Transitioning to Tenkara Flies
Nov25

Transitioning to Tenkara Flies

When I first started fishing tenkara, I didn’t give much thought to traditional tenkara flies. The initial allure was really the tenkara rod itself and by default, I assumed that I would just use my standard patterns like the Elk Hair Caddis, Stimulator, Bead Head Hare’s Ear Nymph, and so on. And I did. And I caught fish. That was enough to convince me that the rod worked, but eventually, either romance or guilt got to me....

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4 Reasons to Fatten up your Flies
Aug22

4 Reasons to Fatten up your Flies

When I first started tying soft hackle flies, the conventional wisdom was that you should make the body as slender as possible. I practiced a lot to achieve perfectly smooth, anorexic bodies that were literally no more than a few silk strands thicker in diameter than the hook shank. They definitely worked great and were beautiful ties. But something seemed amiss. If “thinner was better”, why did more robust flies like the...

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Tenkara no Oni’s Flies
May14

Tenkara no Oni’s Flies

I just got a care package from Japan from Masami Sakakibara (a.k.a. “Tenkara no Oni”) which included some of his flies. His patterns are simple, but very versatile and buggy looking. I’m not sure of all of the materials, but thought I’d share some pictures of the flies one of the greatest tenkara anglers in the world fishes with.         I’ll probably frame these the way I did with my...

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Maribou-bodied Sakasa Kebari
Mar07

Maribou-bodied Sakasa Kebari

The more I fish tenkara the more I’m starting to think about flies in terms of “paradigms” rather than “recipes”. Instead of specific patterns like an Oki Kebari or Takayama Kebari, I’m starting to think more in terms of the general characteristics a fly has such as movement, silhouette, attention point, and size. One of the things that really sold me on tenkara early on was the versatility and...

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The Caddy Kebari
Jan23

The Caddy Kebari

I’ve been meaning to share this fly for some time but for whatever reason, haven’t gotten around to it until now. It’s one of my most productive flies and although tenkara flies typically don’t intentionally match the hatch, I call it the “Caddy Kebari” because I think the fish mistake it for a caddis pupa. Honestly, I had little confidence in this fly until I had a few stellar days on a local creek...

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Release the Bracken!
Oct02

Release the Bracken!

I haven’t tied a lot of tenkara flies with yarn bodies but Chris Stewart of Tenkara Bum certainly has.  In fact, he’s inspired a whole subculture of yarners with his recent blue fly challenge.  Chris sent me some samples of some of the yarns he sells and I can immediately see their advantages: 1. Yarn is easy to tie with.  You can easily build up a bulky body if you want, or separate the strands to make a more slender body...

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Takayama Sakasa Kebari
Jun17

Takayama Sakasa Kebari

The Takayama sakasa kebari is a classic tenkara fly that is tied in many color variations.  But basically, it’s characterized by having a thread abdomen, a peacock thorax, and forward facing hackle.  My first encounter with this fly was the red version so that’s what I chose to base my interpretation on.  Here’s my recipe for what I consider the Royal Coachman of tenkara flies…   Takayama Sakasa Kebari...

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Smurfette
May07

Smurfette

After reading about Chris Stewart’s blue fly challenge and receiving some of his blue yarn by happenstance, I thought it would be fun to experiment a bit with blue.  So, I came up with this pattern.  I haven’t tried it yet but I’m sure it will catch fish.  And even if it doesn’t, I like it so it’s already caught me.  I call it “Smurfette” because of the color scheme. Hook:  Owner Hera Sasuke,...

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Oki Sakasa Kebari
Mar08

Oki Sakasa Kebari

Many of the streams tenkara anglers fish in Japan are fast flowing mountain streams.  In those streams, fish have very little time to “inspect” food.  If they hesitate, it’s gone–lost to the swift current or a competitor.  A good fly for these conditions is a larger, easy-to-spot fly like the Oki Sakasa Kebari. For fast flowing streams, or high or muddy water conditions, the Oki kebari is a great choice....

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The Silk Merchant Soft Hackle
Feb26

The Silk Merchant Soft Hackle

Silk bead cord–it’s not just for eyeless flies anymore! Silk bead cord is a popular material to form the loops on eyeless tenkara flies. But did you know it can also be used as a body material? Many classic soft hackle patterns use silk floss for the body. It sure does create some elegant looking flies, but the silk is comprised of many thin strands which makes it very delicate. It frays easily after mishandling or a few...

