February 24, 2012

A tail of three (furled) lines....

For this review I am going to concentrate on three furled lines: Tenkara USA 3rd Generation Traditional line, Cutthroat Leaders.com Tenkara line, and Streamside Hand Crafted Furled Leaders Tenkara line. I will compare/contrast their physical characteristics and review their on-stream performance. I would like to compare their tapers but I don't have a reliable way of doing so. Also, their tapers are proprietary so I can't compare their formulas. So, I'll do the best I can. I will be comparing the lines that are closest to 10 feet in length.

Tenkara USA Traditional Tenkara Line, 3rd Generation

Tenkara USA 3rd Generation Traditional Furled Line

From Tenkara USA: "Tenkara USA's 3rd generation traditional tenkara lines are an improvement over our original lines: they cast more easily, with more precision, better against wind, and do not tangle/coil when freed from a snag.

These have been developed to cast in perfect balance with tenkara rods - with power and precision - yet make the most delicate presentations you have ever seen. These lines are an improvement over our first offer of traditional tenkara lines, being easier to cast, easier to cast through breezes and yet easy to keep off the water. We believe we achieved the perfect line with this one"

 My first impression is that this is a beautifully made furled line. I have been fishing furled leaders for many years with my western gear, but none of those leaders are like this line. Most western furled leaders are made of nylon monofilament. The Tenkara USA's 3rd generation traditional Tenkara line is definitely not mono. This line is a very subtle yellow-green and made from soft fibers of Kevlar. It has has no identifiable memory right out of the packaging. The packaging, by the way, is amazing! Like everything that Tenkara USA does, the packaging has an earthy, organic feel but is professionally done. There is a paper folio which has a very nice organic texture, stylish symbols and clean typography, and two very cleverly cutout windows which frame the Tenkara USA logo. This packaging would make any graphic designer nod with approval. It is just what we have come to expect from the perfectionists at Tenkara USA. The line is contained in a small plastic bag which in turn resides within a pocket in the paper folio. An empty plastic line cartridge and folded information pamphlet are also provided.

As I stated before, the line is made of Kevlar! Is that cool or what! The line comes with a transition loop of Spectra, used for attaching to your Tenkara rod's lilian. The business end of the line has a shorb loop rather than a tippet ring. A 6 inch extender of 3x mono is attached to the shorb loop. The extender has a terminal perfection loop.

My Tenkara USA line is 10 feet 11 inches, weighs 0.9g (on an Adam analytical scale), and has 11 turns per inch (measured exactly at the line's midpoint). When hanging freely vertically and applying a 2lb weight to the end it stretches 3 inches making it about 3% longer under load. It returns to its original length after stretching.  Kevlar naturally resists stretching, and we see this in this Tenkara line (especially when compared to furled lines constructed of other materials). 

Kevlar is not UV resistant and I am unaware if a UV inhibitor has been added to this Tenkara line. This property of Kevlar may limit this line's functional life expectancy. This remains to be seen.

Using the furled lines on the river was somewhat challenging due to a steady 7-10mph wind. I am sure some gusts were to 15mph. This made line control difficult. All lines were significantly affected by the wind, so much so that I had to leave some of the line on the water so to get some sort of drift out of the flies. The wind caused all the lines to belly and pull the flies. Some of the gusts were strong enough to actually kite the furled lines into the air lifting the flies out of the water!

Fishing the Tenkara USA 3rd Generation traditional line however is a joy. It produces tight loops, precise casts and punches through the wind. It loads my Tenkara USA Iwana-12 comfortably. The line does catch the wind when you hold it off the water, but as previously stated this is typical of furled lines in general -- they being wider and having a larger wind load than level lines.

 The Tenkara USA line will turn over a long tippet. I typically use 6 or 7x tippet rarely shorter than 3 feet -- I often will go to 6 feet or more. Turning over heavy or multiple flies is no problem either -- I frequently use my Tenkara rod for Czech-style nymphing with multiple weighted flies; this line will turn them over every time.

Cutthroat Leaders.com Tenkara line

Cutthroat Leader Tenkara line (I added the transition loop)

From Cutthroat Leader.com: "Our Tenkara Fly Fishing Leaders are hand made by CutThroat Leader Co. Our tenkara leaders will provide you with the most amazing casting & presentation one can imagine.   Our furled tenkara leaders are crafted with the same ancient methods that horsehair leaders were created with thousands of years ago.  The soft presentation you will get with a “Tenkara Thread Furled Leader” is unmatched by any mono or nylon leader you have used in the past."

 My Cutthroat Leaders.com Tenkara line is also beautifully made. I selected the tippet ring version since most of the furled leaders I have used over the years have had this option (you can opt for a shorb loop however). The Tenkara line is a string line made from polyester UNI thread. The line comes packaged simply in a small plastic bag with a supplied instructional card. It has has no identifiable memory right out of the packaging.

My line is Hi-Vis orange (you can choose between camo, green, Hi-Vis orange, pale yellow) medium/heavy weight (you can choose between lite/medium or medium/heavy).  My line did not come with a transition loop, but rather the rod end of the line has a small incorporated loop. I fashioned a transition loop out of 30lb Dacron backing material. My line is 10 feet long, weighs 1.1g, and has 15.5 turns per inch at the line midpoint. It stretches 5 inches when a 2lb weight is attached making it 5% longer under load. It returns to slightly longer than 10 feet after stretching.

