August 6, 2012

Gear Review - Tying Tenkara Flies DVD

A little over a week and a half ago I received a preview copy of the Tying Tenkara Flies DVD from Learn Tenkara in the mail. While I was pretty psyched to dig right in, I was also a little apprehensive to review the DVD.  Honestly, although I like tenkara a lot, I wasn't sure I could sit through something like two and a half hours of fly tying. I mean geeze, I have problems sitting through 3 or 4 minute fly tying videos on YouTube...

Popping in the DVD, the first thing you notice is the superior production quality. This wasn't filmed on a Flip Video camera. The video is sharp, the colors are rich, all it was missing was a killer soundtrack...and no, unfortunately none of the tiers break out a ukelele to add mood music.

Once in, the video is pretty much broken down into a few sections. The first section is the infamous Ishigaki Kebari, the signature fly of Dr. Hisao Ishagaki. Three tiers - Dr. Ishigaki, Daniel Galhardo of Tenkara USA, & Chris Stewart of all take turns tying their variants of this easily identifiable tenkara fly. It was pretty interesting to see how the three each approached the tie just a little bit differently.

Dr. Ishigaki giving the secret of kebari size
The next section was the Amano Kebari, a signature fly of Mr. Katsutoshi Amano. Daniel Galhardo ties his version of this fly, and also gives quite a bit of background on Mr. Amano, enriching the experience.

Daniel tying with jacket on...indoors...under camera lights...

Then more or less the video is turned over to Chris Stewart, who ties up a ton of different "Western Variants," or flies most fly fishermen may be familiar with, just with a sakasa kebari-flair to them.


This is actually the meat and potatoes of the DVD, and Chris takes home MVP honors. I really enjoyed the way Chris presented each tie, first going through the necessary materials (which is a bit repetitive when watched one after the other, but is important if taking a recipe on it's own), walking through the tie step by step, leaving nothing assumed, and finally describing when and how he would fish each fly. Chris does such a great job, quite honestly he should consider doing more tying videos.

A common thread between all flies was some really nice underwater video of how the fly behaves when it in a dead drift or when pulsed. This is something that is so commonsense, yet is often left out of many fly tying videos.

Underwater view of the Takayama Sakasa Kebari

Now the video isn't without faults, although complaining about them is kind of silly because the good so far outweighs the bad. That said, the first thing I would call out is that as good as Chris is, I would have liked to have seen a few more ties either from Dr. Ishigaki, Daniel, or perhaps someone else.  Well I guess you could cross Dr. Ishigaki off that list since he only ties one fly.  Actually there were a few surprise appearances from Dennis Galyardt (Partridge & Olive Sakasa Kebari), Rob Worthing (Utah Killer Bug), & Erik Ostrander (Utah Killer Kebari) to tie a fly each, but like I said, this was largely the Chris Stewart show.

The second thing worth noting is that all of the video is shot facing the tier. None of it is reversed, or really from the tier's point of view like it would be when you are tying. While this is easily overlooked, I think it's something for consideration in future volumes.  (By the way, is it "tier" or "tyer" the hell out of me...)

So I guess you're going to ask me if I actually made it through the video in one sitting...well, that answer would be no, although I did try. It was just that my sofa was so soft and comfy...the shades were drawn...and well...ummm...okay...I fell asleep about an hour and a half through the first time. But that wasn't really due so much to the video being boring, because it isn't, I was just tired and slightly jetlagged.

Anyway, in closing, if you're into tenkara and want to get a bunch of recipes and instruction in one place, this option is a heck of a lot easier than searching around forums, websites, and YouTube for random kebari tying videos. Like I mentioned above, the production value is very high, so it's a DVD that should retain it's value for quite some time.  Or at least until DVDs are obsolete.  Heck, it even inspired me to do some tying of my own...and that's a rarity!

