Banshu fly-fishing flies

Banshu fly-fishing flies Banshu kebari

Tiny works of art on the wing
Feather, gold leaf and lacquer


What is Banshu fly-fishing flies ?

Kebari are fly-fishing flies, and Banshu Kebari are flies produced in Nishiwaki City, Hyogo Prefecture, the former Banshu region. They are characterized by their exquisitely fine workmanship; bird feathers wound with silk thread around a small 1 cm hook, and adorned with gold leaf and urushi lacquer become brilliant fleeting flies to catch a hungry fish.
Banshu Kebari are mainly for catching the ayu fish, and anglers can choose from many different types depending on the season, weather, or time of day. A variety of designs are also produced for other species of fish, and to meet such natural conditions as differing depths or water conditions; today upwards of 500 different types of fly are made.


Fishing flies likely to be the ancestors of those made today are mentioned in a Kyoto guide titled “Kyo Suzume Ato-oi (The Sparrow of the Capital, sequel)” printed in 1678 in the early Edo period, and it is clear that an artisan called Iemon was practicing his craft at that time. Moreover, in a geographical description and sightseeing brochure, Kyo Habutae (The Capital’s Silks) published in 1685, we find a description of a “fishing-fly head,” which lets us know that Iemon was selling fishing flies.
In the late Edo period, the production techniques were introduced to the Banshu region (present-day Hyogo Prefecture) from Kyoto, where fly-fishing for ayu had been popular since the Genroku era (1688-1704), in those days such work was regarded as a sideline of farmers. By the middle of the Meiji period (1868-1912), fly tying techniques were so artful that anglers were catching a remarkable number of fish; in consequence they repeatedly received awards at Angling Fairs or other exhibitions, helping publicize the good quality of Banshu Kebari among many anglers.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Base Lacquering Lacquer mixed with red pigment and polishing powder is applied by a paintbrush to the 5 mm body of a hook, which is then inserted into a special wooden rack and left to dry.
  2. 2. Pasting Gold Leaf After the lacquer has dried, the hook is removed from the rack. Tweezers are used to hold gold leaf to the body section; while rotating the hook, the gold leaf is pasted using a small bird feather or calligraphy brush.
  3. 3. Attaching a Small Lacquer Ball Lacquer, red pigment, and polishing powder are mixed until quite hard and a blob is attached first to the tip of a tatami needle, which is then used to shape a ball with a diameter of about 1 mm at the end of the gold leaf body. The hook is inserted into a rack to dry.
  4. 4. Pasting Gold Leaf A gold leaf sheet is cut into 5 mm squares and with tweezers one tiny gold leaf square is placed onto the lacquer ball. Using a small bird feather or calligraphy brush, the gold leaf is pasted, while the hook is rotated to shake off any excess gold leaf.
  5. 5. Attaching Coarse Silk Yarn The hook is naturally dried for at least 30 days and then it is inserted in a hand-held holder. Centering on the barb of the hook back, about 33 mm of coarse silk yarn is closely wound on the upper and lower parts 3 times each to a length of 1 mm or so.
  6. 6. Attaching Nylon Gut On the silk yarn about 33 mm nylon gut is placed along the hook, and the silk yarn is tightly wound 3 times up to the barb. A 5 mm tip of the nylon gut is bent toward the barb; the silk yarn is then wound about 6 times around the nylon gut to firmly secure and prevent it from coming away from the hook.
  7. 7. Winding the Feather Barb The hook is held between index finger and thumb tips, and one long barb from a chicken tail feather is laid above the hook end, which represents the rear end of the fly; the feather barb is closely wound about 7 times from the lower part of the inside toward the upper part of the outside and it must be ensured the posterior barbules are always facing toward the outside.
  8. 8. Attaching the Tails To fill out the whole shape of the fly, firstly a sparrow wing primary feather is used for the tails of the fly.
  9. 9. Wrapping the Body Several fine bird feathers are wrapped around one by one. There are five methods of wrapping the body, including a loose spaced and a tight close method.
  10. 10. Attaching Body Feathers Using a feather from the lower back of a Nagoya Cochin (a type of chicken) the barbs are neatly arranged and 6 of them are attached to form the body feathers, and placed in such a way as to surround the whole hook.
  11. 11. Attaching a Lacquer Ball A firm mix of lacquer and red pigment is attached to the tip of a tatami needle, and while rotating the hook, the head section of the fly is shaped as a ball with a pointed tip representing the top of the head. The hook is then inserted into a rack and left to dry.
  12. 12. Pasting Gold Leaf A gold leaf sheet is cut into rectangles each measuring 10 mm × 5 mm, and tweezers are used to hold one rectangle onto the lacquer ball. Using a small bird feather, the gold leaf is pasted, while the nylon gut is rotated to shake off any excess gold leaf and to complete the Banshu Kebari.

Where to Buy & More Information

Nishiwaki Kyodo Shiryokan

See more Other crafts

See items made in Hyogo