fly tying Ken Sawada wet fly

Great Sedge – Ken Sawada wet fly

One of the original flies I have in my collection from the great Japanese fly tyer Ken Sawada. The great sedge is one of his original patterns from, I believe 1984.

TAIL — Very small golden pheasant topping.
BODY — Gold flat tinsel, ribbed with silver oval.
HACKLE — Honey dun on the body, brown partridge at throat.
WING — Speckled pheasant tail.

Far from wool and a feather duster

Kenichiro Sawada started his tying career by attaching knitting yarn and tatty hackles from an old feather duster to the shank of a fishing hook with sewing thread.  Little did he know that five decades later he would be one of the most celebrated and distinguished fly tyers of our time. 

His home country of Japan, is recorded as having more sport fishermen per capita than any other country in the world, and fishing with flies has old traditions, but It wasn’t until the early seventies that western style fly fishing established serious followers there.  In these early days tackle and flies where hard to come by and most lovers of the sport had to resolve to making there own.  There where two kinds of traditional fly existing in Japan at this time, the first for catching Ayu (sweetfish)  these where rather like a traditional wet fly as we know it-says Ken, beautifully coloured on size 18 hooks, but because of their minute size only experienced professionals could tie them correctly.  The second was for Japanese trout, this was the simplest of nymphs, that we where all able to fashion with the most basic tools and materials.  Today however, fly fishing has established its self as the most popular type of game fishing in Japan.

Fishing of course, like for most fly dressers, was the foundation, or spring board in Kens case, for his fly-tying.  When I began to fish for salmon seriously, he say’s  , my main destination was Scotland,  and if  I’m absolutely honest, it wasn’t just the fishing, but the event as a whole.  The opportunity to present a Spey fly to a Spey salmon in a named pool, there was something very special about that, along with the tradition and atmosphere that surrounds it.  

The only flies I don’t tie are nymphs,
“That is simply because they are not at all beautiful” 

In 1988 Ken Sawada devoted himself to tying only salmon flies, for his book “The Art of the Classic Salmon Fly” but before then he had tied dry, wet, streamer and salt water flies, many of which are now standard patterns in Japan. When I questioned him about nymphs, he replied “ The only flies I don’t tie are nymphs, That is simply because they are not at all beautiful.  This I believe is Ken Sawadas fly tying philosophy  in a nutshell, if it isn’t beautiful its not worth tying ! 

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