I’m excited to write this review. Or more specifically, I’m excited to show how far DRAGONtail Tenkara has come over the years. Many years ago, I reviewed DRAGONtail’s first tenkara rod. It was not a rod that anyone would confuse with a Japanese tenkara rod. To put it frankly, it wasn’t a rod that I wanted to own, but it was the start of a journey undertaken by Brent Auger to try to make a domestically designed tenkara rod that could compete with Japanese rods. DRAGONtail has had some successes along the way, but they have continued to improve their designs and materials leading to the latest release, the Ragnarok 400 tenkara rod.
Designing a 360 cm rod or shorter is pretty straight forward. Getting the taper right to make a smooth, responsive action is easily within most experienced rod designers’ reach. But to make an outstanding 4 meter rod is a totally different matter. Once you get past about 380 cm, physics takes over and so most 395-400 cm rods tend to feel tip heavy and less responsive. They not only have to deal with increased overall weight, but increase swing weight and wind load. That’s why there are so few remarkably amazing 4 meter rods. With the Ragnarok 400, DRAGONtail has began top crack that glass ceiling.
The DRAGONtail Ragnarok 400 tenkara rod comes with a rod tube and sock, similar to other DRAGONtail offerings. It has an overall black coloration with a glossy finish. The branding section is royal blue, and the rod designation has visible carbon weave. There are a few simple accent rings on the handle and other larger sections. The overall fit and finish are excellent on the rod that I tested.
The handle is 26 cm (10.2 in.) in length and has DRAGONtail’s take on the classic hyotan gourd or hour glass handle shape. The cork is very good quality. The handle has two short cork composite sections, on the head and butt of the handle. These are useful locations to pin the fly, so not to damage the cork of the main handle. They also provide some degree of protection to the handle ends. However, they also add some weight.
As with some other DRAGONtail rods, the Ragnarok comes with two options for protecting the tip of the handle section. Both a classic tip plug (with extra loop of lilian) and an universal tip cap are included. The butt cap is black anodized metal. It has some knurling and a coin slot to aid in removal, but no decompression hole or rubber bumper.
The lilian is red and is of moderately long length. It is attached to the tip section with a perfectly executed glue joint. The glue joint is so well done that the tip section can be removed through the second section (Japanese convention numbers the tip as section #1), allowing the entire rod to be disassembled for cleaning and drying. This is an important feature for any telescoping rod.
|Fully Extended||406 cm (13 ft, 4 in.)|
|Nested (w/ tip plug)||61 cm (24 in.)|
|Cork Grip Length||26 cm (10.2 in.)|
|Weight (w/o tip plug)||90 g (3.2 oz.)|
|RFI||3.9 / Moderate, Mid Flex|
Casting the Ragnarok 400 is very nice. Because it’s a 4 meter rod, it moves through the air with some effort, but not more than you’d expect. Casting it is not laborious. The rod has some wind resistance, but with it’s nice rotational moment (a numerical estimate of tip heaviness), its not a heavy or clunky feeling rod. A rod with a rotational moment of 6 begins to feel tip heavy. One with a rotational moment of 7 or more definitely feels tip heavy and is harder to move. The Ragnarok is between these two metrics, over 6 but less than 7.
The rod’s action is relaxed, but responsive. The rod dampens really well and I don’t detect any energy robbing end of cast tip oscillation. Rotational casts are just as well executed as linear casts.
I used the rod with a standard #3 fluorocarbon level line. The line rolls out in a perfect loop and the fly gets presented first on the majority of casts. With the design taper of the Ragnarok 400, the tip sections efficiently transfer energy to the line. Even though its RFI is in the moderate mid-flex range, the Ragnarok performs more like an upper flex rod. This accounts for its casting accuracy and tighter loops.
Fishing the Ragnarok was a delight. Despite a similar RFI, in my hands, hook sets were more decisive than with my Oni Type-I and I lost fewer fish during the ensuing battle. I’m not a large fish tenkara angler, and the fish I caught were in the 8-15 inch (20-38 cm) range. Even with moderately fast stream flows, the rod handled these fish without any issues.
For those who are interested, the Ragnarok 400 feels a little lighter, less tip heavy and a little more refined in action than its predecessor, the Nirvana 400. Its fit and finish are also more refined.
Here is a vlog using the DRAGONtail Ragnarok 400 on a small-to-moderate Rocky Mountain freestone stream:
I really like the DRAGONtail Ragnarok 400 tenkara rod. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve reviewed DRAGONtail rods from the very beginning of the company. The Ragnarok is definitely their most refined tenkara rod and in my opinion, almost Japanese-like. Its overall weight is good, its casting dynamics are very good-to-excellent, and it’s tip heaviness is in an appropriate range for its weight/length. It’s the result of years of experience, dogged persistence, and listening to customer feedback. DRAGONtail has proven they care about advancing their products to the next level.
The Ragnarok 400 is a 4 meter rod that is among the top ones I’ve used. Yeah, it’s that good.
I look forward to seeing what DRAGONtail comes up with over the next many years. They are clearly moving forward in product development and refinement. Matched with their excellent customer service, I expect DRAGONtail Tenkara and its affiliated companies to be a leader in the future of US domestic tenkara.
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 loaned the rod by Brent Auger. I have no formal affiliation with DRAGONtail Tenkara and there was no expectation of a positive review.
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