January 3, 2011

Follow Up Gear Review: Fountainhead Caddis Series Tenkara Rod

A few weeks back I picked up an 11' Caddis Series tenkara rod from Fountainhead Fly Fishing.  I was really excited about this rod for a few reasons, 1) I'm a tenkara junkie, 2)  It's one of the few offerings in the US not made by Tenkara USA, 3) It's only costs $45.  So I figured worst case, I'd have a backup to my Tenkara USA Iwana and best case, well...who exactly knows.
The Fountainhead Caddis Series 330 Tenkara Rod

I had tried to give it a test run in December, but it was following a strong rain and the creeks were blown out.  With a new year came another opportunity, and I was able to fish the rod for an extended period of time on Saturday.

In terms of materials, fit, and finish, I've already written up a "First Impressions" post.  Feel free to check out this prior post to learn more about the beautiful paint job, cork handle, and dimensions of this rod.
The same, but different

I plan on breaking this review down into two perspectives.  The first in the eyes of somebody who as already fished a Tenkara USA rod (preferrably a 11' Iwana), and the second, as a rundown for someone who has never picked up a tenkara rod before.

Weight in Hand
One of my issues with some of the longer tenkara rods is how "heavy" they get over the course of a day of fishing.  They obviously don't get heavier, but just feel heavier as the day goes on and fatigue sets in.  It probably has something to do with the length.  It's because of that I unloaded my 13' Ayu last month on eBay.  The rod was just too heavy...or perhaps I was spoiled by the relative lightness of my Iwana.  Either way, I was interested in seeing how the Fountainhead compared at the same length.

The Caddis did prove to be a bit heavier.  I haven't actually put the two rods on a scale to compare, but it just fishes heavier than the Iwana.  Don't get me wrong, this rod fished light and is no way a lead weight, it's just slightly heavier than the Iwana.  Should that turn you off?  Absolutely not.

In comparison to the Iwana, I found the casting action to be a little bit different.  The Iwana tends to have a little more "wiggle" and be slightly more whippy toward the tip than the Caddis.  That said, once I figured out the stroke, the Caddis casted an array of flies quite nicely, everything from dries to weighted nymphs.  I was using a furled line from Streamside Leaders and was able to place my casts where I wanted at will.

Of all of the features, this is unfortunately where I think the Caddis scored the lowest.  When I fish with my Iwana I can feel ever little bump, tick, etc... on the line.    While the Caddis is not insensitive, it's just not the same.  I found myself snagging the bottom on rocks and not even knowing it until my line visibly stopped moving (I don't use a strike indicator).  Makes me wonder if I missed any subtle takes by the trout.  Because of this, I may not recommend this rod if you want to fish nymphs, especially somewhat blindly through riffles.  However for fishing dries or wets where you can visibly track the action, this shouldn't be an issue.

Playing the Fish
The stiffness I mentioned before also reflected itself in playing the fish.  The "largest" fish of the day I caught was an 8 inch brown. Remember, these rods are designed for small stream fishing.  It put a nice bend in the Caddis and the fight was enjoyable.

The smallest fish I caught was about 4 inches.  The Caddis hardly flinched and I maybe got some flex out of the top two sections of the rod. The Iwana bends quite a bit more making you have to fight and play even the smallest fish to hand.  I guess it just matters what you want out your experience.  I would imagine playing the fish less also reduces stress on the fish, so it might not be a bad thing.
He didn't bend the rod much.

A lot of people like to take their tenkara rods out and challenge larger species like bass.  I keep it to trout and panfish, and I have every confidence this rod could successfully handle bringing a nice 14" trout or slab panfish to hand.  Bass...well...your guess is as good as mine...

For those experienced tenkara anglers that are serious about the discipline (yeah, there's a few of us), the Caddis is probably not for you.  It would however serve as a nice backup rod, or perhaps a rod you loan or gift a friend to help introduce them to tenkara.

For those of you looking to take the leap into tenkara fishing for the first time, perhaps from fly or spin fishing and are afraid to waste your money on something you may not like, fear not.  This rod is going to perform well for you and provide you with a pretty complete tenkara experience.  Had I never fished the Iwana, I'd probably be gushing over this rod and all it offers.  I'm just spoiled.

In all, I think the Fountainhead Caddis Series tenkara rod is a more than serviceable option, and leaves no angler with an excuse not to try tenkara, especially considering the $45 price tag.
Easily worth the 45 bucks.

If my review has you yearning for more on the Fountainhead Caddis, stop over to Chris Stewart's TenkaraBum website.  He has also fished the Caddis and did an excellent write up of his own.

The Fountainhead Caddis Series 330 tenkara rod featured in this product review was not provided at no cost by the manufacturer; but I have to admit that it was a steal for just $45. At the time of writing, I currently hold no association with Paul Szymusiak or Fountainhead fly fishing whatsoever. As with all independent gear reviews at Troutrageous!, I try my best to keep my opinions honest and unbiased.


  1. No, he probably didn't bend the rod too much...Funny. But, seriously...Congrats on the OBN honors this week! Well deserved!! I enjoy reading your posts...a lot of fun.

  2. Thanks for the information... Like you, I was attracted by the price, and I bought my wife the Caddis Fountainhead for Christmas. We haven't had a chance to fish it (and likely won't for quite a while, since our "tenkara streams" are snowed in until the end of May. I love the Iwana that I got last year, and I'm slowly becoming more confident in this type of fishing.

    Thanks again... great post.


  3. Happy New Year!
    This comment is meant to inform you that you have been chosen as our First Featured Outdoor Blogger of 2011. Your RSS feed is now live on the Outdoor Blogger Network and the announcement post is up.
    In other words, we think your blog rocks and we wanted to let everyone know about it (if they didn't already)
    So smile ~
    Rebecca and Joe

  4. Nice write up. I think I'll pick one up with some birthday money this year, in case any of my friends want to try this cane pole fishing thing. ;) lol

  5. @TRDD - Thank you very much.

    @Chris - I don't think you (or the wife) will be disappointed. Maybe for $150, but certainly not for $45.

    @OBN - Are you talking to me?

    @Owl - I have a feeling they will.