Who has made &/or fished with twisted horse hair line?

(David Walker) #1

I admit I prefer fishing with mono-filament lines, usually using the smallest lightest lines I can get away with, and rarely fish with a furled line. Except now and again. You never know I might develop a greater appreciation of their virtues, and also just to extend my skills.

I’ve decided instead of making new kebari I’d try making a twisted horse tail line. Just for the fun of trying something new.

If any one on the forum has made a horse tail line or fished with one.
I would be interested in hearing your experience making or fishing with the line.

Thus far I’ve only read through Chris Stewart’s instructions included with his horsehair line kit.

My brother in Ohio has an Arabian horse named, Lad, that grows a long tail, about the same color as the horse tail hair in the TB kit. I had thought that finding horse tail hair might be something difficult to do. But my brother surprised me when he said people can buy horse tail extensions for their show horses. Some horses just don’t grow long tails, and long tails score higher in horse competitions. Here is one example. {though I usually restrict my time looking at horse’s asses to when some politician is on the news} :roll_eyes:
The showpen our tails in action

Chris writes in step 4 that each segment is called a “snood”. He didn’t know why. Being fascinated by words origins I found this explanation. (which also has a link to the origins of the word - needle).
Online Etymology Snood

On the Fishing Cafe web-page Vol. 57 . I found this advice for making a horse tail line:
Horse-element, if you twist too tightly it will lose elasticity. Therefore, twisting loosely is the key.
[ 馬素は、あまり固く撚ると弾力がなくなる。そのため、ゆるめに撚っていくのがコツ。]

On the - The World of Nagara River and Gujo Rods website, 長良川と郡上竿の世界.
There is a fun 7 part series, テンカラ馬素の話 , Story of Tenkara Horses
(馬素, uma moto or ba moto, Horse-Elementary. I think it basically means - basic raw material, the horse hair with no processing done to it, the fundamental lowest element of the material)

Parts 3, 4, & 5 show the process of making the horse tail line. Part 1, 2 are historical and 6 & 7 mostly accessories.
Part 5 ⑤【撚り合わせ編】(twisted together knitting) has a nice picture of what it should or should not look like. Where it looks to me that another key is twisting the hair so that it lays compactly together.


If that sort of thing interest you.
You will find links at the top of the page - to previous Part 4 テンカラ馬素の話④【下準備編】【Preliminary Preparation】& Part 6 テンカラ馬素の話⑥「撚りの秘密」“Secrets of Twisting” - probably an inaccurate translation, but close enough to indicate it’s about understanding the deeper process of twisting fibers together.

Please tell us of your experiences making or fishing with a horse hair line. Negative or positive experiences are both valuable.
Or even if it is something you have thought about trying but haven’t yet given it a try.

(Chris Stewart) #2


Thank you for posting that, especially for the 7-part series of making a horsehair tenkara line. In the series, I found two things of particular interest. The first was the illustration in the third part taken from a magazine article published “soon after the war” that clearly shows five flies on the line, not the single fly that we think of as one of the key elements of tenkara fishing. The second interesting thing was the “Lang twist” which I had not heard of before. It would be interesting to see if the modern day Valsesian horsehair lines are constructed using a Lang twist. They also start with 14-16 hairs at the rod tip, and you cannot effectively twist that many hairs in one go. It appears the blogger initially made three-hair snoods, then twisted five of them together to get a total of 15 hairs. The last time I made a Valsesian line I twisted two seven-hair snoods together. I have no idea why he feels it is not possible to get a smooth snood using more than three or four hairs (although it is certainly easier to do no more than 5 hairs).

Starting with 15 or 16 hairs at the rod tip will create an extremely heavy line, which may have been necessary with the bamboo rods of the day (and with the Valsesian Arundo cane rods of today). Few tenkara or keiryu rods today are stiff enough to easily handle lines that heavy.

(David Walker) #3

Chris after reading your instructions I had already concluded I wouldn’t like a line as long as I would like to make due to the requirement for too many twisted hair in the root segment snoods because the line would be heavier that I would like. I will have to see how I like using it with a shorter rod and shorter line than I usually fish with. However, I still found the instructions on – The World of Nagara River and Gujo Rods website - helpful to look at & read what I could figure out.

(Chris Stewart) #4

You can make a level line if you wish. A level three hair line is relatively light and a level four hair line is a bit heavier than a Japanese size 4 fluorocarbon line.

(David Walker) #5

Chris thanks for the advice. I don’t know when I will get started making the line. My house has been a mess for at least four weeks due to a complete remodeling of our kitchen. Stuff is piled everywhere. To adjust and borrow a phrase from the movie, The Money Pit. When I ask how much longer? I’m expecting two or more replies of - Three more weeks.

(望月正樹) #6

Hello Everyone, I ‘Masky and I live in Kyoto Japan. I want to comment on the article about trying to make a Tenkara line with horse hair. I have just started to make a line with horse’s hair with the first time , The horse hair is called [馬素 ba su] The [馬素 ba su] I bought on the Internet is 90 cm long. Gujo Rod Master says that it is too difficult to twist because 馬素 is not strong enaugh and is easy to brake .So I tried to use wet 馬素. I felt Wet 馬素 makes twisting easier.
t. I hope I will make a tapered line of about 380 cm by this summer and I would like to enjoy fishing with this Tenkara line at the Kamogawa River in Kyoto.
I hope you all will make a nice horse Tenkara lines.

(David Walker) #7

Mangefu, welcome to the forum. Thank you for this interesting advice.

I do not recall reading about using wet horse hair (ウェット馬素) to aid twisting the horse hair.

It might be a good idea. To soak it for a several minutes. Then pat it dry, before beginning to twist it. 撚り
That may make it more elastic. Less brittle.

Chris Stewart has written that when taken off the spool, a horse hair line will have - coil memory.
But do not stretch it, as you would do with fluorocarbon or nylon line.
Just cast the line, and after a few minutes of being wet. The horse hair line will relax and the coil memory will go away.

The following website, about Using Horse Hair as a Textile confirms that wet hair is less brittle than dry hair.

The author writes in part:
Weave with moist fibres.
Turn the fibres so that root and tip end alternates.
The current “tail” needs to be completely wet as breaks are occurring .

Fiberarts Horsehair as a Textile

The author also wrote something that may be of interest to our friend Jean Santos:
"The only book I found with information about how to handle horsehair for weaving was a French textile encyclopedia from 1859 (“Dictionnaire general des tissus anciens et modernes”, tome I, Lyon 1859). "

Also thank you for this - [馬素 ba su] .
In the past I have seen websites where the fishing line (釣りライン) was just labeled as the バス (basu) or maybe as バス糸 (basu ito).

But バス (basu) is also the word for Bass fish, (バス魚, basu sakana).
So バス (basu) as name (名前) for fishing line was confusing.
Yet I had figured out that バス was an old name for fishing line, and that sometimes even fluorocarbon or nylon line are sometimes still called basu, by some people.

Most often I seen digital translation of [馬素 as “uma moto”] or [馬素 “ba moto”].
Seeing you write - [馬素 ba su]. Helped me understand the name.

[ it is a little bit like the kanji ( 漢字 )for water, 水.
Usually 水 is “mizu”, but sometimes 水 becomes “sui” , As in [ 水系 suikei ], water system.]

I now better understand Japanese sentences like this one.
馬素(バス) [ phonetic shown as - Uma moto (basu)]
Horse (bus)
Originally “horse” is the name of a horse’s tail hair, it has been used as a fishing line from long ago.

The first sentence on this website:

(望月正樹) #8

Thank you for a kind advise (Just cast the line, and after a few minutes of being wet. The horse hair line will relax and the coil memory will go away.)Guzyo Rod Master said same thing to use lines at a river.and 馬素 is an unusual word except for an gOld Fisherman . I think most of Japanes can’ t read as (Ba su) They (including me)wil read as (ba so).

(todoroki toshirou) #9

basu = ba-su = 馬-素 = 道糸(miti-ito)

In the case of tenkara
馬素 = 飛ばし糸(tobasi-ito)

Regional name and past name are cause of confusion :thinking:

@mangetu 様 宜しくお願い致します
ご参加を頼もしく思っています :smiley:

(David Walker) #10

I think I understand. Many people today have never saddled a horse or put harness on a working horse. I have done those things. Many people today have only seen & know about “horse riders” 馬装. ba sō. Equestrian.
And never needed to know about 馬の尻尾 (horse’s butt-tail). :roll_eyes:

You may find this website of interest. He is making a 360cm line.
馬素を編む , Knitting? horse hair.


Same webpage Engish translation

ブレイデッドライン braided line
(テーパーライン) taper line
長さ・・・二間 length — (2けん)= 2*182cm(3。6m)Length of 2 tatami mats, I think.

和式毛鉤釣り用・釣竿 Japanese style fly fishing · fishing rod
(テンカラロッド)Tenkara rod

The tippet, aka ハリス, length is - 長さ・・一 尋 (1ヒロ). A hiro is a fathom. The length from finger tip to finger tip of out stretched arms. 1/2 ヒロ is 1 yabiki, 一矢引 ( 1矢引), The length of an arrow pull. About 1m.

The author uses a Clover Handy Thread Twister, クロバー ハンディヤーンツイスター . A tool probably not needed.

But it may make the work go a little quicker. And they are low cost. The price is $14.95 on some websites, but most places list it for $9.74.

Clover Handy Thread Twister

The only video I found that actually shows how to use the tool is this one.
クロバー ハンディヤーンツイスターの紹介 Clover Handy Yarn Twister introduction:

(David Walker) #11

いいと楽しい名前です。私は名前が好きです。A good and fun name. I like the name.

Regional names are more fun & interesting. 飛ばし糸 = skipping or flying string, ??

Where I live small pine tree shaped mushrooms appear in the spring.
Locally they are called. Molly Moochers. In Michigan they are just called , Morels.
Molly Moochers is a lot more fun. Not a boring name. :laughing:
No one knows who gave them that name. Probably the early Scots/Irish settlers.

