When it comes to lines, perhaps nothing is more iconic of tradition than the horse tail line. To me, its mere mention conjures images of picture-perfect days and buttery smooth casts to discerning trout worthy of a presentation with such classic tackle.
In 2011, I made a few of my own. It was easy, but tedious. Al lot of effort for something that you’ll eventually snap or shred on a tree branch. But there’s no denying that they cast like a dream because of their mass and taper. Furled horse tail lines have a personality altogether different than their nylon and fluorocarbon descendants. Those western fly anglers who have had the opportunity to cast a silk line on a bamboo rod will know exactly what I’m talking about.
There aren’t many furled horse tail lines commercially available today specifically designed for tenkara. Most are intended for western fly rods so they’re what we’d consider “short” (7.5′ – 9′).
But I recently saw one on Tenkara-Ya and was in a nostalgic mood, so I got one.
It’s hand made by expert tenkara angler Hisanobu Hirata whose flies I happen to have in my framed collection. I don’t know the formula for the taper he used, but they’re available in two lengths: 4.5m and 3.5m. I got the 4.5m and it measures a little under 12 feet (which is a great all around size for a lot of the fishing I do).
They’re made from natural cream-colored strands that are easy to see on darker darker backgrounds but difficult to see in whitewater or against surface glare.
The attachment is a simple girth hitch loop that appears to be made of persimmon dyed silk cord. I could be wrong, but it looks and feels exactly like it.
The included 5x fluorocarbon tippet is attached with a handshake connection to the end loop.
In addition to an ultra-smooth, delicate presentation, these lines are remarkably accurate. You just point your finger on top of the rod to aim and the line dutifully follows. I let my friend give it a few casts and he was impressed with how easy it was to hit the target every cast.
Like many things of beauty though, they’re fragile, temperamental, and high maintenance. Hirata-san’s line comes with very specific instructions that I highly recommend be followed to the letter:
The main takeaway here is that horse tail lines are delicate. One snag on a tree branch or a rock can completely destroy them and they’re not really repairable (If you look closely at the photo, you can see mine already got roughed up by a tree).
They’re not cheap either. For those reasons, I would not recommend one as an everyday line. They’re things of decadence, not practical utility; luxury lines for special occasions or moods. But to me, they are magic and worth every bit of inconvenience.
For more information or to buy your own, visit Tenkara-Ya.