Why A Purple Kebari?

Probably, the earliest mention of the color purple in fly fishing and fly tying was the Starling and Purple Soft Hackle fly pattern. And, for sure, purple is probably a more popular tying color today than it has ever been in the past but, there is good reason purple tying materials should be used more frequently in the future than they are being used today. For more information, check out the link below:

I was reading over some old fishing logs the other day and I discovered something I had forgotten all about: At some point in the past, purely out of curiosity, I tied up some Hares Ear and Pheasant Tail Nymphs with Purple Marabou Tails, which probably just took up space in my fly box for at least a year or more as I did not have any confidence in their ability to catch fish. But, when I did finally try one on a bass pond, I found they did an uncommonly good job of catching bluegill and bass in the Foot Hill Ponds. And later on trout, including on golden trout in the High Lakes, they also caught fish like crazy. But for some reason I can not explain, I did not replace the flies as I lost them and there are no Purple Tailed Flies in my present carrying stock, which is an oversight I fully intend to correct in the not very distant future. After doing a little research, I found the above information and a possible reason for why those Purple Tailed Nymphs caught fish so well, they were very easy for the fish to see in clear water and the wiggly marabou action tails really caught the fish’s attention, so I thought I would pass it on to all of you here who are interested enough to read the information. 65 feet of Pulling Power is a Very Strong Advantage for Tenkara’s limited casting range, especially on lakes…Karl.


I used to tie quite a few with purple thread and always had good luck. I haven’t tied any in a while using purple and I probably should.

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Thanks for the article. I also use purple in fly patterns,…purple haze, purple threaded soft hackles, purple & black chenille for jig streamers, Chernobyls… but never in a marabou tail. I’ll have to give it a try.

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I just like purple haze in place of black. Not sure if it makes a difference but i like the looks of it. It is my dark fly and the shetland oyster is my light fly.



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I have fished a purple bodied fly on and off since the 1960s. The Snipe & Purple, a North Country spider fly has been one of my most prolific catchers, whether it be river or lake.
These days I use a variation, called a, Henthorne Purple, which still uses the purple silk or thread but a Mallard wing covert hackle instead of a Snipe hackle. It also has a thorax of peacock herl - mainly to ‘support’ the hackle enabling it to have more ‘kick’.
See below

However as I now only fish with a fixed line fly rod I have been ‘meddling’ with my favoured North Country spiders by tying them, but with a reversed hackle. I mostly fish a deep, wide canal for small English freshwater species and I am interested to see if the reverse hackle is an improvement on the usual hackle.
Here is my version of a Snipe & Purple tied with a reverse Snipe hackle and purple thread body. You will note there is a similarity to the Italian Valsesiana flies still fished today.


At the time I tested the Purple Tailed Nymphs, I was also in the process of discovering how effective Foam Terrestrial Fly Patterns were, and that development completely overshadowed how effective the Purple Tailed Nymphs were, so I did not replace them as I lost them.

Purple materials in Light and Dark Blue Clear Colored Waters appear to be Black, as Purple will also appear to be in Green colored waters. But in Red/Brown colored waters, Purple materials maintain some of their Purple Character. Non-FL Red shifts to a dark Gray/Black in the Blue and Green colored waters, while turning to a light White in Red/Brown colored waters, while Purple (though not looking Purple exactly) maintains a very high degree of visibility for fish in all the different water color and lighting conditions, with FL-Purple doing about the best that can be done. But if you go with FL-Purple, do not use more than 30% of the total surface area of the fly for your Hot Spot, or you may overwhelm the Color Cone Cells in the fish’s eyes and they will refuse the fly.


I too like the purple and snipe; however, snipe has become difficult to acquire here in the US and if one does find it, it is expensive. As such, I switched and now tie a purple and starling with regular success. Besides, starling is one of my favorite feathers to use.

I tie a few others with purple as well. I find them to be highly successful when fishing for brook trout, but have also had success with browns and rainbows.

This one is made with purple embroidery thread purchased from a craft shop near where my partner works.

  • Scud hook
  • Purple embroidery thread
  • Black wire rib
  • Starling hackle

I believe this next one was inspired by @Paul_Gaskell.

  • Scud or nymph hook (I use either)
  • Purple thread
  • Peacock herl
  • Hen pheasant hackle

I’m not sure where the idea for this one came from, but it fishes very well in the spring, where I live.

  • Nymph hook
  • Purple thread
  • Peacock herl
  • Ginger cock hackle


Very interesting. I’ve never heard this before. Here in northern New England, all of our waters are highly tannic; as such, even when “crystal clear”, they are very brown.

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Purple and violet were definitely my confidence colors this year, worked great everywhere for trout.

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@Peder Peder, you did a beautiful job on those flies. I take my hat is off to you.


After doing a little more looking around, I found a better explanation for why blue/purple and violet are highly effective winter fly colors. It is not that the fish are partial to blue and purple, but because they can see blue and purple from much farther away, which provides the fish with a greater amount of stimulation for a much longer period of time to stimulate them to take flies tied in those colors.

