There is some time now that I have known that some Japanese anglers were tying kebari with a dubbing whose fibers are from some plants including the Osmunda Japonica fern which is called Zenmai Watage.
Young shoots are harvested in spring to be cooked as these sansai are very popular among the Japanese anglers who roam the mountains in search of yamame, amago or iwana.
I have been really interested by the idea of using vegetable fibers and I find it is logical as in the past anglers certainly had to tie their kebari without buying anything so they were using easy to find materials...what more common than fern in forest covered mountains?!
The spring in my area was literally rotten so I hardly had time to harvest anything to do dubbing from but I am lucky enough to know a shop that is managed by someone who sells some...I did spend a few euros to buy a bag of zenmai watage.
The fibers of this dubbing have a "caramel" color, they are extremely thin and each "strand" is very dense so in my opinion a small quantity of this dubbing is probably enough to tie a huge amount of kebari. After watching carefully these fibers I think they are used as dubbing because of the incredible variations in the color that make these, when tied on hook, look like the skin of an insect and we all know that bugs are not solid colored. Anyway I am convinced of the merits of these natural materials and they perfectly fit my approach of fly tying which not to use synthetic neither expensive materials.
Kebari tied with this dubbing are called "zenmai-dou". I offer to you a fly tying sheet:
1/ You will need these materials:
-8/0 black tying thread
-Zenmai watage fibers
-Natural peacock herls
-Cock neck feather (grizzly)
-Owner shinobi hooks
-Griffin natural silk (black)
2/ The tools you will need are:
-A bobin holder
-A whip finish tool
-A pair of scissors
3/ Fix the hook in the vice and wrap the tying thread around the hook shank. Trim the excess at the bend of the hook if there is some.
4/ Cut a strand of silk three times as long as the hook shank.
5/ Bend the strand of silk in half and attach it to the hook shank by tight wraps of tying threads to obtain a strong tapered underbody. Trim the excess of the silk strand. I personally do this to have a 4-5 mm silk loop to make the tying of the tippet easier.
6/ Dub some zenmai watage fibers on the tying thread.
7/ Wrap the dubbing around the hook, four turns are enough. Then fix on the hook two natural peacock herls with tight wraps of tying thread.
8/ Twist the peacock herls together and wrap them two turns around the hook shank. Secure with the tying thread and trim the excess of herls.
9/ Fix at its foot a cock neck feather on the hook.
10/ Wrap the cock feather around the hook shank. Two turns are enough. I follow the advices of Japanese anglers who do their hackles sparse; as Rokumi Tsukamoto kindly reminded me not so long ago insects only have six legs!
Trim the feather excess and wrap your tying thread tight for a few turns to make a strong head to your kebari. Use the whip finish tool to easily make the finishing knot and cut the tying thread.
Your zenmai-dou is finished!
In case you don't want to wait for next spring to harvest fern you can purchase this dubbing on the excellent web-shop tenkaraya.com of my friend Keiichi Okushi.
This dubbing is sold in bags that contain 0.12 oz for the price of 6.80 USD, each contains enough dubbing to tie dozens of flies so it is really cheap.