Tenkara Flies on Eyeless Hooks

Sakasa Kebari Tied on an Eyeless Hook

Sakasa Kebari Tied on an Eyeless Hook - See video below to learn how to tie it!

 

Some tenkara anglers in Japan prefer to tie their sakasa kebari on eyeless hooks.  Rather than a metal ring for an eye, these flies have a loop of flexible material to which the tippet is tied.  I’ve heard some people say that this connection gives the fly more movement in the water than flies with rigid eyes; however, in my experience, there is little to no difference in the action of eyed vs. eyeless flies.  Nonetheless, flies tied on eyeless hooks are unique, beautiful, and can add a fun new dimension to your fly tying.

 

Eyeless Tenkara Fly Hooks

 

There are several different brands of eyeless hooks in Japan but many consider Owner and Gamakatsu to be the best.  They come in different bends, bronze or blue finishes, and they’re available at Tenkara Bum.

 

Owner Yamame Hooks - Blue Finish

Owner Yamame Hooks - Blue Finish

 

Owner Super Yamame Hooks - Bronze Finish

Owner Super Yamame Hooks - Bronze Finish

 

One thing you’ll notice is that Japanese hooks use a different sizing system than we’re used to in the West. Unlike our system where the larger the number, the smaller the hook, it’s the opposite in the Japanese system.  So, a #2 is smaller than a #5 (the smaller the number, the smaller the hook).  The #7 Owner Yamame hook I used in the fly in the first picture is roughly the same size as the #12 TMC  2499SPBL hooks I often use for my sakasa kebari.  The sizing system takes a little getting used to especially considering that different gapes and shank lengths will skew the “true” size of hooks that are labelled the same number.

 

Loop Eye Material

 

Some tiers use monofilament or fluorocarbon to create the loop that forms the eye of the fly; however, I prefer the more classic look of slik bead cord.  Some have suggested using embroidery floss but it unravels very easily making it difficult to thread your tippet (not to mention creating a sloppy looking fly).  Silk bead cord  should be relatively easy to find in the jewelry making section of your local craft store but the color choice tends to be limited (usually just white or black).  For more color options, I suggest searching eBay. You’ll notice it comes in various sizes and I have found the #2 size to be the best diameter for sakasa kebari.

 

Griffin Silk Bead Cord in White

Griffin Silk Bead Cord in White

 

Griffin Silk Bead Cord in Red

Griffin Silk Bead Cord in Red

 

While many tiers just use the white color, red is also popular.  But thanks to a tip from Karel Lansky at Tenkara on the Fly, your color options are only limited by your imagination.  He suggests the use of Sharpie markers to color the looping material and while he does it on dacron backing, it also works well on silk cord.  For the best results, color a length of cord before you tie the fly and let it dry thoroughly before you use it.

 

Use Sharpie Markers to Color your Loop Eye Material

Use Sharpie Markers to Color your Loop Eye Material

 

Many tiers like to use a bright, contrasting color for the loop such as red, orange, yellow, chartreuse, or pink, suggesting that it acts as a “hot spot” that is an attractor to fish.

 

How to Tie a Tenkara Fly on an Eyeless Hook

 

Now that we’ve looked at hooks and looping material, let’s watch a quick video demonstrating how the silk cord is attached on a very basic fly.

 

 

 

Variations

 

The video above is just a simple example showing how to tie on eyeless hooks.  But of course, you could substitute any combination of materials and colors to create an infinite variety of patterns.  Here are a few more examples to get you thinking…

 

Eyeless Tenkara Flies

Partridge hackle & natural rabbit dubbing

 

Eyeless Tenkara Flies 2

Gray thread & creme badger brahma hen hackle

 

Eyeless Tenkara Flies 3

White thread & partridge hackle

 

Eyeless Tenkara Flies 4

Black rabbit dubbing & brown brahma hen hackle

 

Eyeless Tenkara Flies 5

Olive synthetic dubbing & creme badger brahma hen hackle

 

Whether you’d like to start fishing more traditional styles of flies, or just want to try something different in your fly tying, eyeless tenkara hooks offer a good venue to explore your creativity and expand your tying horizon.

Author: Jason Klass

Jason is an avid fly angler and backpacker. As a former fly fishing guide originally from Western New York, he moved to Colorado and became an early adopter of tenkara which perfectly suited the small, high altitude streams and lakes there. He has not fished a Western-style fly rod for trout since.

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14 Comments

  1. Hi Jason.

    I’ll ask as everybody else, how strong is the silk eye, but from a little different angle. On how many trips will you bring a silk eye fly before you have to retire it in fear of it being worn out?

    And keep up your blogging. I really appreciate it.
    /Stefan

  2. Stefan,
    That is a great question and one I am testing now. My guess is that you’d lose the fly first but I will report back if any silk loops break or wear out

  3. Great blog. I have been curious about eyeless hooks, and your post answered a lot of my questions. Now it’s time to order hooks!

  4. I have just recently been tying the eyeless gamakatsu hooks (the weird shaped ones) I have been using 100% Rayon embroidery thread, I unravel the thread and just use one strand. I have fished with them just a little yesterday and today, my stream is pretty blown out but I still caught enough fish to say that rayon holds up for quite some time. of course non of the fish crested about 10 inches or so, and most were in the 6 or 7 inch range, not sure what would happen with bigger fish.

  5. what I want to know is, that video with the guy tying by hand, says he uses “persimmon oil?” to stiffen the thread. I dont know about persimmon oil but I would like to make my eye loop more stiff. after a few fish it gets pretty twisted up, which is fine as long as I dont have to re-rig. one thing I do to help sturdy up the loop is my eye string is tied the full length of the fly. I wrap it on at the head then wrap around it all the way back to the gape then come back and add hackle and fill in the body. I think its less likely to pull out that way, but my string is also much thinner than the one Jason is using.
    I will try and add a picture, not sure if it will work on this board.
    [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/45016144@N08/7000589212/][img]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7190/7000589212_25bf5f5cd3.jpg[/img][/url]
    [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/45016144@N08/7000589212/]IMAG0353[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/45016144@N08/]statikpunk[/url], on Flickr

  6. what I want to know is, that video with the guy tying by hand, says he uses “persimmon oil?” to stiffen the thread. I dont know about persimmon oil but I would like to make my eye loop more stiff. after a few fish it gets pretty twisted up, which is fine as long as I dont have to re-rig. one thing I do to help sturdy up the loop is my eye string is tied the full length of the fly. I wrap it on at the head then wrap around it all the way back to the gape then come back and add hackle and fill in the body. I think its less likely to pull out that way, but my string is also much thinner than the one Jason is using.

  7. oh! also, (sorry for being so long winded) the gamakastu hooks I have been using are extremely thin and made from some kind of spring steel, so if they get snagged a good snap of the rod tip seems to dislodge them, I have yet to loose my first eyeless hook and I have gotten it snagged in a couple places that I know would have ended up with a lost fly, or maybe its the weird shape, either way they are great for getting out of snags.

  8. Very nice flies Jason! I really like the looks of the first one.

  9. Matt, that’s interesting about the snags pulling out. Karel gave me some very thin wire Gamakatsu hooks but I didn’t like them because they’re kind of annoying to tie on and don’t sink that well (I like heavier hooks). But I never thought about the springiness helping get snags out.

  10. Very cool, thank you. Thanks for the blog by the way. Tenkara is all new to me and I’m finding it very intriguing, I’ll be trying this for sure! Loving the minimalist approach. Again great site.

  11. ha! yeah they are absolutely annoying to tie on. after a few you get used to them :)

  12. Thanks Kelly!

  13. Hi, just wanted to tell you, I liked this blog post. It was inspiring.
    Keep on posting!

  14. Just a thought. When taking some flytying classes in Denver many years ago, the following suggestion was made.

    Use what ever color thread you use to whip the head/whip finish the fly BUT, whip head and whip finish any weighted fly in red. Easy to recognize weighted flies that way. Just a thought that might apply to the color of the thread used for the eye.

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