Except for the beginning of my tenkara journey, I have pretty much been a level line guy. As every tenkara angler knows, they are lightweight, easy to keep off the water (for tenkara specific techniques), and a pleasure to cast. With light or unweighted flies, level lines allow for a fly-first presentation, and as an added bonus they don't spray water on the forecast.
Around 2010 I procured this hank of horse hair from the Eclectic Angler. It should be noted that he no longer stocks horsehair, but it can still be purchased, along with very clear instructions, from Chris Stewart at TenkaraBum. At the 2016 Tenkara Jam I talked to Chris, got some instructions, thinking at the very least it would make for a fun winter-night project.
After I finished the first line, I figured I would fish it for a lark, hang it up, and have a good memory stored in my brain. The line was 9', so I took my Tenkara USA 9'3" modded Iwana. The shorter version is fairly stiff, and I didn't know how heavy the horse line would feel while casting and drifting.
To my amazement, the line casted like a dream. The kind of dreamy sensation that a nice glass or bamboo fly rod gives when casting, without all the false casting. At 9', the line was still light enough to keep off the water, but with just enough weight to gently load the rod. And for whatever reason (because it's twisted, not furled, maybe?), it didn't spray water.
For the small streams that I prefer, where a trophy is 7", there is little worry of breaking the line on a fish. The pleasure coefficient is enough that I have been fishing it as my primary line for the past couple of months. Plus there is great joy in using equipment made from natural materials and constructed by oneself.
Last weekend I took out a twelve foot version on a bigger stream in the Great Smokies National Park, and sure enough, the line broke on the first fish I caught. When horsehair breaks, in this case on the bottom 3 strand section, usually one hair breaks and unravels like a cable. I still landed the fish, but the line had to be repaired before it would be fishable again. Fortunately this is an easy process, and could even be performed on-stream if one had extra sections (or snoods) pre-twisted.
I have furthered my experimentations with the above line, a 13' furled level line that was purchased on closeout for $10. While it is a nice line, unfortunately, there is no comparison. I am wondering if it is possible to replicate the dainty casting of the horsehair with a twisted fluorocarbon line, where the taper could be controlled, lightweight, yet with more strength.