My First Experience Making and Using Horsehair Line

by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)

First Horsehair Line, Nissin AirStage 240, and Size 18 Higa's S.O.S. Nymph

First Horsehair Line, Nissin AirStage 240, and Size 18 Higa's S.O.S. Nymph

My First Experience Making and Using Horsehair Line

Recently I ordered a couple of horsehair line kits from Chris Stewart at TenkaraBum, figuring I’d mess up at least one before I got it right. Fortunately, the process turned out to be easier than I imagined, and I’d like to encourage others to give it a try.

Normally, I fish high-quality furled lines, just because I like the way they cast, but I’ve always been curious about horsehair lines. How hard would they be to make, and would I like using them once I had them in hand? A few days after ordering from Chris, I had time to read the included instructions and give it a try. The first line I made was short, consisting of only three sections, for my Nissin AirStage 240. I fashioned the first “snood” on the tippet end with three strands of horsehair and the next two closer to the rod tip with four strands. This turned out to be about right for my first experience.

I rigged up the line with the AirStage, knotted on a size 18 Higa’s S.O.S. nymph that I’d recently tied, and headed for my favorite micro-fishing hole.

The afternoon was fun and productive, and I was able to land about 30 smallish bluegills and yellow bellies (maybe 4” average). I used 7X tippet, the smallest I had, and never broke the horsehair once. Plus, the horsehair line landed like a soft whisper. After the line was wet, it had virtually no memory. It didn’t seem to spook the fish, plus it had a nice, springy live action that was a real pleasure to cast.

Are there any advantages to horsehair lines? It’s too early for me to say, but one point that comes to mind is that my casting, fishing, and landing technique improved in one afternoon. I was concentrating so hard on protecting the home-made line, that it made me careful with overhead brush, setting the hook, and playing the bluegills. That can’t be a bad thing! Plus, it’s just a lot of fun to land any fish on a line that you have made.

I’d like to mention one point in passing that may encourage more folks to tie their own flies and fashion their own lines. I wrestle with a familial tremor in my hands, which makes fine motor skills a bit of a challenge. If I can tie a horsehair line and simple nymphs that will catch fish, I’m sure that just about anyone can. You know how it is; a little patience and perseverance pay off. Just stay after it, and you’ll get there.

Comments for My First Experience Making and Using Horsehair Line

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Nov 16, 2016
Interesting
by: Terry Farmer

Hmmmm.........I'm gonna have to try this. Sounds like fun!

Nov 16, 2016
Hair raising experience!
by: Les A.

Thanks for sharing your experience and encouragement. I have been looking at the Horsehair kit for a long time. I will be ordering it on my next order. It looks a lot more fun and interesting that making braided or furled lines. My fishing buddies will think I have really gone over the edge if I show up with a horsehair line!

Nov 16, 2016
Practice makes better!
by: John Evans

Thanks for the nice notes. As with most things, the more you tie horsehair lines, the easier it gets. I just completed my second one, and it was much smoother, easier, and better than the first time around. Give it a shot!

Nov 16, 2016
Great blog! Thanks, John!
by: Herb S.

As a fellow tremors wrestler I thank you for the encouragement. As a fellow experimenter I congratulate you on your success and offer another thanks for sharing. Now there's another thing to try!

When the tremors first hit on the trout opener of 2012 I thought I was close to done fishing when it took 30 minutes to tie on a #8 Muddler after failing to thread anything smaller. Since then I've discovered that it's cold that makes the shaking worse, much worse, and have also found that Mustad makes a large eyed caddis hook, C67S that's 3XShort. A #14 is the equivalent of a #20 regular hook. I'm back in business. A quote from a favorite movie states: Endeavor to persevere.

Nov 16, 2016
Good Therapy
by: John Evans

Well, for what it's worth, familial tremors tend to be worse (the doctors say)when you're thinking about it or concentrating on it. Thus, any activity that you get "lost in" tends to help, as you forget about the shaking. I've found that fly tying, tenkara fishing in general, and now horsehair line making, helps with the symptoms. My hands actually become steadier the more I tie. Another good reason to go fishing! ("Hey, Honey, the doctor says . . .") I appreciate the kind note.

Nov 19, 2016
I did it!
by: Terry Farmer

I ordered the kit from Chris and joined the Snood Club. I tied one up and took it to our local stocker pond. Managed a feisty 8" Rainbow. The lined performed as advertised, cast like a dream, light weight and I was surprised by it's the strength. I'll be twisting up more of them. Thanks for the story!

Nov 19, 2016
Excellent Catch
by: John Evans

I would say that an 8" rainbow is an excellent catch for the first experience on a horsehair line. It will be another month here in Central Texas before I can try the horsehair line on stocker rainbows. Congratulations!

Nov 22, 2016
Horsing around!
by: Les A.

I just ordered my kit from Chris, and I am looking forward to the experience. I am going to be at my in-laws for Thanksgiving. My father-in-law raises quarter horses, so I am going to see if I can get some hair from his horses. Since I introduced him to Flyfishing 40 years ago, maybe he will be open to fixed line fishing. I am going to bring a couple of my rods and do some "evangelism."

Nov 22, 2016
Types of Horsehair
by: John Evans

That makes me wonder about the relative strengths of different types of horsehair. I notice, for example, on various websites that "violin bow quality hair" is often listed as coming from Mongolian horses. Probably only an expert can answer this, but I wonder if different breeds of horses have different strengths of hair, and--if so--how much difference is there?

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