Sagi means “heron” in Japanese. This long, lean bird is a stealthy hunter and so is the Sagi Tenkara Fly Fishing Rod. Made from the highest IM carbon-fiber, it’s flex and strength are unmatched for the mere 3.5oz it weights. At 13.6’ the Sagi Tenkara Fly Rod is designed to fly fish bigger bodies of water. This incredible fly rod can cast a wide range of fly lines from ultra-light tenkara lines to regular PVC fly lines as long as 40′ ranging from a 3wt-7wt, plus leader. The Sagi can will cast delicate dry flies to 12″ brook trout and can also cast big streamers to hefty fish like monster brown trout in Patagonia, bonefish in Mexico and powerful char in Alaska. This lightweight, high modular, highly versitile tenkara fly fishing rod will amaze you. Work the bend baby. The Sagi Fly Rod is similar to a regular 7wt fly fishing rod. Includes spare tip, rod sock and carbon fiber travel case. Pair with the Performance Tip for a faster action (sold separately). Fly Rod Approximate Equivalency (FRAE): 7wt.
Noah Larsen –
Arthur Shain and I just returned from a three-week backpacking, packrafting, and fishing trip in the Brooks Range of Alaska. Our Sagi rods and gear from Zen Tenkara fit well with the lightweight approach of our trip. At under 4 oz for the rod and about 10 oz total for all the gear that we needed to fish a variety of conditions, we felt that our Zen Tenkara rods, line, and flies added a whole dimension to our trip at a minimal weight cost. In addition, the lightweight carbon fiber travel case kept our rods clean and dry despite us being in the backcountry for three weeks.
The Sagi rods that we used are known for their craftsmanship, combining strength and flexibility. Each section of the rod is made from high-quality carbon fiber and has a cork handle. Karin, the owner of Zen Tenkara, spent over an hour before the trip giving us personalized instruction on how to best cast and bring in fish with Zen Tenkara rods.
The Sagi proved itself to be a capable all-around rod, having the versatility to fish for grayling high in alpine streams and chase salmon in the larger rivers and tributaries as we exited the range. Versatility was paramount in pursuing our fishing objectives on this expedition. We spotted fish ranging from eight-inch grayling to Chum salmon weighing around 20 pounds. The Zen Tenkara Sagi made it possible for us to target them all, with a single 13.6 foot rod! Even though it is rated a 7-weight equivalent, the Sagi was a pleasure to use, whether fishing for grayling in six-foot wide alpine streams or casting to salmon from the packrafts in major rivers like the Alatna or the Koyukuk. Adjusting line and tippet length reinforced this fish-all ability.
We liked how easy it was to switch our different sized lines using the lillian at the tip as we moved from casting for grayling to salmon, and from casting from shore to casting from our packrafts. The Zen Tenkara lines have a loop at the end that is girth-hitched to the lilian. Switching lines took under a minute.
Our Zen Tenkara setups offered us the ability to stop en route for fishing sessions as short as ten minutes, because they are easily extendable, collapsable, and capable of being stowed with the line and fly still attached and organized. We particularly appreciated using the EZ Keepers combined with the Universal Cap, which made setting-up and breaking-down our rods take seconds. In anticipation of a day of walking up or down a stream, we would rig a 10-15” line with a 3-4” leader and a size 12-14 dry fly and be ready to stop and fish all day. We felt that the ability to take shorter breaks and present flies to a large number of fish allowed us to get the best of both worlds. We treated ourselves to some of the best grayling fishing one could hope for, all the while still pursuing a challenging traverse of the range.
The Sagi was our favorite tenkara rod that we have used. We would recommend it to anyone looking to buy a strong rod with craftsmanship that stands a step above its competitors; a rod that can be trusted on long trips; a rod that is reliable for targeting eight-inch grayling as well as twenty-pound salmon, as we have done.
