The Horse Hair Fishing Line

In addition to the reel, I am producing a horse hair fishing line. Early horse hair lines were built from short (24 to 36″) “snoods” of furled hair. These snoods were knotted to make a line of arbitrary length. These lines worked well with loop rods where the line was fixed to the tip of a long rod (12′ and longer) and did not have to pass through guides. As reels and rods with guides came on the scene, lines needed to be developed that would not hang up in the guides – but it would be a century before silk lines with its long continuous filaments came in to wide spread usage in the west. In the interim, anglers learned to make continuous and knotless horse hair lines. I rediscovered this process last year and have been producing lines and teaching folks how to make their own. Here is an overview of the process. You can read the full details on how to make a line using this technique here Horse Hair Fly Line.

This is a laborious process but allows the angler to create a continuous, knotless, tapered line of any length from horse hair. It takes me about 2 hours to make a 30′ line like this one for the exhibit.

The woodcut in the upper left is from the original source showing the technique. Next is a hank of prime horse hair – 34″ long white stallion hair. The tools are made of “three pieces of deal and goose quill sections”. The 3 strands being furled are made up of 6 hairs each at the butt end of the line. These are knotted and staggered in length as shown in the drawing. Each strand is twisted and then passed over the other 2 as shown in the middle two photos (with the yellow arrows). As you reach the end of the length of hair, you simply add a new hair to replace to continue at the same line diameter or drop the hair to begin a taper. The instructions linked to above give complete details.

The last two photos are the 35′ line I made for the Martin Van Buren exhibit using these tools and techniques.

Explore posts in the same categories: line

11 Comments on “The Horse Hair Fishing Line”

  1. John e Says:

    Michael….Thanks for the demo of the process. I was wondering how that was done! Rod is in the mail to you today. Be sure and work a bit of scrap through the guides and check for burs and things that might ruin that beautiful line…I tried to make sure they were all de-burred, but would hate to have you yelling at me if it cut your line!


  2. mljhackney Says:

    Thanks for the heads up on the guides, I’ll check them out and use my power grinder with a 2″ 40 grit carborundum wheel to make sure they are nice and smooth! (just kidding)

    Horse hair is remarkable tough.


  3. royce Says:

    40 grit ouch …

    Are you going to properly age the line and rod together? … (hint) take it fishing

    Great write up on the process, I always wondered how they went from the knotted to the spliced horse hair.

  4. mljhackney Says:

    Royce, I will have a rod, reel and line won’t I? I might need a lure or fly though. Wonder where I could get those?

  5. rescueriders Says:

    I would like to learn how to do this (not exactly for fishing) to make other stuff with the produced rope. The link was blank. Any details you can send me?

  6. mhackney Says:

    rescuerider, I just checked the link and it works fine – it points to a PDF file so make sure your browser can handle that. Here is another link to the same article:

    See if that works.


  7. Zdenko Says:

    where I can purchase it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: