The Japanese Lantern Sakasa Kebari

Japanese Lantern Tenkara Fly

Most of my flies are pretty bland.  I typically don’t incorporate a lot of synthetics or flash into my patterns.  But after taking a closer look at some of Masami Tanaka’s flies, I’ve come up with a pattern that is a little flashier than my usual ties:  the Japanese Lantern.

Rather than plain thread, Tanaka uses a sparkly braided material at the head of his flies.  This adds a nice attractor quality without being overpowering and looking unnatural.

Taking some inspiration from his design, I decided to make a modified version of my Kamikaze Kebari that uses some synthetic material for flash:  pearl flashabou.

I’ve used pearl flashabou for years in my western trout, bass, salmon, steelhead, and saltwater flies and it’s a magical material (almost as magical as peacock).  So it was a natural choice if I were going to incorporate a synthetic to add to my sakasa kebari.  Since it’s only wound around the head, it adds just enough flash peeking behind the veil of hackle to act as an attractor without looking like some unconvincing robo-nymph.

Why the name “Japanese Lantern”?  Because the flashabou glows like a beacon and, well, tenkara is Japanese!  I tie it in two variations:  “lit” (light) and “unlit” (dark).  Here are the recipes:


Japanese Lantern (unlit)


Japanese Lantern Tenkara Fly

Hook:  TMC 2499SPBL #12
Thread:  Black 6/0
Head:  Pearlescent flashabou over a thread foundation
Hackle:  Brown partridge
Body:  Black thread
Rib:  Small silver wire


Japanese Lantern (lit)


Japanese Lantern Tenkara Fly

Hook:  TMC 2499SPBL #12
Thread:  White 6/0
Head:  Pearlescent flashabou over a thread foundation
Hackle:  Brown partridge
Body:  White thread
Rib:  Small black wire

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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  1. great flies there mate ,why do they tie the hackle so far back from the eye of the hook ?

  2. Want to add these to the American Sakasa Kebari pattern list? These are very cool flies!

  3. Hi Jason, not sure how or why this originated but it makes sense if you think about it. Aquatic insects’ legs stem from the thorax, not at the head so it would seem more realistic that the hackle should be wound through the thorax of the fly rather than right at the head. I’m not sure early tenkara anglers had such entomological insights when designing their flies but it seems like a more realistic design.

  4. Great design, excellent tying!

  5. Hi Chris, actually I have a lot of flies I’ve been meaning to add. I just haven’t gotten around to it. But I will try soon. Love your blog!

    Nice flies jason. I tying some flies like your,s , but head on my flies is a flash green thread.

  7. I tied a few of this pattern yesterday and tested them. They are Merced River Rainbow Trout Approved (Yosemite CA). I made mine with an olive green nylon floss body, and copper or silver fine wire. I also did a version with a clear glass bead and x-thin flash underneath, and an iridescent dubbing thorax. Japanese Lighthouse? 😉

  8. Hey John,
    Yeah, I saw it on Flickr earlier today. Looks great!

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