When I heard about the Daiwa Kiyose 30 SF I knew I wanted to get a look at it. The Kiyose is marketed in Japan as an ultra-compact travel rod for fishing mountain streams. It is not, strictly speaking, a tenkara rod. It is a fixed-line rod capable of casting a light level line, and so you can “tenkara” fish with it. What are the differences between a tenkara rod and the Kiyose? I can’t speak to the design details of that distinction. However I’ll talk a little about the practical differences.
To the casual observer the most apparent difference between the Kiyose and a typical tenkara rod is the lack of a cork or foam grip. Instead of cork grip the Kiyose’s handle is a textured portion of the rod itself. Next you’ll notice that the Kiyose 30 SF comes in at about 10 feet in length (collapsing to 15.5 inches) – this is on the short end of tenkara rods that are generally available. Tenkara rods are typically 12 feet long or longer, though shorter ones can be had. The collapsed length of the Kiyose is also significantly less than typical tenkara or tanago rods, making for an impressively compact fishing rod that will travel well in any briefcase, backpack or daypack.
The third significant difference is not as apparent. And it will take the wiggle test or a little fishing to see it. Compared to a typical 7:3 action tenkara rod the Kiyose will deflect much less. It is a much stiffer rod than your regular tenkara rod. It bends less all along it’s taper. It’s profile under a load of 10-pennies is shown in the picture below compared to a 7:3 tenkara rod. What does this mean to the angler? Well it means a few things. First of all it means that the Kiyose should handle heavily weighted nymphs, buggers or streamers more easily and with more hook-up ease than a wispy tenkara rod. Secondly it means that it may, in general require a heavier line than a tenkara rod for casting – resulting in less delicate presentations.
Kiyose 30 SF Stats at a glance:
- Extended length = approx 10-ft
- Collapsed Length = 15.5 inches
- Weight = 2.1 ounces
On the Stream
I just want to say here that I did not have a chance to test this rod under as many conditions and with as many types of flies and lines as I would have liked. To really get the whole picture I’d want to fish it through a whole season. Given that, I evaluated it primarily as a nymphing rod.
As mentioned earlier, and illustrated above, the Kiyose is significantly more stiff than a typical tenkara rod. For me this is the most significant feature of the rod. I’ve always been a nymph fisherman – and sometimes, even since my tenkara conversion, I want fish a heavy nymph or a heavy wooly bugger or even a heavy streamer. You can do this with a tenkara rod – but it is not ideal. That’s not a knock on tenkara rods, it’s just not what a tenkara rod is made for. The super flexible tenkara rod is designed to allow you to cast an extremely light line and unweighted flies. And it does a very good job of it. However that flexible rod is a bit of a handicap when it comes to fishing heavy sub-surface flies – it makes it more difficult to get a good hook set. Also the flexible rod is not great for working a heavy streamer or wooly bigger in the current. This is where the stiffness of the Kiyose comes in.
I fished the Kiyose with heavily weighted size 8 Czech nymphs – and it handled them wonderfully. I was able to feel the nymph well, and make quick hook sets when I detected a strike. The Kiyose cast the heavy nymphs easily too. I fished it with 14-lb hi-viz nylon mono level line, which has been my line of choice lately. I know I’m supposed to fish with fluorocarbon level line – but oh well… The other important thing when fishing nymphs is the check-cast. This is where you stop your forward cast early causing the tippet to tuck under the line and the nymph to hit the water with some velocity before the line. This allows the nymph to sink quickly before any drag from the line affects it. I find this a bit difficult with a typical tenkara rod and light level line – the Kiyose, however, was really good at this.
So as a Czech nymphing rod I give the Kiyose two thumbs up.
One other application that I was able to evaluate briefly was as a popper rod. I was able to fish some poppers with the Kiyose and it worked pretty nicely with them. To do this you need to use a floating line such as a floating furled line or nylon mono level line. Fluorocarbon level line sinks too quickly to fish poppers effectively. I’ve fished poppers with my tenkara rods and it’s possible but the flexible tip is not great for “popping” the poppers. Though I didn’t get a chance to do it the Kiyose would probably make a nice rod to use from a canoe or kayak with big flies for stillwater bass fishing.
Another potential asset or deficit of the Kiyose is it’s length. On open streams I generally prefer a rod with more reach than the Kiyose’s 10-feet. However on tight brushy streams with a low-hanging canopy the 10-ft length may be an asset. I say this with some reservations though. I did not get to fish the Kiyose on this type of stream – but one potential problem with its use as a small stream rod is its stiffness. In my testing – the Kiyose was much easier to cast with heavier lines. I tried a #3 tenkara line with it – and this was not great. As a result, on small streams the use of heavier line could result in less delicate and less stealthy presentations. Does it preclude it from this application? – I’d say no. But if this is your primary fishing arena there are other better specialty options such as the Daiwa Soyokaze (see my review HERE) or one of the 10 or 11-ft tenkara rods on the market.
To sum up I’d say that the Kiyose is a specialty rod. Can it be used to fish in the traditional tenkara style with unweighted flies? Yes it can – but you’ll need compromise with less reach and with heavier lines. A traditional tenkara rod will serve you better for this. With it’s tiny collapsed length the Kiyose would make a good backpacking rod – but you’ll have the compromises mentioned previously. For me the real niche for the Kiyose is nymphing with heavy flies – in which it performed very nicely. And I can easily recommend it for this purpose.
Where can I get one?
The Daiwa Kiyose is available from TenkaraBum. There are two models available the 10-ft Kiyose 30 SF ($125 @ tenkarabum) and the 11-ft Kiyose 33 SF ($135 @ tenkarabum). The TenkaraBum Daiwa Kiyose Page has got more information on the Kiyose if you’re interested in more details.
Disclaimer: I was able to get a temporary loaner rod from TenkaraBum for testing and review purposes. I received no compensation for this review.