Rods Tenkara Trout & Char

DRAGONtail FoxFIRE zx280 Fiberglass Hybrid Tenkara Rod Review

Summer heat, storms, and floods are finally relenting in the Midwest, which made for an excellent opportunity to take the new DRAGONtail FoxFIRE zx280 fiberglass hybrid tenkara rod for test drive on Driftless trout streams.

Dragontail FoxFire Review - Tenkara Angler - Matt Sment - Hero
The FOXFIRE Hybrid Fiberglass Tenkara Rod

An Overview

The FoxFIRE is an innovative rod, combining the unique, slower action of fiberglass with the responsive flex profile normally found in quality carbon fiber designs. It is the only fiberglass hybrid model being offered by US tenkara companies, and among the scant few fiberglass models being offered by any company. Here is what DRAGONtail has to say about the FoxFIRE:

Fiberglass Hybrid Tenkara Rod

“A lot of people have mentioned they would love to see a good tenkara rod in fiberglass material. We have found that the best place for fiberglass in tenkara rods is the Short Rods that need to flex more than traditional carbon fiber tenkara rods to get a smooth cast with the short light lines. This rod is mostly high quality S-Glass material, we added some carbon fiber in the tip sections to help reduce oscillation when casting. The marriage of these 2 materials in the FoxFIRE rod is fantastic!

This will be a very playful rod with even small fish and because it is mostly fiberglass it will flex all the way to the handle when needed. Fiberglass material is also highly durable when compared to carbon fiber rods, in other words they can take a bit of a beating without issues.

3 Short ZOOM Lengths in 1 Tenkara Rod. This rod will be 9.3ft in the 280 long length, 8ft in the 245 mid length, and 6.6ft in the 200 short length.

In the past, we have sold a lot of short Japanese rods that are similar to tenkara rods but they are just too stiff to get a nice cast but they were all that was available in those very short lengths. This rod will replace the need for all these short size Japanese rods we used to sell, plus it will actually cast nicely. “


Visually, the green FoxFIRE rod is vibrantly colored somewhere between jade and lush summer grass. The manufacturing fit and finish were excellent. The rod easily shifted between lengths and maintained positive lock while casting in all positions. The rod features a standard, mid sized grip with good quality cork. The winding check, and bottom cap with coin slot, are black. The FoxFIRE felt well balanced and light in my hand.

Dragontail FoxFire Review - Tenkara Angler - Matt Sment - Laydown

A Driftless Field Test

I fished the FoxFIRE rigged with 9-10 feet of #3 Level line and 4-5 feet of #5 tippet. Flies ranged from thin bodied #14 “Partridge and orange” soft hackles to #10 Hippie Stompers (a bulky foam terrestrial pattern that offers a less than ideal amount of wind resistance while being cast), to a size #6 Pass Lake streamer. All of the rigs were single fly.

It took a little time to get into step with the rod’s slower action, which seems a touch more pronounced than the carbon fiber full flex rods I’ve fished in the past. Once I did, the casting became nearly effortless. I felt that the rod cast best with the absolute least amount of force. As long as I minimized the force in the cast, the tip was precise and responsive. The rod features a stiffer tip with the smooth load kicking in about 2 feet down from the tip.

I found hooksets to be positive and definitive like a faster rod, but was still able to enjoy the slow (dare I say, lazy!) casting stroke. I’d feared that a fiberglass rod may end up floppy and hard to control with a fish on. To the contrary, the FoxFIRE was firmly in control of wild brown trout up to about 14 inches. On more modest fish, the rod was sporty and dynamic.

Dragontail FoxFire Review - Tenkara Angler - Matt Sment - Wild Driftless Brown Trout
Wild Driftless Brown Trout
Dragontail FoxFire Review - Tenkara Angler - Matt Sment - Rocky Cut Banks
Bigger Trout Lurk in Rocky Cut Banks
Dragontail FoxFire Review - Tenkara Angler - Matt Sment - 14 Inches
The FOXFIRE performed well on wild browns up to 14 inches

From my point of view, DRAGONtail has made a bold and innovative move with the FoxFIRE zx280 hybrid fiberglass tenkara rod, and the result is a rod unlike anything else on the market. A unique action. Slower, silky smooth casts. Responsive, crisp tip section. Dynamic flex profile that can handle fish up to the mid teens in moderate current. There is a lot to enjoy here!

Some Random Notes:

I’ll likely use this rod in waters where smaller to mid teens+ fish may be more common, but the terrain is restrictive of rod length. I’ll probably almost always fish it at full length. If I think the creek may be just a bit too much for my Suntech Kurenai HMR30, but doesn’t allow for/justify a full 12-13 foot rod, this will be what I’m reaching for.

I’d be remiss If I didn’t point out that this would make an incredibly fun still water rod for panfish.

Lots of anglers are attracted to multi-position rods, but I’d love to see this action produced in a longer, single position model.

DRAGONtail expects the rod to be available for purchase sometime around October of 2021.

I’m looking forward to spending more time on the water with the FoxFIRE!

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