Level FC Line To Tippet Transition Sections Provide Superior Casting Performance

Over the 2020 angling season, Chris - Tenkara Bum - wrote 3 essays about why a Tapered Leader should be included in between our Level FC T-Lines and our Tippets. But rather than go into a wordy explanation for why that is here, I am going to simply list the measurements, which will tell the tail far better than I can in words.

LEVEL FC.T-LINE MEASUREMENTS IN INCHES:

4.5 - 0.015" - 17 Lb. Test

3.5 - 0.013" - 14 Lb. Test

3.0 - 0.012" - 12 Lb. Test

2.5 - 0.011" - 10 Lb. Test

TROUTHUNTER FC 5X and 6X TIPPET MATERIAL’S DIAMETERS IN INCHES:

5X - 0.0058" - 4.9 Lb. Test
6X - 0.0050" - 3.7 Lb. Test

As can easily be seen from the above, when you add a tippet to your level FC. T-Line, regardless of the size line you are using, there is a very BIG step-down in line diameters that transmits energy from the line to the tippet and fly poorly, especially in a wind. It gets the job done, for sure, but smoother, more accurate and better wind fighting casts can be made by introducing a section of Tapered Lines in between your Level T-Line and your Tippet Material. Also, having more No-Vis Line space in between your highly visible T-Line and your fly can significantly increase your catch rates, (by up to 70% according to Discover Tenkara). Chris chose to call this a Tenkara Tapered Leader, incorporating additional step downs in sizes #2, 1.5 and even size 1 Level FC. T-Lines in the construction of the Leader, as well as equivalent diameters of FC Tippet Materials in the needed step downs to get the desired performance levels he wanted. I believe the progression should go: T-Line, to Transition Section, to Tippet, rather than calling the whole thing a Tenkara Leader.

BUILDING AN ALL PURPOSE TRANSITION SECTION:
Since most of us probably use Level T-Lines running between size #4 and size #2.5 (0.014 to 0.011" in diameter), the next 2 step downs can be of 0.009 and 0.008" respectively, which equals out to 8 Lb. and 6 Lb, Test FC lines or tippet materials, followed by either 5X or 6X tippets. or lighter if needed for your rod’s protection.

To minimize the cutting and retying of lines due too wear and tear, we will use the Loop-To-Loop Connection, with Perfection Loops (running @ 95% break strength) at the ends of our T-Line, at each end of the Transition Section, and at the leader end of the Tippet material, with a Double Fig-8 Knot being used to join the 8 Lb. and 6 Lb. Test Transition line sections together with (@ better than 90% knot strength).

The length of the finished 8 Lb. test section should be about 18 inches long, plus enough line to tie the necessary knots of course, and the finished length of the 6 lb. test section should be about 9 inches or so. If you start by tying your perfection loop about an inch short, as it tightens down, it will come out close to your target length. This is not Rocket Science, and an inch or 2 one way or the other will not make any noticeable difference in the casting and fishing of your line. The tippet length should be about 2 to 3 feet long, or as you prefer for your fishing conditions, The total length of the transition section and the tippet (@ 3 feet) will come out to be around 5.5 feet long, which will cast much better than 5 feet of tippet a lone would when it is attached directly to your much thicker T-Line, while still maintaining enough distance between the fly and the Hi-Viz T-Line to eliminate most of the Hi-Viz Line’s Spooking of fish. Give the Transition Section a try and see what you think…Karl.

1 Like

I fooled around with that concept this winter.
I used blood knots (until Chris suggested uni-uni, much easier) down to the tippet transition where I used a 1.5mm ring.
Yes, it laid out the tippet nicer with my usual smooth casting pace.
Then I tried just two steps between the LL and tippet and couldn’t really see much if any any loss of performance. With just one step between of 24” clear fluoro I had to put more snap in my cast.
I think the whole thing, in the final analysis, comes down to what type of water you are fishing. For me, fishing short drifts in the fast tumbling pocket water of the Sierras (usually with some varying amount of wind unfortunately) the decision was to go another direction. Until the wind really gets going, I’m going to fish Fujino tapered lines, with a 3-4’ tippet. When that becomes problematic I’ll switch to a #4(so I can see it) Sunline (.330mm), 24” of #1.75 Seaguar FX (clear .220mm), and 3’ max of tippet. I’ve practiced extensively in the wind this winter on a faster casting speed with a definite snap at the end and these two set ups work for me.
The core concept “taper between line and tippet” definitely does work though! But I think each of us may have to modify the details to fit our own situation.

