Wednesday, July 13, 2011

DIY Tenkara Line Furling Update

"Make Your Own Tenkara Line" has been by far the most visited blog post so far. Looking back though, I realize I could have been clearer with the instructions I posted and pictures to visualize the process. Also, I gained more experience making my own lines since then and now I am applying a different approach and technique but with the same result.

This post should provide more information about my new approach to furled lines, even though currently my favorite line is the hand-tied one of TenkaraBum.

Again, these instructions are for a furled tapered line, but you could furl a level line as well, using the same dia/test mono or fc strands.

I am using 3 to 4 different diameters/test of mono or fluorcarbon line (fc), 3 strands each. The tip is a short section of 2 strands, also furled. For ease of reference I will use the term "mono" in the instructions.

First, you will have to think about length, taper and line material of the line you want to furl. This is very subjective and the below is just for illustration purposes; feel free to modify as you like and see fit. For a 12 ft line, as an example, this is what a taper could look like:

- 3 ft of 0.011" dia. mono, 3 strands (total of 0.033")
- 3 ft of 0.010" dia. mono, 3 strands (total of 0.030")
- 3 ft of 0.009" dia. mono, 3 strands (total of 0.027")
- 3 ft of 0.011" dia. mono, 2 strands (total of 0.022")

These instructions here will not employ any weights, dividers, bottles, hooks etc. as used in the first post; which are used to separate the strands, keep tension and avoid tangling. Instead, 3 of your favorite coffee mugs will do the trick (or any other contraption that can separate the loose ends of the strands, such as 3 chairs, a banister on a landing etc. - I am sure you get the idea).

Please excuse the poor quality of the pictures and the video, but it's the best I could do with my little cheap digital camera.

3 coffee mugs to separate the 3 strands
Now take 3 strands for the first section of line and tie them together with a simple knot. This step is important, you will be holding the knot to begin the furl.

3 strands 

tie them together with a simple knot
Thread each strand through one of the handles of the mugs. One strand per mug. Make sure that the mugs are not too close to avoid that the loose ends don't twist with each other.

thread strands through handle of coffee mug - one each

just like this
Hold the 3 strands with the knot end so that the knot points away from your hand. You will need to use thumb, pointer and middle finger to separate the strands from each other.

a bit fuzzy but hope it shows how the strands are separated by the 3 fingers
It is important that you hold the 3 strands in place but let them allow to spin while you twirl the knot with your right hand and slightly pull on it. You will notice that this motion will create a furl and the slight pull will feed the strands to make the line. Twirl and pull, and you should have maybe 2" of furled line. Let go with your right hand and move it back to the left hand and repeat the twirl and pull. Repeat until you furled the entire line section.

furled line after "twirl & pull" with right hand
I tried to make a little movie, unfortunately I had some issues with the focus but I hope you see how it should work.

Once you finished the section, finish it off with another simple knot so that it does not "unfurl".

simple knot to finish
Repeat this for each 3 strand furl section. I prefer a two strand furl for the tip of the line which is a bit easier. You fold the line in half, leaving a small loop between your thumb and pointer.

folded line, leaving small loop
Grab the loop and twirl and pull in the same fashion as you did with the 3 strands and finish off with a simple knot.

two strand furl
Now you have all section ready to "assemble" the line. I typically lay down a measure tape on the floor and align the sections along it to give me a visual picture how the line will look like and where I want to make the knots for the taper. Once you decided the taper, knot the sections together with double surgeon's knots.

knot sections together with double surgeon's knot...

... and pull tight on all ends.
Clip tag ends close to the knot and secure the knot, if you like, with just a bit of zap-a-gap. This is not necessary but will give you a peace of mind just in case you plan to catch the "big one".

clip tag ends
I attach a piece of fly line backing (20lbs is fine, 30lbs works great) to the butt end (I use a clinch knot) and then finish the loop in the backing with a double surgeon's knot. I leave a small tag end that I can grab to untie the line from the lilian.

clinch knot to backing

double surgeon's knot in backing

trim tags 
You have now a hand-made furled tenkara line with your own custom taper and can go fishing!

your new line

tip end, two strand furl (the shadow might be a bit confusing)

butt end with backing loop for attachment to lilian
I hope those instructions are clear enough, but if not, please leave a comment or send me a message through the 'contact me' form.

Tight Lines, K


  1. Great instructions Karel! After this, I think even I could make a furled leader!

  2. I was looking around the net for new line and saw this a few days ago. As a guy that like the idea of making things myself I loved this post. My next line will be a DeJong special. thanks.

