January 7, 2013

A Line for Wind

Tenkara has given me a lot of wonderful time on the water this past year and has reinvigorated my love of fly fishing. But tenkara still poses some challenges for me, especially when the wind blows. During the summer-autumn months I generally fish higher gradient streams with lots of brush and trees crowding the banks,  but during the winter I generally fish larger, more open waters. When the wind is blowing and I'm fishing closed in streams I don't have any trouble controlling the line, probably because with all the tree cover the wind can't reach me and affect my line, but that's not the case with wide open rivers.

Fishing wide open rivers during the winter is a different matter all together. One of the rivers I fish frequently during winter seems to make its own wind! Almost always a breeze is blowing. The wind frustrates me when I am trying to keep the line off the water because the wind bellies the line downwind and pulls the fly up the water column and sometimes even out of the water all together! It's like my line is kite and my fly is a surfer! When the line is flying like this I loose all control of it. I'm sure you've probably experienced this as well on windy days.

from Kitesurfing.com

To combat this "line kiting" I have tried using heavier flies (like beadheads, Czech nymphs), laying the line onto the water as if it were a long western leader (this however cancels the "tenkara effect" of having the line off the water), or just trying to "anchor" the last few feet of line in the water's suface and doing my best to control the fly. Up until recently I have not found a way to reasonably accomplish the later technique.

Lately, when the wind is blowing say 8-18 knots (10-20 mph), I have been using a modified tenkara line that seems to give me more control over the fly and still monitor the take or hit of the fish. This line uses 7-8 feet of #2 or 3 fluorocarbon tenkara line nail knotted to a 24 inch "anchor" or "sighter" of Rio Powerflex Shooting Line. This in turn is nail knotted to a 6 inch segment of 0-1X fluorocarbon line, then finally a 2.5 mm tippet ring. I then attach my terminal line, such a 24-32 inches of 4-5X fluorocarbon tippet. This combination makes a weight forward line that casts well into the wind, and more importantly, is easy to "anchor" into the water's surface. I fish this line with a 390 cm rod to give me some reach.

Rio Powerflex Shooting Lines are designed for use with Spey, Skagit, or Scandinavian shooting heads and have a monofilament core allowing for very small tubular diameters. I use the orange 0.024 inch coldwater floating shooting line for the sighting anchor in my wind line. This line is very lightweight, but heavier than the #2-3 tenkara line, making a very nice weight forward configuration that allows you, with a modestly stiff rod -- like a 6:4-7:3, to punch into a good wind. But because the shooting line also floats it is perfect for "anchoring" your line by allow the shooting line sighter to float on the water's surface and take advantage of its "grip". The rest of your line, the more proximal portion made of #2-3 fluorocarbon, is held off the water. Since the #2-3 tenkara line is so thin and light it is much less affected by wind than a heavier or thicker fluoro line or furled line.

#3 HiVis green fluorocarbon tenkara line, Rio Shooting Line sighter, 0X fluorocarbon with tippet ring

As the shooting line sighter floats with the current it has enough resistance and attachment to the water's surface tension that it is harder for the wind to adversely affect the line, and in turn affect your fly. Think of the shooting line sighter as a long, thin, floating strike indicator, but since the vast majority of your line is still off the water your fly is less adversely affected by those tricky currents as well. The storage curves or loops of the shooting line sighter are easily straightened with just a slight pull on either end and floatation can be augmented with a quick application of your favorite paste floatant (if you need to -- I generally don't).

Also, since the waters surface is disturbed by the wind you can wade closer to the targeted fish, thus allowing you to use a shorter segment of the #2 or #3 tenkara line. This shorter amount of tenkara line is less affected by wind than a long segment of the same line -- less line to "kite".

When the wind temporarily stops blowing, or when it decreases to only a slight breeze, there is no need to change lines. The shooting line sighter is light enough to be held off the water and fished as a more usual tenkara level line, especially if your fly is heavy, like a #10-14 beadhead. It is also highly visible making seeing strikes or "takes" really easy.

If there is no wind, or just a slight breath (5 knots or less), I still prefer to use a full level line with an Amnesia or bi-color sighter.

#3 green tenkara line with 24 inch Rio Shooting Line sighting anchor fished in "off the water" mode

Give this line a try in your local fishing environment and see if it works for you. It has helped me greatly combating that pesky old winter wind!


  1. I believe wind will always be a bugaboo for fly anglers, tenkara or otherwise. I have found that a sidearm cast allows me to "cut through" the wind a little better. Beyond that, I just accept that the fishing will be a little more frustrating and not allow it to ruin my day astream.

  2. Agreed. The sidearm cast does help. And yes, I too just keep fishing!


  3. Great article, great ideia!
    I have strong winds year round here... Will give it a try, must work!
    Many thanks!

    1. Thanks. Give the line a try and let me know if it works for your situation.


  4. Great idea - I have some shooting line after reading that the founder of patagonia uses it for Tenkara, but found it to be poor for casting. I'll try this weight forward approach this weekend on the Provo.

    - An

    p.s. blog is great and I'm glad Tenkara has awakened your sleeping fly fisherman. We all benefit from your experiments and insights.

    1. Hi An,

      GIve the line a try and see if it will work for you as well! It takes a stiff rod, like a 7:3, to make it work best.