I’m not feeling this one. When I wanted to get into fly fishing I chose Tenkara because it was mostly gadget free. I don’t want to have to splice my line together. Maybe I’m just lazy, but there it is.

7 Likes

Hi David. one of the best things about T-fishing is that You are free to choose what ever color of it you like the best. If you want simplicity, then go with the simplest way you can, and have all the fun you can doing it that way. You have my full support on doing that.

I know most T-anglers will not see any need to go to this much knot tying trouble, that’s why why I named the fastest, easiest, and strongest knots I could to tie. And why the Transition Section has loops on both ends, so it can be transferred from one line to another line, as line lengths are changed for different sized streams. And the extra weight of the loops and knots actually helps in casting the line and in turning the fly over. Probably, unlike most T-anglers, I fish wind resistant dry fly patterns for 99% of my stream fishing, so I may be encountering more wind resistance problems in casting than most T-anglers do.

I also expected some resistance to all the knots on the grounds that so many knots will frighten fish. Actually, knots attract fish. How many times has a trout hit a knot on your line rather than hitting your fly? That has happened to me so much that I have considered tying a Triple Surgeon’s Knot on a hook and calling it a new fly pattern. When the fish are eating your knots, they are feeding on midge pupa. The breathing gills, head and thorax on the midge pupa forms a ball like enlargement that is much bigger in size than the pupa’s body is, and the knot does a great job of imitating that thorax enlargement and Triggers the fish to take our knots in stead of hitting our flies, unless you are fishing with a midge pupa pattern, that is. So I do not expect this to be of general interest to the rank and file T-angler, but to those who are interested in getting better performance out of their T-tackle and are willing to experiment and put in a little extra effort to get that additional performance. For those anglers, they may find this information to be helpful.

James and I are fishing under similar conditions, I too fish the Sierra, except that I also fish the high lakes. In that application, I fish a floating PVC fly line about as long as the rod, with a hand tied tapered leader as follows: 24” of RIO 16 Lb. Nylon Steelhead/Samon Tippet; 18” of # 3.5 FC T-line; 12” of # 2.5 FC T-line; and 9” of 8 Lb. test FC line, on to which a 3 foot long 5X FC Tippet is looped, which makes for a total leader length to about 8.24 feet and covers all of my Stillwater needs with a floating line, casting Foam Terresterials and other dry flies, weighted nymphs, Bead Head Jig Hook nymphs and T-friendly Streamer Patterns. In these applications, Tenkara or not, You really need a tapered Leader to get the job done.

1 Like

Could you use a standard FC tapered leader and then gauge it to the point where it’s close to the diameter of the level line and then do a single knot at that point. I haven’t tried it out, the problem I could see is the length of the taper to the final section. I’m also thinking that may not be an issue since you could run a shorter level line to compensate. Also for visibility if I need it I’ve been using some of the neon wax on a section of the line. I’ll have to test this out, could result in a nice casting rig and keeps things very simple.

Certainly, what Chris is advocating can be done and is workable but the, the formulation of FC general lines and Tenkara specific FC lines differs, and the tenkara specific lines will work considerably better. Also, by tying your own, it allows you to customize the taper to match up with the casting action of the rod you are fishing. Where as, commercial leaders are made with average tapers to fit the full range of fly rods on the market, which I cast nothing like our T-rods do at all.

It would be interesting to quantify the difference since I think what you are describing is basically what we did before tapered lines came about on fly fishing rigs. The tapered leader should cast very similar to a hand tied tapered leader except for the taper, but I’m not sure you’d want too fast of a taper anyway or you would be defeating the purpose. If the sections are too short I think it wouldn’t cast well at all.

