When the package arrived I marveled over the layout of the bundle.
Image from BackCountry.com
The box is all black and each piece of the outfit had it's own slot. The fly box was nice and had the quality of the flies was pretty much what I expected. They were nothing spectacular but not horrible either. The presentation of bundle overall was top notch. When I pulled out the rod I couldn't wait to try it out. The finish is a graphite dull look which I loved. There were no instructions so I had to go with stuff I found online. Wetfly provides this video to get you started.
The rod extended easily enough but here's what this video doesn't talk about. There's a piece on the very bottom of the rod that unscrews. I was curious to what exactly this was for. I thought maybe it was a place to put your end cap. When I unscrewed it I noticed it was hollow inside. That was until my rod collapsed back into place and actually shot out the hole I was looking at. Basically the rod now was inverted and coming out beneath the cork. It was a pain to get back in the blank and get the rod to extend again. The rod is made to telescope and extend but what you don't realize is this is a fine process and if the blanks are misaligned even by a millimeter it will cause the rod to not collapse or extend properly. I learned my lesson with that. Keep the butt cap screwed in.
I was able to get the rod extended properly and setup. The 3 lines that come with the package are a furled leader, level line and tippet. The furled leader is basically braided mono. The level line looks just like regular mono and the tippet is your average tippet. When I first saw how you tie the leader to the tip of the rod I figured I was going to break this in a matter of seconds. Once I had everything setup though I found it was quite sturdy and felt more durable than I thought. I tried playing around with the different rod lengths and imagined myself casting in small streams. The images in my head quickly vanished as I fought with the rod to collapse different sections. The alignment has to be perfect or the rod will not collapse. In some rare instances you can actually collapse the tip down inside the other blanks and won't be able to get it out. Luckily I had the leader tied on and used that to help pull the tip out. This annoyed me pretty quickly. I found I would not be able to use this rod how I wanted to. The idea of collapsing the rod depending on the situation is not as easy as it sounds.
The rod was very stiff. It seemed to have an action faster than any of the rods I own. I took everything over to a local pond to test it out. Casting was a little awkward at first but I started to figure it out. I actually let my daughter have a few turns with it and she could actually cast better than I could. The key was to slow down and let the rod do all the work. Then came my next issue with the setup. The furled leader sinks. This caused my fly to sink as well. Not a huge deal but it was hard to detect strikes once the line and fly were submerged. I could have tied on an indicator but I was too lazy. Having only so much casting distance became very frustrating. There's really nothing you can do about it. If you can't wade in the water you're stuck only casting so far from the bank. You better hope the fish are with in 30ft of you or they are out of casting range. That is unless you add some line and have plenty of room to back cast. Make sure nothing is overhead as well. This rod is 12ft tall and finds branches easily. Especially in the hands of a 5yr old.
I was able to catch fish with the rod and not having a reel felt strange. I angled the rod and was able to land the fish but I'm not sure what I'd do with a significantly large fish. With this rod a large fish would be about 2lbs. The whole experience was fun but had me unimpressed. I felt limited in how I could fish which I didn't like at all. I like the ability to cast where I want and as far as I want. I also didn't like the issue with collapsing the rod. There were several times I thought the rod was moving a little or trying to collapse on its own. Worrying about this was just another annoyance. In the end I decided Tenkara probably isn't for me. I can see how the style can be attractive to others but for me it's a fad that doesn't really have an advantage over traditional fly gear. Actually you're at a disadvantage in my opinion. Fly fishing to me is difficult enough.
The main reason I considered Tenkara is I liked the logic of simplicity and being able to avoid the different currents while casting to a certain location. After my experience I'd say save your money and use a long stick for those scenarios.