Kebari & Fly Tying Tenkara

A “Good Enough” Kebari

Grizzly Hackle and Jeans Thread Good Enough Kebari
Feathers and Thread

It’s a happy coincidence that I don’t worry too much about fly selection, and that I’m also not particularly good at tying flies. Fortunately, most the fish I encounter seem to keep low minimum standards for what they’ll eat, which is the only bar I’m looking to jump over with my tenkara kebari tying.

I’d put good money on my flies never winning any beauty contests. Usually I have to superglue them to give them a chance of holding together. I don’t whip finish in public anymore after a tragic mishap during a fishing club meeting in 2019.

(I cannot discuss the ongoing investigation, please contact the Tenkara Angler legal team with further inquiries.)

As a result, I’ve boiled things down into a basic pattern that is low effort on the vice but helps me make things happen on the water. The last year or so I’ve fished it all over the country and it’s slowly becoming my main pattern.

The “Good Enough” Kebari

#10 Barbless Dry Fly Hook

Coats Dual-Duty+ Jeans Thread, Khaki

Assorted Dyed Medium-Stiff Hackle

Glue it shut, or weld it, or whatever it takes

The idea behind using the dry fly hook was twofold, I figured it would help keep the profile thinner – and I happened to have them. While the #10 does present an easily visible profile, It stays relatively slim around the body to host the thicker cotton thread. The thread gets heavier when wet, giving me a little more heft on the pattern without bulking it up.

I like a little weight on the fly to help maintain line tension, and the longer profile helps keep it visible. The varying colors of hackle allow some adjustment for visibility in different water & light conditions. So far I’ve observed no difference in catch rates between the hackle colors.

For tactics, I like to fish kebari with movement. Sure, I almost always open with a dead drift, but if they didn’t hit that, I’m putting action on the fly next pass.

Good Enough Kebari Wet Fly Assortment
A Good Enough Kebari assortment

Some are more Sakasa, some more Jun, some more Futsu. Some are hackled mid-hook and others closer to the eye. I’ll probably tie some on some smaller hooks too, eventually. They come out how they come out, they fish how they fish. Which so far, has been pretty good all over the country.

Good enough, at least!


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7 comments

  1. Hi, that’s a really nice post. For myself I like to tie some simple flies in big and medium size by using light or dark bodies. As a hackle Ichoosea hen feather in brown or grizzly. Thats it. A good fly has to be strong and durable. The number of hackle fibres aren’t as important as I can read every day. I think a trout can’t count them…

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Strong and durable – and visible, are among the biggest factors!

  2. Hi Matt. I don’t tie my own flies, so my take aways from this come from different angles. Maybe it’s my pre-biases but what stood out to me are: further confirmation that fish aren’t looking for exact insect replicas to trigger a take. that the creamy, slightly yellow/very light brown hued body is a very effective, if not the most effective body color for me also. A black, red or purple body also seem to be pretty good. A size 10 scares me. On our driftless area creeks I haven’t had good luck with anything below a size 14, but that may be due to confidence or a lack of time devoted to it.

    It’s also interesting to see you gravitating toward the one fly concept here. Although, I’m not fond of that moniker, if only because, as you pointed out, even tying the same fly repeatedly, it’s seems easy to introduce variance with a slight change of size, hot spot, color change of body or hackle, or as you mention, changing the position of the hackle to make them either Sakasa, Jun or Futsu, quite a big difference in and of itself. Although, I’ve tried a number of times to cut down the selection of nymph, wet, kebari and dry flies that I carry to maybe a handful of each, without success, I’m far from using one pattern. So, this got be daydreaming about what it would be like on the water with just a small box of one pattern with little variance.

    It’s actually a liberating thought. I imagined it releasing me of the burden of fly choice and forcing the focus onto reading the water and much better presentation strategies. I kind of like that idea and might use this as a springboard to explore that more this season by continuing to dramatically cut down on my fly box choices.

    Thank you for another thought provoking article.

    1. Thanks! You may recall I did quite a bit of fishing with randomly selected files season before last. It really convinced me that fly control and visibility have much more impact than pattern. Also started pushing into some bigger sizes after watching Oni use them at the last school. For me, they seem to produce more success when fished with more action, than less.

  3. I’m on the same page as you All of my tenkara flies are quick and easy to tie. I used to agonize over minute details to tie “the perfect fly” which took a lot more time. But a complex fly and a simple fly will end up in a tree or a snag just the same. So now I don’t bother. And like you said, it hasn’t affected my catch rates. So why bother spending 15 minutes on a fly?

    1. Good stuff. There is a lot to be said for exploring to find what is sufficient vs what we may think we need for the task.

  4. This is right up my alley…simplicity. A term that is often lost in “todays” angling world. I plan on tying some of these and will tell you about them.

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