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Tenkara Level Line: Intro & Field Test #1

What Is Level Line?

This is a fishing line that has the same diameter throughout its length and does not taper at either end. It is that simple. They are not furled or braided or segmented. They are just a single linear section of monofilament. Level lines designed for tenkara and fixed line fly fishing are specifically formulated to support and benefit casting with these long rods.

Tenkara Level Line: Intro & Field Test #1 - Tenkara Angler - Jason Sparks

Materials that the line is constructed with also matters. The formulated stiffness and mass is used to load the rod for fly delivery, making it easier to cast and control. Generally, these monofilament lines are made of nylon or fluorocarbon, both of which are very strong and durable materials.

Level lines, sometimes referred to as “straight lines”, are extruded from nylon or fluorocarbon. Each are very similar, but do have some distinctive qualities that differentiate them from each other, buoyancy is probably the most noticeable. Fluorocarbon is a bit denser also, which makes for a thinner line diameter for similar weights as nylon.

These lines are available in a variety of diameters and lengths, however the diameter of the line will affect its weight and stiffness. Note that a heavier line may be a bit easier to load the rod with energy, but a lighter line could be more delicate. There is a balance in choosing.

Level Line Conversion Chart provided by

What Are We Looking For?

A good tenkara level line is one that is:

  • Light: A light line will be more delicate and easier to cast.
  • Strong: A strong line will be able to handle the weight of the fly and the force of the water.
  • Durable: A durable line will be able to withstand the abrasion of rocks and other debris.
  • Visible: A visible line will be easy to see, which will help you to keep track of your fly and to detect subtle strikes from fish.
Tenkara Level Line: Intro & Field Test #1 - Tenkara Angler - Jason Sparks - Lines

How to Choose

There are many different brands of level line on the market, each with their own personality. Each brand and model has characteristics designed into them to offer different benefits. So it is important to do your research and choose one that is right for you.

Level lines can be purchased “premade” in different lengths and weights. This makes it easy to choose a few and hit the water. Searching the different brands brings you to vendors’ line offerings like Tenkara USA, DRAGONtail, TenkaraBum and Tenkara-Ya. Here you can buy 30 meter spools of line in several weights and colors. Usually, level line used at lengths that are 1X to 1.5X of the rod length. An example would be that a 4m (12′) rod can cast lines from 4m to 6m (12′ to 18′) with ease.

Can I Make One?

Can you make your own level line to use with a fixed line rod? Of course you can. It is a very simple thing to construct one for yourself. However, what is not so easy is to find a good product off the shelf that can be used as a level line. I shared earlier that the are some distinct line characteristics that make some lines better than others. You can believe that some lines are excellent and some are just “dogs.”

Going to your favorite sporting goods store and buying a spool of 12 pound test line is far a guarantee for good results. It is a starting point though. I do encourage you to do this and share your results with other anglers.

Tenkara Level Line: Intro & Field Test #1 - Tenkara Angler - Jason Sparks - Stack

Field Test #1

Here is where I want to offer a chance for you to field test some homemade lines. The chosen straight line is an “off the shelf” product that shows some promise. I made several lines in different lengths and gave them a whip around the backyard. Then I started taking notes and began to wonder if the conclusions I was coming to would be shared by any others. Subsequently, this idea was spawned.

Here is an offer to send out to you for (mostly) free – 2 of my DIY lines. These are near a #3 line in size and weight, maybe just a bit lighter and thinner. These are made to lengths of 12′ and 18′ to offer a range for your action. The line has a dacron loop for a simple girth hitch knot to attach to your lillian. If you prefer a direct level line connection, just clip off my loop. The business end of the line is still just unfinished straight line. I use a stopper knot there and tie my tippet in above it. If you want to add a tippet ring or a perfection loop or something, please do.

What To Do

Straightaway, start working these two lines on your rods in the backyard. Give them a good workout with little and large flies. Use them on a cloudy a day and then in some bright morning and afternoon sunlight. Don’t forget to get out when it is a bit windy. Slap them into the community pond. Get them into those high gradient streams chasing wild char.

Work them with your casting style and take notes of what you like and dislike. Pay attention to what you are learning. This is the “mostly free” part of this. I’d like you to send feedback (and photos should you catch some fish) to (Sign up on the form now- send feedback to email address later)

Your field notes from your testing is the payment for receiving these two lines to field test. With the collective response I will publish another article that details the line used and the insights of the testers. I am looking forward to hearing how this blind field test plays out.

The lines are packed and stamped, ready to be dropped in the post (domestic USA only). If you are interested in being a part of this community experiment, please sign up here. It would be great to get feedback within 2-3 weeks. I already have a setup for line test #2 lined up. Let’s get casting!

Sign Up Here: Limit 20 Participants

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  1. I had some decent results with Berkley fluorocarbon and series of tiny yarn markers. The drawback was that if the markers got wet it threw off the casting dynamics. And occasionally a trout would jump at the marker instead of the fly. While it’s a cheaper and hyper-stealthy option, in the end I concluded that visible level lines are better all-round.

  2. I’ll mention too that Berkley is a lot more limp compared to something like Nissin “Oni” lines. It doesn’t make a huge difference, but it stands to reason that stiffer line resists small variations in the casting stroke, and maybe improves accuracy. On the other hand, you can get a very tight casting loop with the Berkley. But you can’t see it. I had to add markers, and just that tiny bit of weight makes the nice loops disappear. So went back to normal tenkara lines.

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