Weight Forward Tenkara Lines

Weight Forward Tenkara Line

In tenkara, we talk a lot about level lines and tapered furled lines but there really isn’t much discussion on “weight forward” lines.  Yes, I do mean “weight forward” in the western fly fishing sense.  In fact, I had never even considered it until Tenkara Talk reader Tony Wee mentioned it in the comments section on one of my recent posts.  The concept intrigued me, so I had to give it a try.  And, I think he’s on to something…

The idea seemed like a good one.  Instead of using a level line with no taper or a furled line that tapers from a thick butt to a thinner tip, why not make more of a “shooting head” type of line with a thinner diameter line going from the rod tip with a section of thicker, heavier line at the end?  Western fly fishing has been doing this forever in order to load the rod more and punch through wind.  It seemed to me that the same principle could work tenkara.  Many new tenkara anglers struggle in high wind so a line like this might be a good choice when the gales pick up.

As an experiment, I made a 16 ft. line with 11 feet of #3 fluorocarbon “running line” attached to a 5 ft. section of #5 fluorocarbon line as the “shooting head”.  I put shooting head in quotes only because you’re not shooting line in tenkara but the physics behind having a section of heavier line behind a thinner line are the same.  In test casting, it proved to have a lot of punch.  A line like this would be able to power through strong winds no problem.  But it might have too much punch.  Which is why I then decided to try out a modified version that more closely resembles the taper of a western weight forward line.

Weight Forward Tenkara Line

Line A would be great for high wind conditions but it doesn’t exactly make what I’d call a delicate landing.  I rarely care much about delicacy because I usually cast far enough above the fish that it doesn’t really matter.  But I realize that sometimes a delicate presentation is required.  So, I had the idea to attach a thinner #3 section between the thicker #5 section and tippet to allow for a gentler landing, yet still have the ability to cut through the wind better than a completely level line.  Line B does just that.

I like the weight forward taper for tenkara but obviously more experimentation is required.  If you think about all the different lengths and combinations of diameters, the possibilities are endless.  But I have to give a special thanks to Tony for bringing up the idea.  In the next few months, I’ll be experimenting with  different formulas and will report back when I get some good ones dialed in.  It just goes to show you…even with only a rod, line, and fly, tenkara still offers limitless opportunities for experimentation and discovery.

Author: Jason Klass

Jason is an avid fly angler and backpacker. As a former fly fishing guide originally from Western New York, he moved to Colorado and became an early adopter of tenkara which perfectly suited the small, high altitude streams and lakes there. He has not fished a Western-style fly rod for trout since.

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  1. Had to use this technique while fishing the Bow River in Canada. Perpetual nw wind, deep chanels and very fast cfm required this. No other way would work.

  2. Chris, can you share your formula with us?

  3. Jason, your b example but without the 3 ft #3 end. Tippet was #5. Length of all at (adjustable) tippet around 20-25 ft. Water was very fast with deep chanells so you have to get deep quickly. Where I fished the Bow was 30-50 yards wide down to 20 in a very short span. Used my Amago, Ito and Sagiri. Used some non-lead camo split shot about 6-12 inches above so it could sink quickly.

  4. I suppose you’ll experiment with a weight-forward formula using red Amnesia as the last ‘forward taper’ component? In other words, say… 60% #3/3.5 fluorocarbon, 30% #5/5+ fluorocarbon, and 10% #3 (or smaller) red Amnesia?

    How are you joining the lines?

  5. I think Paul at Fountainhead has been selling weight forward furled tenkara lines for maybe two years now. There may not have been much discussion but the lines have been around for almost as long as tenkara rods have been in the US.

  6. Hi Chris, I don’t see them on his site now so maybe they’re just out of stock. They may have been available, but I haven’t seen many posts about them. Especially about fluorocarbon weight forward lines. Frankly, I’m surprised because they seem like the natural choice for windy situations.

  7. Hi Lynn, I probably won’t use Amnesia because I don’t feel it’s dense enough. Since I want to get some weight up at the front, a denser line is a better choice so I’ll most likely stick with with that.

    I’m joining the lines with blood knots.

  8. I have been asked to give Tenkara presentation at up coming Venturing Fun Rally. Do you have an outline ideas?

  9. I agree that their isn’t much out there on this topic, but I have seen a few post now and again about WF tenkara lines.

    Jason hopefully your topic will spawn a bit more R&D and feedback from others who’ve tried them. I have not yet tied one up for myself, because I’ve had little need for one but there have been times one could have come in handy.

    Jason, with the 2 lines you tried, did you see any hindrance or improvement to your techniques after the cast. e.g. holding the line off of the water and manipulating the flies through a pool? Do you feel the lines are a give and take or are they better all around?


