kebari-300Simply put, a kebari is the Japanese word for a fishing fly.   The word is made up of two characters, ke (毛)and bari (針).   The word ke translates as feather and it appears the character had its origin in a drawing of a feather.  The word bari comes from the Chinese word hari which may turn into bari with some prefixes and it means needle.  This makes sense since sewing needles were bent into shape to make hooks used for fishing flies.    Thus kebari translated literally is “feathered needle” which pretty much describes a fishing fly.   The iconic kebari associated with tenkara fishing is the Sakasa Kebari which is a reverse hackled fly, the word sakasa translating as reversed.1

Kebari are very simple flies to tie using few materials and traditionally are tied without even the use of a vise.  All that is really needed to tie kebari are a hook, thread and hackle.   Additional materials can be used but even those are minimal.   The most common styles of kebari use only these three materials plus peacock herl.

Kebari styles are often named for the area they were created or by their creator.   The three most common styles of kebari found today are2:

  • Amano Kebari – named for Mr. Katsutoshi Amano.  These are simple sakasa kebari using just thread and a soft hackle.  Mr. Amano ties his kebari without a vise and always uses eyeless hooks with a silk loop.
  • Takayama Kebari – named for a city in Gifu prefecture.  This sakasa kebari style adds a peacock herl collar in back of the hackle.   
  • Ishigaki Kebari – named after Dr. Hisao Ishigaki who introduced tenkara to the west.  This is another very simple fly using only thread and hackle but uses a stiff dry fly rooster hackle instead of the soft hackle found on many kebari.

I primarily use a few ‘hybrid’ kebari that are each based on one of these common styles of kebari but add elements of a traditional western fly.  My tenkara box is stocked with:

  • GRHE Sakasa Kebari – a blend of the popular Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear nymph and an Amano Sakasa Kebari.  This is my goto fly most of the time.
  • Pheasant Tail Kebari – a blend of a Pheasant Tail and Takayama Kebari
  • Adams Ishigaki Kebari – an Ishigaki with grizzly hackle and a dubbed body.  My goto dry fly kebari.
  • Takayma Midge Kebari – a very small version of the Takayama used for more selective fish.

  1. For more information on the etymology of Kebari check out this excellent article by Discover Tenkara on the Origins of Sakasa Kebari

  2. For more information on additional styles of kebari see About Kebari on the Discover Tenkara site.