The Charles Ritz Classic Leader Formula: The first section of the leader should be 60% of the diameter of the fly line.

The Butt of the leader is 60% of its length, and made up of: .018", .016", and .014".

The Transition section is 20% of the length, and made up of: .012", .010" and .009".

The tippet is also 20% of the length, and made up of .008" or lighter as you choose in combination with the hook size you are using and the wind resistance of the fly being cast.

Of course this was developed long before our modern mono’s were developed and the arrival of the Fluorocarbon lines and tippets, which have changed things some but the principles of leader construction have remained the same, only the materials have changed. In constructing the Transition Section, 6" lengths of each line diameter were commonly used on hand tied leaders. Stiff materials were preferred for the butt section, with medium to soft materials used in the Transition Section, and the softest materials were reserved for the tippet section in the fishing of dry flies.

All of this changed greatly as it became possible to make extruded tapered leaders by machine in stead of making them by hand. Were the manufactured leaders better? Not necessarily, but they didn’t have any knots other than the ones the anglers tied in them, which most anglers saw as an advantage, so very few anglers tie their own leaders any more. Most anglers will readily embrace convenience over performance, as long as the performance is acceptable.

The spiderwire lines I tie are tapered…some are not. I fish both. I started with 3 segments using the formula, then the tippet. Then i changed to 2 and found little difference in performance…but think it relates to the length. Perhaps longer the line is the more diffrrence it will make. I dont care much for longer lines, so 2 steps work for me and fewer knots for the line to self foul on. It could also be the last two steps need to be more dramatic to really see a lot of change or the whole rig is more of a consistent step down 60/40/X. X being the tippet which for me can range between 20 and 40 of the casting line. Diameters might be 100% 50% 7%…

In general i will use a single diameter on light to no wind. And tapered when there is wind. My tapered lines start a bit heavier and go lighter than the single strand.

There is a difference in performance and utility. I would not fish tapered all the time…or at least the ones i make.

4 Likes

G, as you may recall, I also made up some SpiderWire Lines. On the one for Lake fishing, I just added the tapered leader I use for my PVC coated Tenkara Floating Lines (as per above) and it worked well.

On the running water line, I just added tippet with the Long ONI Loop Method and it also did quite well that way. But sense I was already making them up, I added a Transition Section and the Tippet as before to the stream line. I have not fished that line again yet, so I can’t comment on how it fishes but, I expect it to do even better than it did before.

In your 2-step down line construction, ie 60, 40 SpiderWire Line the tippet can be considered as a third step. And sense the FC (if that’s what you are using for tippet) is so much denser than the SpiderWire lines are, it will act like a miniature Weight Forward Line, and really help in turning the fly over and straightening the tippet, certainly better than Nylon Tippet material will because of its lighter than FC. Weight…Karl.

1 Like

I agree with you Karl and enjoy your thorough dives in all these subjects.

I am not as technical or detailed as you are. I also do not have the breath of experience.

Casting performance and presentation performance are two different things. Tapered lines have a history and heritage for energy transfer. They also tend to be a touch heavier at the rod end and feel they will draw the fly or put more drag on a fly than a LL of the same length and weight. The reason is the line weight is biased to the rod.

There are many factors to our system and what we want to achieve. So much we can tune and adjust based on conditions, our fishing style, and current presentation intentions. I think this is a great thread, but also want to note, I choose a tapered line when I think I need its attributes. I feel for the line length I throw…the difference is subtle.

I dont fish flourocarbon tippet. I am not in the camp that believes that it makes a difference. I know there is a difference, but feel I catch plenty enough fish on mono tippet that and I am plenty satisfied. I am releasing these fish, and am not a numbers guy. I am sort of just out there to have a little fun and get away from society.

I wonder about your note that the weight of the tippet creating a weigh forward casting line. One would need to weight it to confirm, but I suspect it does not create a weighed forward system. Gonna call you out on that one Karl… :slight_smile:

3 Likes

G, it has more to do with the density difference between nylon and FC than it has anything to do with the actual weights. For sure, there is a weight difference but I doubt any of us have a scale sensitive enough to register the difference.