Going from the Longest to the Shortest Wave Lengths, the Spectral Colors are: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Violet. The longest wave length color (Red) is absorbed by water in the shortest distance, with each succeeding color being visible from farther away. During the winter the sun is low in the sky and the light is very weak, so the colors that have the strongest powers of visibility will stimulate the fish the most and tend to catch more fish.

Although both purple and black are very dark colors in all water colors, I have read many accounts that purple colored flies tend to catch more fish than black flies do in the same water color and lighting conditions. So, how can that be?

Black is not a color! What appears to be black is the absence of light of any color. Below the depth or distance red light can travel in water, there is no red light to be reflected back to our or the fish’s eyes, so a red object wii appear to be black. But a purple object that looks like it is black, will be projecting purple light back into the fish’s eyes, stimulating it’s brain, where the black fly provides no stimulation to the fish’s brain at all and the fish can tell the difference, so they tend to take more purple flies than black ones…Karl.


Awhile back I tied this pattern specifically for winter and it worked really well. I was surprised that large trout would move on it even with some very cold water temps. They may have hit whatever, but I did try some red and other colors and didn’t seem to get much action.


Since first reading this post, it is interesting to note the number of flies that have the colour purple in their dressing.
I have an interest in North Country flies (England) that go back to the 17th Century. There are a few patterns with purple especially early season ones, several of which are flies that are also used in the Autumn.


I’ve been reading a little about North Country flies recently and noted a similar trend. Most of what I’d found was that purple silk seemed to be popular in late winter and spring. However, as the water temperatures increase, the efficacy of purple appeared to decrease.

Whilst slightly off topic, I have also found it interesting that often brighter colors like purple, orange, and others were well accepted in North Country patterns. Yet it seems to some degree (though not exclusively) that those colors were too plebian and unrefined for flies used on the chalk streams of southern England. Another irony is that salmon flies could contain the entire color spectrum, but I digress.


Chris’ beautiful Blue pattern also demonstrates the High Contrast of Dark on Light and Light on Dark elements with the nearly White Hackle included on his pattern over the much darker Blue Body and the Purple Thorax elements in the pattern, which also really gets the fishes attention and elicits strike responses from same.

Peder’s comment about the falling off of purple productivity in warmer water temps is valid but, not necessarily because of the water temps all by themselves, but do to the water color changes that take place in the warmer parts of the year.

Gin clear water casts a Light Blue Coloration Background for the fish to view a fly against, so blue’s effectiveness will fall off in those conditions because it does not Stand Out against a blue background so the fish can easily see the fly. To Eat your Fly, the Fish Need To Be Able To See It.

Like wise in Turbid Colored Waters, what looks blue to us will shift to black as the fish see it, while Red and Orange will over load the fish’s color cone cells, turning them off and shifting to nearly White for them to see in that water color condition, with the Non-FL-Greens also shifting to Black like the Blues do. The Highest Hi-Vis Colors in Turbid Waters are Gold, Chartreuse and Black, so other colors shifting to Black is not a bad thing to have happen.

In Green Colored Waters, Fl-Red, FL-Orange and FL-Pink will provide the most Hot Spot Contrast, as will Black, Blue and Purple, which will all look Black to the fish. Whereas the Greens do not Stand Out all that much in Green Colored Waters. While Yellow really stands out to humans, it turns into a shade of Green for the fish.

FL-Chartreuse is a Special Case Color, because it maintains High Contrast with depth and distance in Light and Dark Blue Colored Waters, as well as in Red/Brown Turbid Colored waters. I suspect the anti-Red/Orange Color preferences of the Chalk Stream Anglers had more to do with their personal color tastes than it had anything to do with the fish. A case in point is the unexplained effectiveness that Orange Patterns show during Blue Winged Olive Hatches and Spinner Falls on the Chalk Streams, when those bugs appear to have an overall Gray Coloration, and the fish Preffered to Take an Orange Fake Fly Over the Real Gray Flies on the water.


Very interesting information @T-stillwater. Just out of curiosity, where are you getting the data from?

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The Best Of Trout And Salmon; The Scientific Angler; The Trout and the Fly; The Master Angler and Through The Fish’s Eye in book form, and from multiple on line sources I do not necessarily keep track of…Karl.


The following link will provide 4 visuals of the lure color shifts in the different water colors I have described above. It is most helpful if the photos can be arranged so the normal daylight, Green, Clear Blue, and Red/Brown Turbid colored water photos are arranged vertically, so you can view all 4 of them at the same time, which makes it easy to see the color shifts in each of the different water colors by viewing the same stack of lures in each water color. The colors that really POP are the Fluorescent Decorating Colors.



I am sorry that the above sight is no longer available because it was a very insightful article with a lot of good information…KARL

The link worked fine for me @T-stillwater. Here’s the file if anyone wants to see it and had problems.

fishalaska_may2010.pdf (565.9 KB)

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