Fly Tying Tutorial by Bart Lombardo
When I was first asked to submit a fly for this edition of Tenkara Angler, I started looking through my selection of tenkara flies for patterns that I felt were this past season’s best producers. I removed some tenkara flies from a box that I had tied for my annual summer trout fishing trips to Montana and the mountains of North Carolina. I spread out the flies on my fly tying desk and was mentally going over the merits of each fly, trying to narrow down the selection, when a small splash of color caught my eye. Over on the corner of the desk, underneath a pile of fly tying materials, was a little blue and yellow fly that had somehow never made it into a fly box. A soon as I picked it up I knew the choice had been made!
Although my favorite type of tenkara fishing involves small mountain streams for beautiful native or wild trout, I have also adopted the tenkara method for warm water fishing. Living well over an hour from my nearest trout stream means I need to pursue other species if I wish to fish often. Fortunately, the area around my home is dotted with scores of warm water lakes and ponds. These days, over half of my warm water fishing is done with a tenkara rod, especially when it involves bluegills and other panfish. A tenkara rod and box of warm water flies permanently reside in a pocket behind my driver’s seat in my truck, ready to fish at a moments notice.
One of my favorite warm water flies is an unusual pattern developed on the smallmouth bass rivers of Virginia. The fly is called the James Wood Bucktail. The James Wood Bucktail is a smallmouth bass pattern created by Harry Murray. Harry, the owner of Murrays Fly Shop in Edinburg Virginia, tied the fly to imitate a baby sunfish. Murray explained that The James Wood Buck Tail was adapted from Pete Perinchief’s bonefish fly, The Horror. The James Wood Bucktail gets its name because its colors match those of a local high school sports team.
While I don’t see any resemblance to a baby sunfish when I look at this fly, the fish certainly have an affinity for it. In its traditional size, it makes a great warm water pattern for bass, pickerel and larger bluegills and crappies. I most often fish the fly in a size 4 or 6 which can be a little cumbersome to cast on most tenkara rods. Last winter I shrunk the pattern down so it could easily be fished on a tenkara rod. I had to swap out a few materials to make it work since the original chenille body, and bucktail wing would not work in the smaller proportions of the shrunken version. Taking the evolution one step further, I also created a kebari version of the pattern, which is the focus of this article
The kebari version of this fly retains the blue, yellow and white color combination that proved itself so effective on the original pattern. New materials had to utilized for kebari version, and after a bit of experimentation, I decided to keep things traditional using only thread and hackle. By using blue and yellow thread and a hackle from a white rooster neck I was able to retain the original colors of the James Wood Bucktail. I originally planned on using a white hen feather to get better movement in the water, but I stumbled upon a old Indian rooster neck that had soft webby feathers that were perfect for this fly.
Because it is possible to catch dozens of fish on a single fly when fishing for bluegill and other panfish I decided to take some additional steps to create a bombproof fly. I coated the thread wraps with UV resin. This extra step ensures that the fly will never become unraveled. My UV resin of choice is Solarez Bone Dry, which has a thin consistency that works perfectly on smaller flies and it dries entirely tack free. It also helps the fly sink a little better which is always a plus with subsurface flies.
This fly has proven itself to be a very effective warm water pattern for bluegills and other sunfish. I fish the fly a little differently then the James Wood Bucktail it originated from. After casting I let the fly slowly settle towards the bottom. It seldom makes it very far without getting picked up by a fish. You will need to observe your line and tippet since a strike may only be indicated by a subtle twitch or pause in the decent.
On the rare occasion that the fly is not picked up on the drop, I impart a few subtle twitches with the rod tip. I retrieve the fly be slowly raising the rod tip and then let it settle towards the bottom again until I am ready to make another cast. When the fly is in motion takes are usually quite violent, and there will be no mistaking them!
The James Wood Kebari
- Hook: Owner Tenkara size 4 (the sizing on this particular hook has no similarity to standard western hook sizes. I would compare it to a size 12 hook)
- Head: Blue UTC 140 denier
- Hackle: White rooster from an inexpensive Indian neck
- Body: Yellow UTC 140 denier
- Finish: Solarez Bone Dry UV Resin
Note: The use of the heavier 140 denier thread makes creating the head and body of the fly easier (fewer thread wraps). The UV resin is an optional step, but it has its benefits. First, it creates a bombproof fly. One can expect to catch dozens of fish on the same fly when fishing for panfish and the resin coated fly is up to the challenge. Second, the use of UV resin creates a denser fly that sinks a little faster.
Step 1: Create the head of the fly with the blue tying thread. When satisfied with the shape of the head, coat the thread with UV resin and cure (optional).
Step 2: Tie in the rooster hackle and wind it around the hook shank coaxing the fibers forward over the eye of the hook.
Step 3: Tie off the rooster hackle, clip off the excess and whip finish and cut off blue thread.
Step 4: Attach yellow thread behind the hackle and create a tapered body, whip finish and cut off thread.
Step 5: Apply UV resin to yellow thread wraps and cure (optional). If using UV resin, be careful to keep it away from the hackle fibers.
Bart Lombardo has been an avid fly fisherman and fly tyer for over thirty years. He was an early adopter of tenkara and fishes for both cold and warmwater species in his home state of New Jersey. Bart is the author of the blogs The Jersey Angler and Panfish on the Fly.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017-18 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.
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