September 14, 2013

Sakura Masterline

As I have mentioned before, I am not a big fan of furled lines for tenkara. Like many tenkara fishers, I used them right at first, when I was learning how to cast, but as I began to understand the tenkara casting stroke I began to prefer level lines. Still, there are times when I prefer a tapered, complex line. I say complex because these lines are not just a single stand of material, rather, they are furled, braided, woven or counter-spun out of many fibers.

One situation in which I prefer a complex line is when throwing large flies. Granted, this is not actually traditional tenkara, but it is fun and can be rewarding to see a large trout nose break the surface to inhale a #4 hopper pattern. If there is any wind at all, large flies can be difficult to cast with a level tenkara line.

I have tried about 20 different complex lines, but lately I have been using a custom designed, counter-spun fluorocarbon line made by John Vetterli of Tenkara Guides, LLC and the Sakura Masterline (woven style, not level Masterline). The former line is to be discussed at another time. Here I want to talk about the Masterline.

I bought a Masterline a while ago and have been using it predominantly to throw dry flies. I bought it used (essentially new) because I was having difficulty purchasing a new one. The only place I know of to get one in the US is from Adam of I had emailed him a few times regarding my desire to purchase a Masterline, and after placing an order I never received another reply. I suspect my order just got misplaced. Adam was getting ready to go to Japan and I think my order was not a high priority at the time. This is not a criticism, just an observation. After all, since I found a Masterline elsewhere I didn't feel the need to bother him.

Anyway, Sakura Masterline comes in different colors, weights, and lengths. Each has its own designed purpose. They are not like the usual furled line available to tenkara fishers. These lines are smaller in diameter (at least smaller than many furled lines), stiffer (at least initially) and are much more tightly woven than the standard furled line. Because of its properties the line will stretch somewhat but will not recoil or "birds nest" upon rebound if the tippet breaks. They cast beautifully and are very predicable.


The Masterline I use the most is a dark (I believe called tea colored) 4.5m (14'9") line. To this I add 16 inches of 0X nylon tippet, 8 inches of 3X tippet and then 2-4 feet of 4-6X tippet. This gives me a long line that turns over really well and casts like a bullet.

Masterline does float, but not very high in the meniscus. If desired, it takes a paste floatant readily making it float even higher. I usually don't use any however.

When you take the Masterline off the spool for the first time you will note that it feels rather stiff. As I said earlier, this is not a standard furled line. The Masterline will hold its coils unlike a furled line so it must be "released". There are essentially two ways to do this. One is to use your fingers to relax to line segment by segment and at the same time apply a little stretch. The other way is how I prefer to do it: stretch the line all at the same time. At the stream side I usually find a tree with a broken branch. I hook the Dacron loop (for the girth hitch) around the broken branch stub. I then unroll the Masterline to it full length and the apply a gentle but steady stretch to the whole line. When maximally stretched I say "Now you have a new memory" -- like I'm commanding it, and slowly release. The line now is perfectly straight!

As with all the complex lines I have used, the Masterline is more difficult to keep all off the water than a level line, but since I generally use the Masterline with dry flies I usually don't even try to. I do keep the rod tip high, but even with this, and a 14+ foot rod, the distal foot or so of the line will be floating in the water. This is one reason I prefer level lines for general upstream, subsurface fishing. They give me better direct contact with the fly and better controlled drift. But for dries, I have no problem having a little of the line floating in the meniscus. If you fish down and across there is no issue with the Masterline, or any complex line for that matter, staying up and out of the water -- the current pulls the line straight making it defy gravity. I don't fish down and across very often though.

Loop for attachment.

A tight weave.

Here is a comparison of a few different complex lines just so you can see the difference in weave.

Top to Bottom: Masterline 4.5m, Vetterli 16' FC, Streamside 16' mono, TUSA 13' Kevlar, Moonlit 13.5' Ronin

I'm still experimenting with complex lines, and I have a couple more I just received to be tested (they look promising though), but for most of my fishing I'll stick with a level line. When I do desire a complex line I find myself reaching more often for the Masterline. That's the way it is for now..... until I change my mind!!!

As for cost? I don't know, actually. If you're interested in one of these lines, contact Adam through


  1. Great review Tom! I want to try this line. Quick question: how's the visibility? Seems like the darker color would be visible against glare but how is it in general?

  2. Thanks Jason. It is OK against glare; not too bad.


  3. Tom, it was not clear for me, is it tapared or level?
    What about casting it in windy conditions?

    1. Carlos,

      Yes, it is slightly tapered. Although I haven't had it in a strong wind, it works well in moderate wind.


    2. Thanks Tom.
      Aside the titanium line,it seems that with strong winds nothing works that well.

  4. Cool write up Tom, I actually included 2 with your shipment hope it makes it there fast.