Mark R Cole –
My wife Judy and I are participating in the Western Native Trout Challenge. Like the better-known state sponsored Wyoming Cutt-Slam and the Utah Cutthroat Slam where the angler is required to catch 4 native cutthroats, provide documentation, and is then rewarded with a certificate, the Western Native Trout Challenge is sponsored by the Western Native Trout Initiative and 12 western states. The ultimate goal is to catch 18 different species of salmonoids in their native waters in 12 western states. Last year Judy and I achieved the lowest reward level – Expert Caster – by catching 6 trout from at least 4 different states. This year we continued with the challenge to achieve the next reward level – Advanced Caster – which would include, in addition to Montana, Nevada, and Idaho, a trip to Alaska for several Alaskan species on the Challenge list. One of my concerns was going after large, strong Alaskan fish on our usual tenkara gear; most of our tenkara fishing is for twelve inch and under trout from small streams using typical tenkara flies and level fluorocarbon lines. For Alaska we would need stouter equipment that would handle larger fish and be able to comfortably cast robust Alaska style terminal tackle.
We knew of Karen Miller and her Zen Tenkara company from attending the annual Denver Fly Fishing shows and her attempt to Americanize tenkara by wedding the fixed line tenkara rod to conventional terminal tackle. It may not be strictly how tenkara is practiced in Japan, but as we found, it works well.
During the 2020 Fly Fishing show we had long discussions with Karen about our goals, tackle, tactics, and fishing lodges. After much discussion we finally selected a Zen Tenkara Sagi, as most suitable to our targeted fish – Alaskan Rainbow, Arctic Char, Dolly Varden, and Arctic Grayling. Salmon are not part of the Challenge. The Sagi is a 13.5-foot rod with a 13-inch handle and weighs in at 3.5 ounces that under the load of a fish has a smooth bend from tip to butt – the power curve. The only negative that I can offer is that after a day of catching large Alaskan fish we often had a stuck tip. This issue is overcome by using a bit of shelf liner to enhance your finger’s grip on the tip where it goes into the butt section; apply some pressure and the tip will release tip back into the rod’s larger sections. Incidentally, Karen also helped us to decide on Rapids Camp Lodge in the Bristol Bay region for three reasons. They could provide access to all four species that we were fishing for, they had back up western gear in case we could not accomplish our goals with tenkara, and they were the only lodge that supported tenkara.
We also purchased three floating tenkara fly lines in 15, 18, and 22-foot lengths. But I am an incurable tinkerer and decided to see if I could construct my own lines. I used the running portion of several KastKing 6-weight floating fly lines by cutting off the appropriate lengths – 15, 18, 22 and 25- foot – and using shrink tubing and my heat gun welded loops into both ends of the line. On one end I looped 20-pound braided fly line backing to form a girth knot to attach the line to the rod’s Lillian and to the other a conventional western leader.
Our first day on the stream I girth hitched the 15-foot yellow line I constructed to the rod tip; handed the line to my guide Teddy and he rigged up a typical Alaskan set up consisting of a leader, tippet and big yellow strike indicator and a pegged egg. Turns out this was the only line I used during our 6 days of fishing in Bristol Bay. The casting was instinctive, the rod performed beautifully, and on my second cast I was into an 18-inch grayling. Remembering Karen’s admonishment to maintain a “power curve” — a smooth uniform bend in the rod from butt to tip — I easily controlled the fish which was soon landed, photographed, and released. Judy eagerly took the rod and cast into the same pool, but a bit higher up, and on her second or third cast she was fast to a 19-inch Dolly Varden. The Sagi quickly became Judy’s favorite tenkara rod because, unlike typical tenkara rods, the more massive line allows her to feel the back-cast load which improves her cast timing.
The Sagi is a great large fish rod and exceeded our expectations in its casting and fish fighting abilities. For our targeted fish it is hard to beat. By the second day we landed all four of our Alaskan Challenge fish and later in the summer we successfully completed the Challenge’s Advanced Casting Level.
Karin Miller –
Mark and Judy CONGRATULATIONS! to you both- what an accomplishment. You deserve to be applauded. So thrilled that the Zen Sagi served you well on your quest (personally it is my favorite Zen rod) and even more thrilled that Rapids Camp Lodge impressed and delivered. It is quite a spectacular and incredible experience…the fishing, the fly outs, the food, the staff and let’s not forget the bears! It is absolutely THE place to go if you want to do tenkara in Alaska (and even if you just want to fly fish with a reel). Thank you so much for the indepth review and kind words.
