Fulling Mill Hooks
May10

Fulling Mill Hooks

I have to confess, I’d never heard of Fulling Mill hooks until I saw them on Anthony Naples’ site, Three Rivers Tenkara. There are a million hooks out there today and I’ve tried a lot of them–not just for tenkara, but for many other applications as well. I usually don’t get too excited about hooks because most of them are just doppelgängers. But these seemed somewhat unique, so I asked Anthony to send me...

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Rediscovering the Teeny Nymph
Apr11

Rediscovering the Teeny Nymph

It’s funny how easy it is to forget good fly patterns. I was recently reminded about a good pattern that I had fished years ago with a rod and reel but had forgotten about since starting tenkara fishing–the Teeny Nymph. This pattern was invented by venerable angler Jim Teeny in 1962 originally for for trout. But since then, it’s proven itself as an effective fly for a multitude of species including steelhead, bass,...

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Tying with Zenmai
Feb02

Tying with Zenmai

I first heard about zenmai a few years ago in a blog post from Tenkara USA. What is zenmai? It’s a fuzzy fiber that grows on sprouting fern plants in the spring and Japanese anglers use it as dubbing material. It might seem strange to use vegetation as a tying material, but it actually makes quite good dubbing. One thing I really like about zenmai is the color. It’s a beautiful carmel/brown with some light and dark...

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Parrot Hackle Flies
Jan30

Parrot Hackle Flies

To me, tenkara anglers are an intrinsically “outside the box” breed. We don’t fish with reels, we reject the prevailing notion that more gear catches more fish, and lets’s face it, our flies look…well…strange. Even stranger are the materials we experiment with. I’ve seen tenkara flies tied with everything from snakeskin to fuzz from a fern (and even junk just laying around the house). I think...

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OttLite for Fly Tying
Jan21

OttLite for Fly Tying

A harsh truth all of us who tie flies have to inevitably face is that our eyes aren’t getting any younger. I remember as a teenager tying size 28 midges in my parents’ basement simply by the ambient overhanging fluorescent lighting without any problem. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself needing supplemental lighting. My eyes are OK (according to the optometrist) but they’re clearly not what they...

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The Caribou Captain
Jan09

The Caribou Captain

The other day, I found myself thinking about a forgotten fly introduced to me by its creator, Gordon Wickstrom. I can’t remember how we first met, but I do remember our meandering chats in Boulder coffee shops talking fly fishing history, fly design, language, and how Garrison Keillor is a great storyteller but should never, ever, be allowed to sing. True to his thespian and literary background, Gordon always spoke with...

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Sparse Vs. Heavily-dressed Flies
Dec14

Sparse Vs. Heavily-dressed Flies

I got an email today from a reader who had the following comment: “While crawling around the web researching the subject, I ran across some Japanese websites, and noticed the flies they have seem to be more sparsely tied than the American versions. Is there anything to this?” It was an interesting observation–though (I think) not entirely true. If you research tenkara flies (both traditional and modern), you’ll...

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Persimmon Silk Cord from Tenkara Bum
Aug05

Persimmon Silk Cord from Tenkara Bum

When I first started tying tenkara flies on eyeless hooks, I thought I had found a goldmine once I discovered that silk bead cord was readily available on eBay in a myriad of colors. It took a little trial & error but I finally found what I considered to be the right diameter (#2) and I’ve been using that ever since. But I recently discovered that Chris Stewart over at Tenkara Bum is selling a silk cord that is not only...

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The Picket Pin: A Good Fly For Tenkara
Jun11

The Picket Pin: A Good Fly For Tenkara

Over the centuries, countless fly patterns have been lost to history. Some have made brief resurgences in popular fly fishing culture, only to disappear and hibernate again, waiting for their next 10 seconds of fame. Still, it’s fair to say that there are probably dozens (if not hundreds) of once-popular patterns that modern fly anglers have never heard of. Perhaps it’s because the allure of using patterns with high-tech...

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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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Sewing Thread Tenkara Flies
Nov24

Sewing Thread Tenkara Flies

When I started tenkara and first learned that many tenkara flies were tied with sewing thread, I was appalled. I mean, anything other than 8/0 Uni thread was sacrilege! And sewing thread was just plain crude. This was mostly because I was used to tying more complicated flies where sewing thread would be too thick. But gradually, as I moved more and more toward fishing simple flies like sakasa kebari, I could see using tying thread....

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Fur-hackled Sakasa Kebari
Nov20

Fur-hackled Sakasa Kebari

One of the main reasons the sakasa kebari style fly is so effective is because the hackle moves underwater making it look alive (click here for an underwater video to see one in action). Like most flies, tiers use feathers for the hackle on their sakasa kebari. This is because the fibers are usually soft enough to provide good movement and they’re very easy to wrap. But I’ve been thinking for a while about using fur for...

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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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Little Village Fly Tying Tool Caddy
Sep22

Little Village Fly Tying Tool Caddy

Probably like many of you, I don’t have nearly as much time to tie flies as I’d like.  But when I can sneak in those precious few minutes to lash some feathers and fur to a hook, I like it to be organized so I can maximize my time–whether it’s preparation of materials or getting the necessary tools laid out ahead of time. Until recently, I’ve been keeping my tools in a simple clay teacup I made years ago...

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Owner Hera Sasuke Hooks
Feb24

Owner Hera Sasuke Hooks

I recently posted pictures of some tenkara hooks I got from a friend in Japan.  I finally had a chance to tie with one, the Owner Hera Sasuke and just wanted to briefly share my thoughts on it. The Hera Sasuke is both eyeless and barbless (which is not easy to come by) and features an angular bend that is the hallmark of Japanese hooks.  It’s also gold–something I haven’t tried yet in my tenkara fly tying. I used to...

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Free Mylar Tinsel for Life!
Dec19

Free Mylar Tinsel for Life!

Flat tinsel is a great material for adding flash and segmentation to a fly. Years ago, tiers basically had only two choices in colors: silver and gold. This is why so many classic patterns call for those colors.  It was really more about availability rather than a conscious design choice. But today, flat tinsel comes in a myriad of colors–red, blue, green, pearl, and even holographic. Most of it is made of Mylar (which is really...

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Tying Flies with Common, Everyday Materials
Nov10

Tying Flies with Common, Everyday Materials

Fly tiers have it pretty easy these days.  Run out of red floss during a marathon tying session of Royal Coachmans?  Head down to your local fly shop and pick some up.  Need fluorescent pink guinea fowl for a killer new Spey fly?  Order in online and it will be at your door in a few days. But imagine what it must have been like for early tenkara anglers. Not only were there no fly shops (or e-commerce) back then, but living in remote...

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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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Recycling Fly Tying Hooks
Sep15

Recycling Fly Tying Hooks

Let’s face it.  Even the most expertly tied fly is not immortal.  Though it might have escaped the perils of underwater snags, tree branches lurking in our backcasts, or weak knots, it will eventually succumb to the merciless jaws of countless trout ripping it to shreds.  And at some point, it’s time to retire it.  The problem is that hooks today are made so well, that they far outlive the comparatively fragile thread,...

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The Calligraphy Brush Sakasa Kebari
Aug31

The Calligraphy Brush Sakasa Kebari

The “Calligraphy Brush” is basically a slightly more dressed up version of the Kamikaze Kebari with cufflinks and a collar.  The ingredients are almost the same except “the brush” is tied on a slightly longer hook to accomodate an ostrich herl thorax.  The ostrich thorax gives a little meatiness to the fly, absorbs water to help it sink, and pulses to give a little more movement.  The materials I list below are...

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