Anyone who fishes tenkara style knows that breaking down the rod is easy, and they aren't hard to carry around. There are times though when it would be really nice to be able to stow the rod. Sometimes I bring it along "just in case" while fishing on a larger river, but there isn't an easy way to secure it on my vest. It would be nice to have a travel case as well. I cringe every time I put the rod in my suitcase without protection.

There are a few rod quivers available, and there are rod cases for travel, but a combination doesn't seem to exist. Tenkara USA is the closest with their new rod cases, but they aren't for sale yet. The TrailLite Designs Ibira and it's descendants look handy. This rod holder from  Tenkara Center UK looks excellent for carrying a rod on the river but doesn't provide any protection. For travel there are some cheap and effective ideas from, some pretty standard but cool looking rod tubes at Tenkara Rod Co. (That only come with the rod) and pretty pedestrian 3rd-party rod tubes on Amazon. There is even complete stylistic overkill from Dragontail Tenkara for those who need something for their mantle. None of these have what I wanted, something I could pack in my suitcase, take out and put on my belt and go fishing. So, I made what I wanted. The total cost was about five dollars plus some super glue and duct tape.

As I have previously discussed, I'm not the type to spend a bunch of money on fishing gear. I'm also inclined to tinkering side projects occasionally. These projects tend to jump into my head and dominate my time when I'm most busy, and when my son is at his mom's house leaving the house far too quiet. My current project had a pretty slow burn. I came up with the idea last year, just before I carved the rod cap for my current tenkara rod in another fit of procrastination. I finally made it last week in about two hours.

I found the squirt gun while driving through Royal City, WA with my son on a hot June day last year. Like Michelangelo I could see that the rod case hidden in the rough could be revealed with just a few cuts and a bit of super glue. Well, maybe a comparison to Michelangelo is a bit hasty. Still, I could see I could see the makings of a sweet rod case. 

So, with too much to do and a night ripe for procrastination, I set out to uncover the rod case within the squirt gun. The result is pretty cool. It's very light and probably protects the rod a little too well even for the most zealous airline baggage handler. The rod stays in the case with a two-stage, friction-fit system that is extremely secure but easy to remove. The rod tip is held secure inside the case with foam. No rod rattle! It drains water and has both a belt loop to hook to my wading belt, or a loop to hook it to my vest.
Read on for the step-by-step directions with pictures and ideas for making it even smaller, more light-weight, and with classier materials on the outside. 

When I saw this squirt gun I immediately saw that the yellow plunger rod was the same size as my tenkara rod, meaning the tube itself might be easily retrofitted into a rod tube.
Making the rod tube is pretty easy if you can find the right squirt gun. They seem to be popping up everywhere around Eastern Washington. I would guess they are pretty easy to find anywhere that sells cheap Chinese stuff.

Other stuff you'll need:

  • A good knife or two (a saw would make quicker work of the tubes)
  • Kitchen shears or utility scissors
  • Super Glue
  • A straw or similar small tube
  • Duct tape

The first thing to do is to strip the foam from the tube beneath. Luckily the glue holding it on is pretty minimal. Once it's sliced open length-wise it peels right off.

 Next, cut the end of the tube next to the end cap, exposing the plunger, and cut the plunger off so that the handle can be removed. Make sure to wash the inside of the tube REALLY WELL! The oil they use to lubricate the plunger o-ring is really goopy and hard to clean off. I had to reach in with a paper towel and wipe away the biggest globs before detergent would even touch it. If you don't get it clean the glue might not stick and your rod will end up all oily and smelling like a machine shop.

Once the plunger and handle are removed, use the kitchen shears to cut down the flange on the orange guide for the plunger rod. Use a knife to trim down the remaining tube on the squirter nozzle so that it will fit flush with the plunger rod guide. We'll glue these together to create a support for the rod tip.

 Use the super glue to glue these two pieces together. Both the orange plastic and the clear tube take really well to super glue and will bond fast.

 Don't glue the tube to your finger! If you happen to do so make sure your fiancĂ© owns some acetone based fingernail polish remover.

Once the pieces are glued together you can see that this creates a spot where the orange flange can support the rod tip. The space behind then needs to be filled with foam to create the cushion that will keep it from rattling.

We won't need all the foam, so use the top inch or two to cut a piece a bit smaller than the diameter of the clear tube.

Use a stiff tube (I used a metal drinking straw from my bar for this) to punch a drain hole in the foam to match the hole in the orange piece we just glued on. The foam cuts really easily, just push the tube against the counter.

Next, the clear tube needs to be cut down to fit the rod. Place the rod handle into the clear tube until it just fits with a bit of friction. Measure the distance from where the clear tube lands on the handle to the end of the rod plug. The end of the rod plug should end up halfway between the plunger guide hole and the end we've just glued onto the tube. Measure the tube and cut it so that the handle fits into the tube just right and the end of the rod extends about 1/8" past the orange guide hole. Getting this too short will ruin the friction fit so make it too long when in doubt and then shave it down. Smooth the inside of the tube, burrs will mar the cork and mess up your measurement .Measure twice, cut once!
 Now that the tube has been shortened we can use the plunger handle to push our circular foam pad down into it's space at the bottom of the rod tube. If you've cut it right it will pop into the space and stay there, giving our rod tip some cushion and protection from being dropped.
Here is what the bottom looks like with the foam in place.
 Here is the top tip as it sits in the bottom of the rod tube. The fit is tight enough that I don't think it puts undue pressure on the rod from torquing the rod plug. The orange plunger guide could have been moved up to support the rod itself if I'd left a section of clear tube between the two orange pieces, but I would have lost the padding and probably gained some rattle of the rod against the orange plastic, and potentially some wear of that rod at that point. I like this design the way it is, but feel free to experiment.
 This image shows the friction fit of the handle in the clear tube. Make sure to smooth the inside of the tube. It makes it easier to put the rod in and keeps the foam from being damaged. I used a knife blade to take out the burr, then smoothed it with the handle of the pocket knife.

If you want a super lightweight rod carrier you could stop here, attach something to hook this to your vest or belt, and be done. You could even spray paint the tube whatever color you want.
Next, we need to add the foam back on. This picture shows how I lapped the foam above the top of the clear tube. This gives a little more friction fit to keep the rod in the case and also protects it a bit more without sacrificing the ability to remove it when it's on my belt. You can cut it cleanly with a sharp kitchen knife.
The foam itself is very fragile. It needs something to protect it from stream side thorns and errant hooks. I thought hard about sewing a quick cover from nylon cordura or something, but laziness won out so I opted to wrap it in duct tape. In the end I hated the silver color so I used some black stuff I had. Gorrilla Tape would be an awesome cover if you have it, it's very thick, strong, and black but I didn't have any.
I made a loop out of a rolled section of duct tape, making sure to tape it on in such a way that it couldn't pull out. I can use this to clip it to my belt loop or to my vest.

I made a belt loop just below this to thread it onto my wading belt.
And here is the final case with a wading belt. With a small belt pouch to hold a fly box and some line this would be all you need to get out on the water.

If you decide to make one of these feel free to send me pictures. I would love to see what you come up with. I will post pictures of them on here as well.

Have fun!