  10. JD, haven’t actually fished them yet–only cast them. That’s why I say I need a lot more experimentation and will follow up with a more thorough post. But you’re right, I was hoping to get the idea some more attention so that more people can do R&D. I’m still surprised more people haven’t been talking about it.

  11. I do concur, especially with many of us coming from a western flyfishing background and having used wf fly lines as mostly an industry standard for the last 25 to 30 years. I’m going to give some a try, and with some different tapers, hopefully have some good feedback to share.


  12. I’m working on a tapered twisted flurocarbon line system that has interchangeable tips. Dry fly floating tip, WF tip, sinking tip, etc. This system is going to take a while to get dialed in because the entire line is being designed to work as an integrated system. It’s much more complex than just making some tips to put on a line. I want them to cast and fish well, this is proving to be a challenge.

  13. It seems to me that the whole concept of Tenkara is being corrupted by all the innovations that are being put forward lately. It appears quite obvious that commercialism has hit Tenkara! The dirth of rods, styles, special lines and accessories are destroying what was a simple, uncomplicated and basic way of catching fish.

    Maybe one needs to step back and have a look where this is going, especialy in the USA.

  14. Ron I was kind of thinking the same thing as I read down the posts. We have to be careful to not advance the sport so much that we lose the original purpose and purity of the sport. When I learned that TFO had come out with a “Tenkara” rod I was disappointed in their attempt to make a few bucks from something they probably know little to nothing about.

  15. Ron and Lance, I see the warning signs too. But I think it will eventually taper off and some will drop out of the market, leaving only the most sincere and knowledgable to survive. Natural selection will create a balance.

  16. Hey Jason. I keep seeing your comments in different places and always find them interesting. I LOVE the line holder with the fish you show here! It is beautiful. Did you make it? I would love to get one or try to make one. Any more pix or source? Thanks! Teresa

  17. Tenkara fly fishing in the USA or Canada. What would one expect? A country full of entreprenures… What would one expect? I am not a “traditionalist”. I experiment with lines, rods ( from different manufacturers) western and Tenkara fly patterns. My balance is achieved.

  18. Hi Jason, some interesting comments on this topic of “weight forward” lines. Before i go any further, I must say that I’m Tenkara fishing in Malaysia, a hot and wet tropical climate just 1* above the equator. We have no salmonids and the fishes I tempt are warm water species in the hill streams, ponds and estuaries around Kuala Lumpur. The nearest to a trout we have is the “sikang” (Barrilius guttatus), also known as the Burmese trout.

    I first experimented with this “weight forward” idea when I started Tenkara, as I’m also a keen “western” flyfisho. The fishing style is therefore a mix of traditional tenkara and western flyfishing, czech nymphing, dry fly …etc. using a “Tenkara” rod.

    Then I acquired from Chris of TBum his hand tied tapered leader, used it “upside down” and found it worked very well. I then went on to tie my own using mainly light flurocarbon lines.

    For example, I use Berkely Vanish of 3′ x 6lb. + 3′ x 8lb + 6′ of 10lb for the 12’leader to which I attach a 3’x 4lb. tippet
    For good sighting, coloured flurocarbon lines is obviously better.

    Casting and fly turnover is good; however the downside is that the heavier part of the leader tends to pull the line and fly towards you when the rod is lifted, unless there is an appreciable flow of water.

    Its still a work in progress for me, but I do hope the use of a WF Tenkara line can be accepted as mainstream …. just like WF, DT and SH in the fly fishing world …. rgds.

  19. Hi Teresa, thanks. I didn’t make the line holder. It was made by a friend of Dr. Ishigaki who donated some for the auction at this year’s Tenkara summit. I won one of the auctions. Sorry but I don’t know of a source to get one. Maybe there will be more at next year’s summit.

  20. My thought is that it can maybe have it’s place as we try to fit tenkara into non-traditional settings. It would seem that you will lose some of the tenkara advantage – that is fishing a light line at a distance. The weight forward line would seem to have the effect of pulling the fly back toward you.

    It seems like the balance between castablity and “line-sag” (for lack of a better term)is one of the games that we play as tenkara anglers. Doesn’t seem like it would be as much an issue if you are fishing close in and just want to fight wind – but more of an issue if you’re trying to fish further out. Curious to see what you think on the water.

    I’m happy with my #14 nylon level line for most of my kind of fishing – but it’s mainly small streams (and not much wind to speak of).

  21. Funny you posted this, Tim Patterson “owner of RIGS Fly Shop” asked my thoughts on a weight forward line a few months ago. Sence then we have been experimenting with the concept. Your shooting head idea is great but will not work very well, unless you have a line of 25+ feet of line. For the wind we have found that RIGS tenkara floating lines are the best. Our floating lines have a 2 foot piece of Amnesia wich acts as a sighter and you can sink it.

