Kebari & Fly Tying Tenkara

毛鉤巻き (Kebari Tying)

Article by Kengo Shintaku

It was in late 2017 that I decided to tie my own kebari. Until then I had only bought kebari and been mostly ボウズ (caught no fish).

I knew that I should buy a vise, but I have a habit that is not obedient, so instead I bought tenkara books published over 40 years ago. I tied kebari by hand without a vise, I took my jack to the chair and started to tie something similar to a kebari.

At that time, I posted to Instagram and had some fun, but my kebari were not so good. So, I was searching photos by “#tenkara (テンカラ)” or “#毛鉤 (kebari)” on Instagram. Wow! There were a lot of beautiful flies listed there! Like Like Like! I also found that there are people who broadcast their tying online by live streaming.

I watched one person who every day for a month who was broadcasting his tying. I have decided that Aaron Heusinkveld, a fly fisher in Minnesota, is my MASTER. (By the way my English is Janglish, or Japanglish: as you’re reading now). I couldn’t understand what my master said…  instead, I looked at and zoomed in on his hands.

After I watched his streaming, I tried to tie his flies with my only substitutes (I don’t know much about fly fishing or foreign fish, but I tied and tied).

I realized that just by looking at the videos, I could learn to some extent the techniques of fly tying, including basic tips such as starting to tie threads, how to tie in other materials, ribbing counterclockwise, and so much more.

One day my wife and son (seeing me tying on a chair… ) surprised me with a vise for my birthday!  Oh, what a useful tool!  After, I prepared many kinds of threads and bought various types of hooks, as you can imagine.

I knew that my master also had a YouTube channel. I watched them. Seeking flies that a beginner might tie, I tried to imitate them immediately. I rewound the video a lot of times and tied and re-tied. In that respect, it was very convenient to be able to rewind just 15 seconds with the smartphone YouTube app! Using subtitle mode, I could also read what they were explaining!

I like the style of my master fly fisher’s tying videos. The reasons I like them are as follows:

  • The camera angle is almost the view from the tyer (looked over, it felt as if I was tying)
  • The speed he speaks is easy to hear (use of onomatopoeia too)
  • Narration is interesting and curious (repeating the explanations is also helpful), etc etc.

Therefore, my kebari are getting little by little getting nice form. Sometimes I give good-looking kebari to my fishing pals (my Ambassadors). After a bit of time, my results fishing tenkara have also gradually increased.

I know that tenkara was born in Japan, and is a unique fishing method, but I didn’t know that so many people in so many countries are doing it. To me, kebari tying is a way to recognize the world.


Kengo Shintaku: Editor, DTP designer, and thinking man. Sometimes a volunteer of a woodworker. Not a local tenkara shop owner yet. Instagram: @lankuage

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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