Tenkara Rod Co. Cascade Review: My Favorite Rod for Tight Places and Teaching Newbies

Arizona is a very pokey place.


Whether it is the snakes, or spiders, or cactus, or cat’s claw, Arizonans quickly learn that every living thing has one trait in common: it is trying to stab you.


Even for the average fly fisherman, this can pose quite the problem. Regardless of whether the water is big…




…or small…


…water brings life, and life is pokey. Further, while the reputation of fly fishing as a difficult activity is vastly overstated, we can say with real certainty that when fishing places where retrieving a snag means crawling through dozens of plants that will gouge you eyes out given the chance, the fewer things you have to think about the better. This is where the Tenkara Rod Co. Cascade comes in.



WHAT IS IT? Tenkara Rod Co. Cascade


HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? About $200, with a line, spool, and 3 flies.

PROS? Short with a precise action for tight windows, forgiving to learn on.

CONS? Not really a con, but too short to fish big water effectively.

WHO SHOULD BUY IT? Experts looking for a dedicated small water or backpacking rig, beginners who are going to start on small to medium water, people with kids

WHO SHOULDN’T BUYT IT? Non-backpackers, experts who are happy with their traditional rods, wierdos who don’t understand the joy of catching small fish in small water, old people who don’t like colorful rods or fun

DID SOMEONE GIVE IT TO YOU FOR FREE? No, my wife Angie bought me it for Christmas. The Tenkara Rod Co guys do sometimes like my pictures on Instagram and this makes me feel good about myself.

Tenkara rods, at least internationally, are nothing new. In their conception they are the simplest form of fishing rod you can imagine, a stick with a line attached to it. Modern Tenkara Rods are telescoping, which makes them almost ideal kits for carrying in tight spaces or backpacking trips in which fishing isn’t the first activity on the docket.


At 8 ft. fully extended, The Cascade is Tenkara Rod Co.’s entry into the hyper-short tenkara niche. While 8 ft. might not seem small to traditionalist, it is about as small as you can conceivably make a tenkara rod, as rod length limits your maximum cast. 12 feet is the tenkara norm, and if your plan is to fish primarily in big water that is the length I would recommend. For the experienced angler who already has a closet full of rods (and a second closet full of rods they are hiding from their significant other) The Cascade will be a dedicated small water or backpacking setup.

The short length and lack of a reel also make The Cascade very, very forgiving for beginners. Anyone who has been around the sport long has seen a first fly fishing trip turn into a disaster. First the newbie has to pull out the right amount of line. Then, have to remember the motion of the cast, decide what the correct number of false casts is for their specific situation, not snag anything behind them, actually execute the cast, and (hopefully) drop the fly somewhere near where they are intending. If by some miracle a fish actually bites, they then have a split second to decide whether they are going to reel or strip. Oh, and to make this all worse, their more experienced friend is watching them screw this up the whole time. Invariably this ends with snags, tangles, and usually tears.

When I was a kid this terrible day was just a right of passage on the road to taking up the sport. However, the increasing popularity of tenkara rods has made it obvious that there is another way. By removing the reel tenkara takes the complicated process described above and replaces it with one step: cast. For newbies just casting is hard enough.

The Cascade in particular adds to this inherent advantage through it’s short length. No, you will not be able to reach the other side of the Colorado, but the fact that you can’t reach very far in front of you means there are fewer chances for snags behind you. This means your newbie will be spending more time with their flies on the water than in the trees.

This is why when my (then three months pregnant) wife asked me to take her fly fishing for the first time, I reached past all my other, much more expensive, rods and pulled out The Cascade.


Yes, this water is really too big for The Cascade, but that’s fine because an ideal rod for that water would have been too big for her. Months later we took Jack on his first fishing trip, and she could had her pick of any rod in the closet. She went with The Cascade because it was simple and she knew she could manage it.

With that in mind, when I took Curry on his first fly fishing trip last summer, the choice was obvious. He out fished me that day.


Better yet, he was so sold on the set up that he bought his very own tenkara rod (in his case the 12 ft. Sawtooth) last week. I’m still busy patting myself on the back for that one.

Twice last year, I fished small water and left my Cascade at home. First I went chub fishing on Fossil Creek.

And I caught fish.

Then I went bass fishing on Wet Beaver Creek.

And again, I caught fish.

Both times I thought about choosing The Cascade but went with my traditional rod instead. I am a serious fisherman, I thought, and serious fishermen use rods with reels. And both times I found myself far from home, chest deep in a stream I was ostensibly fishing, trying desperately to untangle my cast from a low hanging tree. This didn’t make me feel very serious. Sure, I caught fish both days, but I worked a lot harder than I needed to.

The Cascade is simple. Not simple for simplicity’s sake, but simple because when you fish tight places and when you teach new people simplicity lets you focus on what matters. For the experienced angler, this means getting the cast in between two low hanging branches. For the newbie, this means keeping the fly out of the weeds and on the water. Simple isn’t perfect for every situation but sometimes simple is necessary.

Keep it simple, stupid.

Want to buy one?

The starter set runs about $200 directly from Tenkara Rod Co. They also offer the rod as a stand alone for about $180, but that seems kinda silly when you can get a line, spool, and flies for $20 more.

I have no affiliation with, nor am I sponsored by, Tenkara Rod Co. I receive no compensation, monetary or otherwise, for your purchase.

Disclaimer: This post, and all posts on LesserPlaces, may contain affiliate links– links that allow me to receive a small kickback at no additional cost to you when you shop through them. This is how we keep the lights on. 

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Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. He writes here at Lesser Places, occasionally for Backpacker.com, and even more occasionally for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.



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