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Tenkara rod care and maintenance

Tenkara rod care and maintenance

Proper care of your tenkara rod will ensure it performs well and decrease chances of the rod breaking. Here’s how to care for your tenkara rod.

Tenkara rods have a unique telescopic design, where each segment is tapered and slides into the subsequent segment. This has the benefit of making it easy to completely disassemble the entire rod for proper and thorough cleaning. It also has the advantage that we can replace individual segments if anything ever breaks.
The telescopic design does mean that the biggest threats to a tenkara rod are that grit can get in between segments and scratch and damage segments, and that micro fractures on the carbon fiber walls could result in weak spots that could cause breakages.

Keep your tenkara rod clean

The first way to prevent problems with your tenkara rod is to keep dirt from getting onto and between segments, and generally keep your tenkara rod clean. If you fish freestone streams with clear moving water, this will usually be easier, simply be mindful not to lay the rod down where there may be sand. When moving up or down river banks with the rod collapsed but setup with a line tied to the tip, the biggest danger will be dropping your tenkara rod or scooping dirt onto the opening up top. This will cause dirt to get in between segments and when you go extend your tenkara rod that dirt will scratch the segments inside and out as they slide one over the other. This will damage the finish of the rod, which will not only be ugly, but can create spots where dirt may more easily stick to in the future, and it could even create micro-fractures that would weaken the rod and potentially cause it to break at some point.
If you are fishing places where the water may have a lot of sediment, or even in salt-water, it is important to wipe segments with a moist cloth and possibly rinse them with clean water, before you collapse your rod.

While the best way to keep the rod clean is prevention, sometimes dirt is inevitable. Whenever you find there may be any dirt (including salt or other nearly microscopic dirt) on your tenkara rod, that you clean it before extending or collapsing your tenkara rod again. If the rod was extended to begin with, you may wipe the segments with a slightly moist cloth (or even a part of your shirt) as you start collapsing the segments. If dirt got into your collapsed rod (say you dropped the rod that was setup with a link but collapsed onto a sandy bank), then the best thing to do is to disassemble the segments through the bottom (the thick end with the screw cap), and then rinse each segment individually before drying and reassembling them. One way to do that if you are in a place with clean water, is to run each segment separately into the water. I have also used each segment as a straw to suck water through them to ensure the inside was free of debris (be careful not to drink the water if you’re concerned with giardia or other contaminants of course).
A common question we get is, “Do I need to apply some wax, grease, or other lubricant product onto my tenkara rod?”
And the answer here is a resounding NO. We only advocate for keeping the rod clean and dry. Any product applied onto the rod will have a tendency to attract dirt that will cause scratching and damage segments when they are extended or collapsed. So, no, do not apply any products to your rod, just keep it clean and dry as much as possible.

Prevent micro fractures and cracks on your tenkara rod

Occasionally tenkara anglers will find themselves surprised when a rod breaks under the weight of small fish, perhaps even after they have just caught a large fish without a problem. The biggest cause of breakages of tenkara rods is when there is a micro-fracture/crack on a rod segment. This creates a weak spot on the hollow segment of the rod and after enough stress is imparted onto it, it will break, sometimes under minimal force.
Besides the dirt between segments that we discuss above and could cause micro-fractures too, the biggest cause of these will be (a) flies, especially heavier flies such as those with beadheads, hitting the rod while casting, or (b) putting the rod down on top of rocks.
To prevent (a) cracks created by heavier flies or flies in general, be mindful of how you cast with a tenkara rod. With most flies, the tenkara casting we share in our videos will be the way to go. When using heavier flies you need to ensure the fly doesn’t go anywhere near the rod. On the backcast a heavier fly will fall behind you slightly faster and if you do your forward cast when the fly is relatively low (in line with the rod) there is a chance it will hit the rod. So you need to ensure you move toward your forward cast immediately upon your stop on the back cast. Also, it becomes more important to backcast the fly more up than straight behind you. And, depending on the fly, the cast will become more of a lob. Bottom line is, you may need to modify your cast to keep the fly away from the rod.
To prevent the other main cause of cracks on the rod (b), which is often some impact with stuff around you, simply avoid putting the rod down onto rocks whenever possible. I always like to prop my rod up onto trees or plants (being mindful that my line will be tight and not very loose to prevent snags). If that’s not possible, just be very gentle putting the rod down onto hard surfaces.

Storing your tenkara rod

The main advice here is to always store your tenkara rod clean and dry when you’re putting it away for any period of time longer than say a day. When the rod is stored wet for a long time it can create problems with the finish. This is particularly important if you plan to store your rod in a hot place, such as your car, or if it ends up being in a place that may freeze. The carbon fiber and finish used on Tenkara USA rods is very stable and will ensure the rod can withstand temperature variations, but the water will react to those temperature variations and create problems such as blistering on the finish of your tenkara rod. We do recommend not storing the rod in places of extreme heat or extreme cold (such as a car in the summer or winter), but we do know you may want to have your tenkara rod handy for when a fishing opportunity arises.

Here are some additional tips from John Geer, in our customer service team, on how to care for your tenkara rod: