Tippet Rings

Tippet rings are an attribute to a tenkara line system that you can use to maximize your technique. They are not a choice for many anglers because tippet rings are not simple, easy or stealthy. People say they distract fish, weigh and impart drape and drag on the system and other negative things like it’s just one more thing to add in. I believe they do far more for my system of catching fish than the alternative such as a stopper knot at the end of the mainline.

I’ve been using tippet rings regularly for ten years. When I was fly fishing, I used them extensively. I studied the why and why not, analyzing their performance all before my first day of tenkara. Initially, I didn’t use them on my first few tenkara lines. I wanted to learn tenkara, I thought it was important to copy people in the know about it. I didn’t want to go against convention and no tenkara angler used them at the time. In American social media tenkara circles, there were so many that said that their use was not tenkara. I didn’t know any better then but now?

When you know better, you do better.

I knew better than to buckle to peer pressure considering my own experience of how well they worked only after researching what tenkara was all about. Early on in the timeline, there were very strong opinions outside of Japan about what constituted tenkara.

I began to make friends with many Japanese tenkara experts, I asked a lot of questions about the equipment and techniques, what it exactly was. I bought all kinds of Japanese books about tenkara and keiryu books that had sections on tenkara. Old and new books that described the equipment. More importantly I bought a lot of magazines that chronicled tenkara over the decades. I also collected videos, none of which had one single thing about tippet rings.

I kept using them and I brought my lines to Japan where many anglers examined my equipment and cast my line system. Always my rod and line system was meet with positive reactions.

From all my research and fishing in Japan, I learned that the Japanese masters often borrowed from fly fishing. They wore vests, used American made vices, French fly boxes, they crafted a kit out of what worked. Many experts made their equipment and some used bait rods and hooks for their tenkara gear.

The beginnings of tenkara outside of Japan were in short a singular but narrow scope of tenkara. There were others that researched tenkara and added to the body of knowledge and I’m grateful yet I kept my focus on where tenkara came from and did not succumb to peer pressure.

Tippet rings are an attribute to maintaining the line, they give the tippet knot a uniform surface to break allowing you to feel that breaking point easier. Lines seem complete with a tippet ring and their performance supports this.

Many experts used cut fly lines, some used beaded flys, every expert borrowed technology from other forms of fishing but what I found running through all the experts craft was that they often created their own gear.

I create my custom lines terminated with tippet rings.

Tippet rings work on many types of lines, fluorocarbon, nylon, braided, tapered mono, I use them on all of the different types of lines I use.

If you are going to use tippet rings, there are a couple of things that you should do to make them work at maximum performance. Use a knot glue and make a kit that is easy to use to put them on. I use Loon Knot Sense and a Loon UV light for catalyzing the knot glue.

Tenkara experts in Japan create their kit often borrowing from different disciplines such as fly and keiryu fishing. Creating your own tenkara kit, your equipment and techniques is fun.

The below reasons are why I use tippet rings.


1. They maintain the integrity of your line length. The metal tippet ring does not wear out.
2. The tippet ring gives the tippet knot a uniform surface to grip on to and break.
3. A tippet ring will give your breaking strength a more uniform feel.
4. Ease of use on stream.


1. Cost: eight dollars for ten plus Knot Sense glue and a UV light.
2. Extra step in line building at home.

I have cast lines with and without a tippet ring, there is no difference in drape or casting feel. As far as I can tell, the ring does not distract fish from the fly.

Take a look at the link below that further details the kit I use to rig my tenkara lines.

Line Rigging and Rod Repair Kit

Stonfo Tippet Rings

Creating Custom Tenkara Lines

Fluorocarbon Tippet & Knot Comparison

I spend a lot of time, money and effort to go fishing. My nearest trout stream is ninety minutes by highway drive from my home. My favorite fishing area is four hours by car and beyond that, I often drive or fly to Colorado which is an eight to twelve hour drive and often, quite a hike at the end of the road. I have fished for trout in the Waimea Canyon streams of Kauai and have fished with many experts in Japan on a couple of trips in the various mountain streams of their area. I've used two types of tippet on my trips and what follows are my reasons why I choose what I do.

For all of the time and energy that I take to pick out my target stream, I have had even more time to think about my equipment and compare it to all the other equipment that I've used. I use a technique of minimalism to maximize the quality of my kit. 

With all my experience choosing equipment, the long drive, the plane trip and the effort of getting to where I want to go, the last thing I want to happen is to catch the fish of a lifetime only to have my tippet let go...

Tippet choices are important to successful fishing. Nylon and Fluorocarbon are readily available in many sizes. I choose fluorocarbon for my tenkara rigging. It sinks and is nearly invisible in water as well as it hold knots well. In addition, it is stable in that it does not readily degrade with age or sunlight. Often a spool will last over a season so I continue to use it till it is gone without concern that it will become weaker. I choose a tippet that does not alarm the fish, if I know there are fish and they do not take, I will step down a tippet size until I am catching. .

.8 or 5x is my go to tippet size.

The rod I use basically determines the size tippet I choose.

For example, one of my tenkara choices is a travel rod that I throw in a bag not really as a primary rod but to have if the opportunity presents itself. Opportunistic tenkara fishing is one of my favorite types of fishing. I'm on a trip with my family and I come upon a stream, my travel kit is in my backpack and takes a minute or two to be rigged. The rod I choose is strong but fragile, I don't want oversized tippet if I get into a large fish, I want it to break if I catch a fish too big for the rod.

The lines I design are contrary to most tenkara fishers. I design a line for the shortest length of tippet. I want control over my kebari/fly. I want a naturally presented kebari but the shortest length of tippet to feel the take. Shortest being fifty centimeters or about eighteen to twenty inches, that's where I cut out the tippet and start over. 

I design my lines for one meter of tippet or less.

Over the years, I've used all kinds of knots. I keep returning to the basic 5 to 6 turn clinch knot to attach to the tippet ring on my mainline and the same knot to tye on my kebari. Often I use a silk bead cord eyed Japanese bait hook Sakasa kebari or a Ishigaki pattern on a Tiemco, Gamakatsu or a Owner eyed hook. I also use a tippet ring on the terminal end of my custom designed lines. The tippet ring works very well to give the clinch knot an even surface to break. If I I have to pull off my line because it is stuck, ninety percent of the time, my tippet breaks at the tippet ring. This is what I want to happen. One hundred percent of my fish are caught with a tippet ring and not once ever has my tippet ring failed. They work very well, I suggest you try them.

I use a clinch knot for the tippet ring and to tye on the kebari.

In the last 35 years, I have used many different brands of tippet. Rio, Orvis, Varivas, Scientific Anglers, Seaguar and Trouthunter.

Seaguar GranMax FX and Trouthunter are my favorites for several seasons.

I don't see that changing.

GrandMax FX and Trouthunter are available on fifty meter spools. That's nearly a hundred tippet changes for me. Enough to last through a regular season as I often re-use my tippet from day to day. If I know that I am fishing over rocks in a stream and I'm playing fish around them, I check the tippet for abrasion and replace it if I see evidence in the form of fray or discoloration.

I want my tippet to stay strong until I don't. 

I quit fly fishing more than ten years ago now to learn tenkara from the Japanese. I quit fly fishing, I did not give up my knowledge of where the fish where, the dynamics of casting or the skill in playing fish. Tenkara is a specialized technique and purpose built equipment for that technique yet many of the skills in Western fly fishing apply. I am not fly fishing with a western rod, I am using my knowledge of fishing a stream using tenkara techniques and equipment.

There is no tenkara specific tippet and if there was, I probably would not use it unless it was better than GranMax FX or Trouthunter. There is a single application where I use a non-specific tenkara line for Honryu tenkara techniques because there is not a Japanese tenkara line that does a better job. I do not adhere to a specific recipe in my tenkara, I choose Japanese tenkara techniques because they are superior to western fly fishing in mountain streams and in some applications on a river. The Japanese have refined their tenkara equipment and techniques over the decades and have shared their knowledge readily in their language and through ambassadors such as Hisao Ishigaki, Masami Sakakibara and Yuzo Sebata. There are many other experts in social media that also comprise the body of Japanese tenkara anglers.

Given that, I use the knowledge of our western fly fishers that test all kinds of tippet in a scientific method that is easily replicated multiple times in order to find the properties of each tippet. 

Below you will find a few links that may be of some assistance to you.

02X : 4.0 Go
01X : 3.5
0X : 3.0
1X : 2.5
2X : 2.0
3X : 1.5
4X : 1.0
5X : 0.8
6X : 0.6
7X : 0.4
8X : 0.3
9X : 0.25
10X : 0.2

Yellowstone Angler Tippet Shootout - Knot Comparison

Animation of Tying a Clinch Knot

Tippet Rings

This is a Karasu 400 with 5x or .8 tippet with a silk bead cord eye Wrong Kebari. Big fish that resulted in the hook pulling out. The tippet held strong.

MontBell Fishing Bag

MontBell Fishing Bag

I've always fished out of a bag, since the 80's and that's a long time. I remember each one I used and they all had one thing in common.

They weren’t a vest.

I'm not alone in this.

I've meet many other fishers that do not wear a vest, hear and in Japan.

Within tenkara-fisher you will see other pieces I've done on the different bags I use, this is just the latest. I have one bag that has not changed in years and it's idea is the core of every bag I use.

Actually, besides the description of my latest bag, this is a story about a friend. His name is John Sachen and we have been friends for a long time. I meet him in a back yard pool skateboarding some time in the 70’s.

We are old friends.

A few years ago John contacted me, I can't remember the details. He was either in Tokyo and I was too and supposed to meet him or something like that. John and I lost touch during our young adult years and at that time, he was living in Hawaii and then in Japan. John is a guy like me, same age, family man, a fisherman but really, he is a Japanese guy inside (like me) too. In Tokyo, he knew I was fishing a Japanese style, he didn't fish but wanted to help me navigate Japan..

Long story short, I came home to Phoenix and taught John to fish tenkara and John has been teaching me how to be Japanese. It's a nice arraignment, I know about Japanese culture but not like John and I know Japanese tenkara and he doesn't know fishing.

He does now.

He reads Japanese and he has gone through my old Japanese tenkara library.

He has become quite good at it. He out fishes me now and then and I genuinely like that. The student has become better (at times) than the teacher.

John and I went through a period where I've been busy pack rafting, work and family, John has been busy with fishing and a lot of it. I get out a couple of times a month, John goes a lot more than that.

Anyway, to make a long story short, the last time we went fishing, John has built a really cool system. One he worked out with a MontBell travel bag.

I really like it and this is the story of my mine and how it came to be along with it's contents.

As I said, I've been using many types of fishing bags over the years because they are not vests. I have nothing against vests, I've owned one and have a single picture of myself wearing it and I looked very uncomfortable in it. I've used a few Army issue bags, an M3, M5, M7, a Musette bag, a House of Hardy Brook bag, a JW satchel, a few Orvis chest packs, and the lot from Zimmerbuilt (Micro and Strap Pack) as well as the Kaizen Bag that I designed and continue to return to in all of my tenkara.

I'm friends (social media) with a few hundred Japanese fisherman, most of them fly and kebari and many of them use a fishing bag, especially the headwaters (sawanobori) fishermen. I can't think of how many discussions I've had with these guys about all the different bags they use. It seems we all like to talk about gear. Many also use a re-purposed pouch or bag of some time.

Which brings me back to this bag and John.

John uses a bag and the one he has now has really created a ruckus with me. As you can see, I'm going through all of my bags and this is the most fun I've had setting up one.

Generally I set up a bag for the type of fishing that I do. If it's a long day hike, I carry a backpack, laughing, I carry the Kaizen too but all my long day hike stuff goes in the backpack, the Kaizen gets the fishing gear only. There is hardly room in that bag for a Cliff Bar. But in the backpack I can carry all my stuff.

When I fish with John, I'm fishing with someone that takes his approach at fishing tenkara seriously. Lately, we drive, fish, hike, get back in the Toyota and drive some more, fish and hike. We are in and out of the car but we could be fishing for miles as well.

