and the light line soars forward, dropping the kebari precisely on target. A native brook trout rockets to the surface and crushes it, turning for safety in the rocks below. The angler feels the rod flex all the way down to the grip as the fish connects and runs, moving it deftly to hand after a spirited fight.
High-flex tenkara rods offer a refined fishing experience that is ideal for fishing lines and flies with traditional Japanese tenkara techniques. They also make any small to medium fish a sportier pursuit.
What is High-Flex and why offer a 5:5 action?
What are we talking about when we say "5:5, high-flex"?
Typically, manufacturers rate the action of a Tenkara rod with a ratio, like 5:5, 6:4, and 7:3. The first number is the amount of sections that are stiffer; the second number is the amount of sections that are more flexible. This also gives you a general idea of where the rod flexes - a 6:4 is most flexible 60% up the rod length. Badger Tenkara rod specifications give a ratio and general description such as "medium-flex".
With most medium or low-flex actions, the rod bends further out towards the tip. The angler feels the "tug" of the fish further out away from them, because that is where the rod is loading and flexing.
With a high-flex, 5:5 action the angler can usually feel the rod "flexing" all the way down into the grip. Paired with proper line tension, a high-flex action casts and fishes some techniques with much greater control and feedback than less flexible actions, because -
1) They cast light lines very well.
2) They transmit subtle moves for delicate fly manipulations.
3) Strikes and fish fighting are felt to maximum effect.
We spent over a year testing several designs with 5:5 actions in 2016. You see, every time that we order rods, we get a few extra in different lengths and actions to experiment with, and to get a feel for what our factory is able to produce when we ask for "different" designs. During that year, we became very confident that we could produce some exciting high-flex action rods, but we did not think there would be enough interest to support adding a high-flex model to our tenkara rod line-up.
Then we found out we might be wrong! Lots of recent community discussions prompted us to take another look at the matter. We ran a poll to gather some feedback and get serious about a design...
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