I’m often asked where I get my fly tying materials. And my answer is, “from my desk”. Over 30 years of tying, I’ve amassed a collection of materials that would make some fly shops’ inventories seem lacking. So whenever I sit down to tie, I already have all the ingredients necessary. I’ll probably never have to buy dubbing again for the rest of my life. And I could wall-to-wall carpet a small apartment with my stock of deer hair. But, there are some things that run out and have to be refilled occasionally: hooks, thread, wire, etc. And when the time comes, there are a handful of companies I turn to to fill in holes in my inventory. So here is a short list of where I do get materials when I need them. Some are tenkara-specific and some aren’t. But all are great companies to deal with and have what I need to fill my fly boxes.
One of the first English-language stores on the Internet catering to tenkara, owner Christ Stewart carries a wide variety of tenkara hooks and materials, along with a great backlog of articles on tying tenkara flies. His shipping is fast, his knowledge is great, and he’s always willing to help if you have even the most esoteric questions about tying tenkara patterns. Here you can find those distinctively Japanese aggressively angled Owner and Gamakatsu hooks for the iconic sakasa kebari style patterns (including eyeless hooks).
A Japanese site, but English friendly. Keichi Okushi updates his inventory often and offers limited runs of specialty items, so it’s best to check back periodically to see what’s new. In addition to Japanese hooks, he also reliably stocks the elusive zenmai dubbing for those who want to try a truly exotic material. This is where I get my zenmai. And he sells fly collections tied by the top tenkara anglers in Japan if you want to have some on your tying desk to copy or just for inspiration. Even though he’s based in Japan, the shipping is incredibly fast and like Chris Stewart, Keichi is extremely helpful and passionate about tenkara.
Moonlit Fly Fishing
Primarily known for their leaders, Moonlit recently came out with a line of tenkara-specific hooks (ML059) that are perfect for many Japanese-style patterns such as the sakasa kebari. And they also carry other materials of interest to the tenkara tyer.
Based in the Isle of Man, UK, Esoteric Tackle offers Owner eyeless hooks (as well as the silk bead cord to form the eyes), Knapek hooks, and their own brand of hook, all of which are great for tenkara patterns.
While not tenkara specific, Firehole Sticks have become a favorite among tenkara tyers (including me). The majority of my flies these days are tied on Firehole Sticks #633 or #315. They’re high-quality, strong, and sharp. And compared to most commercially available hooks, they’re a steal at only $10 for a 50 pack!
If you’ve fished with me recently, you know that my current go-to patterns are my simple yarn flies. And this is where I get all of my Shetland Spindrift yarn for my stiff hackle flies and Killer Bugs. The reason is that being a yarn shop, they have the widest selection of colors, and a lifetime supply of yarn will only run you about $8 so it’s a great place if you want to stock up on yarn or go in with a few other tyers and make a group purchase. Also, it’s worth exploring the site for other styles of yarn to experiment with. Warning: you’ll be there a while.
Of course not all materials for tenkara flies are “tenkara specific”, and this is where you can find everything else. For years, I’ve relied on Feather-Craft for the staples like peacock herl, thread, partridge, pheasant skins, and all the other essentials any tying desk needs to be complete. While other shops seem to have erratic quality in their materials, Feather-Crafts’ have always been consistent and I’m always confident buying materials from them unseen. You’l also find the most comprehensive collection of tools and vises around. And they’re always adding new materials so this is another site worth checking up on frequently.
Amazon might not be the first place you’d think to look for tenkara tying materials, but you can find some really interesting hooks here if you’re willing to explore. For example, try a search for “blue octopus hooks”. You can find some good quality, heavy weight hooks that are intended for bait fishing, but also make great hooks for kebari and you can find them in colors you can’t get in the States. Most of them come from Asia and the shipping will take forever, but if you’re willing to wait, you’ll be able to come up with some really unique looks for your flies. This is also a good place to find a wide range of colors of silk bead cord for eyeless hooks. Most tenkara companies sell only white, red, and black, but I’ve found colors like yellow, blue, orange, etc. by searching here.
This is where I get my materials. Where do you get yours? Please share some links to your favorite sources in the comments below and I’ll also add them to my tenkara links & resources page.