As I started playing around a little bit more on Instagram last winter as a way to fuel the "Tenkaragram" project, I found that it broadened my horizons to what is going on in the world of tenkara, especially when it came to folks that weren't affiliated with any of the rod companies, nor doing the majority of their socializing on Facebook or Twitter. One of the first users to catch my eye was Creekside Kebari + Fly Co...an account that not only appeared to be tying really great flies, but taking stellar photos of them as well.
After a month or so in the making, I'm happy to present this week's installment of Tenkara Tuesday; an interview with Robb Chunco of Creekside Kebari + Fly Co.
T!: I understand that you & Creekside Kebari + Fly Co. are based in Buffalo, NY. What do you consider your home waters? Do you have a favorite creek or fish species, and what do you like most about it? (No need to give up secret spots)
RC: Being in Western NY, we’re pretty lucky to be smack dab in the middle of some pretty amazing waters. Within an hour’s drive I could be at any one of a half dozen prime creeks. A little further out and another half dozen – that’s what’s cool about the area. If you've got the time to keep looking, you’ll keep finding water to fish. The Upper Cattaraugus, Hosmer Brook and Wiscoy Creek are probably the best known. The Lake Erie and Ontario tribs are legendary steelhead fisheries as well.
I’ve gotta say that brookies are probably my favorite. They’re also New York’s official state fish, so I got that goin' for me. Which is nice. But I have a big soft spot for warm water fishing. If you've never taken a slab of a bluegill on a tenkara rod, then I kind of feel bad for you – those little SOB’s are a hell of a lot of fun!
But honestly, any fish on the end of your line is pretty hard to beat. Brookies, browns, bluegill or bass – I’ll happily catch them all.
T!: When I think of Buffalo, 3 things come to mind. The Bills, wings, and snow. They’re probably stereotypical associations, like all Philadelphians (where I'm from) are insane for the Eagles and eat a diet of only cheesesteaks. What’s your opinion of the first two, and does it really snow as much as most people think there?
RC: I’m just not a fan of football. Not even one little bit. But I do sort of admire the dedication of Bills fans.
I dig wings (thank you for not calling them ‘Buffalo Wings’, by the way). I live about 2 minutes away from the Anchor Bar where they were invented.
Snow. Oh, snow... Yes, it can get pretty crazy here at times. If conditions are just so, and Lake Erie isn’t totally frozen the Lake Effect snows can be quite intense. This past season the areas just south of the city got 7 feet of snow in 3 days. It was insane. The city proper got nailed pretty badly too. However, the other 3 seasons are known for being pretty glorious around here.
T!: How and when did you come across tenkara? What was/is appealing about it to you? I “found” tenkara not even a year after I started fly fishing...I love the efficiency, but am not one of those guys that has decided to abandon my reels all together. Still love a click & pawl on a 3-weight. Did you fly fish prior?
RC: I think 3 or 4 years ago or so, a good friend told me about it. It seemed really cool – I know the term “simple” gets used a lot, but it’s right on the money. It’s a truly simple way to fish and that simplicity can be pretty liberating.
I had messed around with fly fishing a little bit before I got into tenkara, but was primarily chasing largemouth bass with a spinning rig and soft plastics.
If anything, tenkara is almost fueling my interest in conventional fly fishing. The two methods both have their place and a tenkara rod is so portable it’s nice to be able to pack one along in addition to a fly rod. I’ve got a few Eagle Claw Featherlights with Martin clickers and a Cabela's CGR rigged up with an LL Bean Pocket Water reel. They're so buttery smooth.
|Takayama Sakasa Kebari|
T!: Tenkara tools can be simple, but let’s talk gear for a second...rod, line, fly box. I've got way too much tenkara gear, but am crushing on the Tenkara USA Rhodo, Sunline 3.0 level line, and a Tacky Fly Box to do my bidding at the moment. What do you use, do you have a preference?
RC: I have a Badger Tenkara “Classic” and a “Bad Axe.” I dig Badger because of their relaxed and approachable view on tenkara fishing – a “just get out there and do it” vibe. Their Badger Lite lines are really nice and I've been using 12’ & 14’ furled kevlar lines from Streamside Leaders. I really like the way they cast, but this year I’d like to look into using level line a bit more. Man, those Tacky boxes are nice, aren’t they? I love mine.
T!: And more importantly what’s INSIDE your fly box? I’d imagine you’re not a “one fly” guy...but who knows, you might surprise me…
RC: I’m not really a tenkara ‘one fly’ purist. I get it, but fishing different flies is fun, man. I’ve got a few of almost everything in my catalog. I love pheasant tail kebari and I really like killer bugs – both the Frank Sawyer and the Utah version. The traditional kebari with a silk loop for an eye seem to move really nice in the water due to the flexible eye, so I always have a bunch of those on hand.
So many “Western” patterns work well with a tenkara rod – Adams, a few terrestrials, small poppers for bass and bluegill. Stimulators for a dry & dropper rig. It seems silly to not use them – why limit yourself?
|Green Rock Worm|
T!: What does your tying bench look like? Mine is always a mess. Do you have favorite tools (vise, bobbin, etc...) or materials to work with? I’ll be honest, those whip finish tools just confuse me.