  3. Joel - let us know your experience and how you like it.

  4. Thank you so much for posting this. I am wild about Tenkara fishing, but still have not purchased a rod. I was wondering about making my own line and you have answered that question.
    When I was looking at your example at the top of the page I was wondering if the decimal point was in the right spot(0.11 or 0.011)?

    Is a flat line just a single piece of mono or FC?

    Have you tried tenkara with a single stran tied line? like a long leader?

  5. Anonymous... thanks for your comment. The decimals are correct, however note that I used those also for illustration purposes, your line might look very different. For diameter to X comparison, see here:

    A level line is nothing else than a single strand of mono or fluorcarbon line, typically somewhere in the 10-18lb range, depending on your preference. You can also tie a tapered line using just single strands of mono or fluorocarbon, weight and length to your liking.

  6. Hey Karel,

    I was wondering if you had any special formulas that you like that you wouldn't mind sharing. I really like this method, but it would be nice to try some pre-tested effective variants.


  7. Richard - The formula I posted is an actual line I made, although a bit heavy for an Iwana 12ft it is nice for an Amago. For an Iwana, I would reduce the dia for each section by 0.01 or even 0.02 for the 11ft version. 3 sections at each 3-4 ft with a two furl for the tip (optional). Some of the very first lines I made were 3 sections at 4ft and they cast nicely. Again, it is all personal preference though. A heavier line will cast nice but "sag" and you won't be able to keep as much line off the water, a line too light and you will have issues in the wind. A friend of mine said "there is no perfect tenkara line" and I agree, it will always be a compromise. But with the option of being able to furl your own lines, you can make a line that comes close to perfect - for you.

  8. Hey karel,

    I've tried to furl a couple lines now, but about halfway through (1-2feet( a single line (usually the middle) twists around itself. which doesn't allow the line to rotate freely. Any ideas to fix this issue?


  9. Richard - when you say "twists around itself", do you mean it coils up or creates an unwanted 2 strand furl, so to speak? When I had just little line left to go through the coffee mugs, I would move them closer to each other so that the strands are still separated, since I also sometimes encountered unwanted twisting. Otherwise, if it only on strand, you can straighten it out with your right hand that furls (you can let go of the furl without it becoming undone). Drop me an email through the "contact me" page if that doesn't help. Cheers, K

  10. Great instructional and nice steps on some knots, it always helps to brush up on ones knots, thanks!

  11. Hi Karel

    Before I cut up my tippet, how much does the line shrink, i.e how long are the strands before they becomes a 3 ft furled line?

  12. Hi Stefan, that is a very good question that I was asking myself too before I started furling the segments or "snoods". From my experience, the "shrinkage" is minimal and what I have been doing is to cut a 4ft strands for a 3ft section so that you still have room for knots (both securing the furl as well as knotting segments together). Hope that helps!

  13. Hi Karel,
    do you know if there's a difference in the behavior between a 3 strands and a 2 strands furled line? Does a 3x0.10mm have the same characteristics as a 2x0.15mm?

  14. Hi Stefan, that is another good question which I haven't researched yet. In theory, I would think that a 3 strand furl would have a rounder cross profile and probably have less wind resistance but a 2 strand profile would be softer since each strand adds a bit of stiffness to the line (the upper part of the line should be stiffer to help it cast better).

  15. I have made 2, 3 and 4 strand furled sections using the 4 fingers and the thumb of my offhand as a line strand separator.

    Although it re-introduces using weights, I found that tying a knot near the end of each strand and attaching a clothespin helped a lot in preventing tangles with your mug method. You just drop the clothespin and attached line strand through each mug handle and then furl your line as usual when you are ready to begin making the furled line segment you are working on.

    Everything goes pretty smoothly until the clothespins hit and go out through the mug handles, then the strands will tangle. But by that time you already should have the length of furled line that you need.

    Taking the clothespins off of the line segments while holding the furled line segment securely makes it easier to tie the finishing knot in the furled line segment. Then the tangled section can be trimmed away and you have a completed furled line segment.

  16. thank you for this post!! After about a month of trying to figure out what line to buy, I decided it was too costly so I decided to make my own. I ran across your post and finally sat down tonight to try it out. After a short time I got the hang of it and I now have a 12ft furled line. Thanks!! This was a nice way to spend a Friday evening after a long week at work. Very relaxing!