Tenkara line keeping methods

Ways to manage your tenkara line when on, and along, the water
Tenkara USA tenkara line holder
Wading into deeper water with line stowed using the traditional tenkara line holder (photo: Tenkara USA).

I don't fish tenkara as much as I probably should. A fair amount of my time spent with a rod in my hand is spent on small, often brush-choked, streams. These are fishing conditions in which tenkara excels in a number of ways not limited to using tenkara rods' long length to keep your line off the water and make a fly first and fly only presentation, allowing you to actively control your fly and not requiring a backcast. But what about when you're not fishing? One of the challenges presented by heading to the stream with no reel is what to do with that line when you're not fishing; whether when bushwhacking your way down a forest-clad small stream or rock-hopping along a tumbling mountain freestoner, for example.

Depending on a variety of factors ranging from who you buy your tenkara rod from to personal preference to how often you typically need to stow your line during a typical day of tenkara fishing, there are a wide variety of options. Here are just a few.

Traditional Tenkara Line Holder
Photo: Tenkara Rod Co.

The Traditional Holder

The most common type of holder in the birthplace of tenkara, Japan, these holders are relatively simple and straightforward. But despite being simple, they are likely the most common method used for tenkara line keeping for one simple reason: they work. Whether purchased separately or included with your tenkara rod purchase from companies like Tenkara USA or Tenkara Rod Co., you're likely getting a marginally different version of the same basic spool that is lined with foam core to help dry your line, notched to allow you to stow flies and cored to have a hollow center so the spool can slide over the top of your collapsed tenkara rod and down to the handle where it will rest securely as you make your way in, out, or along the stream.

The Keeper - Tenkara USA
Photo: Tenkara USA

The Keeper

Designed by Tenkara USA, The Keeper may be best thought of as a traditional tenkara line holder on steroids. It offers all the same features of the traditional holder but adds on additional functionality while maintaining relatively the same small profile and simplicity. Instead of storing one tenkara line, The Keeper is designed to store two — one on each side, both of which are lined with a rubber line-catching system. The Keeper is also a mini fly box, offering a compartment that is designed to store roughly 6-12 flies.

Patagonia Tenkara Line Keeper
Photo: Tom Sadler

The Simple Line Keeper

Patagonia jumped into the tenkara game in the last couple of years with the release of Simple Fly FIshing, a book by Yvon Chouinard, Craig Matthews and Mauro Mazzo. Simple Fly Fishing is all about, you guessed it, making fly fishing simple. In addition to the book, Patagonia has been offering Simple Fly Fishing tenkara kits that include a tenkara rod, line, flies and the book (optional). The Patagonia tenkara rods (built by TFO) feature perhaps the simplest line keeping method of all. Integrated into the butt of the rod (although it is removable) is a simple clip, the brother of which is included and can be placed anywhere along the shaft of the rod. The line is stowed by collapsing the rod and winding the line around the two clips.

Tenkara USA Rod Ties
Photo: Tenkara USA

Rod Ties

These rod ties are another Tenkara USA product and are offered, much like The Keeper, as an improvement on the simple clip-based method of the aforementioned Patagonia rods and similar DIY solutions. Rod ties offer the same functionality, but with a bit more flexibility — pun intended. Rod ties are made of bendable wire, clad with a soft, rubber exterior. They can be positioned anywhere on the handle or shaft of the rod and can also come in handy in a variety of ways when out on the river, back at the campsite, or just loading up gear for a road trip.


No article on line keeping methods is complete without mentioning the Fuji EZ Keepers. First recommended by Jason Klass on his TenkaraTalk blog, they have become an extremely popular method of line control. I am sure they are used by far more tenkara anglers in the US than any of the options you have listed short of the traditional holder.

I also use another method. I place two hook keepers on opposite ends of the rod base shank. I learned this technique from Chris Stewart at TenkaraBum. It works good with longer rods. I have the TFO Cutthroat rod and it came with the clips. I really like it.

FYI: the Tenkara USA ties are actually by a company called Niteize:


The product is Gear Tie (R) and they come in a range of sizes, from mini (like 3" long) to giant (3 feet long or more). I use these all the time for managing my tenkara line as i've lost the Fuji EZ keepers too many times bush-wacking (the o-ring breaks or they fling off).