F&S Fly of the Week: Takayama Kebari

What happens when you tie the fungus to a wet fly at the back — that is, leaning over the eye of the hook instead of leaning back toward the turn? You catch a bunch of trout, that’s it.

Takayama Kebari (kebari is the Japanese term for trout fly) is an example of a reverse stroke fly. Making wet flies this way is a tradition in Japan and northern Italy, but for the first time I encountered opposite strokes in Utica, New York. One of my fishing mentors, John Bianco, used reverse strokes on some of his wet flies to improve their action in the water.

The scratching threads that tilt from behind tend to collapse along the body of the fly when it is pulled through the water or against the current. Opposite scratches, on the other hand, resist folding; instead, they stand up straight and shake vigorously when the fly is applied to any movement, a trigger that trout often cannot resist.

The wet lean forward style is known as “sakasa” in Japan, while the backward-leaning hacks are known as “June”. A third style of wet fly, “futsuu”, uses rigid strokes that are perpendicular to the flute, like a dry fly. The sakasa style is thought of as a tenkara fly because most Americans first learned about it when tenkara-style fly fishing was introduced in the US in 2009.

Three Takayama Kebari fly at a table.
The author tied these Takayama Kebari flies with red navel. Morgan Lyle

You do not need to use a tenkara rod to fish Takayama Kebari; works just as well on a regular flight rod. As with UK wet flies, it is weightless and is usually fished near the surface, where it probably suggests an emerging aquatic insect, or one that has drowned. Light weight, a slender body and a sharp mushroom attract trout to every continent.

About the name: Japanese levels usually do not name their flies the way Westerners do, like Greenwell’s Glory or Game Changer. But sometimes they identify them by their place of origin. Takayama Kebari is named for the city in a mountainous region of central Japan.

Read more: Best Flight Rolls of 2022

The red thread body and peacock creak inspired my friend Jason Klass, author of the excellent Tenkara Talk blog, to call Takayama the “Royal Tenkara Fly Trainer.” You can use any color thread you like. Here, I have replaced red chicken with pheasant hacker because I like things and I have found that fish love it too.

Here is a video of Tenkarabum founder Chris Stewart tying a Takayama. It’s an interesting construction method, which differs from the way we usually tie flies to the west.

Recipe Takayama Kebari

  • Hook: Filling mill 50 05, Size 10-14
  • Theme: Red, 70 Denier (8/0)
  • Hackle: Chicken Pheasant, Hungarian Quail, Red Grose or Your Favorite Gentle Hacker
  • Collar: Pallua Herl

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