Sakasa Kebari... Not the No.1 Tenkara Fly?
8 CommentsThursday, 11 August 2016 | JP
No one can argue that the long soft hackled sakasa kebari style has become the icon of tenkara flies in the west. These flies are so different from what we recognise as a conventional western fly that it’s no wonder they captured the imagination of fledgling tenkara anglers exploring this new and exotic fishing experience.
Before we go any further I’d just like to get one thing straight... what follows here is in no way an attempt to spoil anyone’s fun or to tell you how you should be fishing or tying your tenkara flies. The purpose of this post is to share some interesting facts about the flies of tenkara and hopefully get people exploring the rich tapestry of patterns that can be found in Japan.
Like many people new to tenkara both myself (and Paul) spent our early days exploring reverse hackle patterns both in traditional Japanese patterns such as the Takayama style (or the less well known Okumikawa style) and initially with a few adapted western patterns too. In those early days of tenkara’s spread outside Japan source information in English was difficult to find and Yoshikazu Fujioka’s website My Best Streams was (and still is) a great source of information for anyone interested in traditional regional tenkara patterns.
In 2014 we decided to visit the mountain streams of Japan to begin our own research into the attitudes of tenkara anglers to their flies for our Vol.2 DVD. What we discovered has drawn us back to Japan every year since and has become the subject matter for 2 DVDs and our 418 page Discovering Kebari eBook (UK /EU link here, USA link here).
So, what is the No.1 fly choice when it comes to Japanese kebari?
The most frequent kebari style we’ve observed in our studies use stiff rooster hackles which look very much like western dry fly hackles (BUT are actually wet flies!). The examples below are just a few of the go-to patterns shared with us by anglers in Japan.
These stiff hackle kebari are not unheard of in the west but they are often not recognised or fully appreciated for what they are... we’ve seen several instances where well known and respected western angling writers have mistakenly referred to jun kebari styles as “tenkara dry flies”. While they could be fished dry their main function is as a wet fly pattern.
So, what’s so good about these kebari?
A stiff hackled kebari/wet fly can offer significant physical or mechanical advantages over soft hackled sakasa patterns; a few of which include,
- maintaining profile in strong flows
- improved aerodynamics for more accurate casting
- the ability to “anchor” the fly in opposing current
- increased vibration/disturbance when manipulated
If you’ve never experimented with stiff hackled wets I would strongly urge you to give them a try. It’s no coincidence that they are the No.1 choice for so many Japanese tenkara anglers... they reward anglers ability; for example, allowing skilled casters to achieve pinpoint presentation or light line users to keep their fly in the same spot for longer.
Want a second opinion?
It’s hard to argue with the facts... in addition to the extensive research Paul and I have carried out in Japan, Yoshikazu Fujioka has done extensive studies on Japanese kebari styles.
How extensive? Well, believe it or not Fujioka san actually recorded and then plotted the frequency of various hackle styles. The numbers he found reflect that normal stiff hackled kebari are the most popular in Japan by a long way....
Would you like to see? Well, (believe it or not) Fujioka san is kind enough to publish his graphs on PAGE 2 of the document on this link on his great and extensive (English Language!) site:
CLICK HERE TO SEE PDF (don't forget to scroll to page 2 to see the "radar plots")
Some figures from Fujioka san’s results,
Because flies with stiff hackles are amazing for some of the most effective "anchoring" and "water-disturbing" presentations - you're missing a HUGE chunk of tenkara opportunities if they aren't in your armoury. So, if you’d like to lock in some tried and tested stiff hackled patterns; Click the link below and have a really close look at out our new range of kebari sets here.