Palmered Flies for Tenkara

On July 21, 2012
Comments (11)

Written by Jason

Daniel has been posting a lot of flies from tenkara anglers in Japan over on the Tenkara USA Facebook page lately (click here to see Daniel’s summary from his blog post yesterday).  They’re all beautiful and unique but one in particular struck me as distinctly different.  It was the Kurobe kebari tied by Mr. Fujioka.  At first glance, this fly might not seem like anything special.  But what I found so interesting about it was the fact that the hackle was palmered.  “Palmered” means that the hackle is wound through the body of the fly, rather than just at the head as in many tenkara flies.  It reminded me of some of the classic British palmered flies such as the Wickham’s Fancy or Soldier Palmer.  While I knew that not all tenkara flies are tied in the reverse hackle sakasa kebari style, it was the first time I had seen a tenkara fly with palmered hackle.  And it got me thinking…

Even though I’ve mostly given up my entomological pursuits, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a simple fact.  Real insects don’t have legs that point out from their head like a sakasa kebari.  They have legs splayed out through their thorax. Some point forward, some point back.  And when they’re tumbling or swimming, they could point in any given direction in what must resemble more of a jumbled mess than a neat “paint brush”.  It would seem then that a palmered fly would more closely replicate an insect than a pattern with hackle just behind the eye.

And the more I thought of it, I discovered a couple of other reasons why palmered flies would seem to make sense.

For one, they offer the illusion of more movement.  If one of the keys to the sakasa kebari’s effectiveness is the motion in its hackle, then wouldn’t it look like more things were moving if the hackle were spread out rather than concentrated all in one place?

Another is segmentation.  Palmering the hackle through the body leaves gaps between the wraps that create a segmented look (another buggy hallmark). And, it does this without the need to add any extra ribbing material like copper wire.

So after all of this, I decided to try to tie some Palmered style flies.  As soon as I got going, I realized how open to experimentation this style is.  There are literally an infinite number of material and color combinations you could use for the body, thorax, and abdomen.  I actually had a hard time settling on which ones to chose for my first go.  Obviously, this will be an ongoing experiment but here are a few to get started…


Yellow & Olive Palmered Tenkara Fly

Recipe:  Olive & Yellow

Hook:  Any eyeless hook
Thread:  Olive 8/0
Eye:  #2 silk bead cord, brown
Abdomen:  Yellow turkey biot
Thorax:  Olive dubbing
Hackle:  Olive grizzly saddle


Grey Palmered Tenkara Fly

Recipe:  Grey

Hook:  Any eyeless hook
Thread:  Grey 8/0
Eye:  #2 silk bead cord, red
Abdomen:  Grey turkey biot
Thorax:  Grey dubbing
Hackle:  Natural grizzly saddle


Gold & Peacock Palmered Tenkara Fly

Recipe:  Peacock & Gold

Hook:  Any eyeless hook
Thread:  Black 8/0
Eye:  #2 silk bead cord, black
Abdomen:  Gold wire, med.
Thorax:  Peacock sword
Hackle:  Black saddle


Brown & Orange Palmered Tenkara Fly

Recipe:  Brown & Orange Pheasant

Hook:  Any eyeless hook
Thread:  Orange 8/0
Eye:  #2 silk bead cord, white
Abdomen:  Pheasant tail
Thorax:  Burnt orange dubbing
Hackle:  Pheasant hackle


Seeing these flies from Japan has really got me thinking beyond sakasa kebari.   Back when I thought the only tenkara flies were sakasa kebari, it felt kind of limiting. But now, I have a new sense of freedom and a whole world of tenkara fly tying opportunities ahead of me.

What styles of tenkara flies have you tied that are “outside the box”?

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11 Responses to Palmered Flies for Tenkara

  1. Troy Meadows says:

    These are truly amazing interpretations Jason. I really like the peacock and gold recipe. You may have just convinced me to try to tye something besides a sakasa kebari. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Jason, I’m with Troy. The Peacock and Gold is stunning! I have played with Akiyama kebari a little but these kurobe kebari definitely seem like great flies to experiment with. Thanks for sharing.

    • Chris and Sean,

      Ok, I will do one as part of our “Tenkara Flies on Wednesdays” video series. They’re all tied the same way so if you see one done, you can just substitute different colors and materials to make the others.

  3. Sean says:

    Once again your fly tying ability amazes me! And since I’m fairly new at fly tying I have no clue where to begin, any chance you’ll want to make a video of how one of these masterpieces comes to life?

  4. Richard says:

    Nice flies, Jason. I’m really loving the “Tenkara flies on Wednesdays” series and all the flies that Daniel has been posting lately.

    I love dry flies and I generally try to tie on a few dries every outing. I just recently took up fly tying and the sense of freedom from tying all sorts of kebaris has spilled over to my dry fly tying. I’ve been true to a few of my favorite patterns, specifically the asuable wulff and griffith’s gnat, but other than that I’ve been tying really simple and minimalistic dries.

  5. Well, the “secret” is out. There is no “tenkara” fly. Whatever is on the end of your tenkara line at the moment is a tenkara fly.

    The urge to create is just too strong to relegate ourselves to one fly pattern.

  6. Dale says:

    I tie something similar to the Olive n Yellow, expcet in Purple n Grizzly. It has done very well for me.


  7. Sean says:

    Thank you Jason, it is much appreciated!

  8. Jack says:


    You’ve made some beautiful creations. After years of fly tying, there’s a rhythm and poetry I love in flies. These flies have them, particularly as the others have said, the peacock and gold.

    – Jack

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