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Fly Tying Terms

By Brad Befus and John Berryman

I like the Matukas because they combine the fish-catching virtues of feathers with a mounting system that gives them a reasonable good chance of catching more than one fish. On the down side, Matukas do consume saddle hackles at a ferocious rate (four to six feathers per fly!), so this is an application for a patch of saddle hackle that you might find in a fly shop's "bargin bin."

There are about as many kinds of Matukas as there are tyers, and some of them (notably the Matuka Sculpins created by Dave Whitlock) can become quite elaborate. I'll take it easy on you, and we'll tie a simple olive grizzly/olive Matuka.

Materials List:

    Hook:   Streamer, sizes 2-6.

    Thread:   Black 6/0.

    Ribbing:   Fine copper, gold, or silver wire.

    Body:  Olive chenille (or dubbed olive rabbit fur, tapered olive floss, etc.).

    Gills (Optional):  A few turns of red chenille, red yarn, red fur dubbing, red floss, etc.

    Wing:  Four to six matched olive grizzly saddle hackles. (If the feathers are sparsely barbed, you'll need six; if they're heavily barbed, four.)

    Hackle:   Olive grizzly hackle.

    Eyes (Optional):   Painted or stick-on. (I really did some lily gilding with the demonstration fly and used eyes fashioned from expensive jungle-cock "eye" feathers, which your friends at the fly shop will be happy to sell you.)

Tying Instructions:

1. With the hook in the vise, start the thread at the bend. Tie in about three inches of fine wire. Then, tie in about three inches of chenille. Wrap the thread forward about three-quarters of the way down the shank.

2. Thinly coat the thread wraps with cement and wrap the chenille forward to where the thread stops. Tie down, half-hitch, and trim excess.

3. Tie in about an inch of red chenille, wrap forward to about two and a half eye widths from the eye, tie down, half-hitch, and secure excess.

4. Match the feathers, trim them to length, trim the bottom fibers, and secure the Matuka "wing" at the bend with one or two wraps of wire.

5. Spiral wrap the wire forward, remembering that you want to cross the feathers at right angles to avoid trapping any fibers, and that you can "groom" the feathers forward to make it easier for the wire to pass through them. Wrap to the front of the "gills," secure with thread, half-hitch, and trim excess wire.

6. Tie in the hackle by the butt, curve toward you (we want the fibers to slant back), and make three to four wraps forward. Tie down, trim excess, and form a tapered head. Add the eyes of your choice and coat head with cement.

Fishing the Matuka

Matukas look like fish, and thanks to their feather wings, they wiggle like fish too. You can combine the Matuka with many bodies. . .(How about a Matuka/Spruce streams, or tying a tailless Matuka wing over a Woolly Bugger body/tail combination?) Working with multiple feathers can be a bit tricky, and you may find the rate of feather consumption hard on your wallet, but what does any of that matter when you've got a fish on?

. . .Overall, it's been my experience that fly fishers (and particularly dyed-in-the-wool trout fly fishers) use streamers the least of any of the flies available. I think there may be two reasons for this: First, many anglers don't have much luck with streamers. Why? Because they are using the wrong leader and line combinations. Streamers do best with short leaders (as short as three feet) and sinking, or sink tips, lines. And even then, you must give the streamer time to sink! Before you cast, wet your streamer thoroughly, flip it out into the water, and assess its sink rate. Then, when you cast, you can "count down" your streamer (just like spin fishers count down their sinking plugs) and place it where it will do some good. In my experience, most "streamer failures" are related to simply not giving the things time to sink. Second, many fly fishers, while admirably schooled in the art of the "dead drift," are either at a loss, or uncomfortable, with actually giving a fly some action. Let me repeat what I said at the beginning of this chapter: Streamers swim. Watch schools of bait fish and observe the way they move. Experiement with your retrieves. Is your streamer a steady, purposefully swimming fish with a particular destination in mind? Is it darting around in search of tiny crustaceans and nymphs? Or is it a sick or crippled fish, struggling aimlessly? All of these retrieves are "found in nature," all of them are appropriate for use with streamers, and they all take fish at one time or anoter.

Observe, experiment, note results, and repeat as needed. ~ Brad and John

Credits: This fly is from a great new book Successful Fly Tying - A Lesson by Lesson Approach, Published by Pruett.

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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