The first tenkara line was made from twisted horsehair. Most are now made from nylon monofilament or fluorocarbon fishing line. The two main types are tapered lines and level lines. In the US, most tapered lines are really just long furled leaders. Most level lines in both the US and Japan are fluorocarbon.
If there is one area of tenkara fishing where I get away from the simplicity, it is with the lines. You can certainly choose one line, either tapered or level, and do all your fishing with it. I like to fine-tune things a bit and prefer to use different lines with different rods. To some extent, I'll also match the line to the fly, using heavier lines with heavy or wind resistant flies. I also match the line to how much of a breeze there is. In every case, though, I'll use the lightest line I can get away with.
As with everything else in life, the choice of which tenkara line to use is a compromise. Each type has advantages and disadvantages. I believe that anglers in Japan pretty much choose to fish tapered or level lines, and don't switch back and forth. Here in the US, tenkara anglers do not always follow Japanese tenkara tradition.
To me, the greatest single advantage of tenkara over Western fly fishing is the improved presentation. The long rod and relatively short line allow you to keep most of your line off the water and fish a tighter line. To do this effectively, though, you need to fish a very light line.
In general, I would recommend fishing the lightest line you can get away with. To some extent, how light line you can fish will depend on your rod, the flies you are fishing, and whether there is any breeze. I would also recommend fishing a very visible line, as I am convinced that that the better you see your line, the better you'll see the strikes.
If you want to embrace the simplicity of tenkara, this section should help you pick which line to use. If you want to fine-tune things to match your lines to your rods, flies and weather, this section should help you pick which line to use when.
Although the first tenkara lines in Japan were tapered lines, made from twisted horsehair, most tapered lines in Japan are now made from nylon mono or fluorocarbon. I have seen several different Japanese tapered lines, and none of them were furled, which is how virtually all the tapered lines available in the US are constructed. None of them were made from tying thread or kevlar, as are the US lines. There is nothing traditional about a furled kevlar line.
The level line available in the US are like the like the lines used in Japan, and in most cases are the same lines that Japanese tenkara anglers use. Although a few tenkara anglers here use nylon mono, by far most of the level lines used in Japan and the US are fluorocarbon. I have gotten many questions about whether you could just use any fluorocarbon line sold to bass fishermen. My answer has always been that yes, you could, but there is a substantial difference between fishing with a clear or low vis flourocarbon designed to be invisible and a hi-vis fluorocarbon that is designed to be easy to see - which makes it easy to see subtle strikes.
Insructions for how to attach a level line to the rod and how to attach the tippet to the line are at the bottom of the level line page.
I've also included a page on horsehair line. Despite all the latest, greatest, hi-vis high tech lines, I really enjoy fishing with a horsehair line. It just seems to have the right density and stiffness to cast very nicely. If you would like to make your own horsehair line, I now offer a horsehair line kit that includes premium quality horsehair and detailed step-by-step instructions.
And don't forget the tippet which you obviously need between your tenkara line and tenkara fly. I carry Varivas, which is a premium Japanese brand. Use any brand of tippet you want, but do use a light tippet (max 5X or 4 lb) to protect the rod.
If you have any comments or suggestions, or would like to get more information about tenkara lines, please go to the contact us page.
|Chris, many thanks. By the way, I tried out my new tenkara rod with your Hi-Vis line last weekend on a small stream nearby. I found that all the advice you give on your website is absolutely spot on. With western style fly casting I have nothing but problems and seem never to be able to "mend" my way out of drag, which must be obvious to the fish. With the tenkara style and your fabulous Hi-Vis line all that was in the water was the 6X tippett. After a catch-less first season of fishing last year, on my first outing with my tenkara gear and your line I caught a 9 inch brownie in a fast moving riffle - and I am hooked. You have a customer for life!
Paul G, Maryland