Tenkara Grasshopper Central

Tenkara Pre-Rigging

Tenkara Pre-Rigging

by February 16, 2018 6 comments

Every angler I have ever met wants to maximize their time on the water. I know I feel the same way about my time on the water. Because of this I am known for my pre-rigging for tenkara to expedite my river therapy.

What is Pre-Rigging for Tenkara?

It is getting your line set up with tippet and a kebari before you even leave home. One of the benefits I find of pre-rigging is that it keeps my lines organized when I am prepping for a trip. I have arguments both for and against. Hopefully, by discussing this I can share my thoughts on pre-rigging with you.

When I use Pre-rigging

I find that my pre-rigging is most effective when fishing waters that one is familiar with. Familiarity with the water gives me the knowledge to select an appropriate line length for where I am headed.

If I am fishing a large river that I am familiar with like the South Platte near Deckers, CO I will need a long line. Fishing a smaller stream like Bear Creek near Morrison, CO requires a much shorter line.

pre-rigging tapered nylon line
Line Options

Using a level line for many of my trips, I am able to cut the line to length accordingly. If I am employing a tapered furled line my line length is limited. The same thing occurs when I am using a tapered nylon line from Tenkara USA.


pre-riggin tippet

With a useable line length appropriate to the location I will be fishing, there is the issue of tippet length. From discussions online and in books, 3′-4′ of tippet is the generally agreed upon length. I have tied on a tippet at a length of almost 5′. This length gives me the chance to present to some very spooky fish.

Pre-rigging in action

Let’s look at a real life pre-rigging scenario that I experience as a tenkara guide.

Just outside Denver, there is a small stream that I love to fish with clients. It is common for me to have up to three (3) clients on a given trip. Because they are paying clients I need to maximize their fishing time.

Level Line Pre-rigging

To do this I spend a bit of time the night before prepping for the trip. I cut level line to a length of about 13′ because the stream width is near 30′ at its widest. Having a line of this length is perfect in conjunction with my client rod, the Tenkara USA Sato. The Sato maxes out at twelve feet nine inche (12’9″) and by adding thirteen feet (13′) of level line I have a total length of twenty five feet nine inches (25’9″).


On all client rigs I use a tippet ring where the level line and tippet meet. I use tippet rings to speed up the knot tying if a client breaks off a full length of tippet. (I understand that tippet rings are not a traditional part of the tenkara rig, but sometimes efficiency rules.)

My favorite tippet length for client rigs is right around four feet (4′). At this length, I find that the tippet will last most of day unless something really catastrophic happens.

My go to tippet size is a 5x, the size suggested by many of the tenkara rod manufacturers. I have been known to use a larger 4x and smaller from 6x-7x. I use the smaller tippet sizes when using a smaller kebari pattern or when fishing highly pressured waters.

Kebari Pre-rigging

Choosing a kebari pattern when pre-rigging can be a challenge.

When introducing tenkara to a new angler I like to give them the experience of a “traditional”rig. My kebari of choice tends to be the Ishigaki Kebari.

Currently, the Ishigaki Kebari I use is a #14 because it fits the profile of not to big not to small! I also believe the inherent simplicity of the kebari proves the efficacy of tenkara.

Pre-rigging Spooling

After constructing a complete tenkara line system using level line, tippet, and kebari, I put the system on a spool. Depending on the spool I am using, I can from from 1-3 lines ready to go.

Typically, I set up two complete rigs with a few others in my pack.

Is pre-rigging right for you?

Following the steps above, getting on the water will be faster. As an added bonus, if you are fishing with other pre-rigging anglers, they will not have to wait for you.

Pre-Rigging conclusions

The above suggestions are simply that, suggestions. Pre-rigging is not an absolute necessity, but it sure helps speed things up.

Have pre-rigging tricks of your own? Why not share them in the comments below.

Tight Lines and Tenkara!!!

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6 Comments so far

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  1. Bill
    #1 Bill 12 March, 2018, 11:34

    Couldn’t you pre-rig with different line sizes and tippet, and wait for the fly depending on stream conditions? Still saving a lot of time.

    Reply this comment
    • Graham Moran
      Graham Moran Author 12 March, 2018, 12:11


      You can totally do that as well. The only reason I do this pre-rigging as a complete step is I typically only carry one line size, a spool of 5x tippet, and one fly pattern. It was the Ishigaki Kebari in a #12 but now I am experimenting with a new pattern. So that being the case I am still following this setup pre-trip.

      Now let me be clear, this is just me. If you care more patterns and sizes, do what works best for your experience. Ultimately it comes down to what makes your day most productive and enjoyable.

      Reply this comment
  2. Tenkara Gandolf
    #2 Tenkara Gandolf 17 February, 2018, 08:04

    Nothing against pre-rigging, and I’ve tried it a couple times, however, after almost 60 years of fly fishing and starting my 4th year of Tenkara, I find the rigging up process essential mentally. Checking out the water, choosing the line, tying on the perfect fly for the conditions and rigging up the rod all prepare my brain and emotions for the task at hand. I’m a pretty manic person and find the routine calming.

    Reply this comment
    • Graham Moran
      Graham Moran Author 17 February, 2018, 08:27

      I can understand the activity of rigging on the river being a way to focus on the fishing at hand. I don’t always pre-rig for many of the same reasons you do. In many ways pre-rigging allowed me to focus on what is to come the following day. Many times when I have been fishing I still have a setup ready to go as I may have been fishing the previous day and never broke it down.

      As I said, there is no right or wrong in whether someone pre-rigs. This was just something I wanted to share.

      Reply this comment
  3. Dan
    #3 Dan 17 February, 2018, 01:53

    For me, pre-rigging is mandatory when fishing with my toddlers. I usually have two different line spools ready, for a total of four different lines.

    Reply this comment
    • Graham Moran
      Graham Moran Author 17 February, 2018, 07:39

      Funny, I never thought about how toddlers would be a reason for pre-rigging. And I have two of them. With my son A wanting to join me this summer, I will have to remember this. Now if they only made child proof tenkara rods life would be awesome. Thanks for the comment Daniel. I hope you get a chance to do some fishing soon.

      Reply this comment

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