Kebari & Fly Tying Tenkara

Simple Stiff Hackle (Futsu) Kebari with Dubbed Body

Tutorial by Robb Chunco

As has been pointed out by many sources (most notably by John Pearson and Paul Gaskell of Discover Tenkara/Tenkara in Focus), the reverse hackle or “sakasa” kebari is not the be all, end all tenkara fly.  Many Japanese tenkara anglers and a growing number of Western tenkara anglers prefer to fish a stiff hackle “futsu” kebari.  I’m not going to rehash the technical details of fishing this type of pattern here, as it’s been done by others in a much more comprehensive way than I can muster.  My aim here is to simply offer my take on how to tie a stiff hackle kebari.

Robb Chunco - Stiff Hackle Futsu Kebari - Dubbed Body

But know this:  It’s an unbelievably versatile fly to have at your disposal.


Thread: I generally prefer to use 6/0 Uni Thread for my kebari.  Its available in a great range of colors and I find it to be a very strong thread.  Use any color you prefer.

Robb Chunco - Stiff Hackle Futsu Kebari - Uni Thread

Hackle: Whiting 100’s.  Great selection of colors, very consistent quality and very little waste.  At roughly $20 a package, it’s quite a bargain. Here I’ve used a size 14 badger and barred ginger and a size 10 brown on a size 12 hook.  Don’t feel compelled to match the size of the hackle to the hook.

Robb Chunco - Stiff Hackle Futsu Kebari - Whiting 100s

Dubbing: Anything you like, in any color you like. I’ve used Hare’s Ear here.

Robb Chunco - Stiff Hackle Futsu Kebari - Hare's Ear Dubbing

Hook: Again, personal preference.  But I find that a straight shanked nymph hook on the heavy side works well for patterns like these.  Feel free to use a lighter wire hook if you prefer. I’ve used a size 12 Firehole 633 here.

Robb Chunco - Stiff Hackle Futsu Kebari - Firehole Hooks

Tying Sequence:

Mount your hook in the vise and start the thread about 3 eye widths back from the eye.  You’re going to need to leave yourself a 4” tag of thread to hang off the back of the fly after you’ve wrapped the body – more on this in a bit.  Wrap in touching turns to the very start of the hook bend (do not trim the 4” tag you’ve left yourself!)

A side note — I see far too many kebari tied with material wrapped well into the hook bend. This is unnecessary and may actually negatively affect the holding power and durability of the fly.  “Less is more”.

Take the thread back to the tie-in point in open turns.

Tease out your dubbing by hand or fluff it in a dedicated coffee grinder in preparation of dubbing the thread.  You’ll ultimately use less of it and make it easier to dub.

Lightly dub (and I mean LIGHTLY) a 2.5” noodle on to the thread.  No dubbing wax is necessary. 

Take the thread toward the back in preparation of forming the body of the fly.  The dubbed portion should be just at the point where your thread base begins.  Continue to wrap forward with the dubbed thread, forming the body of the fly, and stop at your original tie in point. Now you’ll grab the 4” thread tag that you left yourself earlier and with nice open counter wraps, tie down and reinforce the dubbed body.  I find 5 well spaced wraps to be sufficient.  Tie off the thread tag at the original tie in point.  The counter wraps will strengthen the fly and add some visual interest in the form of segmentation.  At this point you can lightly rough up the dubbed body with an old toothbrush or dubbing brush if desired.

Select a length of hackle and strip the barbs off of about 1/8”.  Offer the hackle to the top of the hook with the convex side of the feather facing up, and the stem pointing toward the front.  Tie the hackle in with 3-4 solid wraps.  At this point you should still have the original 3 eye lengths of bare hook left to work with.  Begin wrapping the hackle around the hook.  It should splay out perpendicular to the hook.  If the feather is long enough (and it should be if it’s from a Whiting 100 pack) you won’t need hackle pliers.

I make 5 wraps toward the front and tie off the hackle with another 3-4 soild wraps.  Reach in carefully with your scissors and snip off the hackle as close as you can.  The hackle should look neat, but don’t be overly concerned if it’s not.  we’re not tying Catskill style dries here.  Sometimes the hackle will point forward a bit, and a good way to deal with this is to use a half hitch tool (or a tube from a ball point pen, or your fingers) to push them back into place while you get another thread wrap or two down to move them back into place.  At this point you can build up a small head and then whip finish.  A drop of head cement will complete your simple stiff hackle kebari.

Robb Chunco - Simple Stiff Hackle Futsu Kebari with Dubbed Body

As I stated before, this is a very versatile pattern to fish.  Wet or dry, high or low.  Skated  on the surface or held in a downstream current.  Tie up a few in light and dark colors and with long and short hackle. You’ll be glad you did.

Robb Chunco is a husband, father, and an angler that’s pretty passionate about tying flies of all kinds. He is the proprietor of Creekside Kebari, where anglers can find a great assortment of wet flies, nymphs, and Japanese-style kebari. Stay tuned with his latest updates on Instagram @creeksidekebari

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017-18 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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