Book Review: Simple Flies by Morgan Lyle
Aug24

Book Review: Simple Flies by Morgan Lyle

For many, just dipping their toes in the sport of fly fishing is daunting enough–forget about getting into tying their own flies. I imagine it’s something like trying to rewire the Space Shuttle before learning to actually pilot it.  And if you peruse the fly selection at your local fly shop, you can see why. There are literally thousands of base patterns and many more variations thereof. To the uninitiated, trying to...

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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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The Heraclitus-fly Approach
Apr18

The Heraclitus-fly Approach

I’ve mentioned on many occasions that I don’t adhere to the tenkara “one fly” approach simply because I would quickly get bored tying the same pattern over and over again. To me, fly tying is as much fun as fly fishing and the monotony would ruin one of my favorite aspects of the sport. So, since I started my tenkara career, I’ve been more of an “any fly” angler, tying on whatever strikes my...

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360° Sakasa Kebari
Feb13

360° Sakasa Kebari

If you’ve been into fly fishing for any length of time, you might have heard of a pattern called the “Brook’s Stone“. It was invented by Major Charlie Brooks to imitate the big stoneflies on the Yellowstone River. It’s a simple pattern. Unlike most stonefly patterns, it doesn’t even have a wing case. It’s basically a dubbed body with a few wraps of hackle palmered through the thorax. But that...

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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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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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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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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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Mismatching the Hatch
Mar27

Mismatching the Hatch

As a beginning fly tier, one concept was thoroughly drilled into my brain by the cronies at the local fly shop: match the hatch. The “goal” of fly tying was to imitate specific species of insects and the more realistic the fly was, the better it was. It made perfect sense. The trout are eating something that is this particular color, is this certain size, and has this many tails. Why wouldn’t I want to imitate it if...

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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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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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3 Reasons to Fish Barbless
Jul20

3 Reasons to Fish Barbless

For over 20 years, I’ve been fishing exclusively with barbless flies.  And not just for trout–for bass, panfish, steelhead, salmon, and even saltwater fish.  In fact, even before I started fly fishing, I used to crimp down the barbs on my spoons, spinners, and crankbaits too.  Why?  3 simple reasons… 1.  Better Hooksets A barb creates resistance that makes it harder for the hook point to penetrate.  That increases...

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Confidence in Fly Selection
Jul11

Confidence in Fly Selection

I just got back from a trip to Mexico where I had a chance to do a little bonefishing.  You might be wondering why I’m posting about bonefishing on my tenkara blog but strangely enough, even though fishing for bones with a saltwater rig seems like a world apart, I had an experience that is directly related to tenkara. In tenkara, some anglers choose the one fly approach.  I don’t, just because I love tying flies and tying...

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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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