Rods Tenkara Trout & Char

Reader Review: Tanuki Headwater Rod

Gear Review by Amanda Hoffner

Everyone has their own style and preferred method of fishing; catching fish on wild, backwoods trout streams is mine. I enjoy exploring the forest and all it has to offer along with its calming flow of water down the mountain side. This is where I keep my love for tenkara growing and that is why I was elated when I had the opportunity to fish with the Tanuki Headwater rod prototype in California’s Sierra Mountains.

Tanuki Headwater Tenkara Rod - Amanda Hoffner - Tenkara Angler - Main

I have never fished in California, let alone on the west coast, and I am happy to say that I did it with a rod that fit my ideal fishing location and style. It gave me the experience that I was looking for in terms of weight, collapsed and extended length, and overall style of fishing and felt great catching fish. Its compactness and light weight was ideal for hiking throughout the California forests to find native trout as well.

First Impressions

My first impression of the Tanuki Headwater rod is that it has personality. Visually, I enjoy the slim profile of the slightly curved handle and the stream-lined transition from the handle to the first segment. There is finesse and thought put not only into how it casts, but also the design on the rod. It definitely has unique characteristics and is aesthetically pleasing with its artwork on the handle of brook char vermiculation and spots that mimic other native trout in the US. Add in the glossy finish, and the rod really pops in your hand.

Tanuki Headwater Tenkara Rod - Amanda Hoffner - Tenkara Angler - Paint


Holding the rod leads to the discovery of even more unique aspects. While collapsed, I could feel the delicate nature of the rod itself as it is only approximately 1.87 ounces in weight.  Before you open it to its full length, you wouldn’t even know it held 10 segments inside to extend to 240 centimeters (7 feet and 10 inches). As it is short when collapsed at about 33 centimeters (13 inches) like Tanuki’s other pocket rods, they are perfect for backpacking and traveling, and easily fit in my backpack carry-on for my flights.

However, when I needed to fish tighter spots and challenge myself to sneak to locations of fish in small pockets, the Tanuki Headwater rod beat the other pocket tenkara rods because of the 240 centimeter length and easier hookset capabilities without hitting into trees on the way to set the hook. It could handle all sizes of trout that I caught, from over 10 inches down to 2 inches!

Tanuki Headwater Tenkara Rod - Amanda Hoffner - Tenkara Angler - Fish

Another point to make is that I am not the most delicate person. While walking through the trees and brush with the rod, I often hold my rod in my dominant hand and the line in my other. This ensures that the line and fly do not get snagged on the trees and brush and allows me to bend the rod when needed to navigate through thickets. While I was doing that, I felt like the rod was sturdy while being banged around on the trees and branches. This rod, if not only pretty on the eyes, is sturdy enough to withstand some abuse.

Tanuki Headwater Tenkara Rod - Amanda Hoffner - Tenkara Angler - Bend

Casting Characteristics

Casting this rod is as easy to cast as any rod that I have cast before, regardless of extended length. For having 10 segments and being 13 inches when collapsed, this rod has such a smooth and accurate delivery. This is important for fishing small mountain streams because the fish are so easily spooked that if you miss a spot you want to land the fly or flunk a cast and get a fly stuck in branches above or behind, then you have likely ruined that spot and need to move on. This rod was capable of casting accurately while easily missing overhanging foliage.

Speaking of casting, I fished this rod using an 8-foot level line and a tapered 12-foot floating nylon line. It cast both with precision and without a doubt in my mind that I was going to hit my spots. This increased my enjoyment and overall experience with the rod. It is sometimes hard to adapt to new rod lengths and feels, but this one was pretty easy to adjust to.

The smooth cast and light weight on this rod also allowed for me to fish it for over 8 hours without tiring my arm. If you fish in the forest and hike a few miles, you might as well stay for a while and fish! As tenkara anglers, we know that we have the fly in the water A LOT.  There is no reel to deal with or excess line and because your arm is, a lot of times, in that elbow-tucked stance, then you need a rod that is comfortable in your hand. This is that rod; especially when you don’t know what kind of fishing environment you’re walking into and you need a short rod.


All in all, with the aesthetic, durability, compact collapsed length, weight, casting accuracy, and overall feel, the Tanuki Headwater rod is definitely joining me on all my tenkara adventures. It fits snugly into my go-to Zimmerbuilt sling pack and fills the niche for fishing in tight places that I LOVE to fish when at the fully extended length.

Tanuki Headwater Tenkara Rod - Amanda Hoffner - Tenkara Angler - Golden Trout

A limited edition version of this rod will also be available called the “Golden Trout Dude” rod! It will have the same specs as the Headwater, the distinguishing factor being golden trout artwork done by a local California artist.

Tanuki has kindly provided a coupon code for all Tenkara Angler readers!
Save 5% off your purchase at their website using code TENKARAANGLER

Tanuki Headwater Tenkara Rod - Amanda Hoffner - Tenkara Angler

Amanda Hoffner, a half Japanese angler from Pennsylvania, began her tenkara passion when researching fly fishing methods from Japan. She can be found deep on a blue line in the East coast/Appalachian Mountains fishing for native brook trout. Her Instagram name is @ladytenkarabum.

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1 comment

  1. Great review, Amanda. There is nothing like tenkara fishing in moutain streams. Best, Steve

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