William K. –
Love this rod. It’s a really unique rod in that you don’t expect a bigger more powerful rod to be as sensitive and flexible as this. I’ve landed everything from big Carp all the way down to a tiny Creek Chub with it. But it really shines when you’re trying to land that photo worthy trophy trout. Hoping to land some big Brown Trout this season in Maryland (Gunpowder), and possibly make a weekend trip out to West Virginia to target Golden Rainbow Trout (on my bucket list). I’ll be bringing this guy with me. Great rod.
Tim L. –
If you think you might need something to handle bigger fish in fast water, I can recommend the Sagi. It works great with tapered and floating lines. I especially liked the way it can cast streamers.
Karin Miller –
So glad to hear it Tim! The Sagi is a favorite in-house rod and we do love streamer fishing with tenkara. Thanks for taking the time for the kind review. Happy fishing.
Rodney Folsom –
Wow! This Rod has exceeded my expectations by a mile.
I hadn’t heard of ‘Zen Tenkara’ rods prior to loosing a 3 pound Largemouth on an average, smaller, 10 foot ‘Upper Quality’ tenkara rod with 6x tippet. I went home that night to research a beefier rod that can handle the big boys and still have some feel to ‘feel’ the smaller little guys. I thought this search might take a while, and burn through several companies’ rods, not so, this is it.
I own 8 Tenkara rods now, I found Tenkara after a long love affair with Fly Fishing, and really enjoy the tranquility that the simplicity of Tenkara provides.
The Cork is amazing, the shape of the handle is so well thought out in it’s ergonomics, and the length is perfect for a two hander. One of the appeals of Tenkara is the ability to switch hands during a long day of fishing and the part of this rod that accommodates this is the balance of this rod, just stellar, at 3.5 ounces, the left hand is not having to struggle at all(no dipping).
I caught a 15 inch Catfish on a sz12 Wooly buggar tonight and it handled him flawlessly.(Can I post the pic here?)
I am seriously impressed with this Rod, I would rank the quality with a G.Loomis NRX lite presentation.
The collapse(tear down) is smooth. The Lillian tip has a built in Rotator. I had it bent in half this evening(hooked the bottom of the Lake) and that filled my Confidence level to the Max. No more Lost fish for me!
I have used a level line and a 22 foot tapered WF7. I am more comfortable with the level line but plan to put the floating line to work on the White river next month. The rod casts both very well, smooth load and lay out.
The FRAE rating definitely made the choosing of this rod very comforting. I plan to get the 5 weight next! and….. possibly the 3 weight….. and…. the Zoom rods too…lol.
Thank you Zen Tenkara for such a Great Product!
Karin Miller –
This is what we live and strive for! Thank you so much.
Ryan Kimball –
Ive recently received and have been fishing with the Zen Tenkara Sagi rod. I dont typically leave reviews for gear but when searching for a rod to fit some specific needs I noticed that there are very few reviews on Zen rods. A few on the Suzume model and a few of some older models but that’s about it. Hoping this may help anybody who is researching Zen rods prior to purchase/
First off prior to purchasing this rod I was looking to fill a specific need. I have several tenkara rods from Japanese makers that are exceptional at casting light lines and unweighted flies. One of them, the Tenkarabum 40 can also do pretty decent at fishing weighted nymphs as well and as the cold weather set in I was using it more and more as a nymphing rod. I quickly learned that nymphing with these long tenkara rods can be insanely effective. I started fishing more and heavier rigs and was catching more and heavier fish. So much so that I really felt like I was redlining the tb 40’s capabilities and eventually wound up bending the lilian swivel on a larger fish that broke me off. I knew if I kept it up id break the rod sooner than later. This is no knock on that rod, its brilliant and still my favorite tenkara rod but I was really pushing its limitations. So while I had tenkara rods that could fish nymphs I decided I needed a nymphing rod that could fish tenkara. Enter the Zen Tenkara Sagi.
On paper this rod ticked all the boxes. The equivalent of a 7wt fly rod, 13’6” long, readily available replacement parts and the ability to cast heavier rigs including long lengths of fly line as well as being reasonably light at around 3.5 oz. I wanted something that I could fish hard without having to constantly worry about it. I wanted to be able to fish heavier multi fly rigs for larger trout in fast, high winter flow rivers. I had a bit of hesitation at first due to the lack of decent reviews online and the price tag that placed this rod up there with the top of the line especially with the addition of the Performance Tip.
