At the recent Denver Fly Fishing Show various vendors showed their wares to eager show attendees. All types of vendors were present, including tenkara gear companies. Among these, there was a new vendor, ESZ Fly Fishing based in Parker, CO.
ESZ is a recent tenkara startup that offers rods, lines, and other tenkara gear. Their mission “is to develop high performance, high quality and balanced rods from an angler’s point of view, and to provide our customers with reasonable prices.”
I talked with the founder of ESZ, Ethan, and he explained that their rod designs are proprietary to ESZ, and can’t be found in any other tenkara rods currently on the market. Their rods have been thoroughly tested in a variety of situations, from small mountain creeks to larger rivers that have larger, more powerful fish.
ESZ sent me one of their Rivermaster Z2 tenkara rods to test, and to see for myself their approach to tenkara. I must say that out of the gate, I’m impressed!
The Rivermaster Z2 is one of their premium rods, and is Ethan’s favorite. It is designed “not only for small fish, [but ESZ] rods performance can totally handle something like 24 inch rainbow trout.” The overall design was to lengthen each segment and reduce the number of joints. This was done to increase casting accuracy, improve balance, and strengthen the rod for larger fish.
The Rivermaster Z2 came in a handsome protective rod tube and included a rod sleeve. The overall rod coloration is dark graphite gray and the finish is non-reflective matte. There are gold accents on all but the top three segments. The rod designation is simple in design, with the name of the rod, length, number of segments and action. The action is described as “4:6”, which is 6:4 in the conventional Japanese flex action ration system. All segments, but the top two, have anti-stiction rings, to reduce jammed sections. This is reminiscent of Daiwa’s tenkara rods.
The handle is very good quality cork and is a straight cylindrical shape. It is 22.5 cm (8.9 in.) in length.
The rod comes with two tip plugs. These are wooden with rubber covered insertion posts. Their fit is excellent, being snug but not too tight. The butt cap is gold anodized aluminum and is knurled, to aid removal. The butt cap also has an invagination that will hold the tip plug when it’s not in use, somewhat similar to newer TUSA rods. There is some rattling when the rod is nested, because the butt cap doesn’t have a rubber bumper.
The lilian is dark brown and is attached to the tip segment via a well executed micro-swivel. The tip section can be removed through the adjacent segments, allowing the rod to be fully disassembled for cleaning and drying.
|Fully Extended Length:||392 cm / 12′ 10″|
|Nested Length (with cap):||70.5 cm / 27.8 inches|
|Weight (without cap):||82 g / 2.9 ounces|
|RFI:||4.8 / 6:4 Moderate Mid Flex|
Casting the Rivermaster Z2 is really nice. Its balance is excellent (as shown by the low Rotational Moment), and its swing weight in minimal. I love the fact that it weighs is only 82 g (2.9 oz.)! For a 390 cm tenkara rod, that is excellent. Also, the blank sections are thinner compared to many other 390-400 cm rods, so it has lower wind load as it cuts through the air. It dampens well at the end of the cast , so there is no inappropriate tip oscillation. The action is relaxed enough to be fun, yet powerful enough to be useful. Its RFI is right in that ballpark of where I prefer my tenkara rods, 4.8-5.2. Basically, it’s fun to cast.
I used both #3 and #3.5 fluorocarbon level lines in 5 m (16′) and 3 m (10′) lengths. Each line had 1 m (3.3′) of 5X tippet. When casting for practice I prefer a #3.5 line for its accuracy, but when fishing I prefer a #3 for its reduced drape otsuri or line sag. The Rivermaster Z2 casts these lines with little effort, and generated tight casting loops. I did not use the rod with furled or PVC lines.
I’ve never been a fan of cylindrical handles, as most are too small in diameter for my liking, but the cylindrical shaped handle on the Rivermaster Z2 is not that bad. I prefer to hold rods near the butt of the handle, and in doing so on this rod it is comfortable and functional. Also, holding the rod at this position increases perceived tip heaviness, but this rod has a low enough Rotational Moment that it is minimal. My forearm appreciates that!
I really like this rod! I think ESZ and Ethan have done a wonderful job with the Rivermaster Z2. I appreciate it’s low weight, low tip heaviness, low wind resistance and swing weight, as well as its flex action. I think I’m going to like fishing with this rod for many years to come. I will be interested to see how it controls moderately large trout, 40-46 cm (16-18″) in flowing water, as I’m not currently able to test that out.
As far as its longer nested length, that doesn’t bother me at all. Although pocket rods seem to generate a lot of excitement, I’ve loved longer nesting rods for their light weight and smooth casting actions. The ESZ Rivermaster Z2 is no exception.
I’m excited about what ESZ has brought to the tenkara table, and I look forward to trying their other rod offerings! All I can say is, you should check these guys out!
Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ. Also, your rod may not have the same length, issues, or functionality as my rod. There are variations between rods, even in the same production run. No description can fully tell you how a rod feels or fishes. For this, you must personally hold, cast, and fish the rod, then make up your own mind. I was given the Rivermaster Z2 to test and review. Despite this arrangement, there was no expectation of a positive review.
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