I’ve been exclusively a tenkara fisherman for a year now, and up until yesterday, my experience has been completley using the TenkaraUSA 12′ Iwana rod with a 4.5 or equivalent level line. This combination has proven extremely satisfactory for the type of small stream angling that I do. My only gripes: one I lost the end plug (my fault), and twice I lost the butt screw (design flaw), although once it was replaced free of charge. Oh, yeah, once I jammed two segments of the rod trying to undo a snag and had to send the rod back to TenkaraUSA for repair, which only cost me shipping. Not bad for a rod that gets a lot of use.
When my friend G.T. and my brother Mark expressed an interest in tenkara, I decided to buy a second rod as a backup and loaner. I chose the Fountainhead Caddis 360, because it is inexpensive, but I had read positive comments about it on the blogs. Also at 12′, it seemed the most comparable of the Fountainhead rods to my Iwana.
Before I describe my experience with the Caddis 360, let’s compare them according to the manufactures’ specs:
TenkaraUSA describes the 12″ Iwana as being 20.5″ long collapsed, nine segments, weighing 2.7 oz. The website is a little vague, but the rod seems to be made of 100% carbon fiber and has what I would describe as a semigloss multihued brown finish. The Iwana is provided with a rod sack and a very nice plastic rod tube. The action is rated as 6:4, meaning the 60% of the rod starting at the butt is relatively stiff and the 40% tip section is more flexible. The rod is fully warranted for its lifetime, and repairs are made for just the cost of shipping (currently $17). The 12″ Iwana sells at present for $157.50.
The Fountainhed Caddis 360 is also 12′ long, weighs 3.3 oz, has nine segments, has a 6:4 action, and is 21″ “folded.” Composed of 75% carbon fiber, the remaining 25% I believe is fiberglass. The rod is a pleasant deep royal blue with a high gloss finish. No rod tube is supplied, but the Caddis 360 comes in a nice cloth bag. All repairs to the rod are $25, which includes shipping. Currently the Caddis 360 sells for $50.
The morning dawned clear and cool. As is my custom, I brewed coffee in the aluminum percolator on the old two-burner Coleman. Sipping the finished product, I stood on the bank and observed the usual morning hatch of “little white flies” (forgive the Latin). Soon trout were smutting everywhere. Time to don the waders! I attached the Tenka aUSA 4.5 level line to the Caddis 360 and attached five feet of 6X tippet. The segments of the Caddis snugged pleasantly. I tied on a #24 parachute made with a white thread body, white Antron post, and the lightest hackle I can find. Casting this rod seemed very comparable to my Iwana. Casts were crisp and precise. I could sense, I think, that the Caddis was a bit heavier but not significantly so. Also, the grip felt a bit awkward, but, then again, I have been fishing the Iwana exclusively for the past year.
It didn’t take long to start catching a few rainbows. At some point interest in the parachute waned, and I tied on the beetle kebari. Immediately the action picked up again; then, two hours into fishing with my new Caddis 360 another trout inhaled the fly and put a good bend into the rod. Then, pop, and the fish was gone, as was my fly, my tippet, my line, and my LILLIAN! I made a couple futile grabs at the red lillian, but then it was gone.
I’m returning the rod to Fountainhead for repair or replacement, so I’m going to resperve judgment on the Caddis 360 until I get an opportunity to try it again. I’ll keep you posted…