Written by Daniel
Back in 2010 I wrote about the Mamushi-kebari, or “the snake-skin tenkara fly”. Mr. Hirata is the person who either invented it or at least became known in tenkara circles for that unique fly, which he ties using the skin of one of Japan’s most venomous snakes, the mamushi.
One of our forum members from Nevada, Matt Donovan, recently came across a snake on the road. Remembering my post about the mamushi kebari, he decided he should get the snake and tie a fly with its skin. Not only did Matt also eat the snake (kudos Matt for wasting-not!) but he went on to tie a tenkara fly with his new snake-skin, and then proceeded to win a one-fly tournament with it! In 2 hours, Matt caught 19 fish with that his tenkara gear and fly. He also said, “the snake skin kept my fly in such good shape that I wouldnt think twice about catching another 20 fish on it, the snake skin has proven to be extremely durable.” Impressive Matt!
So, in his honor I decided tie the snake-skin tenkara fly as part of our Tenkara Flies on Wednesdays series. I admit I did not do as fine a job at tying this fly as Mr. Hirata obviously does, and it didn’t turn out as pretty as Matt’s either . I think my fly-tying has become a bit sloppier over the last couple of years in pursuit of simpler flies. I tied two flies for this video, unfortunately the video for the better looking fly didn’t turn out that great, I swear I tied a better looking one. One of the flies I will fish with myself on my next outing, the other one I donated to the Vagabox project.
While I strive to keep my actual fishing ultra-simple by using one tenkara fly pattern (in a total of 4 combinations), there is no denying tenkara fly tying can be a wonderful hobby in and of itself. There are myriad styles of flies, interesting techniques for tying flies and certainly unique materials.
Tenkara anglers in Japan typically have their signature fly pattern; they stick with their one tenkara fly pattern and don’t change it often (in some cases not at all). But, each tenkara angler also uses a different fly, believing he has arrived at the best possible tenkara fly.
Most of these anglers have very specific reasons for using their chosen fly. My teacher, Dr. Ishigaki, just uses the simplest and quickest possible fly he can tie; I follow along in that path with rather sloppy fly. Mr. Hirata, on the other hand, believes using the snake skin in his flies makes them the most effective flies. He says the snake skin
has miraculous and hypnotizing properties that entrace fish to bite it at anytime and in any way it is presented reflects light in a way that may be attractive to fish.
Have you used some unique materials for your flies? Do you think the snake-skin is magical or is there any basis for it at all?