December 9, 2010

First Impressions: Fountainhead Caddis Series Tenkara Rod

The Fountainhead Caddis tenkara rod I ordered over the weekend showed up on my doorstep last night.  (BTW - Kudos on the quick shipping!)

However, please don't mistake this post as a product review.  I haven't fished this rod yet - it was about 6:30 PM, pitch black, and 25 degrees outside when I got home - these are merely some visual first impressions of this new stick.  I'll be using the Tenkara USA Iwana, the rod I've fished for the past year (& have a serious crush on) as the benchmark.

Tenkara USA 11' Iwana (top)
Fountainhead 11' Caddis (bottom)

I will say this, in person, the Caddis is a very pretty rod.  Unlike the Iwana, which has a clear coat where you can see the or carbon fiber or whatever it is beneath, the Caddis has a solid glossy, almost metallic blue finish.  Yeah, it's only paint, but it's really quite striking in person, which is odd for me to say, considering my taste in rod color usually runs more towards traditional shades of olive or brown.

Dimensionally, they are virtually identical

Laid on a table side by side, they're dimensionally pretty much the same.  The blank tubing appears to be the same diameter & the cork grips are the same length.  One noticeable difference, besides the fact that the grip of my Iwana is getting grungy from 12+ months of Valley Creek battles, is that the Caddis grip is a bit thicker.  The cork is also noticeably "cheaper," it's just not as soft or supple as the Iwana.  It's not uncomfortable by any means, but if you've used a lot of fishing rods, you know what I'm talking about.

Both screw-off butt caps are silver, but that's where the similarity ends.  The Caddis looks like chrome-colored plastic.  The Iwana's is some sort of mystery metal, although I don't know what it is.  Clearly a better made cap on the Iwana if that carries any weight with you.

[Note:  Chris Stewart, aka "TenkaraBum" did some surgery on the butt cap of the Caddis and found it to in fact be metal, so I wanted to set the record straight.  See his notes in the comments of this post.  I will stand by the notion that the Iwana's looks much, much nicer.  It's more refined and doesn't look "cheap" in my opinion.]

Caddis cork is thick & hard, Iwana is dainty & soft.
Interpret that however you'd like you perverts.

As you extend the rods, again are both pretty much the same dimensionally, with the end segments of the Caddis maybe a hair thicker.  One thing that I didn't realize is that the two end sections of the Caddis are black, not metallic blue like the rest of the rod.  The Iwana is black carbon throughout, with painted rings at the top of each segment.  I don't know if the Caddis uses a different material in it's last two segments or if it's just lacking paint, but it's different.  Not bad, just different.

Crappy picture to attempt to show differences in end segments

Finally, and probably the most important (& controversial feature), the Electrocution Warning Label.  Yes, there was actually a thread on the Tenkara USA forum once upon a time about how folks felt it necessary to peel this label off, it ruins the aesthetic, etc...  I enjoy the NASCAR look, so they're staying on my rods.

Ok, you got me.  The electrocution sticker isn't the most important feature, but it's something to take a picture of.  The Iwana has a white sticker with a bold graphic and largish type.  The Caddis has a silver hologram sticker with a smaller graphic and undecipherable small type.  Whatever...
"Do NOT touch sources of electricity...DUMBASS"

Okay, that's it.  How's that for some totally meaningless first impressions?  At least it gave me something to write about today.  Since I haven't even had a chance to cast in the backyard yet, all the good stuff you really want to read will need to wait for a bit...maybe this weekend.  My next trip to Valley, Stony, or wherever (whenever it is) should feature the Caddis getting a really good test drive.


  1. A good first look.
    As far as grips go, I have a preferance to a cigar taper. Very comfortable.

  2. I'm pretty sure the butt cap is actually metal. I took a utility knife to it and shaved off a bit (on the inside where it wouldn't show, of course).

    You are definitely right about the rod being pretty, though, and my taste also generally runs toward the more subtle shades.

    Haven't fished mine yet, either.

    Looking forward to reading your impressions after you've put it through it's paces.

  3. Thanks for the quick look at both. I'm eager to see comparisons between these two rods. I have been contemplating getting an Iwana for small stream trips. Until now I have used a Yamame for ALL of my freshwater tenkara fishing and a unusually rigged Hera rod for my saltwater trips. I think I will like the quality of the Iwana better but the pricetag of the caddis rod is appealing.

  4. Very nice first "looks" review. Can't wait to hear what both Trout and Chris will come back with after fishing it. I saw on the spec's that the Caddis is a tad heavier, have you noticed that yet? I wonder if the additional weight is towards the butt or the tip. I think this is optically a pretty rod and think that the first two sections (tip) are not painted since that would add considerable bulk to the fine tip. I might order one to have a "spare" for the occasions where a newbie tenkara friend would come along but I would be hesitant to lend him my Iwana or Amago (yes, that's the type of person I am, lol). Thanks for posting.

  5. @Brk - Thanks for the comment.

    @Chris - Thanks for the correction, I added an update to the post. It is a pretty rod though.

    @Kiwi - Price tag is very appealing. I'm trying to keep an open mind. I've always been of the opinion that for the most part you get what you pay for. Not looking for perfection, rather competency. We'll see here.

    @GFF - I haven't noticed, but then again, I haven't had the rod out for a day's worth of casting yet. You're probably right about the paint on the end.

  6. I've never even held a Tenkara rod, much less fished one. I am totally fascinated by the electricity warning stickers. Is a warning label required by law on a rod over 10'? My longest rod is 9', but I've never seen a similar label on longer rods in fly shops. I don't fish spey rods either. Do they come with warning labels? Is there some greater inherent electric shock risk with Tenkara? Very curious indeed.

  7. @goneflyfishing - The additional weight is noticeable when compared to the 11' and 12' Iwanas. Less so when compared to 11' and 12' Stone Fly rods. CG is maybe a couple inches further forward than on the Stone Fly rods. Weight difference much less noticeable than the difference between your 12' Iwana and Amago.