Kebari & Fly Tying Tenkara

Pay It Forward: Tenkara-Style

Article by Jason Klass

For as long as I can remember, one of my fly-fishing mantras has been, “flies are the currency of our sport”. At every conference I go to, anglers come armed with a selection of their favorite patterns to give away or trade. I think most of us would rather have a container of a fellow angler’s flies handed to us than a $20 bill. There’s something that’s just more personal about creations that someone invested in than some piece of paper that coldly and haplessly rolled out of a machine. And that’s what gives it its value. 

Over the years, I’ve exchanged many flies with others. Some secret, some not so secret. But the true value was the willingness and the effort put into them. After all, you can make more money, but you can’t make more time spent at the tying bench.  

I started making my own DIY fly boxes and added half a dozen flies or so to send to some of my readers. They’re nothing special—just an Altoids-sized tin with my name inside the lid. But everyone seemed to like them. And the best part is that they sent me pictures of the fish they caught with my flies! I couldn’t get more satisfaction from any effort than that. No amount of money could compare.  

But it’s reciprocated. In turn, I’ve been rewarded with flies from my friends and followers as well. It’s a testament to how generous the tenkara (and fly fishing) community is and what retains my faith in our camaraderie.  

We all wade into the stream for a different reason. Maybe sometimes, the same reason. But when we wade out, what do we do? We all commune with each other. That can take many different forms—fighting, politely disagreeing, acquiescing. But there’s one thing we all agree on: flies are essential to our sport and are just downright sexy. They’re what drive our sport. The fuel. After all, it is called “fly” fishing, right? 

So, if you tie, please make it a point to leave a few out of your box to pay it forward to another angler who doesn’t yet or can’t. Your time at the vise will be more valuable that way rather than just on the water. There’s a lot more to fishing than just catching fish. And I think most fly anglers get that.  

Jason Klass is a former fly fishing guide & casting instructor based in Colorado. He was an early adopter of tenkara in the West and has been fishing the method for a variety of species since 2009. His extensive writing on the subject can be found at

To read additional articles from the Tenkara Angler 2020-21 Winter Showcase, click HERE.

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