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What Line Length Should I Use For My Tenkara Rod?

What Line Length Should I Use For My Tenkara Rod?

The basic rule of thumb is to use a line that is the same length as your rod GIVE-OR-TAKE 1 or 2 feet. Obviously this is not a hard rule you have to follow but it gives you a starting point.

Tenkara Beginners

If you are just getting started with Tenkara I would use a line the same length as your rod or one foot shorter. The last thing you want while learning to cast an nearly weightless line is dealing with the challenges that come from having a line longer than your tenkara rod. If you are starting on small creeks go with a line that is about one foot shorter than your rod, if you will be fishing more open water go with a line that is the same length as your rod.

Experienced Tenkara Anglers

When you have more experience and have your casting motion down, it is much easier to deal with the challenges of casting a longer line. But just because you can does not mean you should, make sure having a longer line is worth the trade-offs. As a more experienced angler, you will get a gut feeling whether you feel like you need a longer line or possibly an even shorter line.

Pros & Cons of Short & Long Tenkara Lines

Pros of a Long Tenkara Line

  • More reach to hit those spots you can't wade out to
  • Easier to hide from the fish's view
  • More room to play a larger trout on fixed line
  • Longer drifts for more open water

Cons of a Long Tenkara Line

  • Higher chance of tangles
  • Higher chance of snagging trees
  • More line sagging into the water interfering with your drift control and presentation
  • Harder to manipulate a fly with slight movements
  • Harder to cast and requires more skill, especially in windy conditions

Pros of a Short Tenkara Line

  • Very little line in the water for excellent drift control and presentation
  • More control over fly manipulation with slight movements because your line is very tight
  • Easier casting with less skill, even in windy conditions
  • Less chance of snagging trees

Cons of a Short Tenkara Line

  • Shorter reach
  • Less room to play bigger trout on a fixed line
  • Puts you closer to the fish's field of view

Examples of What Brent Uses

Longer Rod on a Small Creek

I like to fish long rods in-between the 280cm to 400cm rod length, even on small creeks. I just like the reach and control these rods give me, plus I like the way tenkara rods cast at longer lengths. I tend to use a line that is shorter than my longer rod on creeks. For example on my NIRVANA 400 tenkara rod I would use a 12.5ft line or on my Mutant zx380 rod I would use the longest rod length with a line that is 11ft long. The long rod gives me reach but the shorter line gives me more control of the drift and a tighter line to allow me to manipulate the fly better with slight movements of the rod.

Medium or Shorter Rod on a Small Creek

Sometimes a long rod gets you in trouble with the trees or tall brush so I go with a shorter rod than my favorite long tenkara rods. For a 12ft 360 rod I would go with a 11ft to 12.5ft line if the casting is tighter. With a 10ft or 11ft rod I would use a 11ft line unless the creek is too brushy.

Shorter Rod on a Brushy Creek

For very brushy creeks I tend to go with a 9ft or shorter rod length. I also tend to go with a line that is 1 or 2 feet shorter than the rod length. This keeps my casting down to a short flick cast making it easier keep my cast out of the trees or brush. This will also help with good hook sets with very little motion which keeps me from getting the rod wrapped up in trees and brush around me. A shorter line will give me more control of fish with less movement to keep them out of snags. When using very short lines I tend to not use as light of lines, I would use a #4 level line instead of a #3 level line. I also shorten my tippet down to 2ft or 2.5ft long with very short lines.

Longer Rod on a River or Open Water

When fishing fixed line tenkara rods on a river where I have more casting room and need more reach I always go with a longer rod in the 13ft range, like the NIRVANA 400 or DRAGONtail HELLbender 390. I tend to use a 14 or 16 foot tenkara line on rivers and open casting. This gives me a longer reach to hit spots I can't wade to and a longer drift to get the fly deeper. Some people will use an 18 to 20 foot line on rivers but this does cause a lot of problems with hand lining fish in and tangles when casting.

Still Water Fixed Line Fishing

When I first started fishing tenkara rods, I did a fair amount of still water fishing. I don't do that so much anymore because moving water adds so much to the experience for me. But when I did do still water fishing a lot I like to use a 12ft to 14ft tenkara rod with a line that was 2ft to 4ft longer than my rod. You just need more reach on still water and without the current of moving water your line is going to sag into the water whether your line is short or long, so you might as well go a little longer.

Rivers With Larger Trout

On rivers with larger trout in the 16 inch to 26 inches or so I like to use a rod that is at least 13 feet long and a line that is about 16ft long. This longer rod gives me a lot more leverage to turn or control big fish. The extra line length gives me more room to play these big fish out when they make their hard runs. With a line that is about 16ft long I can still cast quite nicely and I can still land the larger trout quite fast on a fixed line rod so I don't over play the trout to exhaustion. 

Fighting big fish on tenkara can be a challenge at first but once you get used to how to react to keep the fish on and stay in control it can become a fast land to the net.

Kayak Fixed Line Fishing

I personally have little experience fishing from a Kayak, although I hope to change that soon as their is some small rivers I would love to float and enjoy the nature around that you can't access any other way. 

I do have a lot of customers that use our tenkara rods on their kayaks and I have learned a lot about what works best. The main thing that seems to be a common theme is to use a line that is 1ft or 2ft shorter than your tenkara rod. This allows you to bring fish in with less trouble of handlining which can be troublesome on a kayak.

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William DeLanney - May 13, 2021

Very helpful tenkara casting line information. Like the “pro and con” . Gives me a lot of ideas. Thank you

Mark Lettow - May 13, 2021

Your information is helpful. These are actually the most complete recommendations I have seen concerning choosing line length. After all, being able to land the fish smoothly is probably more satisfying than the initial catch and setting the hook!

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