Tenkara USA Sato Set

By Cory McLaughlin

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Just the Facts:

A complete tenkara set including the best-selling tenkara rod in the market, the adjustable Sato, which can be fished at 10’8″/ 11’10” / 12’9″ (rod includes a rod case and woven sock); and a kit bag with the new Tenkara USA Keeper, 11’6″ Nylon Tapered Line, 3 tenkara flies, a spool of tippet, forceps and nippers. All for only $279.
Everything you need to tenkara fish except for a fishing license and water. 


Triple Zoom 10’8”/ 11’10”/12’9” 

The Tenkara USA Sato™ rod is named after Mr. Ernest Satow, an avid mountaineer who was the first person to make a written record of tenkara. The Sato is a compact and lightweight tenkara rod. At its shorter length it is perfect for tighter streams, and at its full length it will be ideal when the stream opens up again or when you find a bigger pool to cast your fly.

With several years of design experience under our belt and feedback from our users, we feel we have achieved what we set out to do: give you a rod that is super light-weight, durable, versatile and feels very precise. Plus, we wanted to design a rod that would make it easy to answer “which tenkara rod should I get?”

The Sato™ has two patent pending features: 
Triple-zoom: this allows you to use the rod at three different lengths – 10’8”/ 11’10”/12’9” (330/360/390cm). The average length for a tenkara rod is 12ft long, we like to recommend rods that are closer to 13ft, yet many people are intimidated by such long lengths for rods intended for smaller streams. So, we felt a rod with the 3 most common lengths would be an easy choice: short to ease you into tenkara, long to give you a taste of the advantages presented by a long tenkara rod. Keep your Plug ™ system (patent pending): We’re very excited about this very simple yet innovative feature. After hearing that no one has ever been able to keep their tenkara rod plug for longer than a year we decided we should find a solution for you to never lose your plug again. We designed the “Keep your plug”™ system. Next time you go fishing, remove the plug from the top end of your rod and insert it into the hole at the bottom of your rod. The Sato™ will come with two plugs on the rod; please leave one at home in case you ever need it.

My Story:

I have been fly fishing for just over 25 years. I was first introduced to it by my grandfather and I have loved it since the first time tried a roll cast. I have fished in some of the best rivers in the west and my love of catching huge fish on such tiny little hooks is something I don’t feel I will ever loose. When I learned about tenkara fishing I knew it was something that I was going to have to try. I reached out to the good folks at Tenkara USA and after a few years of chatting we were able to find a way to work together.

This is not my first experience with tenkara so I was pretty excited to get out into the wilds with a new take on an ancient fishing method. For those that might be a bit confused tenkara is basically fly fishing without the reel. The rod is like a hybrid between an old cane pole and a modern fly rod. The style originated in Japan and has been steadily growing in popularity in the US and around the world. Tenkara USA founder Daniel Galhardo wrote a very detailed and interesting book about tenkara fishing that is worth a read if you are at all interested in beginning this journey.

For my testing purposed I arranged for the Sato kit to be sent out for review. My testing grounds would be the Eagle Cap Wilderness of Oregon as it is rich with alpine lakes teaming with brook, rainbow and Mackinaw A.K.A. Lake Trout. In years past I have pulled many a fish from these icy lakes with flies snugly hooked to hungry lips. I was excited to get back into the area and try my luck with a new rod.

The Sato kit is very straight forward and simple to assemble. The rod can be adjusted from 10’ 8’’/11’10’’/12’9’’ so it is purpose built to follow you from small streams to open lakes and anything in-between. The gear kit that accompanies the rod comes with line, tippet, flies and essential tools. The mesh bag holds everything and also has instructions for some common tenkara knots that you will need to know. Tenkara USA really took the guess work out and made this kit optimal for both novice and veteran alike.

Once assembled and adorn with one of the included flies I walked to the edge of the lake and began casting towards the hungry mouths of the brook trout that I could see cruising the edges looking for food. The previous summer I was able to catch a fish nearly every cast and I was optimistic I would have the same luck. Well, as my father always said “There is a reason they call if fishing and not catching” as it never seems to go the way you think it should. Still, I was happy to be on the water and it was nice to get a feel for the new rod.

One thing I noticed is that the tapered line that comes in the Sato kit is very light and if you are not used to light line you may have a bit of a learning curve with this. The Sato was a bit more difficult to cast than I had expected and it took longer than expected to learn how to cast. This was no doubt caused by bad habits from my other fly fishing methods and not a problem to be attributed to the Sato. The action of the rod is similar to a normal fly rod but also not even close to the same. Yes, I know that is confusing, but once you have one in your hand you will see what I mean. If you are an experienced fly fisherman you should be able to get it cleaned up rather quickly but there is a noteworthy learning curve that must be mentioned.

I was into my second day of hitting some of my favorite alpine fishing holes and had yet to catch a fish. It was incredibly frustrating as I could clearly see the fish snobbishly snubbing my fly seeming not to want to eat anything I threw at them. I had walked miles, fished for hours on end and tried every trick I knew with no luck. I shook my head and smiled a bit as it was just my luck that I would find such poor fishing while out trying to test a new rod. Then it happened! The perfect set, the explosion of water and fin, the dancing tip of a new rod and the glorious moment of landing the first fish. Though it was not a monster it was a fantastic victory!

I spent the next two days sneaking out to the edges of cut banks and rock outcroppings trying to replicate the success I had on that evening. The fishing was slow but I was able to pull a few more trout out of the lake. Some might measure this as a failure but I see it as a huge win. I spent 5 days throwing flies at fish all while in the company of my family. I caught a few which I released and a few more that we had for dinner. I bonded with my daughters with fly rods in hand and made memories that will last a lifetime. I also grew a new love for tenkara fishing and its challenges. This trip was far from a failure and it burned a deep desire into my soul to hone my craft and return to this beautiful area to battle once more with nature and finicky alpine trout.


Find it Here:

What can be done better?

Well, this rod could catch more fish for starters. Seriously though, I can’t see what I would change at this point. I think this kit is very well put together and a great starting point for any person interested in tenkara fishing. Tenkara USA has a ton of helpful tips and videos on their site and a strong warranty. I truly believe you are buying a quality product from a company that is passionate about the product they sell. They are not really selling you a rod as much as a lifestyle. Once you try it I am sure you will be hooked! Pun intended. 

5 Stars

  • Functionality
  • Value
  • Eronomics
  • Durability