Traditional Tenkara Lines

On June 28, 2012
Comments (15)

Traditional Tenkara Line

I normally fish tenkara level lines, but today, something possessed me to dig up my traditional tenkara line and give it a workout.
“Traditional” may not be 100% accurate as tenkara lines were made from horse tail, not today’s modern materials.  But the furled style is traditional. What Tenkara USA calls a “traditional tenkara line” is also known in Japan as “tenkara tapered line”.

When I first started fishing tenkara I fished tenkara furled lines exclusively but eventually gave up on them because they turned into a snarled mess when you pulled a snag out.  That’s because they were made of monofilament (which stretches). That problem has been address by Tenkara USA and the new Tenkara USA lines are made of Kevlar which has no stretch, and a different taper, so that annoying problem is a thing of the past.

Many anglers like the way the traditional tenkara line cast better than level lines as they almost cast themselves it seems.  Level lines have their advantages, but so do traditional lines.  And today, I rediscovered some of the nice things about them.

  • Unlike the level lines, traditional lines have no memory.  You don’t have to stretch them out to straighten them like you do with level lines.  You just peel it off the spool and go.
  • Traditional tenkara lines are tapered which many people feel makes a smoother cast.  I suppose this depends on casting style and ability but they do certainly cast smoothly.
  • Visibility is never an issue.  Even the brightest colored level lines can be difficult to see in some lighting conditions.  This is partly due to the fact that they’re so thin.  But the traditional lines are thick and in a bright, opaque color like the Kevlar line above, are always highly visible (more like a western fly line).
  • Since Kevlar has no stretch, strike detection and hook sets are easier.  These lines transmit very subtle takes well.  Tenkara rods have relatively soft tips to begin with so in certain situations, this can be a real advantage.
  • No line twist.  One minor gripe I have about the level line is how it twists when you wind it around your line spool when it’s still attached to the rod tip.  That doesn’t happen with traditional lines.
  • I’ve always loved the ease of the girth hitch connection on traditional lines.  You just slide the lilian in the loop and pull.  That’s it.  To remove, just pull the tag end.  It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

So am I becoming a furled line convert?  Probably not.  There are too many things I like about level lines (mostly, the ability to change length).  Everyone has their preferences though and I think traditional lines definitely have their place.  And if they fit your casting style, I think you’ll be very pleased with the new Kevlar upgrade.

Which do you prefer:  level lines or traditional lines and why?


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15 Responses to Traditional Tenkara Lines

  1. Jeremy says:

    I enjoy both types of lines. They are both fun to use.
    In a post about Tenkara is not Dapping I asked about HD video being utilized to show how the Tenkara rod casts. It’s been awhile but I think Anthony asked if anyone has tried a video of a furled line. Perhaps this could be another good Blog subject, video. Enjoying the Blog guys, nice work.

    • Hey Jeremy, that’s a great suggestion for a blog post. Maybe I’ll add it to my list. If anyone else has ideas for posts they’d like to see, I’m always open.

  2. Tom Sadler says:

    I am a big fan of the “new” furled lines (kevlar). I think they “feel” better when I cast them. I have tried the level lines but keep going back to the furled lines.

  3. TJ Ferreira says:

    Great reminder Jason.

    Year #1 for me was all Traditional. Then last year I was all Level.

    This year I am all High Vis Level but… maybe I need to re-try my Gen 3 Traditional Lines.


  4. Nice article Jason. I for one have been favoring & using furled lines for quite some time. As you mention, it’s a personal preference. That said, I have not tried the kevlar version yet. Sounds like something I probably need to try. (In addition to a compelling blogger, you’re a great salesman too).

  5. Kid Riemer says:

    This is my first year and I’ve only used the trad furled lines, even though I do have one level line in the package still. The trad line has worked so well and is fun to use.

  6. I had no idea that the new lines took care of the “snarled mess” problem when you pull a snag out. I have a couple of the old furled lines that I have given up on ever detangling. I’ll have to try the new one!

  7. Justin Timblin says:

    Last year I used nothing but level line. However since getting the new furled line this spring I find myself using it a lot. For me it depends on the type of fishing I am doing. I find dry fly fishing to be more effective on the new furled line. It seems to cast a dry fly better, especially in the wind, and also does a good job of keeping it on the water with a good drift. For nymphs and traditional Tenkara style flies I use level line.

  8. Justin, While I fish sakasa kebari about 99% of the time now, I do switch to the occasional dry fly when the opportunity presents itself. And I agree with you–the trad lines make a very good dry fly presentation. Makes sense. After all, I used to use furled leaders for dry fly fishing with my western gear.

  9. […] Daniel Galhardo speaks to “fixed-line fishing” and describes the difference on traditional tenkara lines versus level lines. He goes on to say, ” I personally use level lines exclusively, […]

  10. joeg says:

    If you want to talk tradition Tenkara is as traditional as it gets. However the rules of Fly Fishing Only streams clearly state that you must be using a fly line, and there are also stipulations on leader length. many people get away with it because the fish commision doesn’t know what Tenkara is. The companies making these rods are going to have to persuade the fish commision to change the rules which would open the floodgates and make any kind or rod legal.

    • Joe, there are a few states where the rules for “Fly-Fishing Only” laws are ambiguous. Users have started the process of contacting their state’s authority to confirm the legality of it in fly-fishing only waters. Generally things have been very positive. It’s really not about the rod, it’s more about the method. In tenkara there is a “fly-line” and one uses the line to cast the single artificial fly forward.

  11. Mike Depies says:

    I have a tenkara Yama me fly rod. Can I buy fishing lines with a leader for my fishing rod? Thanks

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