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New Flies from Tenkara Times
Jan26

New Flies from Tenkara Times

A while back, I posted some tenkara flies I got from Tenkara Times.  I recently got another sample pack from them and thought I would share.  I really like the look of the Sakakibara kebari and might start tying some up.     To learn more about these flies and get their recipes, visit the Tenkara Times Kebari...

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Killer Bugs by Paul Vertrees
Jan09

Killer Bugs by Paul Vertrees

I came home from this year’s Fly Fishing Show with a few flies from Paul Vertrees and thought they were good ties so wanted to share a few pictures. For those of you who don’t know Paul, he is the tenkara guide for Rigs Fly Shop in Ridgeway (the first to offer guided tenkara trips in Colorado). Paul is an expert tenkara angler and even though I’ve only fished with him once, I consider him a good friend. The one trip...

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An Unnecessarily Complex Tenkara Fly
Dec16

An Unnecessarily Complex Tenkara Fly

Most tenkara flies are simple.  But they don’t have to be.  In fact, some can resemble miniature Atlantic salmon flies.  Here is an example of a fancier tenkara fly to show some possibilities.  I normally tie simple flies for fishing, but let’s face it…if you’re a fly tier at heart, a few turns of hackle and a thread body gets old after a while.  For those of us who consider fly tying an art and a passion (not...

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The Japanese Lantern Sakasa Kebari
Nov24

The Japanese Lantern Sakasa Kebari

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...

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Masami Tanaka’s Tenkara Flies
Nov12

Masami Tanaka’s Tenkara Flies

For me, the biggest highlight of the 2012 Tenkara Summit was meeting and being able to fish with all the Japanese anglers that attended. It was great to learn about tenkara from people who practice it in its birthplace. As you might imagine, there was a lot of talk and trading of tenkara flies. It was interesting to see what each angler uses for their “one fly” and even get to watch them tie them. One of the anglers I was...

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Sakasa Kebari from Tenkara Times
Nov06

Sakasa Kebari from Tenkara Times

I just got a new tenkara rod today from Tenkara Times (review to follow) and it included a free sampling of some of their sakasa kebari.  I didn’t think much of it at first until I opened up the packaging and saw the quality of tying.  These are good tenkara flies.  Here are some closeups if you’re looking to buy (or inspiration to tie) some different sakasa kebari.         People often ask me where...

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Viva Sakasa Kebari
Oct24

Viva Sakasa Kebari

No, I’m not trying to start a revolution (yet). “Viva” is a color scheme for fly patterns that is extremely popular on the UK Stillwater scene. The original Viva was a wet fly tied by Victor Furse for reservoir fishing but has since become a template color combination of black, chartreuse, and silver and is now applied to myriad of patterns such as buzzers, boobies, buggers, and other wet flies.  I used to do a lot...

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What makes a fly a “tenkara” fly?
Oct20

What makes a fly a “tenkara” fly?

Don’t be put off by the title. I’m not about to incite a heated debate about what is or isn’t a “tenkara” fly and delve into an infinite loop of semantic minutia.  Instead, I thought I would simply list out the criteria I use when selecting patterns that I think work well for tenkara.  And to be clear, I mean fishing traditional tenkara techniques–not “tenkara as a tool” or some hybrid...

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Snatcher Flies for Tenkara
Oct04

Snatcher Flies for Tenkara

I recently wrote that I’ve been tying and fishing palmered flies for tenkara lately.  My theory is that if the hackle is spread out over more of the body of the fly, it will give the pattern more movement and, thus, be more attractive to fish.  So I started tying flies with hackle palmered through the thorax (rather than just concentrated at the head of the fly like a sakasa kebari).  I was pretty happy with the results.  But...

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Pheasant Palmered Kebari
Sep28

Pheasant Palmered Kebari

While the majority of my tenkara fishing is done with a sakasa kebari, I’ve also been experimenting with some hybrid flies that combine the fish catching qualities borrowed from my days steelhead fishing and classic British palmered flies. “Palmered” just means that the hackle is wound through the body of the fly rather than just at the head (like a wooly bugger). The reason I mention steelhead fishing is because...

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