After receiving and fishing the rod for awhile I can say it has exceded my expectations. The first time I took it out was in 40 degree temps with a strong wind and a rain/snow mix off and on all day. The river was up and moving swift and the trout were sluggish and holding deep. A perfect day to really put this rod to task. I started out fishing a heavy tungsten rubber leg stonefly and a rainbow warrior on the dropper. The Sagi cast this rig with ease. I use the Performance Tip which is a bit stiffer and the rod is very sensitive for nymphing. I hooked and landed several and the enjoyed how the rod feels playing fish. Still has that wonderful “tenkara” bend but definitely has more backbone that what I am used to. I managed fish in the 16” range with ease. I like to play fish aggressively and get them in quick for release and that was a breeze with the Sagi. I am confident it can handle fish much larger and am excited to test that theory out! At one point in the day it got so windy that I couldn’t get a great drift so for shits and grins I put on a huge white plastic strike indicator to see how it’d cast. I was surprised again, was able to get on target and managed a few more fish with this set up. Casting 2 flys and a bobber in a hurricane is asking a lot of a fixed line rod but again it was no issue. The biggest surprise for me came at the end of the day. The wind died down and the sun peaked out long enough for me to tie on 14’ of #4 level line and fish a single small bead head Ishigaki kebari on my way back down river. I expected the rod to be a bit of a brute (which it is!) but it still cast a level line very well even with the stiffer tip. I was happily making accurate fly first casts and getting great drifts. This really is a well rounded rod that excels in tough conditions for bigger fish. While I love traditional tenkara and prefer that as often as possible I also enjoy fixed line fishing in general and find it is absolutely leathal as a nymphing rig. Zen Tenkara has taken a lot of grief for getting so far outside the box with what can be done with tenkara rods but I am one who is glad they have. Pushing boundries and trying new things is how things grow and progress and in the end we all benefit.
The road was also noted as being able to cast long fly lines with ease. I tried it out on a local pond near my work. I cut about 40’ of 5wt fly line off an old reel and added a few feet of tippet and fly. It was a blast casting and it definitely does this well. I will say that long line tenkara fishing isn’t for me, I hate hand lining fish in to land and the majority of big fish lost for me are from trying to pull them in by hand. So if I need to fish Stillwater or make long casts im going traditional fly rod BUT if this is something you want to do the rod is more than up for it!
One more note on the owner Karin and the customer service end of Zen. She was very communicative and detailed in her responses when I had questions prior to purchase. I had a small issue with my first order and it was resolved lightning fast and again communication was excellent during that process. I am looking forward to trying some other rods in the lineup down the road. I believe the price is warranted as these are excellent rods that come with spare tips and great customer service. I hope this review can help
Karin Miller –
Ryan thank you for taking the time to provide a detailed and thorough review. We love our Sagi (and all our rods) and so happy you gave Zen a try. We aim to please and help bring joy and balance to those on the water – offering a wide variety of tenkara rods for a wide variety of fishing scenarios. Tight lines and happy fishing – whether it is tenkara, fixed line or on a reel.
Ron Wedemeyer –
Love the Sagi. Really apparent when I had to use my “other” rod yesterday. Thank you for making such a great product.
Damian Fenlon –
This is a rod that ticks all the boxes for my type of fishing. It´s robust without being too heavy and is a genuine all-rounder. I´ve fished it with Zen´s Floating and Fusion lines, as well as #4 level lines, and it has cast them all very well. The Sagi´s versatility means that you can use it for a variety of methods and I´ve caught fish on kebari, dries, nymphs and streamers. It´s nice to have the option to chop and change on the river without worrying how your rod will perform. I have some top of the line Japanese rods but tend to use them in specific circumstances – the Sagi will take anything you can throw at it.
Although it has a 6wt frae rating it has plenty of feel for smaller fish but easily deals with larger fish – you also get a free spare top 2 kit in case of accidents.
A shout out too for Karin´s customer service, she went above and beyond on getting the rod to me in Europe.
Karin Miller –
So So happy you are enjoying our Sagi (it actually happens to be Karin’s favorite – for all the same reasons you gave). We love that rod and are thrilled you do too. Happy fishing and tight lines!
Karin Miller –
From a customer in Australia:
“They are such versatile rods love it.
Tight lines Kevin”