Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Gear I Use: DRAGONtail Tenkara Komodo

The DRAGONtail Komodo comes with a handy rod sock and a sturdy rod tube.

I know, I can almost hear your thoughts..."no...please...not another tenkara rod review!".  Well, this isn't really THAT, it's more like "here's the gear I use, and why".  As with nearly every piece of gear in my arsenal, and I have a LOT of gear, there are nearly always other options that will do the same job.  The vision I have for the "Gear I Use" series of blog posts is to simply showcase certain pieces of gear that I find useful and let you decide beyond that.

Enter the DRAGONtail Tenkara Komodo.  I'm a sucker for small mountain water and the trout that live there.  I've been fishing this kind of water for well over 40 years.  First, let me qualify what I mean by "small mountain water".  In Colorado alone there are thousands of miles of streams that are from 12" to 25 feet wide and flow anywhere from 5 to 50 cubic-feet-per-second.  In those streams live brook, brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout from 6" to 16" long.  That's magical water, and that's where a rod like the Komodo shines!

Typical "small water" in the canyons in southern Colorado.

Typical "small water" in southwest Wisconsin's Driftless.

Small water isn't confined, of course, to mountain streams in Colorado.  There is similar water, although lower gradient, in the Driftless, Appalachians, Ozarks, Adirondacks, Black Hills, Inter-mountain West, Sierras, Alaska, and countless other places.  As my good friend, Alan Luecke, mentioned on the recent eposide of my Tenkara Tracks podcast, there's even small water alongside interstate highways in the middle of Kansas.

So, back the Komodo.  The Komodo is a lightweight, compact 320cm/275cm single zoom rod, which means it has two fishable lengths.  Those metric measurements roughly equate to a 10.5ft/9ft rod.  The Komodo weighs in at 2.9 ounces on my venerable Escali scale.  The comparatively short cork handle has a nice double contour with a defined waist that fits my hand well.  The bottom end of the handle also has a cork/rubber composite accent just above the bottom cap that's a really nice touch.  I love the stealthy, matte black finish DRAGONtail puts on their rods (Hellbender, Shadowfire), and the Komodo has the same tactical finish with some muted, matte finish red accents on all but the top two sections.  There's an industry standard red lilian, sans swivel, at the tip, and the artsy wooden top plug has a handy loop of nylon cord attached.

Any tenkara rods I use have to be able to do a few things really well.  In addition to casting a simple level line and traditional kebari, my rods also have to be able to cast a lightly weighted multi-fly nymph rig.  They have to be able to cast a dry fly or dry/dropper rig with a floating line.  They have to have a little spine, so to speak.  5:5 mid-flex rods are out.  All of the rods I use a lot are either 6:4 or 7:3 tip flex rods.  It takes a tip flex rod to fish the way I do.

The Komodo will do all of that!  Obviously, it'll perfectly cast a 2.5 or 3.5 level line with four feet of tippet and an unweighted sakasa kebari.  It does that really well.  However, that only accounts for a fraction of what I do with my rods.  This past spring I took my Komodo out into the canyons with one of my 11-foot Tactical Tenkara Nymphing (TTN) lines, four feet of 5X fluorocarbon tippet, and a pair of nymphs...a #18 Flashback Pheasant Tail with a #20 black RS2 trailing behind on 6X tippet.  I had installed two #4 split shot about 9" in front of the top fly.  As a small rod at the upper end of 6:4 flex, this little rod cast this nymph rig VERY well at its fully extended 320cm length.  I rarely fish a zoom rod at its shorter length if I have a choice, and I really never had to zoom it down.  This setup accounted for dozens upon dozens of rainbow and brown trout in my canyons between March and June of this year.  The Komodo had the spine to cast a nymph rig well, but still had the sensitivity to feel those subtle takes.  I really couldn't have asked it to do more!

Nymphing a bend in the creek with the Komodo...southern Colorado.

Another task my tenkara rods must be up for is fishing western dry fly patterns or even dry/dropper rigs.  To do this, I designed a floating line that combines small diameter, low-profile, no-stretch material with the most buoyancy possible.  My Tenkara Floating Line (TFL) meets those requirements, and the Komodo can cast dries and dry/droppers quite well, as long as you keep the fly sizes matched appropriately with the small rod.  I built a special 11-foot TFL line for it, and headed to southwest Wisconsin's Driftless with a boxful of Rich Osthoff's  #16 brown elk caddis patterns, as well as a couple dozen of the late Larry Kingery's #16 Better Foam Caddis.  While fishing in the Driftless, I even added a #18 Guide's Choice Hare's Ear as a dropper under the adult foam caddis.  The capable Komodo, with its strong 6:4 flex, handled all of that well, even with a solid breeze.  When I found myself fishing really small water choked up with overhanging trees and tall grass, I zoomed the Komodo down and found that it fished quite well at its shorter 275cm length.  It did require that I switch to a shorter 10-foot section of level line to make casting and line control during the drift feasible.

I stopped worrying about small tenkara rods handling relatively big fish a long time ago.  The biggest fish I've caught with this rod to date is a nice 16-inch brown trout from the Driftless, but I've also caught many 12-inch rainbows in my southern Colorado canyons, and those 'bows can really fight, and there's more current here than in the Driftless.  I'm sure this rod could handle any 16-inch trout, maybe even a bit bigger.

My biggest catch so far on the Komodo.  Southwest Wisconsin.
Another Driftless brown.
One of dozens of brown and rainbow trout caught with the Komodo in the canyons in southern Colorado.

Lastly, the Komodo offers a LOT of bang for the buck!  I greatly admire that in any piece of gear, whether it's a knife, a pair of boots, a rifle, or a tenkara rod.  It's the same reason I drive Toyota pickups and Subaru cars.  DRAGONtail Tenkara has offered up a very capable small water rod with the Komodo, and it's $119.99 price tag puts it well under the competition.  This fact impressed me so much that I recommended the Komodo as the small water tenkara rod that we stock at Royal Gorge Anglers, as well as the one I use with my clients my guided tenkara trips in the canyons.

This compact, strong rod is a winner in my book!  I'm looking forward to using it on guide trips and on my own fishing adventures on small water.  Great job, DRAGONtail!


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