Polyester fibers have good UV resistance. They also resists abrasion and mildew. They have more inherent stretch than Kevlar as well.

Fishing the Cutthroat Leaders.com Tenkara line was similar to the Tenkara USA line. This line did, however, cause less bellying when lifted off the water. This may be due to its heavier weight. It turned the flies over with a 6 foot tippet without difficulty. Casting loops were nice but I don't think they were as tight as the Tenkara USA line. Rod load was more pronounced than with the Tenkara USA line, again likely due to its weight. I did not catch any fish while using this line, but I do not think that was due to the line.

From Streamside: "Mystic Creek Leaders are constructed from a higher quality polyester thread and premium grade monofilament than our Uni-Blend leaders. The polyester and monofilament used in The Mystic Creek leaders is about half the diameter used in my Uni-Blend leaders. The leaders use about twice the amount of thread than my Uni-Blend leaders which results in a leader with a tighter furl and a smooth silk like texture. The "Mystic Creek" polyester is more of a continuous bonded fiber which results in a sharper less fuzzy leader." 

My Streamside Tenkara line is a Mystic Creek version and is a beautiful line. In fact, I would definitely call it an artistic line. It is a blended line of high quality polyester thread and premium grade monofilament. This line comes with tippet ring which appears to be silver or stainless steel and is larger than the Cutthroat Leader's tippet ring. The line comes packaged simply in a small plastic bag with a supplied instructional card. It has has no identifiable memory right out of the packaging excepting for a slightly persistent curve to the distal 5 inches. This may be because the distal or tippet end appears to be pure mono for the last 5 inches.

Streamside (left) versus Cutthroat (right) tippet ring size

My line color is Silver Nymph (you can select between 35 different colors to mix and match). A transition loop comes attached to the rod end of the line. As previously mentioned the tippet end appears to be pure mono for the last 5 inches. My line is 10 feet 8 inches, weighs 1.4g, and has 14 turns per inch at the line midpoint. It stretches 5.5 inches under a 2lb load making it 4% longer. It returns to its original length after stretching.

Fishing the Mystic Creek was overall similar to the Cutthroat Leader.com line. Casting loops were about as tight as the Tenkara USA line, but rod loading was more due to this line's weight. Also, it did belly when trying to keep the line off the water, but this was similar to the other lines -- maybe a little less due to its weight. This line turned a long leader over nicely and had feather-like landings on the water, similar to all the lines.

Fish on! (Oh, and nice shadow self portrait -- camera on my head!)

Conclusion: Although today was a challenging day of fishing, mainly due to the wind, it did give me a view of what these lines can do. I liked them all, and I believe that you wouldn't go wrong using any of them. They all cast well, but they all bellied with the wind. They all turned over a long tippet well despite the wind. They all had feather-like water landings. That said, I think that I like the Tenkara USA line a little better than the other two.  It loads the Iwana-12 nicely, it shoots into the wind and turns over a line tippet beautifully, it gives tight loops, and I love the packaging! The real differences are small but I'll give the Tenkara USA line my nod. I think I prefer level or hand-tied tapered fluorocarbon lines better than furled lines in general, but when I feel the need to use a furled line this will be the one.

My ratings: (poor *, excellent *****)

Tenkara USA 3rd Generation traditional line ****
Cutthroat Leaders.com Tenkara line ***'
Streamside Hand Crafted Furled Leaders ***'

Here is a video of my fish for the day. The wind makes the video noisy, sorry. You can, however, see how the wind affects these lines. You can also see that I had to point the rod slightly into the wind to try to keep the line from dragging the flies.


  1. Hello Tom.

    What an excellent review, really worth the effort thanks.I have the new Tenkara USA line, and will try it today some time, I hope?

    I wonder if you may do one some time on tapered fc leaders. I'm also going to try a handmade level line I've made today. 7'.33 clear fc and 3'.33 hi-vis fc. I don't know if tapered leaders would be better?

    1. Hi Richard,

      I plan on reviewing fc leaders in the near future.


  2. Sorry Tom, I did not hear what you used as a sighter, Rio something, was it wool?

    1. The sighter that I was using was a 2cm length of Rio Kahuna LT. It is very light and does not adversely affect casting. It is very easy to see in all light conditions. I just slide it over my tippet up to where the loop-to-loop connection between line and tipppet. I use it more as a sighter than an indicator. I keep it just off the water surface; not floating on the water surface. I tend to see it a lot better than even HiVis line.



  3. great review, thanks for taking the time. any observations about water absorption of the 3 lines? I own 2 of the 3 lines and one of them definitively soaks-up water more than the other (due to its material) and makes it much heavier line to cast - and more difficult to keep the length of line off the water.

    1. I had planned on evaluating water absorption but I couldn't come up with a reliable, real life, way to do so (like soaking, weighing, casting, weighing again). If I had to make an educated guess I'd say the Cutthroat Leaders.com line absorbed more water than the other two. This is based on the fact that when I fished with it on a different day it froze solid while the other lines stayed more supple, particularily the Tenkara USA line. I think the Cutthroat Leaders.com line did more wicking and retained the water most thus freezing solid despite false casting. BTY, I did not treat any of the lines with paste floatant, which Cutthroat recommends.