Article by Benjamin J. Lambiotte
Productive winter fixed-line fishing means getting down deep where the groggy fish hang, waiting for some nice easy calories to drift by. With apologies to tenkara purists, weighted kebari or nymphs get more attention than topwater or mid-column patterns this time of year. But even with a good tight line drift, I continue to have difficulty with strike detection. Lack of visual contact with the fly, my failing eyesight, and glare from the low angle of the sun all conspire to make me certain I am missing takes on passes that should hold fish when using the skinny bright orange tenkara level lines I typically fish.
There are several “high viz” furled lines out there that appear to borrow solutions to these problems from the world of euronymphing. That technique requires getting the fly down to specific, repeatable depths, avoiding drag with a relatively thin mainline, keeping the line off the water, and staying in tight visual and tactile contact during the entire drift. Sound familiar?
For strike detection, as in nymphing, some furled tenkara lines use a hi-viz mainline, and bright colored sighter sections of equal lengths, or black stripes, just before the tippet. This allows the angler to gauge the fly’s depth and better see a take. They are heavier/bulkier than single strand level line, buck wind and turn over weighted flies and beadhead nymphs better.
But frequently my store-bought lines end up festooning brush or knotted up in hopeless tangles that I don’t want to waste fishing time unravelling. Furled lines with sighters are expensive. Also, often the sighter approaches they use are suboptimal. I need a nymphing line I can replace quickly, frequently, and cheaply.
I wanted to share with the community my latest D.I.Y. experiment toward a more perfect nymphing line for fixed-line fishing.
For the mainline, I used fluorescent yellow 50 pound test 8 strand round braided HMPE fishing line. I chose 50-pound test, because the diameter was a good combination of thinness/bulk. It is VERY bright and has NO stretch, which should help ensure solid tactile contact. (See reference article at TenkaraTalk on this line material)
For the sighter section above the tippet, I considered buying multiple spools of colored leader material and knotting them together. Yuck. But Scientific Anglers now offers euronymphing leader with equal 8-inch sections of hi viz green, orange and white ready made on the spool called Absolute Tri-color Sighter. I chose 0X (11 pound test), which is smaller diameter than the braided mainline. I added a 16-inch section of Tri-color to the mainline.
A 150 yard spool of the mainline braid, and an 11 yard spool of the SA tri-color on Amazon cost $13, each. For $26, I have enough tri-color and braid to make up at least a dozen tenkara nymphing lines, and still have yards of braid left over.
In dry land testing, I found it cast better than expected, given how supple the braid is compared to crispier flouro and furled lines. Even on a 6:4 Wasatch Darth Quattro at 7.6 feet, I could reasonably accurately cast all 10 feet of mainline/sighter and 2 feet of leader. The line has no memory at all, and dare I think, it may be more tangle resistant than level line. I needed to adjust my technique, adding more of a wrist snap to the forward cast. But I ended up with a nice unrolling loop that gently drops the fly and transparent tippet in first.
I will find out whether this prototype is worthy in the field as I fish it more over time. I am not replacing level line as my daily driver. But for the special challenges of deep winter trout fishing, and the specific technique of tight-line nymphing, it could be the ticket.
Benjamin J. Lambiotte is a lifelong avid angler, with decades of conventional fly fishing (fresh and salt) experience. He recently took up tenkara. Ben spends his days hiking, fishing, writing and recording and performing music, shuttling between homes in Maryland and West Virginia. He may often be found in mountain streams and rivers in the Mid-Atlantic, flogging the water for bright, wild members of the Salmoninae clan.
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