Tag Archives: Tanago/Bitterling

New Tanago Rod Project

Yesterday on Teganuma my fishing buddy Mr. S handed me a half-made bamboo rod with a request to finish it, so I guess this will occupy me for the next few months:



Teganuma Fishing Trip


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Tanago fishing

Good day out on the water today at Teganuma.

Tanago rod ready for fishing

After the last layer of lacquering, I fired the rod to straighten it one last time, and fine-adjusted the joints to make sure everything fitted nice and smoothly.  The inserts are rubbed with horse-grease and now it is ready, just in time for my first tanago trip of the new year this weekend.  With its new baleen tip (which has a natural curve to it, as baleen will never go straight as bamboo does) shipped the rod comes to a whopping 50cm in length, perfectly suitable for fish that come in no larger than about 5cm.

Tanago Rod

My New Year’s project – overhauling one of my tanago rods – is coming on nicely.  At a critical moment I ran out of one of the essentials for this sort of lacquering,  KimWipes™.  A quick journey on the Tokyo Metro to Watanabe Shoten sorted me out, and I laid in some tubes of raw lacquer as well.  If you are a regular customer most Japanese businesses will give you a New Year’s gift with your first purchase of the year, perhaps to ensure loyalty.  In this case I was very kindly given some candied peanuts.


The rod itself is really starting to take on a rich, deep sheen – a kind of hue you can only really achieve with real lacquer.  It is difficult to take good pictures of such a small rod but hopefully you can get some idea of the lacquering from these two photos.

To give the rod pieces some idea of scale, here they are in my hand:


Of course it has been a while since I was using this lacquering technique and it utilises raw lacquer, the strongest and most allergenic of all the varieties used in rod making.  I took the precaution of laying in some steroidal anti-itch cream, after trying several brands I have found this one to have the least side-effects and be the best for the very particular bodily reaction to urushi lacquer:


Raw unprocessed lacquer will bind irreversibly to and literally peel the skin off your fingertips in patches – as you can see from my index finger here.  This  cream is available OTC and is not too strong but does the job in calming the hideous inflammatory response of the skin.  One’s resistance to urushiol builds up with time so hopefully I don’t have to use this stuff too much.

New Year’s Rod Making

For a number of reasons I was unable to do any rod making or urushi lacquering for most of last month and November but I have just started a new project, overhauling one of the tanago rods I made last year.  First I am shaping a new tip for the rod, this time made out of baleen, which will be more flexible and have a different action compared to the sanded-down bamboo tip it has at the moment.  In part this is due to the size of the tanago on Lake Teganuma. In the photo the baleen tip is the one at the very front; since this is the first base layer of urushi lacquer it still looks a little bumpy but the surface will smooth out with progressive layers.  It also will be straightened over a fire when all the lacquering is complete, as baleen absorbs moisture even quicker than bamboo (in the Age of Sail hygrometer dial indicators were often made from baleen taken from the northern right whale) and will warp a lot during the lacquering process as you can see here.  Next, I am going to put some red lacquer on the grip of the rod, and then finally ring all the wrapped parts of the rod with a different colour.

New Personal Best

A hot day out on the water today…but click through for the record fish!

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