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Herb's "Black Thread-and-Hen"

by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)

6 or 7 wraps of .015 wire are pushed toward the bend of the hook and covered with a tapered body of black thread.

6 or 7 wraps of .015 wire are pushed toward the bend of the hook and covered with a tapered body of black thread.

I’d like to pass along a great fly pattern for panfish from Herb S. up in Southwest Michigan. I’ve made a couple of little tweaks for my Texas warm water situations, but the credit goes to him for the original idea. He calls this pattern the “Black Thread-and-Hen,” and he presented the fly in a comment on a blog that I posted on the TenkaraBum website. The subject of my post was micro-fishing with the excellent Nissin Air Stage Hakubai 240. Herb suggested that the “Black Thread-and-Hen” might work well with this ultralight rod.

Boy, was he right! It’s easy to tie, even for ol’ fumble fingers here, and I’ve already caught lots of fish with it.

Here are the materials for my warm-water version: Daiichi 1120, size 14 hook; .015 lead free wire; suitable hackle; black 6/0 thread; and red floss. Herb’s original pattern does not include the wire or the floss, so I’d encourage you to try the fly both ways.

I put on 6 or 7 wraps of the lead-free wire and slide the wraps to the back third of the hook. I then cover the wire and the hook with black thread and taper the body. Next, I take about 3 wraps of 4-strand red floss on top of each other just in front of the wire. You don’t want to over-flash this fly. Finally, I palmer in two or three wraps of hackle in front of the floss and whip finish at the head. A touch of cement finishes the job. You might notice in the above photos that I used grizzly-colored dry fly hackle because . . . well . . . that’s what I had! The pictures show the process.

This fly has a moderate size and sink rate, which helps it work in many situations. The lead-free wire toward the bend makes the fly enter the water butt down and hackle up, which helps the hackle pulsate in the water. Also, the pattern resembles many aquatic insects but nothing in particular. It’s a great general attractor pattern, and the panfish in my area slam it with gusto. To my mind, the pattern follows the tradition of simple, effective flies such as the old Stewart’s black spider and the many kebari patterns. Rather than being exact imitations, these flies suggest life, movement, and natural coloration.

As a side note, I want to encourage other tenkara anglers to tie their own flies. As I’ve mentioned before in these posts, I suffer from a familial hand tremor that makes fly tying challenging, but you just stay after it. Hey, it’s good therapy, plus, there’s something special about catching a fish on a fly that you’ve tied with your own hands. Give it a go!

Again, many thanks to Herb S. in Southwest Michigan, who is the genesis for the Black Thread-and-Hen. It’s easy to tie, attractive to many panfish, and great for ultralight tenkara rods—a winning combination!

Comments for Herb's "Black Thread-and-Hen"

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Jul 10, 2017
Nice fly
by: Alan Luecke

Thank you for sharing a great all around fly. Using dry fly hackle on small panfish flies is an easy and efficient way to add bugginess without hackle pliers or individual feathers. I second your suggestion for people to tie their own flies. Start with Killer Bugs, Killer Buggers and this fly. They're simple easy and quick. They will catch everything and your conscious is clear when you put them in the trees.

Jul 10, 2017
Nice Tie, John!
by: Herb S.

Wow, a full dress version! That bright spot and grizzly hackle are really sexy, and much more visible than my plain black original (I live near Amish country ;-). Since I fish mine mostly near the surface above the weed beds your version is on my next to tie list. Good job!

I'm a fellow familial tremors victim, too, since 2011. It got much, much worse after my December heart attack and I thought my fly tying and maybe knot tying while fishing were over. But in May I finally got to a neurologist who prescribed 1/2 tablet per day and I'm back in business - not perfect but near normal. I hope you find relief, too.
Thanks for posting and pictures and...
Happy fishing!

Jul 10, 2017
Thanks for Comments
by: John Evans

Thanks for the nice comments, fellows. Herb, I've had my tremors all my life, since I was a teenager, but you just manage along . . . glad the docs had some medicine to help. Thanks again for suggesting the pattern. You know how it is, one angler describes a pattern and then we all start to tinker with it! Happy fishing!

Jul 11, 2017
Works in Idaho too
by: Les A.

I tied up a half dozen on a size 16 hook in the 100 plus degree afternoon and took my new Suntech Kurenai HM30R out for it's maiden voyage in the evening where I know there are lots of little sunfish. This is a great little fly and very easy to tie. Thanks Herb and John.

The most fun was when I cast it out counted to six and began a slow retrieve with little twitches. Who said a sunfish doesn't slam a fly hasn't fished Tenkara. I understand the amazement with the Suntech Kurenai HM30R now. What a sweet rod! I caught sunfish from 1.5 inches to 5 inches and all gave a fun fight! I fished with a level 2.5 line the length of the rod and 3 feet of 7x tippet. I just made up a line using some level 1 nylon Tenjo line to see how light I can go with this rod! It lawn casts well with 8x tippet and the 'Black Thread-and-Hen'.

Jul 11, 2017
Same Retrieve
by: John Evans

That's how I fish it, too. Cast, sink, slow twitch. Some flies are designed to catch fisherman, some catch fish--this is one of those fish-catchers!

Jul 12, 2017
Varied Retrieves, Fly Tying and Thanks Again
by: Herb S.

Thank you too, Les, for your report on the fly. Wow,the thing works hundreds of miles apart! Who'd have thunk it?

I "designed" the fly (sort of a Stewart
Spider/kebari/midge) to fish near the surface over weed beds where I could see the bites and not get hung up. Upstream I present it dead drift on a tight line by raising the rod, kind of like a puppet on a leash. Across and across and down, also on a tight line, I might twitch it, depending on the mood of the fish. This, as you no doubt know, is much easier to do with a fixed line rod than a standard fly rod, which is the advantage of seiryu-keiryu-tenkara. (Thanks, Chris!)

It's hard to imagine fly fishing with any tackle without fly tying to go with it. Even without the price savings, the fascination of the sport is at least doubled by being able to experiment and have quick access to the flies you want when you want 'em. Keep up the good work, fellas!

Happy Fishing,

Jul 15, 2017
Black Thread-Red Thread-and-Hen
by: Les A

I ran out of red floss, but have some nice red silk thread. For a variation, I tied the body with black tread, tied a tag of red thread and finished with a red head. The fish seem to like it! Or maybe it was my new TenkaraBum 40 rod that did the trick. Two things surprised me about this rod. First how smooth it is, and second how accurate I can cast with it. Every rod I have bought from this site has been excellent. However, Chris should toot his horn more about the rod he developed. By the way, you should go over to the "Teton Tenkra" blog and read Tom Davis' shootout between the TenkaraBum 36 and the Discover Tenkara 36 Karasu. -I bought the right rod!-

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