Other regional names for the same mushroom are: Dryland fish, Hickory chicken. Merkels, among other names.
Forest Service - mushroom harvesting pdf

Morel mushroom hunt (Molly moochers)

In the comments they seemed to identify the river seen in the video as the Greenbrier River. A river I fish often. Though I suspect he was hunting molly moochers farther upstream from where I fish. If that was the Greenbrier River.

(todoroki toshirou) #12

It is a high-grade food
In Japan it is called "amigasa-take"=編み笠-茸 = Braided hat- mushroom :smiley:

Moochers = おねだりさん

(David Walker) #13

Here is a recent blog post from Feb, 14, 2018.
念願のTENKARA LINE テンカラ馬素を入手しました。
I got the TENKARA LINE Tenkara horse of my wishes. or long awaited.

That suggest an interesting option. Dyeing the hair with Roapas Batik ( ローパスバチック) leather dye to make it into a color that pleases you. He used tea / brown colors. But there are many brighter colors available if high visibility is wanted. It is said not to damage the horse hair. However, I do not know if that is true.

念願のTENKARA LINE テンカラ馬素を入手しました。

All 24 colors. Liquid aqueous dye for leather

(Jean Santos) #14

Thank you all for this interesting thread:blush:
I fish with a line made my friend Eric Robert. He use this french horse hair :
His lines are made only with the male tail ( the female hair is less resistant) He made mine with 5 strands and 2 strands on the tip . It’s 3,80m long and really heavy. But it suits perfectly my bamboo tenkara rod.

I love its visibility , and also its elasticity when is wet. But it’s a bit heavy and hard to keep out of the water.
And I have to take care of it, allowing it to dry before storing. I do the same thing for my silk fly line.

The trout we have in France don’t care if you are fishing with a horsetail line or a level line :smile:

(望月正樹) #15

This is a Tenkara Line, made from horse hair, which Gujo Rod master twisted and made by himself. 古式撚り馬素( koshiki yori basu) means “twisted horse hair line, which is made in a traditional way. “ This line is made from seven lines 節(hu si) tied then glued together to make one line. https://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/fk3yi8anpontan/40837157.html I have not used this line yet.

(David Walker) #16

Cool. Is the Gujo rod master the owner of the 長良川と郡上竿の世界 website?

I and I think, several people on this forum, have been looking at that website recently.
A lot of interesting information there.

(望月正樹) #17

[quote=“dwalker, post:16, topic:697”]
ool. Is the Gujo rod master the owner of the 長良川と郡上竿の世界 website?
David San Yes he is the owner of that website himself.

(Peder) #18

It is also considered a high grade mushroom here in the US. I like that name, it is very appropriate.


(David Walker) #19

I just finished making a 3-hair level line. I haven’t measured the finished length but it should come out about 4m.
Some observations. Like most new things you try you get better at it as you go along. I think maybe I should have just tossed the first three snoods I made. As I think the later ones were twisted better. The hair being white and my eye sight not what it once was I found it helped to have something dark colored in the back ground when inspecting my efforts.

I mostly followed Chris’ instructions. However, before twisting them I carefully brushed out, combed out the hairs, and let them hang straight off a door hinge for a few days before twisting them. To allow the hair to become straighter, after being coiled in the bag, before trying to twist them together. I clipped a large spring paper clip on the end to add a little weight to the hair.

I also soaked them in water for a few minutes before drying and twisting them. The idea being they might be a little more elastic while twisting. I found it worked best to try to keep the hair separated as I twisted them, passing one hair above my thumb, the other below my thumb, and other one between ring and pinkie finger. And you have to stop every few inches to untangle the tag ends of the hairs, as they will twist together beyond where you pinch them together as they are twisted using the other hand.

Each snood was about 26 inches (66cm) in length. I made 8 of them. Before tying them together I soaked them in pairs in water following Chris’ instructions.

I was surprised to see them move about in the water for a few minutes. They were placed in pairs in the kitchen sink in a u-shape. They would move about sometimes inward, then outward and back again. And sometimes they could be seen untwisting a bit. One even had one hair shrink so much it pulled one end into a 90˚ angle the last 3 inches before the knotted end. I left them in the water till they stopped moving about. Before removing and drying them before tying the snoods together.

A few of the snoods developed a loose loop hair, I guess from others shrinking or that one expanding in the water. Generally I could work the loose hair a little toward one end and I would just cut it off and re-knot that end. So I lost a few inches of length off a few of the snoods. Tying then together went as expected. I tied on a loop for the lillian on one end per instructions. On the other end I tied on a few inches of 0x tippet, electing to just put a figure 8 knot in the end to tie the tippet to the same way I would tie tippet onto a FC level line. Rather than a perfection loop or tippet ring in Chris’ instructions. Next is to get a day to try casting it, if it doesn’t fall apart maybe I will try to post a picture of it later. Still plenty of horse hairs left to try again. Probably a 4-hair level line or the suggested 3 - 4 - 4 - 5 -5 -5 taper line, which should make about a 3.6m line.

(望月正樹) #20

David San you made it!! The Gujo rods Master told me how to twist the three hairs . Is
Hold the three hairs on your left hand ,then Spread the hairs on the right thigh and rub them slowly to twist with the right palm. It’s seems easier than use fingers.