When I first heard Tenkara USA was redesigning their Ayu rod, it was a little disconcerting. I’ve seen it too many times before: a company has an excellent product—one that everybody likes. Then, they redesign it and it becomes pedestrian. I’m not sure what leads gear companies to do this but after a few casts, I was relieved to find that it wasn’t the case for the redesign of the Ayu.
I’ve always like the original Ayu for several reasons—I like the grip and the softer action, but I also liked the 13 ft. length. To me, 13 ft. is the perfect all around length for the rivers and streams I fish. In fact, if the Iwana came in a 13 ft. version, I would probably favor that over the Ayu simply because I consider the 6:4 action to also be the best all around. And with a new 6:4 action, the Ayu Series II comes about as close to a 13 ft. Iwana as you will get.
The first thing I noticed during the unboxing ritual was that this latest incarnation looks completely different. Gone are the signature green bands that used to make the Ayu recognizable from 50 yards downstream.
Instead, the handle section is a gorgeous, woven graphite with bands of dark gray and brown. It’s very unique looking and a departure from the look of all other Tenkara USA rods. The rest of the blank is an unsanded, unpainted glossy finish similar to the current Iwana. Overall, it’s a much more subdued and elegant look than the previous green-banded model.
The handle looks to be identical to the previous version of the Ayu with a half-wells style contour. I’ve always liked this grip so I’m glad they decided to keep it. When collapsed, the Series II is significantly longer than last year’s model. I’m not sure why (perhaps it has something to do with how the segments work together to create the new action. For most anglers, this probably won’t matter, though some backpackers might lament the slightly less compact size.
2012 Ayu vs. Ayu Series II Closed …
The rod plug is the typical wood and rubber plug, but with one addition—a red cord loop. This idea was likely inspired by posts on Tenkara USA’s own forum where a member posted this DIY modification to make the notoriously easy-to-lose plugs more visible when dropped. But it also has two other benefits.
One is that you can use the loop to secure the plug to a D-ring or other point of attachment to prevent loss. The other (and this is genius) is that the cord is actually made of lilian. This means anywhere you take your rod, you’ve got some backup lilian cord with you in case you break the tip or the lilian slips off and you need to make a field repair. Brilliant!
Here’s a video of Tenkara USA founder Daniel Galhardo showing how to make a quick field repair using the lilian cord:
And the end cap features a rubber bumper to silence the collapsed segments when closed. This seems to now be a standard feature on Tenkara USA rods now and I think is a good move.
I find rod action difficult to describe with words since it’s so subjective. Two people can interpret the action of the same rod completely differently. Above, I likened the action of the Series II to a “13 ft.” Iwana and that’s about as close of description as I can give. It does bend into the 5:5 position, but it seems that the majority of loading takes place at 6:4. It’s noticeable more responsive than the previous Ayu with less tip bounce at the end of the cast and an overall much crisper action. The rod definitely has more backbone and allows you to bring fish to the tamo quicker.
My one criticism of the rod is that at 3.6 oz. it is heavier than the previous model. The additional weight is probably another result of the action change. Casting the former and new Ayu side by side, the weight difference is noticeable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not arm draining heavy—but it is noticeably heavier. If you’re used to casting the old Ayu, this is the first thing you will notice. But then again, the crisper action might compensate for any complaints about the extra weight.
As with all Tenkara USA rods, the Ayu Series II comes with a fiberglass rod tube and rod bag.
If you like the Iwana, but always wished it were a little longer, you’ll like the Ayu Series II. In my opinion, it’s a solid, all around tenkara rod with a few nice bells & whistles thrown in. Clearly, Tenkara USA is listening to its customers and incorporating their feedback into their new designs. Now for the shocker: all these improvements come at the same price as last year’s model!