Iwana Rod Family Review

The Iwana rods from TenkaraUSA are named after the Iwana, or White Spotted Char, found in Japan.   These small char are probably the perfect target for the Iwana series of tenkara rods which are made for small to medium streams with smaller average sized fish.

Iwana Rod Handles - 12', 11' and 9'3" from top to bottom
Iwana Rod Handles – 12′, 11′ and 9’3″ from top to bottom

TenkaraUSA sells two versions of the Iwana rod – an 11′ and 12′ model and also a conversion handle that will turn either rod into a 9’3″ rod.  The rods share most of the segments and just use different handle sections and a reduced number of sections as they are made shorter.   This is a nice feature, especially if you own several Iwana rods and break a section on one.  I recently broke the tip on my 11′ rod and when I was heading to very small water just turned the 12′ rod into an 11′ rod and went fishing.

Rod Specifications

Model Weight Action Number of Segments
9’3″ Conversion 2.3 oz 7:3 7
11′ Iwana 2.5 oz 6:4 8
12′ Iwana 2.7 oz 6:4 9

I originally purchased the 11′ Iwana thinking it would be the perfect rod for the smaller PNW trout streams and rivers I like to fish in the summer.  The TenkaraUSA reps at the booth assured me the 12′ Iwana would be the rod of choice but I just couldn’t believe it, my swtich rod is 11’6″ and I could not imagine using that on small streams, I had enough trouble with my 6′ or 7′ bamboo rods at times.   I was doubtful even the 11′ length would work actually so purchased the 9’3″ conversion at the same time thinking I’d mostly use that.   Well, I didn’t know tenkara at the time.

11′ Iwana

The 11′ Iwana turned out to be pretty much the perfect rod for very small creeks and the headwaters of small rivers where the fish were in the 5-12″ range with the occasional 13-14″ monster trout.   The soft, 6:4, action makes this rod very easy to cast with the TenkaraUSA 10.5′ traditional line, the Moonlit Fly Fishing Ronin line, or a 3.5 level line and the light weight makes it easy to fish all day long with no fatigue.  The light weight and ease of casting also make it a great rod to teach kids how to fish.  I converted the rod to 9’3″ the first time I took my granddaughter out and found it to be lighter but also a bit harder to cast since it changes the action to a somewhat stiffer 7:3 rod than the 6:4 rod of the full 11′.    The next time I took an 8-year old out I used the 11′ rod full length and he was casting it well after a few minutes.   The 11′ Iwana is my rod of choice locally on the Raging River, Tolt River, upper South Fork, and on the small creeks in Eastern Washington and the North Cascades that I like to fish.

9’3″ Iwana

So, what about the 9’3″ conversion?  I’d say it would be great on really small, really bushy creeks where it is hard to impossible to fish the 11′ rod.  So far I’ve not really needed to convert it down, I have found that even places I thought the 11′ rod would be hard to cast that it is totally doable, once you learn how to cast a tenkara rod properly and learn how to do a simple roll and bow-and-arrow cast for times you can’t get the line airborne.

12′ Iwana

After fishing the 11′ rod for a month I realized that I could indeed use a 12′ rod in many of the places I was fishing.   Even the small rivers in the PNW are wide and open enough that there is a lot of room to cast so I bought the 12′ Iwana.  Small fish still put a bend in the rod and it can handle larger fish with ease.  I wanted multiple rods so that I could take my granddaughter fishing and have two rods and getting the 12′ rod seemed perfect since I would have interchangeable components and could use it on the slightly bigger waters and some slightly bigger fish.  I fish the 12′ Iwana with the TenkaraUSA 10.5′ traditional line as well as a 12′ Moonlit Fly Fishing Shogun line, both cast very well with it.    The 12′ Iwana is now the rod I use the most, it is perfect for all of the forks of the Snoqualmie River close to home and would also be a great rod on the Methow or Tieton in Eastern Washington.

Now when I head out to the mountains I’ve usually got both the 11′ and 12′ Iwana rods with me and, depending on where I decide to park, I pull out the appropriate length.  If I had to get by with just one of them I’d probably stick with the 12′ Iwana now that I know more about tenkara and realize that you can indeed fish a 12′ rod on very small water once you get the hang of it.

This post originally appeared on my Personal Blog.