If you’re a tenkara angler that pays close attention to gear, you may have noticed teasers over the last few weeks of a new rod from Tenkara Rod Co. The Yari has been mentioned (and seen) in several videos dating back to last Fall, and it seems that pre-launch models have recently made it into the hands of some social media influencers.
What makes the Yari different from any previous rod offering from Tenkara Rod Co. is that it is “Made in Japan.” As a matter of fact, there are few domestic rod brands that can make a similar claim. Well, that certainly piqued my interest enough to reach out to Drew Hollenback, “Presidente” of Tenkara Rod Co. to find out a little bit more…
Mike Agneta: Drew, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for our readers. Congratulations on the upcoming launch of the Yari!
I’m certain perceptive fans of Tenkara Rod Co.’s YouTube videos have been noticing quite a bit of this new rod over the past few months. It’s got to be exciting to bring it to market. Can you give us a brief overview of the rod’s specs?
Drew Hollenback: Absolutely! So we had been working with the manufacturer for several months going back and forth on length, action, material makeup, when we finally landed on what you see now. I think it was around April of 2020 when we first received what would be the final sample. At the time we weren’t really sure if we could even make the Yari happen because of COVID but we had already committed a good chunk of time and money to get the process going.
We first took it down to this little creek in the desert of Idaho and fished for native redbands (rainbow trout) with it. Within minutes we had the first fish on and immediately we knew that this was going to be the rod. It is 360cm, 83% carbon 17% fiberglass, and has a really soft action. I would equate it to if you were to fish a fiberglass fly rod after fishing more fast action fly rods.
Setting a retail has been a tricky one for us. Most tenkara rods are made in China, even a lot of the Japanese brands make their rods in China or Thailand. So this rod actually ended up being crazy expensive for us to make. But we really didn’t want to price it super high. Our main goal with it is to allow our customers to have a Japanese made tenkara rod but getting it from a brand in the USA means you get our customer service, lifetime warranty, and see the rod in action with all of the content that we put out. So we ultimately settled on $275 for the rod.
MA: What made you decide to source a new rod from Japan?
DH: Making a rod in Japan is always something we have wanted to do. I don’t know if a lot of people out there know this but I grew up in Japan. I lived there for about 6 years from age 9-15. Those are some pretty important years in terms of growing up, and it really instilled a love of everything Japanese. And having that Japanese background is kind of what led us to start tenkara in the first place. Our original plan for the release of the rod was to go to Japan and fish a few different areas, meet with the manufacturer, and come out with a video that showed more of the Japanese side of tenkara. But we had to cancel our trip due to COVID.
The other thing is working with Japanese rod factories is not easy. It took years for us to find the right manufacturer and lots of emails back and forth to figure out exactly how to do it. We actually met the owner of this factory in Denver a couple of years ago and that is when it all came together.
MA: Where does the Yari fit into the lineup of Tenkara Rod Co. models? Can you describe a few of characteristics anglers will find unique when they fish this rod?
DH: It’s hard to really place the Yari in with a lineup with all of our other models. The Yari rod is kind of out on its own. We really just wanted to make a 360cm, traditional style tenkara rod.
Everything we build is based on how and where we like to fish. So we have the Rocky rod which is so big and heavy and made to catch carp, salmon, big trout, etc… And at the other end of the spectrum we have the White Cloud which is 8 feet and made to fish really tight spots and catch smaller trout. But the Yari is still fairly long (11’9”) and has a very smooth cast and soft action.
It fishes lighter lines really well like a size 3 or 4 level line with small, lightweight flies. Typically with a carbon fiber rod you can feel or see the rolled carbon where on these its just smooth. We really just wanted to make something that was a true Japanese style tenkara rod made in Japan.
MA: “Yari” translates to “Spear” in English. Is there a reason for the name?
DH: It took a while for us to come up with a name. All of our other rods are named after mountain ranges in the US. Mount Yari is actually one of the more well known mountains in Japan. It is named such because the point of it is shaped like a spear pointing up to the sky. But we also like to think of it as such a great weapon for catching trout.
MA: How would you compare the Yari to a cane pole?
DH: HAHA that video is meant to be funny (especially for people who always hear that tenkara is cane pole fishing), but also to give a really honest review of a cane pole.
MA: One of the things I admire about the Tenkara Rod Co. line of rods is that they have always been colorful. One of the things you immediately notice about the Yari is that it’s quite red. Why red?
DH: Design is something that has always been super important to us. For the Yari we wanted it to immediately stand out, but also have a very simple design and let the overall feel and look of the rod speak for itself. Red just seemed like the right way to go on it.
MA: It’s my understanding that there are a limited number of Yari rods available to start. Do you plan on producing more?
DH: Yes we only produced 500 of these and we will only have 475 available to the public (had to keep a few for ourselves!). Based on how it’s received we might have more available later on this year. We are planning to ship them out the first week of June.
MA: While it may be a bit premature, does Tenkara Rod Co. have any plans to explore more “Made in Japan” models in the future?
DH: Yes that is absolutely something we will consider. Our goal as a brand is to continually improve our products and offerings and working with Japan falls into that perfectly.
MA: In closing, is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the Yari or goings on with Tenkara Rod Co. that I didn’t ask you about?
DH: The Yari is launching on Kickstarter on April 13th at 11 AM Mountain time. We have a lot of fun stuff in the works right now including weekly videos on YouTube, new product releases, and fun collaborations!
MA: Awesome. Thank you for your time Drew; I wish you nothing but success with the launch of the Yari!
Yes, you did read that last part correctly. The Tenkara Rod Co. Yari Kickstarter launches later today… at 1PM ET, 11 AM MT. We’ll insert a link HERE once it’s live for easy access. Remember, there’s fewer than 500 available (at least for now), so if you want in on the first batch, it’s best not to snooze.
As for the rod… Tenkara Angler did receive a tester to put through the paces and eventually write up a review. It arrived only a few hours before writing this article. So while there are no trout or high gradient mountain streams nearby, I did sneak it out to a local pond just to get a few casts in and see if I could put a bend in it. Without saying too much, if you enjoy the casting tempo of a slower rod, (or perhaps have experience with another brand of premium, Japanese-made “red” rods), I think you’ll enjoy the Yari.
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.