By: Andy Marks
After 3 weeks with the tenkara rods, I’m here to report that the gears are refined and stocked. When I pulled apart my first tenkara rod, I thought, “How do they do these things!”. I left him alone. Line and fly were more my speed. I have been making my own small fly fishing leaders for 2 years. Micro-thin drivers minimize wind and water drag. On tenkara, tip and fly should be the only gear that gets wet: keep the rest up.
The 13′ kit taper that came with my Hane rod is .012” in diameter. This is the same as most 10 pound fluoro and mono. I use a segment of it on the back of my drivers. A Deschutes Anglers associate said, “When you’re Euro Nymphing, you’re casting mono.” A tenkara line looks similar to micro-thin nymph leaders.
There are several types of tenkara lines: level line (one diameter), bare floating or sinking lines, tapered nylon lines, etc. They have different end treatments: level lines are unadorned, bare lines have a loop at the top and a tippet ring or equivalent at the bottom. A tapered nylon line has a floppy loop loop to loop to the buttock and its far end just ends. The line is connected to a small red tag (called a lily) (connected to the innermost segment of the telescopic rod) with a stop knot at its end. If your line has a floppy loop, connect it to the lily with one circle clamp under the stop node. If your line just ends, connect one arboreal knot in it then weave the lily through the bud twice before tightening the knot.
My tenkara line of choice is a nib line hybrid: it has a floppy ring on the top and a tippet ring on the bottom (see below). Make her “floppy loop” with an 8″ piece of 20-pound backing braid. Use a Fishing Line Fast Knot Level to do bit by bit nail joints. Tie the first knot with three braid loops, slipping 6” of the level line and tighten the braid around it. Then tie another to the 6” level line tag, wrapping it three times around the braid. Pull the level line and the braid tag, and the nail joints tighten and slide together. With the various lines joined, tie a ½” perfection loop to the braid tag and circle clamp that lily. At the end tie in a tippet ring to another Davy knot.
I use Orange line of Nissin ONI ryu 2.5, 3.0 or 3.5 levels: are thin and flexible. Their 2.5 line is 0.0105” in diameter (like the 1X tippet). (Their 3.5 is .0125” in diameter.) I make these in four lengths that are multiples of my rod length (1x, 1.2x, 1.5x, and 2.5x). I use white/black braid on the 4m rod lines, and green/black braid for the 3.3m rod. A 1.5x line on a 4m rod gives you a 10m reach, 11m if you extend an orangutan arm like mine.
Final Thoughts: I fish with a 1x or 1.2x length line. I have trouble landing fish with 1.5x and practice in a park with 2.5x line. When blocked, DO NOT pull the rod / top segment / lily. The tenkara rod is super sensitive. Take your line in your hand and pull on it to release your fly. I drop my rod as far as possible, tuck it under my arm and walk away until I reach my line. I end up dropping the rod, then pull it to free the fly. If you’ve just made a back cast (without looking) and you’ve got the tall tree behind you, get on the bank, drop your rod as far as you can and pray you get your line. Picking a dead-bordered rock garden with your line is fun, especially if the bottom of the stream is lava. Fish as desired. Thanks for reading.
Andy Marks: I am 65 years old, live in UT, fish in UT, in WY, Yellowstone and ID. I have been fly fishing for 2 and a half years now, I have 15 fly rods and 3 Tenkara rods and since using the latter I have not touched the former.