Tenkara Fly Tying: Designing Color, Hackle & Action

6 CommentsThursday, 6 June 2019  |  Paul G

Tenkara Fly Tying 

Tenkara fly tying suffers from a lot of myths. You may already know all about the system for choosing and using and using simple flies explained in our book How to Fool Fish with Simple Flies. In the video episode below, you get a unique opportunity to look through a private collection of flies belonging to Kura-san - as well as learning why he varies the color of his dubbing according to the season and how he takes advantage of different hackle types for fishing different depths and different manipulations. These concepts are fascinating additions that fit right into our overall system - and the flies that Kura-san designs for his tenkara are very easy to tie yourself. Inside the bundle you'll find an updated step-by-step tying demo video as well as detailed discussions on tactics. But first, the free episode:

Modern Tenkara Fly Tying - Tenkara in Focus Season 3 Ep3 (現代のテンカラ 毛鉤巻き)

Click the Button to Get our “Kura-san Field Report, Onstream Video Masterclass & Fly Tying Video Bundle” – plus Bonus Cheat-Sheet PDFs:

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**Until June 27th 2019, use the code “ninja” to wipe $20 off the retail price (so you only pay $15 for the whole package, plus VAT if you live in an eligible country outside the USA). DISCOUNT CODE EXPIRES MIDNIGHT June 27th 2019**

Full info on the Bundle outlined in the Excerpted Offer Video Here (Plus more Tying info below):

Kura-san's Seasonal Fly Tying

In the interview above, it quickly becomes clear that there are a lot more "games" out there in Japanese tenkara than the idea of "The One Fly Approach". That's not to say that it is impossible to find someone who practices that approach  in Japan, but at the same time it is really the minority philosophy within modern tenkara. At the same time, the seasonal tenkara fly tying that Kura-san practices is also a long way from an "Any Fly" approach. Like many cutting edge anglers, his tying focuses on creating and using patterns that meet a particular need.

Those needs are worked out based on his philosophy of starting the spring season with "young, fresh" light and bright colours - moving through to progressively darker patterns through the season. Other "needs" come from Kura-san's intentions for his flies to have particular actions in the water. Those actions include relative sink-rate - and so that creates a way to control the depth that he decides to present those flies.  On top of that, Kura-san also understands how the body and hackle materials react to his varying fly manipulation tactics and that lets him match just the right set of materials and fly shape/proportions to the presentation effect he is looking for. Check out the first leaf in his tenkara kebari box (below). These are mainly stiff hackled "Futsuu kebari" - with one or two softer-hackled "Jun Kebari" included. If those terms sound a bit weird, then there's a guide to the types of Japanese tenkara flies here.

Tenkara Fly Collection Tied by Kazuo Kurahashi in his home-made fly box
Lovely, varied selection of modern Japanese tenkara flies (kebari). As well as making the flies, Kura-san also hand-made the fly box!

Notice that, as well as the color shades of kebari designed to appeal to the fish, Kura-san also includes kebari that are colored to contrast with the stream bed so that the angler can see these flies underwater (in other words, colored for the benefit of the angler's eyes - not the fish's eyes). The combination of prioritising "action" of the materials over any super "close copy" fly designs, the use of simple patterns, matching the length and stiffness of the hackle to specific presentation tactics and having a very flexible attitude to what are the most important functions of color are what set modern Japanese tenkara fly tying apart. 

A range of Tenkara flies can be tied to match a range of conditions

Kura-san is keen to stress that the range of flies in his box at any one time represent his CURRENT experimental forms that he offers to the fish and then records their responses under the particular conditions that each pattern is designed for. Over time, the ideal (and perhaps never reached) goal is to gather enough experience of the fish's reactions to his various patterns and presentations that he can choose the perfect fly for each occasion just by looking at the conditions. 

Range of colors and designs of flies (kebari) typical for high-level tenkara anglers in Japan
Just look at the range of hackle types/stiffnesses, hackle lengths, body colors and the orientation of each hackle (sloping forward, backwards and sticking out at 90-degrees)

I strongly encourage you (perhaps after spending a season or two nailing down the "one fly" or the "any fly" type approaches to tenkara) to start to experiment yourself with pairing particular kebari/fly patterns to specific presentation tactics and conditions. This is a very different philosophy of tenkara fly tying compared to a one/any fly philosophy. 

Learning Kura-san's Tenkara Skills

As mentioned in previous blog content, it has been our great good fortune to have stumbled upon (over the years in various careers, including professional biology and fly fishing guiding) a collection of abilities that allow us to break down and then teach the wide variety of tenkara  skills that we encounter in Japan and around the world. 

The overall result of that is we've been able to create a simple, digestible bundle of material that easily transfers Kura-san's key tactics to you. Just Click the Button Below to instantly download and start using those tactics right away:

Buy Kura-san Masterclass Bundle

**Until June 27th 2019, use the code “ninja” to wipe $20 off the retail price (so you only pay $15 for the whole package, plus VAT if you live in an eligible country outside the USA). DISCOUNT CODE EXPIRES MIDNIGHT June 27th 2019**

Kura-san Alan and Go on stream
You Can Also Click This Image to Go Directly to the Kura-san Bundle (and use the code "ninja" until June 27th 2019)



PS - If you learned anything here just now, Why not spread the love by sharing the article using the social media buttons on this page...? Thank you!



Jeff Abramson
Friday, 7 June 2019  |  3:19

Another great lesson! You guys just keep delivering great content.

Paul Gaskell
Friday, 7 June 2019  |  12:05

Huge thanks Jeff - it means a lot to us to know our stuff is "landing" with folks who appreciate it!

Friday, 7 June 2019  |  4:13

DT Guys, Another enjoyable and informative video and blog post. Appreciate the large photos of Kura-san's kebari too. Thank you.

Paul Gaskell
Friday, 7 June 2019  |  12:06

Thank you David - and we enjoyed poring over Kura-san's fly box for our own selfish fishing delights! So it's good to finally be able to share some of that more widely

David Noll
Monday, 10 June 2019  |  12:39

Done. I am sure this will be the same high quality as all your material has been. You two rock.

Paul Gaskell
Wednesday, 12 June 2019  |  9:25

David - right back at you sir!

By the way, we likely aren't done with adding the surprise bonus material...