A look at the Zen Fly Fishing Kyojin

carp on

So I heard about a “tenkara” rod that could handle salmon and steelhead. My curiosity was piqued. I had to see it. So I contacted Karin of Zen Fly Fishing Gear to see if they had a loaner. She warned me that the rod wasn’t for everyone and that if I wasn’t a spey-caster, that it probably wasn’t for me. I think she was a little worried that my lack of two-handed casting experience would taint my feelings about the rod. I promised that it wouldn’t.

My hope was to get out for some Lake Erie steelheading – sadly that has not happened yet and looking ahead things don’t look good for it happening anytime soon. So rather than just send the rod back without a mention I figured I could do a simple post to get the word out that a rod like this is available.

I can’t really review or endorse it at this point – though I’d love to be a able to post a few hero pics of myself with a fixed-line caught steelhead. Maybe soon….

So here’s a look at the Kyojin
Some Specs:
Price: $249
Weight: 6.1 oz. (without cap)
Open Length: I measured 11’6″
Closed Length: 28 inches
Handle Length: 16 inches
Penny Rating: 198 (as reported by Zen)
Flex Rating: 8:2


The Kyojin next to a typical 12′ tenkara rod

The Kyojin is indeed a beast. It’s a two handed-rod meant to be cast spey-style. It’s so much bigger than the typical tenkara rod that it makes you chuckle. I am not a spey-caster, so I’m not qualified to even comment on the casting – and I won’t.

The top of the Kyojin handle segment vs. a typical tenkara rod

The top of the Kyojin handle segment vs. a typical tenkara rod


I asked Karin Miller of Zen to provide some thoughts on the idea behind the Kyojin.

Taking the best of something traditional and applying what you know and love about American fishing, then designing something completely unique that nails the job and provides an extreme adrenaline rush while doing it. That’s what Zen set out to do.
Kyojin translates from Japanese to mean “giant or colossal”. It’s meant for big fish – think carp, largemouth bass, salmon, steelhead, pacu and trout over 30”. This rod is guaranteed to provide an extreme tenkara experience and test your skills at playing and turning fish. The Kyojin is not for the faint-at-heart! It was designed for the confident, experienced angler, comfortable with 2 handed spey casting.
America has diverse waters and conditions. Many anglers appreciate the simplicity of the tenkara method, but want to hunt bigger, more robust fish and test their skills with a rod, a BIG rod, a line and a fly.
At first glance the rod is noticeably thick with a massive handle and a shoe string for a lillian. If that doesn’t intimidate you and you move on to cast it, you’ll discover that it’s extremely accurate. You can hit a target consistently and throw line – a lot of line, we’re talking 30-40ft, with minimal effort and put it right where you want it to go. At those distances you’re going to want a buddy around to help you net the beast you’ve just hooked into, and to snap a picture and witness the event. With a shorter line, you can use the same method combined with hand-lining to land your catch. Either way, this rod guarantees a thrill.

Well – there you have it. Looking for a fixed line rod for really big fish? Perhaps the Kyojin can fit the bill for you. If you have any questions I’m sure the folks at Zen Fly Fishing would be more than happy to answer them.

The tip and lilian of the Kyojin vs. that of a typical tenkara rod

The tip and lilian of the Kyojin vs. that of a typical tenkara rod

Kyojin Rod in Action

disclaimer: I have was in no way paid or compensated for this post – the rod is a loner which will be sent back to Zen Fly Fishing gear.

5 Comments on A look at the Zen Fly Fishing Kyojin

  1. arthur jones // December 11, 2014 at 2:49 PM // Reply

    did you have a chance to try the Kyojin? on the water or on the lawn? as a spey rod user, I’m interested.
    thank you

    • I have not yet. But I’ll update the post if/when I get a chance. Like I say though – I’m not a spey caster so I am probably not qualified to comment too much on the spey casting. My hope is to get to the Lake Erie tribs and do a little short-line nymphing style fishing with it.

  2. So when people go Ayu fishing in Japan they seem to use more robust and super long rods. I wonder how this rod compares to an Ayu fishing rod.

  3. Ayu fishing rods cost $1500-$3500. They are super light for their length. They are not fly casting rods. Ayu fishing is unlike any other fishing anywhere in the world. It is purely a Japanese fishing method. We saw lots of Ayu fishers in Gifu Prefecture. Ayu fishing is more popular than tenkara in the areas we fished in Japan.

what say you?