RC: I always start out pretty organized and then it’s all downhill from there. If I’m tying up a whole bunch of the same pattern I’ll try to stage everything in a kind of mise en place.
I've got a nice, simple and solid HMH SX pedestal vise and really can’t see myself needing anything else. It’s just rock solid. Zero BS. I like Dr Slick tools – I have their Micro tip scissors, a few ECO bobbins and their bamboo handle whip finisher. It seems like there’s a certain dark magic at play with the whip finisher, doesn’t it?
Embrace it, dude. Embrace the dark magic.
T!: I've noticed you offer many different kebari patterns for sale. Where do you get your inspiration?
RC: Well, there are a few “standard” offerings, but there’s usually a lot of daydreaming involved with pattern development. I scratch notes and sketches on scraps of paper all the time and when I sit down to tie, I’ll dig them out and try to make them work. I’ll sometimes try to translate a Western or North Country wet pattern into a tenkara pattern, but after a certain point it can get kind of moot. Why try to fix what isn't broken?
T!: What about the “+ Fly” part of your brand’s name...you also tie English North Country soft hackle flies. While not mutually exclusive, tell us more about that portion of your offering?
RC: It seemed like a logical second side to the shop. They’re quite similar to kebari in their structure, simplicity, and elegance, and also fish quite well on a tenkara rod. Tying them is a lot of fun and also a huge exercise in restraint. They just don’t look right with too much or too little hackle, and the silk thread has to be wound just so. Their history is incredibly interesting as well.
|Snipe and Purple|
T!: Have you tied flies for a long time? Your Etsy store is relatively new (November 2014); what made you decide to sell your kebari? Is there a "top selling" pattern yet?
RC: I’m still fairly new to tying, but I kind of hit the ground running. It just sort of clicked. My buddy who initially told me about tenkara had been telling me for years that I would really dig tying, and he was totally right.
I’m not sure when or why I decided to start selling them. I think I just wanted to see if I could actually do it, but then it turned into something a bit bigger. There’s no real top seller per se, but people do seem to dig the Caddis Larva kebari and the Pearly Gates kebari. I move a lot of Killer Bugs too.
|Caddis Larva Kebari|
T!: What else do you like to do beside fly tying and fishing?
RC: So many things to do, and not enough time to do them. I play guitar, and have a few analog synthesizers that I mess around with in a low key solo electronic music project. I like woodworking. I love photography. I love to cook. I've been a homebrewer since 1994. I snowboard and ride bikes when I can. I really dig camping, and now that my son is getting old enough (5 this year!) to come along with me, we’ll be doing quite a bit of that this summer.
T!: I believe I first noticed your flies on Instagram. It’s a social media platform that I've definitely spent some more time with over the last year. Is that your primary form of marketing, and what do you think of Instagram as a marketing tool?
RC: Instagram has changed everything for me. It is my primary form of marketing – I have a Facebook page and a Tumblr account too, but Instagram is a very powerful platform. It’s essentially a form of free advertising if you want it to be.
|March Brown Flymph|
T! Bigfoot. Do you believe?
RC: Hell yeah, dude.
T!: What can we expect from Creekside Kebari + Fly Co. in 2015? Any surprises?
RC: I’d like to keep doing what I’m doing and grow at a comfortable rate. Tying these flies is almost as therapeutic as fishing them. I’ll rotate available patterns in and out and try to keep current with fishable conditions. Not exactly “hatch matching” as much as just being appropriate to the time of year, I guess.
As far as surprises go, well – everybody loves a surprise, and if I do have any it wouldn't be a surprise if I told anybody, right?
|Pheasant Tail Kebari|
T!: Is there anything else you’d like to say about fly tying, fly fishing, or Creekside? Feel free to say whatever comes to mind.
RC: I really appreciate your taking the time to notice my work, and giving me the opportunity to answer these questions.
It seems like there can be a little bit of animosity in both fly fishing camps (tenkara and conventional) toward one another, and there really shouldn't be. The techniques each have their merits and limitations – what works well with one method may not necessarily work with the other, but they can cover each other’s backs. I've seen some downright nasty chatter toward tenkara online that sounded like it could have been happening in a middle school locker room. Lighten up! It’s all a means to an end, and who the hell cares how you do it?
A big thanks go out to Rob for taking the time to provide my readers a peek behind the scenes of the Creekside Kebari + Fly Co. Hopefully we'll get to hook up on a stream together someday!
Robb Chunco is a husband, a father and a dude that likes to make little bug puppets and try to catch fish with them. If you’d like to see his work you can check it out on Etsy or Instagram.
All images used in this post are copyright of Creekside Kebari + Fly Co.
ATTENTION TENKARA FISHERFOLK
Are you a tenkara angler? Do you have a story, pictures, video, fly recipe, or simply a fishing report from one of your recent tenkara adventures? If so, I'd really enjoy hearing from you for an upcoming Tenkara Tuesday post! Feel free to send an email HERE, I'd love to publish your original contribution.