I was fortunate to spend some time on the water recently with the relatively new DRAGONtail Mutant zx380 tenkara rod.
I played around with the rod in the mountains of North Georgia, choosing to match the Mutant with a size 3.0 thirteen-foot level line, a few feet of tippet, and a handful of various unweighted wet flies.
Normally, I’d spend a bit more time than one day with a rod before doing a write-up, however in the case of the Mutant, a few clear pros and cons quickly made themselves apparent as I probed several riffles, plunge pools, and rhododendron tunnels.
An additional note, if you’d like a full review of the Mutant, other resources (such as Teton Tenkara) have done much deeper dives, including postal scale weights, penny weights, and other miscellany. While I was happy to see that several of my on-water experiences were similar to those opinions already documented (so I know I’m not crazy), there were also enough differences to still hopefully make this a worthwhile read.
I was happy to find that the Mutant was extremely enjoyable to cast at all three lengths. This sounds like it should be a prerequisite, but in practice, this is not always the case.
Here’s a quick little video of some casting (not fishing) the Mutant:
At the middle (350cm) & short (315cm) settings the Mutant casts a line like a laser beam, and feels extremely light in hand. I seriously started making “pew-pew” noises in my head while shooting off quick cast after cast while dissecting a section of stream with quite a bit of pocket water. Even at the shortest setting it cast the thirteen-foot line extremely effortlessly.
The longest (380cm) setting was a bit different. The Mutant is a little flexy. While that flex is what makes it a very good rod for casting and manipulating unweighted flies, it also creates a touch of heaviness in hand during the casting motion. Regardless, casts were still very accurate and easy to make. There was also not much rod tip bounce at the end of the cast which was quite nice. There’s nothing worse than having a beautifully soft landing ruined by a wiggly rod tip.
I wasn’t catching large trout, but they were extremely enjoyable to fight once hooked. The largest fish was perhaps eight or nine inches long and it put a nice full bend in the Mutant. I read somewhere (perhaps it was the DRAGONtail website) that this is not a BIG fish rod. It’s easy to see why and I definitely agree. I don’t think I’d recommend this rod for larger trout or (non-panfish) warmwater species.
I don’t consider myself to have particularly giant hands, but I felt the grip was a bit too petite on the Mutant. I was fishing the black foam handled version of the rod and just wish the humps in the grip were a bit more substantial. Uncomfortable isn’t the word to describe it, perhaps “noticeable” is. Since every angler’s hands are different sizes, not to mention their grip on that handle usually different, individual results may vary here.
This zoom rod makes use of rubber posts in the butt cap to grip the nested sections from within. While they worked fine, I had some trouble (at times) getting the rod to nest at the shorter lengths quickly. Found it took a little bit of fiddling, especially at the shortest length. I wouldn’t consider this a real issue, but the attention required was a bit more than say with a similar 3-way zoom rod like the Tenkara USA Sato, which I’ve found to adjust to the shorter lengths without second thought.
Personally, I think all of the DRAGONtail rods are as clean cosmetically as they come. The Mutant falls right in line with a painted section down by the grip and matte black (or perhaps carbon) sections up the rod. Quite handsome if you ask me. However, the neon (or perhaps radioactive) green of the painted section on the Mutant might not be for all. I know some are picky about the appearance of their fishing rods.
Additionally, the butt cap is plastic, not metal. I don’t expect a fancy end cap, or even think it’s needed, however most rods I own do have metal caps so it was apparent upon inspection… but not during function.
We don’t really have an established rod rating system at Tenkara Angler, but if we did I’d personally give the Mutant 4 out of 5 ummmm…. stars, kebari, beers… whatever unit of measure floats your boat.
The rod is really a solid performer that allows you to have fun with a level line and un (or lightly) weighted flies. It casts quite nicely at all three lengths and allows even smaller fish to become “fighters” before being brought to hand.
However, the Mutant is not a perfect rod, and for those with larger hands or perhaps looking to adjust the lengths frequently, may find some minor points for criticism.
All that said, if you’re looking for the convenience of a really fun to fish 3-way zoom rod that hits most of the more popular lengths, the DRAGONtail Mutant is definitely worth checking out. It’s a great option for those that want to use traditional tenkara techniques in waters where medium to small sized trout are considered a trophy.
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