Tenkara, or Japanese fly-fishing borders on pure artistry. You don’t cast a lot of line out from a reel or reel a fish in. You rely purely on physics, mechanics, handwork, and an understanding of your gear. Just a rod, a line, and some artificial flies, and you’re ready to explore what some in the recreational fishing world call ‘the most connected and exhilarating form of fishing’.
Designer: Brent Auger of DRAGONtail Tenkara
Brent Auger is perhaps one of the leading figures in the Tenkara world. A seasoned fly-fisher himself, Idaho-based Brent is more famously the founder of DRAGONtail Tenkara, makers of some of the finest Tenkara gear. He is also co-owner of Moonlit Fly Fishing, known for their great casting fiberglass fly rods at a budget-friendly price. While we’ve covered DRAGONtail’s rods before, the FoxFIRE ZX280 is one of the company’s more interesting offerings since it’s designed to be much shorter than conventional tenkara rods and uses a lot of fiberglass material.
A fly-fishing rod is all about physics and materials. The tenkara rod’s flexible design allows it to bend to an incredible degree without the weight of a line, casting the light line out with ease. The flexibility and recovery also help you bring fish it all while keeping the hook tight and protecting your tippet at the same time. Make the rod shorter, however, and everything changes. Brent’s biggest problem with shorter tenkara rods is that they lose a lot of their flexibility that aids your casting and its strength is commonly decreased as well with less of the rod’s length to balance out the strain of a good-sized fish. So he decided to fix that by building a short Tenkara rod of his own that addresses these issues. The FoxFIRE ZX280 from DRAGONtail is much shorter than their standard rods, but offers just the right level of flexibility and toughness to make tenkara fly fishing easy, fun, and borderline addictive.
It all starts with the right material choice for designing your short Tenkara rod. The FoxFIRE uses a unique fiberglass + graphite composite for the rod, offering a combination of strength and flexibility that’s perfect for all sorts of lines. The problem with current short Tenkara rods, Brent noticed, was that they mainly used carbon fiber – a material that’s perfect for longer rods, but becomes problematic when the rod length is reduced. The carbon-fiber rods are relatively more rigid and flex back much faster than fiberglass, resulting in a brisker casting motion that doesn’t work quite well for weightless shorter lines. Many short rods don’t even have proper handles, causing hand fatigue when used over time. The FoxFIRE ZX280, on the other hand, uses a 3-part telescopic rod made from a composite material that provides the right amount of flex and durability for any sort of Tenkara fishing. The rods come with a wonderful translucent finish, and are tinted with colors to make them look incredibly appealing too. Lastly, the FoxFIRE are outfitted with cork handles, giving your palms the comfort they deserve while casting.
The FoxFIRE’s 3-length rod also offers fly-fishers with the ability to customize their rod-length. The multi-length design gives you the option to fish at 9.3ft, 8ft, or 6.6ft allowing you to fish in some very tight casting quarters of overgrown creeks where the forest canopy does not allow you to use longer Tenkara rods. Brent mentions that the flexible fiberglass rod design also “allows you to perform a perfect bow-n-arrow cast for when there is no casting room”.
The FoxFIRE rods come in 2 colors for now – a vibrant green and a bright blue, along with a carrying case and a sock sleeve. When completely closed, the rods measure 22 inches in length, making them easy to carry around on your person or even in your car as you head out for a fly-fishing trip to your favorite creek or lake. They weigh next to nothing too, clocking in at 79 grams (0.17 lbs). The rods begin shipping as early as November, with a second production run happening in early 2022 and round 2 shipping in March. The rods currently cost $116 a pop and other fly-fishing accessories can be picked up from DRAGONtail’s website. Each rod even comes with a one-time replacement option (for a discounted price) just in case you happen to destroy your rod in an ‘unfortunate fly-fishing incident’. Individual parts are also available for cost-effective repairs for small accidents.