In the beginning I was attracted to FC because it’s refraction rate compared to H2O is better than nylon’s, so it is supposed to be less visible to fish. But after fishing FC. for a while, I see that as being over hyped. Fishing the high lakes I fish, with less atmosphere above you to filter out some of the UV Light and experiencing sub-freezing Temps at night that very quickly weakens nylon materials, I found FC. to be well worth the additional cost for the additional durability it provides over nylon tippet materials.

When you have gone to all the trouble and effort it takes to backpack into a Trophy Golden Trout Lake and you hook a big one, you want all the protection you can get, and FC does significantly better than nylon does in providing that protection. For conventional anglers using nylon mono, lines, it is recommended to replace your nylon lines every season, whether it has been fished or not, and Fluorescent Lighting will degrade nylon mono line almost as fast as sun light will. I have never had to replace FC. Line due to light degradation…Karl.

Here is a link to the First Tenkara Leader Article Chris wrote:

This post involves the casting attributes of casting 3 Hollow Tipped rods and how the T-Bum 36 Rod matched up; the Tapered Leader Information comes in on the last paragraph. Its a long wait but the lead in is very interesting reading.

More On Tapered Leaders:

1 Like

Karl,

I do understand, appreciate, and use tapered line systems and do use them in tenkara.

Recently i have even been digging into flyfishing in the salt using a rod and reel. Tapered line systems are even more critical in those cases to punch large flies, some 7 inches long, into the wind. Modern flylines have all kinds of options for tapers and materials. Whacky and overwhelming.

All that said, when i fish tenkara i fish a 1-1.5 line/rod length. I have no problem turning over the fly or presenting fly first with a level line system. The reason is that cast distance is short and gravity turns over the fly. It will do this on even the weakest fo casts if you consider what would happen if one would point a rod at 11 and just let the line drop. Fly would always be first and probably hover an inch above the ground.

For guys who fish longline, a taper is far more important, but that is not my style of fishing and i feel it limits how many tenkara techniques i can employ without dragging a lot of line across the water.

I fish small water, 320m rods, and a relatively short line. Unless the wind is really honkin, i dont need a tapered leader for its benefits and feel that a levelline system performs better.

In the spirit of being scientific it is also helpful to share all details of testing and application. You mentioned that you fish the high mountain lakes, i suspect wind and longling are part of your motivation for tuning your lines.

3 Likes

This is one of the reasons I abandoned western fly fishing for tenkara! (Even though I still fish western in lakes from my float tube)
The adaptability and flexibility to optimize for the waters I fish. There’s so much advantage in using a line plus tippet total length just equal to rod length for the waters I fish that I’ve made that my standard… it just checks all the boxes that allow me to catch more fish…
Fly first, line off water, accuracy, precise manipulation of the fly.
Bigger stream section need more length, grab the longer rod out of my daypack. Still can’t reach, move to a place where I can.

Interesting to see you using the same line length concept.

3 Likes

@jamezu I think most anglers fish the way you describe. To expand, most anglers I have fished with… fish that way. Long lining is definitely a thing but in the densely wooded brooks I fish, it really is not practical. With a max of 1.5 I feel I can be extremely effective with all the classic academic tenkara tactics. With a longer line, a lot of the stuff I lean on is compromised by line management issues.

I am not saying long lining is bad, but rather noting it is a whole different presentation approach and skill set and not what I do.

I try to fish in high gradient streams. Short precise casts through fast water. For me, it is heaven.

2 Likes

I fish a lot of Small Blue Line streams, so I often fish lines shorter than the length of the rods I am fishing, utilizing the Bow-and-Arrow-Cast a good deal of the time as well, sometimes going down to rod lengths of as short as 206/245 meters on low canopy and brushed in streams, so I am not all that far from what you are doing. My creek casting distances are short enough that, at times, it can hardly be called a cast.

That’s why I opted in for a Transition Section over a full length Tapered Leader, like what Chris and his followers are using, which would be too long for my purposes. And because my casts are so short, foot long leader sections would also be too long for my purposes and put the HiViz Line too far above the fly.