As I've said, John has taught me the finer points of being Japanese and his bag could be on the shoulder of ANY Japanese angler. I guess mine could be too, my Kaizen bag but damn, it's really minimal. More so than anyone that I've meet. Not by design but by necessity for me.

In order for me to improve my equipment and do that effectively, I've figured out how I can minimize and maximize my equipment to exactly what I need and nothing more. I didn't know I had that in me until Anthony Naples asked me to write a bit about tenkara for his web site. Without going too much into detail, you can find it here.

So John has this MontBell bag, it's not a fishing bag but it is. John saw the potential in this bag and set it up for himself. When we go fishing, he didn't know I was looking it over. He didn't know I was watching him use it. How many times he used it and how he used it. I asked him on a ride to the next fishing spot, "Hey, can I take a look in your bag?" "Sure adam." and I brought it up in the front seat and glanced through the contents.

"Yup, makes sense to me."

I went home and found it on the MontBell web site and tried to improve on John's idea. I decided on the smaller one and once I got it, I tried to stuff my stuff in it.

Tooo small (insert explicative)

I threw it next to the mirror in my bedroom and didn't look at it.

Next trip John asks me, "Hey, where is your bag?"

I forgot what I told him but it was probably something like it was too small.

We did our usual exploring and I watched John again use his bag. I had my belt and Nalgene bottle with my Tamo stuck in the belt and my Kaizen bag hung cross shoulder. I was exhausted at the bottom of the canyon and I sure could have used a few things I needed but didn’t have. 

I'm pretty sure John had them in his bag...

So I got home and ordered my bag with some custom zipper pulls and other bits from MontBell USA.

I made my list as I always do and I filled the bag step by step as I collected my stuff, all the comforts of my stuff.

(click on the item to take you to a page that you can read and order)
  1. MontBell M Travel Bag
  2. C&F Designs box
  3. Seaguar Grand Max FX .6 Tippet 60m spool (so expensive, if you find it cheap, let me know)
  4. Spare main line on spool
  5. Net
  6. Nippers
  7. Derf Needle Driver
  8. Temperature Gauge
  9. Water bottle
  10. Bento box
  11. Chopsticks
  12. Size A battery Flashlight
  13. E-Candle
  14. E-blanket
  15. Whistle
  16. Cord
  17. Lighter
  18. Tinder
  19. Knife
  20. Incense
  21. Sunscreen
  22. Lip balm
  23. Ibuprofen
This bag is not a backpack, no need for a chair or stove, not that kind of bag. This one is for a shore lunch in a cool spot. The bag holds my net and water bottle so no need for a belt. It has room for my bento box and a emergency blanket with some cord as well as a little tin container candle. When I'm sitting on a rock, resting, talking, what ever, I like a little incense, Nag Champa temple cones are my favorite for forest bathing.

The sun is intense here so sunscreen and lip balm really make things nice. I get sore sometimes from hiking on uneven rocks, ibuprofen for the win. I fish often into the evening so a little flashlight is in the bag.

The bento box was really a hassle to find but man, when I found it, I found exactly what I was looking for. My chopsticks were stolen out of my backpack, I'll have to remember to get another pair or rob my MontBell bag of them.

On stream, often I wonder what the water temp is, got my thermometer off the bench. I should probably add in a little notebook and pen to scratch some notes. Note to self.

I also carry an emergency blanket and cord. Man I hope to never use that but IF I need to, I know what to do. The little candle goes with that.

I was a combat medic. I lived in the field with very little. I made "hooches" out of a poncho and passed time under there. Next to a stream? broken ankle? I'm going to do that in relative style with just a couple of things till my wife finds me.

I love my bag, it has been one of my favorite pieces of kit to set up. I really like that I can utilize the nets that I designed. I like this style too, it is very much like a lot of my Japanese western fly fish friends nets. As a matter of fact, the whole bag is...

Like John's.

But it’s mine too. For those of you that are new to tenkara or fishing bags, you don’t have to use a MontBell. You can use any bag you like. Just list the things you use and find a bag you like.

That’s what John and I do.

Other Fishing Bags on Tenkara-Fisher