Rainy Saturdays don't get any better than this.
I love this photo taken by brother of the angle Geoff Hadley. It captures perfectly the essence of the day. We're taking wild rainbows, grayling and browns on dry fly in the late afternoon from a wet and breezy Derbyshire Wye. The photo also captures my capture of a fine wildie to christen my new rod with its first Salmo.
I'm fishing with the Crow, or in its native tongue, the 'Karasu' from Discover Tenkara. My Karasu is the 360 iteration (it's also available as a 4m model). It is true to say there has been a fair amount of hoo-ha on social media around the launch of this rod. Largely around its (perceived) high price point, and also from the reactions of some competitors to Discover Tenkara's claims for its performance.
Regarding the first, you pays your money and you takes your choice. If you find pleasure in catching fish with the most inexpensive tackle or even, hell, a willow switch you have just cut down, then fair play, that's cool with me. If on the other hand, you seek to define my fishing with your values, you may go forth and multiply. I like quality and I'm prepared to pay a little more for it.
Regarding the second, this is to me far more interesting. What are those competitors so provoked by? Fear of losing a little more of their market share of course, in a niche sector that is already a bit more crowded than it was a few years ago. So a new product needs a strong USP. Enter Karasu, a small production run, made-in-Japan rod from a small English company that looks good, feels good and can do some funky things with über-light casting lines in tight spaces. All of which suits my kind of fishing well enough to engage my interest. So I invest some trust in the guys bringing the rod to market and place my order from the first production run.
I'll leave talk of penny ratings to others. I just want to share how it feels to me to fish with this rod. So let's rewind a week or so and we will find ourselves standing amongst the late season's nettles on the bank of the Wendover Arm. No trout water this but I'm not here for trout. The evening is warm and still and I'm here for the rise of roach that I hope will soon develop. Perfect conditions to test cast the Karasu 360, rigged with 4m of #3 nylon casting line and 5x tippet.
I'm looking forward to casting the light nylon line. One of the fine qualities of this rod is its competence here. My first cast is a noodle on the water, my second and third unroll nicely but with a definite bump down the blank as the rod recovers. I'm overpowering the forward cast I think, and coming to too much of an abrupt stop at the end. So I smooth out and dampen my forward stroke and then this rod and line really start to sing. Before long my new casting stroke becomes second nature and it's almost like I'm thinking the fly into place. Now the roach are rising freely and I'm blissfully using the rise forms as ever changing targets to sharpen my accuracy. I'm really liking casting with this rod.
A little size 16 bead head kebari has some pulling power for roach and a few plump
little beauties soon come to hand. And here is my next test for the Karasu which is all about the trade off between sensitivity and hook set. I am keen to try this out on the roach which, in comparison to trout, have small soft mouths and can at times be very delicate feeders, sucking in and blowing out a fly faster than thought itself. A few roach in and I'm happily finding what I hoped for in this rod - positive take detection and control but with just enough forgiveness offered as I set the hook. I think these qualities will stand me in good stead next week when I join Geoff and Glen Pointon for some Derwent grayling.
So the days are ticked off on my cell wall, the jail door springs open and with one bound I am free and bowling up country to the banks of the Derwent - the starting point of adventure for many past, present and future anglers.
The trout season will soon close and we're hoping today for the holy trinity of wild rainbow, browns and grayling all on dry fly. Glen, our local guide and friend of Geoff's, has a phenomenal knowledge of this river catchment, of fish ways and days, and soon puts me on some grayling feeding in a current seam.
The sun is low and bright and the water has a tinge of whisky about it. Still with the #3 nylon I can float my kebari down onto the surface like a dandelion clock, with no line or tippet getting wet. Such is the fine balance of the Karasu in hand that I can hold the kebari on the surface film, with perfect control, as dry as dry can be, to make that lovely hackle imprint in the watery mirror. I'm enjoying using the light upstream breeze to put a soft little cushion into my casting line which just lets me slow the fly slightly as I drift it down the feeding line.
Such a delight, when fly, line, wind and rod work together to present the fly just as the fish would like. I am soon blessed with some Autumn grayling rising to my kebari, and when they take on the downstream part of my drift I find they are easy to hit as they turn with the fly, feeling little resistance from the cushioning line.
Geoff is fishing with fly rod and reel and is having a great time too. He's doing well with the browns at the tail of his pool, while Glen is always busy offering sage advice, flies and side splitting humour as he shuttles between the two of us taking photo's. That's my memory of the Derwent - autumn colours, beautiful fish and great company. And something of a break through in my tenkara with the degree of control and finesse offered by the Karasu and nylon line.
The start of a wet and blustery weather front moves in and we push on, now fishing the Wye in search of our trinity. Geoff has his brown and I have my grayling so we hope for continued success. The mark I am fishing now is wooded and technical and a great test of side casts and changes of direction. This is easy with the Karasu, and I'm into a wild brownie on my second cast when a side flick lets me drift past an overhanging branch. Now comes the next test for the rod as I need to gain control of my fish straight away. I really have to hand it to Paul Gaskell and John Pearson here for the way a rod with such finesse can show the required authority in a tight spot.
A scrappy little trout and no mistake, but control is direct and without fuss and he's soon in the net. Glen points to a tiny pocket water behind a rock at the tale of a weir. He tells me a good rainbow holds there. Almost as if it's scripted, a side cast under the trees converts to a forward cast and lands my kebari fly first, fly only. I hold it in in the pocket for just a second and it's taken by a solid rainbow. A stronger fish this one, and I can't move much under these branches. So Glen brings the net, but a plunge and lunge and my fish rolls off the hook, but not before we see a flash of cosmic colour. So not quite the trinity this year, but I am blessed with an embarrassment of riches nonetheless.
So I've tested the Karasu 360 over a range of real life fishing scenarios. I've used some classic tenkara approaches for trout and grayling in rocky streams and also adapted these for a non trout quarry - the roach, in a near still-water setting. For me the Karasu is a rod that, while not for novice casters, will surely allow your casting abilities to grow. On-stream the rod has grace and finesse but authority too. I put this down to the speed of the carbon and its degree of recovery. The tip is not going to bounce about and distort your delivery, so with practice the greatest of accuracy will be possible with this rod. But there is also just enough softness in the tip to stop you bouncing off fish, particularly important for those softer mouthed species.
I did rattle the point fly of a team of weighted nymphs across the gravel and the feedback down the blank was excellent, so although this is not currently my area, I think this will be a fine nymphing rod too. Again I put this great tactile feedback down to high quality carbon.
Yes it delivers lovely side casts, and with the small small scrubby rivers I fish, this is important. But apart from all of the above, one characteristic I really dig, and one I think the boys could make more of, is the balance of this rod when fishing. The EVA handle is quite heavy and dense. Not only does this transmit feedback down the rod very crisply but it counterbalances the rod when it's held in the classic tenkara position.
For me this allows three huge benefits compared to all my other rods. I can fish over long periods with no fatigue and I can hold my rod with a much lighter and better grip. But best of all, I can accurately make the most miniscule adjustments to rod tip position. So I can track flies more precisely and more easily, I can hold my fly in or on the surface film to change its imprint and I can manipulate a wet kebari by tiny fractions. This is great for slower flow species like roach and rudd when I'm looking to induce a take.
Build quality is of the highest order. Oh, and the rod does look pretty dam cool.