The DRAGONtail Mutant zx380 is not a new rod. Mike Agneta did a review here on Tenkara Angler back in April 2021 and Tom Davis posted his Mutant review on Teton Tenkara in May 2020.
Even though it’s been documented previously I’ve been enjoying the Mutant lately and I thought it would be a god rod to add to our Rod Report Video Series on YouTube. In the Rod Reports we are attempting to create a standardized video database of tenkara rods.
The Mutant zx380 is a triple zoom rod from DRAGONtail Tenkara. The Mutant fishes at three lengths: 12.5 ft, 11.5 ft. and 10.3 ft (381cm, 351cm and 314cm). According to the folks at DRAGONtail, the Mutant zx380 was developed to fill what they saw as a need in their lineup for a premium deep-flex rod to cast light level lines. But they ambitiously wanted to also make that rod a triple zoom rod. And so the Mutant zx380 was born.
Don’t be thrown off by the name. Before I purchased my Mutant rod I had assumed that a rod called “The Mutant” would be a big fish rod or a rod aimed at warm water anglers. But that is not the case. The Mutant is a rod aimed at traditional style tenkara tactics, flies and lines and it’s most at home battling with small to medium sized trout.
YouTube Rod Report
Check out the YouTube video Rod Report for the DRAGONtail Mutant zx380.
Impressions and Unboxing
The Mutant is a clean looking rod, with simple aesthetics with short glossy section near the grip and the remainder is a matte back with small trim bands on each segment. I quite like the appearance of the Mutant. I happen to own the cork handled version but it is available in a black foam grip version as well. I have to admit that I prefer the look of the black foam grip to the cork. But of course that’s totally subjective (and the fish likely don’t care which you use). The quality of the cork used for the grip is not exceptional but is typical of what you’ll find in this price range.
As mentioned the Mutant is available in a cork or black foam handled version. Whichever version you choose you will get a stretch rod sock, and a universal tip cap (in addition to the standard tip cap). You can choose to also get a hard rod tube, or save a few dollars and get it without the rod tube.
Take a look at the table below for all the measurables such as Common Cents, Rod Flex Index, and Rotational Moment in order to give you an idea of how the rod might feel, or compare to others. This rod grades fairly consistently in its penny rating across all three lengths (12/12.5/13). These penny ratings result in Rod Flex Indexes (RFI) of 3.4 (12.5 ft), 3.6 (at 11.5 ft) and 3.8 (at 10.3 ft). Those RFI measurements mean that the Mutant is a full-flex slow-action rod at 12.5 feet and gets faster as the length shortens moving into a moderate-action mid-flex rod. This is how zoom rods will always behave.
The Rotational Moment (RM) numbers give some sense of whether a rod will feel “tip-heavy” at longer lengths. Tom Davis discusses this at Teton Tenkara. He states that as rods get over a RM of 6 they will start to exhibit some tip heaviness. At the full extended length the Mutant comes in a 6.1. In my experience that’s not bad at all and as rods get over 12 feet some feeling of tip-heaviness is almost inevitable with a few exceptions.
|Fully Extended Lengths||314 cm / 10.3 feet|
351 cm / 10.5 feet
381 cm / 12.5 feet
|Nested Length (with cap)||65 cm / 25.5 inches|
|Grip Length||23.8 cm / 9.4 inches|
|Grip Circumference||8.1 cm / 3.2 inches|
|Weight (without cap)||81.5 g / 2.87 ounces|
|CCS||12 pennies at 10.3 feet|
12.5 pennies at 11.5 feet
13 pennies at 12.5 feet
|RFI at 10.3 feet|
|3.8 -> 5:5 Moderate/Mid Flex |
3.6 -> 5:5 Moderate/Mid Flex
3.4 -> 4:6 Slow/Full Flex
|Rotational Moment at 12.5 feet||6.1|
I’ve fished the Mutant in a variety of situations from small brushy mountain streams to the small and medium sized spring creeks. My impression is that it lives up to the design concept of a full-flex to mid-flex level line rod. I’ve used it a little bit with unweighted kebari, but mostly I’ve used it with small bead head nymphs in the size 16-18 range. The Mutant casts light level lines with unweighted kebari and small nymphs very nicely. I would probably not use it for large nymphs and streamers, there are plenty of other rods for that purpose and that’s not the Mutant’s strength. I caught fish up to 13″ inches or so on medium sized water with the Mutant and it handled them well. The Mutant is not designed as a big fish rod and though a skilled angler could land bigger fish I would not select this rod when I’m targeting larger fish in big water.
Check out my post Limestone Stream Winter Fixed Line Nymphing where I use the Mutant for nymphing on a Pennsylvania limestone stream.
I asked some other people to share their thoughts the Mutant and they are below.
“I think if you are like me and enjoy rods with more of a 5:5 action the Mutant is hard to beat. I like it at all 3 lengths and think at its first 2 lengths its as pleasing to me as any of the rods I own. 3rd length is just a bit more tip heavy but still very nice. I like to use a 2.5 level line with it. It’s also a tough rod and ive pulled some decent trout in heavy water without issues.“
Ryan Kimball is Oregon based, he keeps a small photo journal at mytenkara.com.
“Coming from a father of 4 on a tight budget… This has the closest feel to a Japanese rod you can get without breaking the bank. I was beyond impressed with the cast and feel this 3 length rod. It quickly went from a rod I kept on me to try in different situations, to my rod of choice. Strong enough to handle larger wild trout, while soft enough to bend over on a native brookie. With excellent customer service and affordable replacement parts for any accidents, I don’t hesitate to push anyone (trying to stay within a budget or not) in the direction of this rod.“
Check out other Tenkara Angler posts related to Mike Hepner
“Casts nicest at the medium setting. Only time I use the longest set up is an after cast adjustment to reach a tough spot. Great all-around versatile rod and a lot of fun on the larger, wild trout.”
How Do I Get One?
As of this writing The DRAGONtail Mutant zx380 is available on the DRAGONtail website for $144.99 for either cork or foam handle rods, add $15 to include the hard rod tube.
With the Mutant zx380 DRAGONtail Tenkara delivers a full-flex triple zoom that performs very well within its intended uses of light level lines, small flies and small to medium sized fish. If you are looking for a zoom rod that will give the feel of a Japanese style rod the Mutant delivers. And it’s an added plus that it comes in an economical price point.
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.
When you buy something using the retail links within our articles or Gear Shop, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Tenkara Angler does not accept money for editorial gear reviews. Read more about our policy.