To western fly tiers, typical tenkara flies like sakasa kebari might seem boring. After all, many of them are nothing more than hackle and a thread body. No wings, no tails, no intricate bodies. It might seem that if one wanted to fish tenkara flies exclusively, they’d quickly tire of tying the same old thing. But there’s a lot you can do with just thread and hackle. And with a little imagination, one quickly discovers the limitless possibilities such basic flies can offer.
With just a few colors of thread and hackle, you can create hundreds (maybe thousands) of unique looking flies by using three bands of thread for the body. The technique is simple. After tying in the hackle, cut the thread just behind it. Then, figure out which color thread you want to use at the back of the fly and wrap a section of that. Whip finish it (or half hitch), cut it off and start whatever color thread you want for the middle section. Wrap that, tie it off and cut. Repeat for the color thread you want just behind the hackle. On a side note, if you tie this style of fly, it really helps to have multiple bobbins so you’re not wasting time by switching back and forth between thread colors.
I typically use the same color thread for the head as I do just behind the hackle but you could mix up the color combination any way you want. Here are some more examples…
Now that I think about it, the above examples are actually pretty uninspired. You could get even more creative by playing with the proportions of each band of thread. Maybe the one nearest the bend is the thinnest and they progressively get thicker as they get closer to the hackle. You could put the “hotspot” color at the butt, in the middle, or just behind the hackle. You could make the colors blend from light to dark or vice versa. And if you wanted to venture beyond mere thread, you could even consider different materials for one (or two, or all three) of the segmentions such as wire, yarn, dubbing, or oval tinsel.
But even if you decide to stick with just good old thread, there’s no reason to think that flies with only two materials are automatically boring. With just a few colors of thread in your palette and a little creativity, you can let the artist in you run wild and create a myriad of unique masterpieces!
I probably haven’t even tied more than a couple hundred bi-color sakasa kebaris nevermind tri-color! You’re moving to quickly my friend.
Hi Sean, LOL. That just goes to show how much room for creativity there is in such a “simple” method. Simple is deceiving.
And speaking of the creativity, I recently tried using red hooks like you posted about awhile ago, I used size 8 gamakatsu octopus hooks, I’m fairly certain they made the difference in my recent trip to the Great Smokey Mountains!
Awesome flies, Jason. I love the gray, olive, and black one. You should name it the “African Safari Kebari” lol.
I agree with you completely Jason….with hackle and thread only, a tier can come up with a lot of creative patterns. One of my favorite types of flies to tie when I began tying were classic wet flies from many years ago. They served as my inspiration for many of my first sakasa kebari experiments. One in particular was the Trout Fin wet fly made to resemble a brook trouts fin (orange, black, and white). The theory being that a brookie would strike the trout fin in aggression. I think the tri-color made a cool looking sakasa kebari and it netted me a few brookies as well. Maybe you could add some of these to the American Sakasa Kebari site?
Hi Chris, Yes, I’m trying to figure out which patterns to send over to the American Sakasa Kebari site. Just been a little busy.
Jason, these are pretty – nice work. I need to tie up some kebaris soon.
Just wondering – has anyone else seen those UV photographs of flies that Reed Curry (I think that’s his name) has done, and have you incorporated materials with different reflectivity in your tying? With tricolor kebaris it would be really simple to use something strongly reflective for the middle band and I think that’s what Curry suggests.
While fishing with author, fly tyer, fly fisherman, Charlie Meck, on Spruce Creek in central PA last summer, he handed me a brilliantly tri-colored red-white-blue “Patriot Fly” which he designed… It caught fish quite nicely… These kebaris remind me of that occasion…