How to Tie the Tenkara Knot: Step-by-Step Guide

Fly fishing with a Tenkara rod started out in Japan and it’s not becoming more and more popular across the world, particularly in the USA. These rods are a lot of fun to fish with, easy for beginners to learn with, and super portable so you can take them anywhere, they’ll even fit in your pocket.

When fly fishing with a tenkara rod, you don’t use a reel you just attach your tenkara fly line or a level line to the end of a piece of the line at the end of the tenkara fly rod, called the lillian.

There are two different knots you can use to do this, each method is very simple and we are going to run through how to tie each of the knots in this article.

Picking which of the two knots to use comes down to the line materials you’re attaching to your tenkara rod, and this is explained below.

How To Tie The Girth Hitch

How To Tie The Girth Hitch

This is the easier of the two tenkara knots we’ll go through and it’s very quick to tie. This is for attaching tenkara fly lines to your rods.

Before you start tying the knot, make sure the rod tip is not pulled out or it could break, and that you have pulled a section of the lillian out the top about 6 inches.

Step 1

Take the lillian and tie an overhand knot at the end of it, this will act as a stopper knot. Now take your tenkara fly line and make sure it’s laid out with no tangles.

Step 2

At one end of your tenkara line, there will be a braided loop. Take the loop and open it up wide and hold it open. Now pull the tenkara line through the braided loop to create another loop that is in essence a slip knot.

You can also see our post here on how to tie a non slip knot if you are interested.

Step 3

Slide the loop you just created over the lillian being sure to go past the stopper knot you made in step 1.

When you tighten this knot, always ensure you’re holding the lillian or you have closed the opening of the rod. If you do not do this, you would risk snapping the tip of your tenkara rod.

Now the rod is secure, pull the fly line tight and with enough tension until it reaches the point where the slip loop is seated against the stopper knot. Now just attach your tippet to the tippet ring at the other end of the line with an improved clinch knot and you’re ready to go fly fishing for some trout.

Here is a video for you to watch explaining the knot and how to set up tenkara rods.

How To Tie The Level Line Knot

The level line knot is a bit harder than the knot above but is useful to attach your level line, which looks just like tippet, to the lilian.

Step 1

To start the level line knot, first make sure you have a small section of the lilian, like 4-6 inches, out of the rod and have tied an overhand stopper knot at the end. Take your line and tie an overhand knot around the main line or level line – known as a slip loop knot.

Step 2

Take the lillian and wrap it twice around the slip loop ensuring the stopper has passed through the loop as well.

Step 3

Pull the mainline to secure the slip loop to the lillian. Now trim the tag but leave it long, around two inches and you have tied the level line knot. Now you can just add a smaller diameter tippet and fly, start casting at fish, and enjoy life on the water.

Here is a video showing you the tenkara level line knot.


The long tag is used to loosen the level line knot after you have fished, so if you don’t leave it long, it will be really hard to untie. You may even have to end up cutting your new fly line if you forget to do this, which as we know is not great, so think and remember to do it.

Want to learn another knot that you can use for fly fishing? We have a guide here on tying an improved palomar knot.


How do you tie a leader to a tenkara line?

To tie a leader to a tenkara line, you will need a surgeon’s knot. To tie the knot, start by laying the line and leader side by side. Then tie an overhand loop in the leader and pass the line through the loop two times. Pull the leader and line tight to form a secure knot.

Is tenkara knot strong?

Yes, the tenkara knot is a strong knot that is designed to hold your line and leader together securely. The knot is also relatively easy to tie and can be done with minimal effort.

Do tenkara flies float or sink?

Tenkara flies typically float, although some patterns can be designed to sink. Floating flies are better for fishing on the surface or near the surface, while sinking flies are better for fishing deeper in the water.

Do you need a tippet for tenkara?

A tippet is not required for tenkara fishing, but it can be beneficial. A tippet adds extra length and strength to your line and can also help to create a better presentation of your fly.

Can you catch big fish with tenkara?

Yes, it is possible to catch big fish with tenkara. Tenkara rods are designed to be lightweight and easy to use, but they are still capable of casting far and have enough power to handle larger fish.

What kind of line do you use for tenkara?

What kind of line do you use for tenkara?

When fishing with tenkara you have a choice of two different lines to fish with on the water, a short normal fly line or a level line that is a relatively new concept but it’s pretty much attaching your tippet to the lillian.

Is tenkara good for beginners?

Yes, tenkara fly fishing is great for new anglers who want to come fishing and learn to cast a fly. It’s super easy as there is no reel used, which makes casting very simple.

Photo of author

Jamie Melvin

Growing up fly fishing on trout streams in Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fly fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles, there aren't many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand.

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