    RIGS Fly Shop is Colorado’s first and only Tenkara USA dealer for the past 3 years. Tim Patterson and Matt McCannel are part of the Tenkara USA’s Tenkara Guide Network.

  22. Jason, Here is a link to information on a series of light, medium and heavy weight forward FC Tenkara lines that I posted on the TUSA Line board some time ago: http://www.tenkarausa.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=2237

    I have not fished them yet in running water situations, only on still waters. I like the Double Uniknot much better than the Blood Knot for joining different line diameters together. There is also more taper in the lines I constructed than what you are doing.

  23. Hi Karl, thanks but when I click on the link, it says “topic does not exist”

  24. When I click on it, it comes up just fine. It is only a page or so back on the Tenkara Line Board.

  25. As per Matt and Rigs Tenkara Floating Fly Line, I bought and have fished the 10 foot model – they come in either a 10 or 13 foot lengths. Contrary to what might be expected, it handles wind better than any FC line I have cast. And yet, it is easier to hold up off of the water than an equal length of TUSA’s Traditional furled lines.

    RIO’s PowerFlex Shooting Line is available in 100 foot lengths, for $39.95 a spool in either floating or intermediate densities at .024 inch diameter for the 20 Lb.test line, which is what the Temple Fork Soft Hackle Tenkara Rods are designed to cast, so there are a number of options out there for Tenkara anglers who want better wind fighting capabilities and or floating Tenkara fly lines.

  26. Have you ever checked out the weight forward lines from Paul at Fountainhead Rods? He does a great job, he has made them for awhile and they cast real well here in so. Idaho wind….catch fish up to 21″ on tenkara out here…

  27. Thanks Karl for you comment and your business.

  28. On the Temple Fork Soft Hackle Tenkara Rods, Chris recently did a rod review on the shorter of the two rods offered for sale, which he ended up liking a lot more than he thought he would because he found it to be fun and effective to fish. With the major contribution of the Soft Hackle rod being an element of simplicity that the more traditional Tenkara rods lack: No choice needs to be made between the 5:5, 6:4 and 7:3 rod actions and only a single line choice is available – The RIO Floating PowerFlex Core Shooting (running) Line in the 20 Lb., .024 inch diameter per 100 foot length of line, which you cut to your desired line length. Although an angler could choose the Intermediate sinking line at the same measurements but slightly higher weight as well. Here is a link to the Tenkarabum Soft Hackle Rod review:


    And for those who fret over the simplicity and or purity of Tenkara fly fishing being diluted, that is an individual choice each Tenkara angler can and must make for him or herself. You can make your Tenkara fly fishing as simple or complicated as you want it to be.

    And if there are Tenkara anglers out there who are not willing to accept the limitations of traditional Tenkara as it is now in presentation, distance and available lines at present, and they are coming up with successful solutions to what they see as limitations and or problems, I say more power to them! Such innovation and developments can only expand the appeal and effectiveness of Tenkara fly fishing now and on into the future to a wider audiance….Karl.

  29. It’s important for tenkara fans in the US to know that in Japan, there are just as many different lines and innovations as there are here. I was trained to make tapered fluorocarbon lines by Eiji Yamakawa of Japan. Eiji is somewhat famous in Japan for his innovations in line design and use of materials. Eiji and I communicate weekly about new line designs and prototype line testing results.

    Believe me, there is a lot of constant change and new ideas about tenkara in Japan. In the USA, we have just begun to scratch the surface of what kinds of rods, lines, flies, and techniques are being used, developed, and improved upon in Japan. The tenkara anglers in Japan are always tweaking and experimenting just like we are. How do I know this? I spent a week fishing with 4 of the recognized tenkara experts from Japan and we all constantly bounced ideas off of each other and did a lot of experimenting on the water together. They are not as entrenched in any one method or equipment as we may think. I was very surprised to learn how much these guys like to try new ideas and gear.

    I have had a chance very recently to use a prototype Shimano tenkara rod that Dr. Ishgaki has been testing for over a year and it is really cool, nothing like we have seen here in the US as far as tenkara rod technology goes.

    Dont’ fret, there is plenty of innovation beyond level line, Tenkara USA traditional lines, and flies also. Not every tenkara master uses only 1 fly and not all kebari are Sakasa or Ishigaki style. There are just as many unique Japanese pattern flies as there are western style fly patterns.

  30. Hey Jason, thanks for the post.

    I decided to rig a line similar to your “B” option but added about 50% to the lengths going with:

    12’#3 — 8’#4 — 4’#3

    …followed by tippet and fly. 24′ is a whopper of a line so I may need to cut it down. I’ll be using it with a Daiwa Sagiri at 13′ which has a similar profile to the TUSA Ayu.

    I haven’t had a chance to cast it yet but will post up with results.

  31. Thanks CJ. I look forward to seeing how it casts.

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