Review: Tenkara USA Sato – The Rod for Fishing the Teton Mountains
It’s been a while since I was introduced to Tenkara USA and the concept of tenkara fly fishing. I was organizing a conference in Jackson Hole but wanted to get away in the evenings to fish. I loved the idea of tenkara because I could sneak in and out of meetings and quickly get on a small river without spending a bunch of time rigging up.
The conference was at Snow King resort in Jackson, Wyoming, in Teton County and right at the base of the Teton Mountain Range. When you only have an hour or two to fish, you don’t want to waste 10 minutes rigging up.
I found Flat Creek and the Gros Ventre River to be the rivers of choice for the Sato. Flat Creek is a thin technical creek similar to the Dream Stream in Colorado, requiring stealth and a drag free drift. I found the Sato to be the perfect rod for fishing in Teton County because of the stealthiness of the cast as well as the ability to maintain a long drift without mending.
The Sato is a soft rod, slow in nature and very feel-y. The slight nibble can feel like an aggressive take. That makes the rod fun and especially effective when dead drifting. The action is my favorite part of fishing tenkara because essentially, the most effective way to fish is to feel for a slight tug. The tugs can come when you least expect it and even the smallest fish can feel big which adds to the excitement of every take. It’s also refreshing to be able to reach the far side of currents that oftentimes get overlooked. With tenkara, you’re using nylon level line that doesn’t drag. Plus the rod is roughly 14 feet long meaning you can fish those foamy eddies on the other side of the current that are typically near impossible to fish with a 9 foot rod.
Design / Aesthetics ★★★★★
The rod is about 18 inches long when retracted. It has a good weight and feel and everything from the cork handle to the rod plug, to the triple zoom lengths is intuitive and pleasing to the eye. The sleek black and gold lettering gives off a premium look and the red lilian (the little red thing that the line connects to) and other red accents give the rod a technical feel. One of the design details I particularly enjoy is the extra lilian that is attached to the rod plug in case you need a backup.
I’ve broken my Sato twice now, which is a reality of tenkara fishing – they break more often than Western rods. But Tenkara USA has one of the best warranty programs in the country, just order the broken segment and boom; you’re back on the water. After time, you start to understand the mechanics of where the breaking points are on the rod and how to avoid them, but it took me a couple breaks before really understanding how far the rods will go before snapping. Just expect it to happen; it’s a part of tenkara.
Some sports require thousands of dollars, training, and all sorts of equipment to get started. Fly fishing is one of these sports but the beauty of tenkara is the simplicity and ease to get started. For that reason, I give five stars for value – with the Sato Kit, you can get started like I did in the Teton range for less than $300. It’s also a sport that well complements just about any other outdoor pursuit. Whether I’m biking, skiing, climbing or paddling, I almost always have a tenkara rod on me.
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