Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tying Sakasa Kebari Flies for Japan

Well hard work really does pay off sometimes! I've won a work-related trip to Japan, thanks to Vine Connections, one of the premier Sake Importers in the USA. Check out their selections some time! Of course, being a Tenkara angler, this meant I just HAD to arrange some Tenkara fishing for the end of my trip. This of course, will be me:

Tsurikichi Sanpei (Fishing Enthusiast Sanpei) is a Manga about fishing and mountain life in Japan - which is exactly what I'll be participating in! Meanwhile, back in real life, I've been connected with Go Ishii in Japan, who is helping me arrange everything. And I couldn't be more thankful! If you have time, check out this link to an interview of Go Ishii by Adam Trahan, of

In preparation, I've been reviewing soft hackle wet-flies, and specifically the Japanese Sakasa Kebari. A Kebari is the Japanese version of a North Country soft hackle fly. Or should I say it the other way around?? The North Country spiders and similar soft hackle patterns are generally minimalist flies. Here's an example called "February Red" tied by Alan Petrucci of the Small Stream Reflections Blog. Check out the links section to the right if you'd like to visit his blog! 
February Red tied by Alan Petrucci of Small Stream Reflections blog.
Now take the hackle and reverse it forward... and you've got a Kebari!
One major benefit of the Kebari is the way the forward-facing hackle can be "pulsed" or manipulated in the water to create a very buggy-looking presentation. I found a great video posted by Jason Klass on youtube that shows one in action! Link here:
As I began tying some of my own Kebaris, I reached out to Kiwi, who ties for the store - he pointed me in the right direction. Luckily I had purchased a few Kebaris from him previously that I could use as examples. There are a lot of patterns to check out on his blog, and I included a few examples, below.
"The Isabella" tied by Kiwi of The North River Blog

"Mohonk Kebari" tied by Kiwi of The North River Blog
I also reached out to Chris of Tenkarabum to order one of his "one fly tying kits" for the Takayama Sakasa Kebari to get myself started. This is particularly awesome because I'll be fishing in Takayama. I received my Kebari tying kit in 2 days and got right to tying. My first flies were not as amazing as Kiwi's flies, but as he's rightfully pointed out to me before, sloppy flies catch fish! I tied some with the materials from Chris' kit and some with materials from my existing stash:

I started with some Danville's waxed thread and partridge.

Bright orange catches the attention of the Brookies in the Adirondacks... will it work in Japan?

Here I tried a wool-bodied hare's ear variant.

Red Sakasa Kebari with wire ribbing.

This one is my favorite. I used Danville's waxed thread, green wire, and the dyed-orange Australian Opossum from the Fran Betters "lineup."

I know the wire wrap isn't "traditional" with the Sakasa Kebaris. From what I've read, the key is to use the water features to sink the fly down and present it as nature would. Brilliant. However, I'll definitely be fishing very early season, and any advantage to get some faster sinking action seems appropriate, so I added the wire wraps.

This is an Amago Trout. Photo lifted from an unidentifiable source online... not my photo or fish.
I encourage you to tie some of your own Sakasa Kebari flies and fish them this season. While you're at it, won't you wish me some luck in catching these insanely beautiful wild trout that call Japan home?


  1. Those flies all look like winners to me.....and you were worried about how your flies your flies might come out.

    1. Thanks to you and Tenkarabum for the help and words of encouragement!