Wool Bodied Flies

Wool Bodied Flies
by Tom Davis

Everybody has their favorite flies. Some are traditional patterns, some are new designs. Some use time tested materials, while others incorporate the newest in synthetic or UV offerings. Some catch a lot of fish; others catch more fishermen than fish! But whatever their characteristics, we all have our favorite flies.

The one fly style that seems to epitomize or is iconic to tenkara is the sakasa kebari. This reverse hackle pattern seems to fly in the face of western patterns that attempt to “match the hatch”. With its forward facing hackle, the sakasa kebari is more of an attractor or impressionistic pattern, and relies on movement to entice the fish into striking. While relatively easy to tie, there are some nuances that, if followed, can make the tying process a little easier.

IMG_5799

In my part of the western United States streams originating in the Rocky Mountains tend to be of moderate to high gradient and freestone in type. These streams and creeks all tend to hold trout species, whether introduced, like brook, rainbow and brown trout, or native, like cutthroat trout. Since the waters are fast moving, these fish have only a split second to decide if a fly pattern represents food or flotsam. Therefore, in these waters, the forward angled soft hackle adds life-like movement and seems to fool the fish more frequently than stiff, realistic fly patterns.

Some of my favorite sakasa kebari patterns involve wool. Wool helps build the body up, making the fly easy to see in turbulent mountain streams. Wool, once washed of its protective lanolin, absorbs water readily, making the fly sink quickly and thus getting it down into the pockets where the fish lie. Wool is also easy to work with and very robust.

When tying these flies, always start by tying the thread in at the eye and working backwards towards the bend of the hook. This is generally opposite of traditional fly tying, where you start near the hook bend and tie forward towards the eye. Tie the head first, then add the hackle. Make sure that the curve of the hackle faces forward towards the eye of the hook, then wrap the hackle two to three times around the shaft. Tie off the hackle on the body side of the fly and then wrap your thread back to the end of the hook shaft. Tie in the body material and ribbing. Wrap the body material forwards, tying it off just behind the hackle. Wrap the rib forwards, again tying it off just behind the hackle. Dub the thorax and wrap it from the hackle backwards over the first part of the body. Whip finish just behind the thorax. It’s that easy.

Here I present four of my favorite wool bodied flies.

1) Grave Digger

Grave Digger.JPG

The Grave Digger is a fly originated by the Tenkara Guides, LLC of Salt Lake City, Utah. This fly is a real producer for me and often is found on the end of my line. I made some substitutions in materials, since one of the original materials for this fly is fur from a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. I don’t have this fur readily available. Also, I tend to make my fly body thicker and more prominent than the original.

  • Hook: Barbless competition curved pupa hook, size 10-12
  • Thread: 8/0 chartreuse
  • Hackle: partridge
  • Body: Shetland Spindrift, Purple Haze (1270)
  • Rib (my version): silver wire, small
  • Thorax: Hare-tron Seal, brown

2) Red-assed Monkey

Red-assed Monkey.JPG

This fly, like the Grave Digger, originated with Tenkara Guides, LLC and was originally tied as a jig fly. It works great when tied as such, but it also works very well as a more traditional sakasa kebari pattern. Once again, I’ve substituted material for the thorax as the original pattern also uses dog fur.

  • Hook: Barbless competition curved pupa hook, sizes 10-12
  • Thread: 8/0 black
  • Hackle: partridge
  • Body: Shetland Spindrift, Sunset (186)
  • Thorax: Hare-tron Seal, brown

3) Oxford wool kebari

Oxford wool kebari 2.JPG

This is one of my patterns, as you can tell by the boring name. When the water is low and the sun bright, like on an autumn day, this pattern really produces.

  • Hook: Barbless competition curved pupa hook, sizes 10-12
  • Thread: 8/0 red
  • Hackle: partridge
  • Body: Shetland Spindrift Oxford (123)
  • Rib: red wire, BR or medium
  • Thorax: Hare-tron, black

4) Soft Hackle Grey kebari

Soft Hackle Grey 3.JPG

This is my variation on the classic soft hackle wet fly that has been around for decades. It is a top producer, particularly when caddis are active. I tie this pattern in two variations, one with grey thread and the other with red. I’m a believer in hot spots on sub-surface flies and the red head seems to induce takes when other flies will not.

  • Hook: Barbless competition curved pupa hook, size 10-14
  • Thread: 8/0 grey or red
  • Hackle: partridge
  • Body: Shetland Spindrift, Sholmit/Mooskit (119)
  • Rib: gold or copper wire, BR or medium
  • Thorax: Hare-tron, grey

So there you have it, four of my most favorite wool bodied flies. I tend to use these from spring to autumn; I don’t find them to be as effective in winter, except in jig form with tungsten beads. I hope you also find them to be useful and that they find a place in your fly box!

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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Published by

Michael Agneta

Husband, dad, angler, and e-commerce lifer. Especially fond of Philadelphia sports teams, Sasquatch, Star Wars, brown trout, & tenkara fly fishing.

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