Sunday, June 21, 2015

Thin Blue Lining with the Nissin Yuyuzan 290 ZX in Connecticut

Yesterday the weather forecast for New York was rain and so I figured I'd scout a new stream in CT that had many of the right stats "on paper" and looked to be a good trout stream. I planned a couple of back up locations just in case it turned out to be a bust. Good thing.

Thanks to Tom Davis of Teton Tenkara's recent post on small stream rods, I discovered a new rod that I had never heard of and reached out to Tenkarabum to see if I could get one. A short time later this beautifully finished and affordable rod was in hand.

I walked down a steep embankment to the stream and it looked pretty good. The water was not too low.

I caught countless numbers of creek chub and moved up trying to get above riffles and plunges that would hopefully keep them downstream. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. This rod was way overkill for creek chub. I needed some trout.

I resorted to using the ol' thermometer and discovered, to my dismay, that the temperature of the water was 68 degrees. Not ideal. 

I moved up, hoping some colder springs or feeders might create some nice holes for trout. All I found was this half-crayfish, likely some bird or even a mink's meal. Look closely... the antennae on the right side of the photo as you're looking at it has some kind of nymph exoskeleton hanging from it. Nature is kind of crazy sometimes.

At least the scenery was nice. 

In "automatic transmission pool" I caught a ton more creek chub. I didn't even bother to take pictures.

I fished a small waterfall above this and then decided to cut my losses and hit one of the backup locations. Not long after, I was on a beautiful small stream I fished much earlier this spring and soon hooked the smallest trout I've ever caught.

It was a little brown.

Missed a larger fish in that pool, and moved up to the next one.

Netted one and missed another. The rod had no problem landing any small brookies. I loved the way it could bow and arrow cast a bead head fly anywhere. It had the backbone for the heavier flies. This is not a rod for throwing light flies to small fish. 

I fished many of the same pools as last time, but with less success. Lower water levels definitely had created a new reality for the fish. I was also making mental notes of the differences between the streams I fished on this day... water color, sources, temperature, surrounding environment, etc.

In one of the pools I hooked into what could have been one of the largest small stream brookies I've ever hooked. The Yuyuzan is a stiffer rod than even the Kiyotaki and Suikei, especially when it comes to the tip flex.

The rod clearly could take this fish. The problem though, wasn't that the rod didn't have enough backbone. This fish was NOT screwing around. It was really pissed off at being hooked and immediately turned hard and started rolling. When you don't have a reel to let line out on, you really rely on a nice long rod and every extra few inches count when it comes to playing a fish and holding it away from snags. At any rate, it put a solid bend in the Yuyuzan. I saw its rust-colored belly and red fins and knew it was a beauty. But I lost the fish, presumably because the rod was short and the fish couldn't really play with a longer and slightly more flexible tip section...  it just dove deep into the dark hole in the middle of the pool, bending the hook and somehow throwing it.

After that, the rain came. Some locals walked by on a trail nearby and asked how the fishing was. They pointed out this spot in the pool above, where some idiot had somehow managed to get their SUV down into the gorge. What a ridiculous drunken moment this must have been for someone. I wondered if this is why the fishing had been less than stellar this time and was slightly dismayed.

In the pool above "SUV Pool" I caught some little darter or dace.

I moved up stream to a higher section I had never fished before. And then it happened, I hooked and landed the fish of the day... a nice 8 inch wild brook trout, in a TINY run with a pool barely large enough to house said fish.

I took a picture holding my rod out for perspective.

I love when you find surprises like that. The rain picked up but I was feeling good and kept going to see what I had missed last time. I was soon pretty happy about that decision, because I found an even more beautiful upper section of the gorge.

I decided that I should definitely continue up river and fish the pool above, which would not have been accessible during higher water periods.

The first one held a few trout, but I figured I'd save it for the way back.

Working my way up the gorge I took a few photos of the stunning rock walls and bright light coming in from above.

I unfortunately spooked a few fish here and the pool went quiet. The rod could reach most of the spots I wanted to fish, and I liked the zoom flexibility. I wish it went one step farther to about 3.2 meters.

This was the last pool I fished, going above the second falls would have to wait for another day with less slippery rock, and perhaps a different approach.

Fishing the pool below that I had saved, I landed a couple more fish. This one was the most photogenic by far.

On the walk out the greenery was really standing out after the rain. We could use a little more. 

It ended up being a really fun day, and I liked the Yuyuzan 290 ZX enough for specific conditions, but was disappointed in it overall. It had a very slight rattle when casting in the collapsed 2.4 meter position, but when extended that obviously wasn't the case. I did find it just a tad tip heavy in the longer 2.9 meter setting, but not too much. There is no tip swivel.

The rod is generally pretty stiff, and that's an issue - while the very first tip section is relatively flexible, the sections immediately below are much stiffer - this rod is definitely designed for heavy flies and is solidly a "keiryu" style rod in my opinion, not a crossover Tenkara rod. I'd rate it at a stiff 8:2. Personally, I think there are better choices in these lengths if you don't need a rod for heavier flies. The rod is a little on the short side for "all around fishing." I lost more fish with this rod than any other I've tried to date... food for thought.

 You can read more about this rod on Tom Davis' Teton Tenkara blog as well. In addition, Nissin makes another version of this rod that zooms between 2.9 and 3.3 meters. I will try to review that rod soon, as I bought one as well. (Update - same issues on that rod, just longer.)


  1. Nice! That is a cool looking darter.

    1. RM Lytle... it was pretty cool looking! It went after a fly more than half its size :)

  2. Adam, do you fish Tenkara exclusively?

    1. Alan, for the last 4 seasons, yes... Although technically I use a Keiryu rod even more often than a Tenkara rod.

      The difference is that Tenkara rods have cork grip and more flex by definition, whereas the Keiryu rods, traditionally used for throwing bait weighted with split shot on the line, have thinner grip sections and no cork, and tend to be stiffer for control of the extra weight.

      I prefer the Keiryu rods in general simply because I fish heavy flies quite often... I prefer a more active style of manipulating flies and don't dead drift quite as much as I used to.

      Sorry for the long winded reply here but figured I may as well explain some of the basic details instead of answering with a more simple "yes." :)