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Keiryu rods are very long, light rods that are extremely effective for fishing with bait in streams. Although a few do come in short lengths, most are very long, with 17-20 feet being the most popular in Japan. The long rods allow you to achieve a much more natural drift for your bait than you could possibly get with a shorter rod.
Even though they are remarkably light for their length, they have enough weight and enough inertia that for the most part they are two-handed rods. Holding a 20 foot rod with both hands places less stress on the wrist than holding a 14' tenkara rod or a even a 7 or 8' spinning rod that isn't properly balanced by the reel.
Casting a 17' rod with both hands places less stress on the shoulders than casting a 9' fly rod, and fishing with a keiryu rod would be an excellent choice for someone who has experienced shoulder problems.
Like tenkara rods, they are telescopic and collapse down into the grip section. Unlike tenkara rods, they do not have cork or foam or wooden grips. The grip is just a very effective nonskid covering on end of the blank itself.
Keiryu rods come in a variety of actions, but most are fast action rods, with relatively soft tips and relatively firm midsections. The tip sections are soft so that the fish can take the bait without feeling much tension on the line. Trout will spit out a natural bait if they feel too much tension! The midsections are firmer because keiryu fishing is done with split shot to take the bait deeper into the water column, and a firmer midsection is required pull the line through the water to get good hook sets.
Even though most of the trout Japanese keiryu anglers catch are relatively small - generally no more than about 12", nearly all of the rods are capable of landing much larger fish. Keiryu anglers fish with very light lines, rarely more than 4-5# test, because the lighter the line the more natural the drift. The rods are supple enough that they protect light tippets very well. The brown trout shown above was caught with 7X tippet (2.4# test).
The resistance a fish feels when it pulls against the rod is progressive, the harder it pulls, the more resistance it feels. That is completely different than a fish pulling against the drag of a reel, where the resistance is constant. Also, the extremely long rod, held to the side rather than straight up, is effective in guiding or turning a fish. You may not be able to stop a run, but if you get the rod to the side immediately, you can often make the fish swim in a semicircle rather than a straight line. You will surprised at how quickly even a fairly large fish tires when pulling against progressive resistance.
When fishing with a line a bit shorter than the rod, and a size 1 or BB split shot, you can make a pendulum cast, essentially swinging the bait out letting it it fall very gently in precisely the spot you want it. You cannot get more finesse than that.
Like tenkara rods, ultralight spinning rods and Bait Finesse System casting rods, the best keiryu rods are made for the Japanese domestic market. Unlike tenkara rods and ultralight spinning rods, though, they are not widely available outside of Japan. There are Chinese made bait fishing rods (just called carbon rods) but none have recognizable brand names and none are on par with the Japanese rods.
I have chosen to carry keiryu rods made by Suntech, which is a small Japanese company to whom quality is paramount. They made rods for Daiwa before Daiwa moved their rod production to China, Thailand and Vietnam. You will not find better keiryu rods made in Japan for the Japanese domestic market!
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.