Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Shoku-ryoshi Inspiration

If you don't subscribe to the free Discover Tenkara email tutorials, I highly recommend it.  One email was a head's-up for an hour long documentary of the commercial mountain fisherman of Japan, the shoku-ryoshi, forerunners of the sport we now know as tenkara. The film features Dr. Ishigaki, and is a production of Shimano as part of their "Fishing Cafe" series.  The film is interesting and enjoyable, enough so that by the end I was longing for more information.  If only there were a book!

In the presentation, Dr. Ishigaki tours the Omachi Alpine Museum.  While looking over an exhibit of the clothing and gear used by the professional fisherman, the curator points out a couple of flies and a small box.  The fly is ratty by any standard, with a "tail" formed by the tip of the hackle tied in at the rear of the hook shank.  The hackle is palmered forward in open wraps.  The body is nothing more than hackle and thread wraps.  The fly looks to be tied rather hurriedly and without great concern for detail.  The small box contains the materials to tie these flies stream side along with materials for line-making/repair and a few other bits and bob's.  The flies would have been tied in hand, rather than in a vise.

The unattractive little fly became an image stuck in my mind.  Finally I decided to tie something similar, though in a vise. I tossed the scraggly little creation in my fly-box and vowed to use it on my next outing.  Though it shouldn't come as a surprise by now, the fish responded well, until all the material came off the hook.  I would have been too embarrassed to show anyone that fly, for fear that they would think I had no skills at the vise, but I was enormously pleased.

Reflecting on this experience, I decided to take this little rumination a step further.  

First I secured the necessary materials, an old mint tin and some magnet material with adhesive backing.

One strip was cut to fit the length of the tin: this will secure a few hooks.  For this little experiment I used a Dai-Riki #135 scud hook in size 12 and 14.

As you can see,  I added a few pieces of various colored hackle and some silk thread.  With these small spools of Pearsall's silk, the lid will still close properly.  All I need are a small pair of scissors and my kit will be complete.

I went ahead and tried to tie one by hand with no vise.  The result will look horrific to veteran fly-tiers (including myself), but the result is not too far off from that in the video.

So what's the point you may ask?  Not much except for being a fun little mental exercise and historical reflection. I do think it will be satisfying to take a rod, line, and this little box and nothing else.  There, on the bank of a mountain stream, I will tie a fly in hand and take a fish on it.  I think little reflections like this are becoming increasingly common with those that enjoy crafting a skill set as a hobby.  These exercises don't prove or validate anything; rather I think they gift the practitioner with a deeper connection to the thing they love doing.


  1. Very nice. Those little mint tins are a fly fisher's best friend. So many uses. Wish you well with the "in-hand" tying, I've tried, but always seem to go back to the vise.

    1. Hey Michael, thanks for stopping by. I did a time-lapse video of me tying that fly, and as I watched it, I was laughing at how much my brow was furrowed the whole time! Hand-tying certainly won't replace my Dyna-King vise, but it is a fun little side project.