The way I see things, the best way for you to do things is in the way that things work out the best for You. But trying new things opens the possibility of improving on your tackle’s performance, which it has certainly done for me and a lot of other T-anglers who have put some taper in to their line systems. If you are satisfied with the results you are getting, by all means, stick with what you are presently doing. I wish you well in what ever you decide to do, Karl.

1 Like

@T-stillwater

Interesting. I think that is what I am getting at. The devil is in the details and sharing application and intent can really change and help better form why a techique works for an angler.

In really dense canopy, where non traditional casting is nessary. Lighter powered bow and arrow and quarter casting stroke are places where fly turn over would really need to be optimized and I can see why you would opt for it. Most rods in that shorter class also tend to act stiffer as the inertia of the rod tip is not as fast as a longer rod. So with a slower line speed, it is probably another motivator for what you are doing.

Curious on what rods you fish in those situations.

That info in your last entry is critical to understanding why you prefer what you do. It makes perfect sense. Thanks for sharing it.

G, you asked about the rods that I have fished in tight situations; here is a rundown on their stats:

KIYOTAKI 18: 5’ 10", 0.6 Oz. RFI 6.34, 16 pennies - good on B&A Casts but too stiff otherwise.
KIYOTAKI 24: 7’ 10", …1 OZ. RFI 6.25, 15 pennies - good on B&A Casts but too stiff otherwise.
ESOTERIC 206 & 245, 6’ 9" & 8’1", 14 & 15.5 pennies, good at both lengths with low wind drag.
DAIWA SOYKAZE 27SR: 1.6 Oz. 8.98’, RFI 6.48, 17.5 p, and very nice but out of production.
Dragontail Mizuchi 24/29/34M: @ 2.86 Oz., @ 7’ 10", 9’6" & 11’, & 6.6, 5.8 & 5.4 RFIs, & 16, 17 & 18 pennies, respectively. I like how the Mizuch casts best in its longest length, and it does better for me when using #3.5 lines.

Speaking of Level FC. Lines: I prefer to use the size #3 lines for holding off of the water. I have tried size #2.5 but it lacked the energy I needed to cast the wind resistant Foam Terrestrial ants, beetle, spider and high country hopper dry fly patterns that I catch most of my fish on, especially if it is windy, which it has a tendency to be every afternoon. The #3.5 will handle more wind but droops more, and I very seldom fish lines as long as the rod is long, not counting the Transition Sections and the Tippet in the total line length, and I like FL- Orange Lines for the Hi-Viz Function in my stream fishing environments. I hope this is of some help to everyone as a point of reference and comparison…Karl.

3 Likes

That is quite a lineup. Thanks!!!

Wind and technical water that requires creative casting can be fun but I also find it extremely draining. I find that i have to be in a special mindset for it.

I only have two rods for that kind of water. The rhodo and the royal stage 320. I tend to opt for the rhodo for the zoom and will fish a line tippet at the length of the middle position. It too feels better casting at full length. I will fish the royal stage if i have more casting room as it us a much more precise casting instrument. The rhodo is a touch sloppy but gets the job done. The Rhodo is my durable work horse. The royal is the finesse casting instrument.

These days I just blue line, but i would say most require only 30% really technical non traditional casting. As in 70% of the river i can use a normal casting stroke and can choose to skip the needle threading water if need be. I also tend to pick days that are low wind.

Thanks for so much info Karl. I think if i were fishing water and conditions you do, i would absolutely be doing more with tapered systems. I do use them but prefer to float a level system in the air if conditions allow.

I also tend to fish subsurface more. In thinking about the flies you use, the top water flies, i would think that most of them would have more wind resistance than a tradional tenkara form and a tapered system may aid in turn over. Just yesterday, i switched from a stiff hackle to a soft with a heavier hook because i was fishing in wind. Sometimes the presentation needs all the help it can get.

1 Like

Me too, and I’ve been stepping down my level lines since day one.

I really like that Japanese tenkara is far more broad in scope than what was fought over during the tenkara wars but I’ll be brief.

If you are fly fishing with a tenkara rod, that’s what you are doing.

Line making is homework.

To each his or her own.

3 Likes