Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tying the Sakasa-Kebari

I began tying this fly this past winter. I consider myself a beginning fly-tyer, and this has been an easy, simple pattern to tie. Despite having tied a lot of these, I haven't fished them enough to really catch much. I'd become so used to a dead drift presentation with dries and nymphs that manipulating wet flies in the water was a strange new world. In short I lacked confidence with these flies for awhile. Lately I've been fishing them more frequently, and I'm starting to get the hang of it. The basic idea is to lightly twitch or pulsate the fly in the water, just under the surface. The soft, reverse hackle will open and shut enticingly, giving the impression of struggling or swimming prey.

Yoshikazu Fujioka's page on the fishing and tying traditional tenkara wet flies

And Chris Stewart's

For my sakasa kebari I use 6/0 tying thread (you can probably use any color you want), hackle from the hen pheasant, and if I feel like it I'll add a dubbed body, or maybe a collar of peacock herl. I've been using Mustad "Caddies, Curved - STD/1XS" and "Wet/Nymph Egg, Caddis - 2XH/3XS" hooks as they have a slight resemblance to the curve shanked hooks used on many traditional Japanese patterns. Currently I am tying these flies in sizes 8 & 12.

I start by wrapping a thread body, creating a small head behind the eye of the hook, behind which I'll tie in the hackle.

Traditionally hackle from the hen pheasant was used, so that is what I have been using as well, although any soft hackle will do. However, pheasant has the advantage of being very cheap. Feathers form the neck or breast work well, although many of these feathers have a very short useable length, so in order to get the right bushiness I will often tie in two :

Tie the hackle in by the tips and wrap backwards toward the hook bend:

Tie down the stems, I like to take them down the hook shank a little ways with thread wraps to give the fly a little more profile in the body. Then make some thread wraps over the last turn or two of hackle to neaten it all up and keep the hackle pushed forward. At this point, you can either make a body from thread wraps, dub the body, or herl the body. Here I'm going to use a traditional Japanese dubbing material, the cottony fiber which covers some species of fern when they sprout:

To finish the fly, tie off with half hitches, and add a little head cement to the knot:

That was my first attempt at using the fern fiber dubbing. It's an interesting material, I'll post more about it as I gain more experience with it. For now I've only used it once, but I will say that the stuff I gathered was more challenging to use than wool or synthetic dubbings.


  1. Why do you consider yourself a beginning fly tier? The most important thing by far is to achieve the look and feel of bugginess and you have certainly done that. It's the result that counts.

  2. Thanks Jim!

    I guess I consider myself a beginning fly tier simply because I only got started with it about 5 months ago. You're right though, it is the result that counts. Like you said, I've come to learn that catching fish is possible with just about anything tied on a hook as long as it has that "buggy" look.

  3. Those appear to be well tied to me. Would be curious to hear more as you experiment with the fern "fuzz," that was one of the things that I found most interesting over in the posts on tenkara-fisher. Looks like a fly I need to try tying myself.

  4. Laurent,

    Those are fantastic flies. Fish catchers for sure. For your bluegill fishing, tie some of those with bodies of fairly brightly colored floss or thread, which will make them pretty close to the Valsesian-style flies. My first try with them was very productive, with the best colors being orange and green. That might have been influenced by their position on the cast (4 flies) but try various colors. I remember Michael Hackney said a red body was his favorite for brookies.

  5. Thanks for the tips Chris! I have some neon yellow floss I can use on the body. I'd been thinking these would be awesome bluegill flies, I'll most certainly have to try it out.

    Oh, and nice post on Pesca a la Valsesiana over on! Are the Valsesian-style flies tied the same way, just with less of a forward sweep to the hackle?

  6. Allowing for individual tyer's individual techniques, yes they're effectively the same.

  7. Where did you get the fern fiber? I'm interested in getting some to try.

  8. Hi Jim,

    I gathered some while I was out fishing from some sprouting ferns along the stream bank back in April. It may be too late in the season at this point, I think the ferns lose their fuzz as they grow and mature. Some may still have some on their stalks so it might be worth a look. If you can't find any I can send you some if you'd like.

  9. It's look great. But poor me that I could not use in my place, Vietnam. In here we do fishing like Tenkara. In fact in Asia, people use bamboo pole to catch fishing long long ago. Now I till use hand pole to catch snake head. Instead using flies, we use frog to catch snake head, shrimp to catch anabas, worm to catch tilapia ... Thanks you, guys to keep something traditional alive.

  10. Hello! Lovely flies! I was wondering if you happened to still have any of the zenmai? And if so, would you be willing to part from some?