Accessories D.I.Y. Fixed-Line Fly Fishing

Experimental Hi-Viz Tenkara Nymphing Line for Winter Trout

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)

Experimental Hi-Viz Tenkara Nymphing Line - Tenkara Angler - Braided line

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.

Experimental Hi-Viz Tenkara Nymphing Line - Tenkara Angler - Full Line

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.

Experimental Hi-Viz Tenkara Nymphing Line - Tenkara Angler - Color Variation

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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  1. IMO, Tactical Tenkara Nymphing (TTN) line created by Paul Vertrees and sold via the websites or solved this problem without having to resort to braided lines, which come with their own set of problems. It’s got a multi-color high vis sighter built in and also depth dots at strategic intervals to gauge depth and make repeating a successful depth easy. The depth dots are also high vis and act as an additional high vis sighter. If I remember correctly Paul has an older article here on Tenkara Angler that talks about Fixed line nymphing while using TTN line. It wasn’t specific to winter fishing, but having used the TTN extensively, it lends itself perfectly to slower and deeper winter nymphing.

    1. This sounds like a fine product, and definitely meets the operational requirements of the project. But the $30 price tag fails to meet the key “I won’t cry if this thing winds up wrapped around a tree branch 15 feet up” criterion. The main problem I’ve noted with braid is that it is very limp, and once knotted, there’s no picking it out. However, with some adjustments to casting technique (a bit more snap on the forward cast), and provided the line is kept relatively short (10′ or so, which should be fine for contact nymphing), a decent unrolling loop and reasonable accuracy can be attained. . . Granted, there are better and more refined solutions available on the market. This was just an experiment in trying to save some $, and “doing it for myself.”

      1. Good points. I was looking at it from a cost stand point and the TTN lines are not cheap, but I will say, that I fish some very tight streams and definitely get my share of tree and brush snags (funny how they’re always across the stream in a non-wadeable spot!), but I’ve never lost one of the lines, the tippet always breaks first. They also don’t curl or tangle after a break off. But again, they are an investment.

  2. The use of braided lines comes up every couple of years. Back in 2010-2011, we went through a phase of using 6-12″ sections of braided line as sighters added to the end of the original milky green TUSA furled nylon monofilament lines. They have been tried a number of times as tenkara lines, nymphing lines, etc. The intended purpose of these lines is almost always for non-trout warm water and ocean species. They are made supple with little stretch. The suppleness makes them cast very well off spinning and bait tackle. It also gives you good strike detection (a potential advantage in nymphing). Little stretch means good hook sets on reaction baits, spoons, jerk baits, etc (also a potential advantage in nymphing). Ultimately, though, a furled/braided line made of multiple strands cannot be as supple as a monofilament. But the biggest issue you are going to run into will be freezing. That braided line will freeze into a solid rod in cold winter conditions. But perhaps if you avoid days where the wind chill approaches freezing . . .

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