My Sakasa Krapola Kebaris

The Tying Tenkara Flies DVD viewed in this product review was provided to me by the producers at no cost, but holds a retail value of $24.99 per the manufacturer's website. I currently hold no association with LearnTenkara whatsoever, other than shaking both producers' hands at the recent Tenkara Summit.  I also fully disregard the fact that one of the producers (Ashley) sent my daughter Lilly a pink Punk Rock Sakasa Kebari, clearly as a token to sway my review in their favor.  :)   

As with all independent gear reviews at Troutrageous!, I try my best to keep my reviews honest and unbiased. If something is good, it deserves applause; if it sucks, I'll let you know that too. It ain't in my interest to steer you wrong, so why waste the time in doing so?


  1. I haven't seen this DVD so and I'm relatively new to tenkara fly fishing but is it a worthwhile purchase ?.

    Having read a number of reviews online most of the content of the video seems to be a repeat of what is already available online from various sources.

    Anyone who has been tying for more than a few weeks should be able to nail a kebari fly and from the reviews and previews there only seems to be a few truly original patterns on the film, the rest are just re-hashes of western patterns. This is hardly inspiring to experienced fly tyers and although I'm sure there must be some value in it for the tankara fanatic who simply can't get enough does it really contain enough value ?.

    If Mr Ishigaki is the one we look to for tenkara wisdom and he only uses one fly why bother with a video containing dozens ?, I just don't buy it. learn to dress a kebari fly and then make variants and go tenkara fly fishing :)

    As for the "tier" - "tyer" debate it has to be fly tyer as in knot tyer as in the International Guild of Knot Tyers (which is actually a real thing), a tier is a layer as in the tier of a wedding cake, anyway, to avoid this confusion referring to fly tyers as fly dressers works just fine.

    1. "Worthwhile" is a relative term. As I mentioned in my review, if you'd like to have all the ties in one spot without the need to find them on various online & print sources, then yes, it's definitely worthwhile.

      The purchase decision will probably also speak to your expertise at the vise. Well versed dressers (like I how did that?) probably won't find a ton of value other than initial inspiration. Novice to middling tyers (I put myself in this bucket) probably get more from this video. I'm not one that really enjoys tying, but as I showed above, it did inspire me a bit to give it a go.

      The whole "featuring Dr. Ishigaki on a fly tying video" conundrum is also something the producers acknowledge. But since variety is the spice of life...even if it only takes "one fly", it doesn't mean that's all we need to tie. The same argument could be made in Western fly fishing. I know people that use nothing but nymphs. Does that mean dries are then fully discounted?

  2. I have been tying sakasa kebari for almost three years now and I still found the DVD to be very informative. Since each tier can tie a fly slightly differently, it can helpful to see others little tricks and shortcuts to improve or speed up your own tying of a particular pattern. BTW...I would hardly call your flies "krapola" especially the one with the glass bead on the left ;)!

    1. Thanks Kiwi, yeah, I think I got my inspiration for that glass bead fly from sources other than the video...

  3. Your "Krapola" flies are pretty much the worst flies I have ever seen.....just sayin....

    Seriously though....I wish my good ties looked half as good as your krapola flies. I am tossing buying this around...keep telling myself I can teach myself, but every review I have seen is very positive.

    1. Toss it around a bit. It's a good video, I think you'd enjoy it, especially as a beginning fly tyer.

  4. I think 2.5 hours of fly tying video sounds dreadful. Are you being honest?

    1. 2.5 hours is overkill. No sane person would normally consume this in one sitting. That said, since I was reviewing a DVD, I tried. At the end of the day, I don't think the video was meant to be watched beginning to end. It's set up nicely on the menu screen where you can select the fly you want to see tied, and not have to sit through the rest.

  5. What--domain have to to to scale the pinnacle of self-actualization and review something like this?

    If I can't be part of the Tenkara cognoscenti--then I'm taking this jeep and driving it off Maslow's Pyramid with no roll bars.

    That's right. I'm a whiner.

    1. That was supposed to read "what--do I have to do . . ."

      Text correct burns me again.

    2. Hey Ron, scaling pinnacles of self-actualization needed, all you really have to do is ask...

      I just sent them a note and said "does my crappy blog count enough to score me a press copy for review" - and the rest is history.

      Writing a blog opens many doors...another of which you'll read about in tomorrow's (Wednesday) post.

  6. Looking forward to it:)