Article by Chris Stewart
Seiryu. Say what? Seiryu!
Like many Japanese words, seiryu doesn’t quite translate directly into English. The literal translation is “clear stream” but when describing fishing gear it refers to a class of fixed line rods generally used in streams after they have already come down from the mountains. The target species are not trout or char, as with tenkara, but chubs and dace.
Chubs and dace? Seiryu rods are wonderful trout rods! (Assuming the trout aren’t too big, of course.) In Japan, most of the trout aren’t too big and a few tenkara anglers do use seiryu rods for tenkara fishing. I believe their “go to” seiryu rod has been a Daiwa Rinfu – a wonderful rod that Daiwa discontinued years ago.
People often ask me why a good rod would be discontinued. The answer is simple: in Japan the market is small and the competition is stiff. To survive, companies must continually introduce new, improved products. It’s not just Japanese rod companies, either. How often does Apple come out with a new iPhone? How often do car companies come out with new models? The good news is that the rod companies generally replace a discontinued model with a new one that fills the same niche.
For Daiwa, that new one is the Seiryu X, which effectively replaces the Rinfu as Daiwa’s seiryu rod. It comes in four lengths: 3.5, 4.5, 5.4 and 6.4 meters. The 3.5 is a surprisingly light rod that is just a wonderful small fish rod. How small is “small?” I honestly don’t know. The rod is pretty soft, but it is rated for 5X tippets, so it might be quite a bit more capable than I think! The progressively longer rods can handle progressively longer fish (up to a point).
Daiwa is not the only company that has a seiryu rod. Gamakatsu has the really nice Ryokei, of which Tom Davis is particularly fond. Shimano has one model, which I saw and wiggled at the Osaka Fishing Show one year but have never fished with. I do not know of anyone in the US that has one. Suntech has several models. Suntech’s Kurenai HM series has developed a bit of a cult following in the US, and even has its own fan club on Facebook. Of all the Japanese rod companies, Nissin has the most extensive line-up, with eleven seiryu rods!
What I find most interesting is that Japanese anglers use seiryu rods mostly on lowland streams rather than in the mountains. In the US, though, we often use them in the headwaters – what would be considered “genryu” in Japan. Genryu fishing could be tenkara, western fly fishing, lure fishing or bait fishing. If you look for “genryu rods” in a rod catalog, though, what you’ll find are stiff bait fishing rods, the very antithesis of the ultra-light, ultra-soft seiryu rods that we in the U.S. use in the headwaters for wild brookies and ‘bows.
Seiryu rods also make great panfish rods. Although the sunfish in Lake Havasu can get surprisingly large, the sunfish that most people catch are well within the capability of a soft, sensitive seiryu rod. Even a Suntech Kurenai or Nissin Air Stage Hakubai, each of which carries a 6.5X max tippet recommendation, is plenty strong enough for all the sunfish you are going to catch in the town park. The sunnies will still put a bend in the rod and make the line sing, though.
Seiryu rods are just ideal for smaller fish, whether sunfish in a farm pond or little wild brookies in little wild streams – fish for which your normal tenkara rods are just overkill. In my articles and presentations on micro fishing I generally say you should match your gear to your intended quarry. That same idea holds true for fish that are modest but hardly micro.
The average tenkara rod is well suited for fish in the eight to eighteen-inch range. Below that they’re overkill. Above that many are outgunned unless in the hands of an angler experienced in landing larger fish. For this article on seiryu rods we can safely exclude the 18” plus fish (in fact, we’d better exclude them if we want the rod to have the same number of pieces on the drive home as it did on the drive out). For the smaller fish though, from three-inch sunnies to maybe 10-12” trout or bass, they’re just fine.
Actually, they’re not just fine. For those fish they’re damn fine. They’ll put a smile on your face that might get stuck if you catch too many. The goal, as I see it, is to maximize your fun in the limited “fun time” you have. We all work a lot more hours than we play. Make the most of your play time. If most of the fish you catch are 9-12” stockies or 5-6” sunfish, fish with a rod that is ideal for that size fish. Don’t fish with a stick and a string. Fish with a gossamer line and a magic wand!
Chris Stewart, (aka) the TenkaraBum, grew up in Colorado and is currently based in NYC. He is the owner, CEO, & shipping clerk of TenkaraBum LLC. He usually can’t be found because he’s wearing camo.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.
Do you have a story to tell? A photo to share? A fly recipe that’s too good to keep secret? If you would like to contribute content to Tenkara Angler, click HERE for more details.