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Weighted Soft Hackle Fishing with Tenkara Rods

Weighted Soft Hackle Fishing with Tenkara Rods

I have found great success fishing bead head soft hackle flies on tenkara rods so I wanted to just share some thoughts with you on the subject and encourage you to give it a try. 

There are many situations when a weightless kebari (or other weightless flies) just don't catch as much fish. Sometimes you changing your fishing method to match the fish's activity can produce some great results, here is a video of Dr. Ishigaki (well know tenkara angler from Japan) talking about changing your fishing method:

Just like Dr. Ishigaki, when the fish are not coming up to get the fly I have had great success in bringing the fly down to the fish. I commonly use a bead head fly to get deeper to the fish but can also use a split shot rig or something similar.

You can put a bead head on a kebari and that will work, I personally don't like the look of kebari flies with bead heads on them so I use bead head soft hackle flies. I personally find weighted soft hackles to be much more effective than kebari in most water as well, something about having a tail on the fly that works great for me and I like tying them more too. 

This past year I actually fished bead head soft hackles 75% of the time, except in skinny water. I find they work great on deep runs, rivers, and even where there are fish eating on the surface. There are always fish eating sub-surface right underneath the fish eating on the surface and they are more likely to be less picky as well. 

Many times in during the high sun parts of the day many fish are not feeding. During these times I find switching to a bead head fly the fishing turns back on for me. There is always fish on the bottom, and if you put a fly in there face your chances of a strike go up substantially in my experience.

You can fish bead head soft hackle flies many ways. You can dead drift them, you can swing them, you can give them slight twitches, you can even suspend them under a hopper if you want. Any presentation you do with a kebari fly you can do with a soft hackle fly, you just do it deeper with the bead head.

I have also found them to work excellent in rivers that are where the water is commonly deeper than the water we commonly fish in creeks with tenkara. Rivers can also be swifter so having a bead head can get you down to the fish faster before your short drift is over. River fishing with a tenkara rod can be very effective, especially when you can reach over a current and fish the dead side across from you with a perfect drift. 

I have found that bead head soft hackles work great for all sizes of fish. I commonly just use a size 12 for all my soft hackle flies and I use that for 6 inch fish and 24 inch fish and get aggressive takes from both. Many of the rivers that I fish I used to feel like I needed streamers to get the attention of big fish but I have had just as much success getting strikes this past 2 years with bead head size 12 soft hackle flies, and they are a lot easier to cast that a streamer as well.

Winter time is a season where weighted flies can be much more effective. I fish a lot in the rivers during the winter months and the fish tend to hold deep and in pockets where they can hold in without using energy but food still flows to them. They don't like to go to the food so you have to bring the fly to them to get a strike. Bead head soft hackles get that done quite well.

Next time the fishing slows down for you or you are fishing some deeper runs or a river, I highly recommend you put on a bead head soft hackle and watch the magic happen.

Also, checkout this article Safely Casting Bead Head Flies On Tenkara Rods, it will show you how to cast them without them hitting your rod and damaging it. 

I will work on getting some bead head soft hackle fly patterns up on our Youtube channel in the coming year so you can try what I fish or learn enough to make your own style of bead head soft hackles.


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Steve Allen - September 13, 2023

Brent: great article. I too have found that switching to a weighted wet fly and getting down deep saved the day. I have tied bead head Kebari flies but must admit that 95% of my Tenkara fishing is with traditional wet fly patterns. I tie my traditional wet flies with weighted wire on the hook instead of a bead head. I find that there is less chance of impact damage to my rods with this method. What are your thoughts on wire vs bead heads?
Thanks, Steve

Kevin - April 6, 2023

I missed this post but ended up stumbling on this pattern and technique this Fall/Winter. Started when I acquired some Duracell nypphs, then wanted to tie some of my own. I began inventing patterns that look a lot like some of what you have posted here. It’s been a blast and they haven’t let me down.

Brent - April 6, 2023

Great article, thank you. Looking forward to seeing the fly patterns.

Thomas Hebert - April 6, 2023

Hi Brent. Thanks so much for the article. I really only started fishing 2.5 years ago, and basically latched onto Tenkara as my approach from the start. So I have been on a steep learning curve, and have spent far more time than I wanted “fishing” and not “catching fish” (I guess that’s why it is called fishing and not catching). But reading between lines and about other fly fishing approaches I figured out that getting the fly down in the water column could be a very big help alot of the time and I started using bead headed flies and did more catching. Now I am getting comfortable with and capable of moving from wet fly kebari, to bead headed flies, to true dries as the water and fish seem to dictate or as I hunt for them, or what I figure will be fun for me to try in the moment. This is a long way of saying if I had watched Dr, Ishigaki’s above video on this topic 2 years ago and read your article I would saved myself alot of time and avoided some unproductive, frustrating outings. Caught several wild browns last week on a skinny Maryland stream (been a dry several months!) using the Foxfire and just a regular kebari (wet fly) in the riffles — the dry and beaded flies just weren’t succeeding in the pools or eddies. Great outing. Thanks!

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