Gluing Crap to Hooks by Mark Usyk

There’s a lot of terms and sayings today that are watered down. They get thrown around like an old baseball. At one time there was a signature on it that made it great. Then the kids got a hold of it, and now it’s been hit and tossed around so much that whatever may have been on it before means nothing now. It’s just an old dirty ball. “Taking it to the next level is one of those sayings. Every business seems to have used it at this point, begging the question exactly how many levels are there? And if it’s so easy to take it to the next level, as we see it in almost every mission statement and product statement, why don’t they just skip all the intermediates and go straight to the highest level?

“Epic is my biggest pet peeve currently over the past couple years. The invention of the wheel was probably one of man kind’s first true epic inventions, and sliced bread is somewhere in the top ten to be sure. But today epic gets used for everything from all of the year’s top block buster movies, half of which are remakes of classics that fall short of the originals and therefore the only thing epic about them becomes their failures to make money , all the way down to that epic party the neighbors teenagers went to last weekend. These kids haven’t got a clue what “epic” is, and they use it to describe pretty much everything. Dude, that movie was epic. Bro, that was an epic fight. Oh man, did you see his brother’s new mustang? That car is epic. Epic doesn’t mean anything close to what it used to anymore, it’s slapped all over everything and worth about 25cents these days…which isn’t even enough for a handful of candy out of a machine at the mall anymore. Hardly anything is epic. Get over it.

But in our world, the fly fishing world, there’s one term that I hear constantly that’s used over and over. In the beginning it was about trout and bugs. Bugs hatch, trout eat’em. But now that fly fishing has become what the cool kids do, it’s another term that gets watered down, used more and more for something it doesn’t really mean. People throw streamers at predators, sometimes just a mess of feathers and fur glued to a hook, it looks alive in the water, and it catches fish. Cool. I get it, I even do it myself. It doesn’t need to look like anything in real life sometimes except alive. Don’t believe me? Look at some of the soft plastic lures the spin and bait casting anglers toss. They look like a conglomeration of animals that may or may not live in the water and that were accidentally fused together in a horrible nuclear accident. And they catch fish. But I digress. The term I’m picking on here is “Match the hatch” as used to describe using a pattern that doesn’t imitate an insect in the various stages of it hatching at all, but instead using it when throwing streamers tied to imitate a particular bait fish that the target fish feed on. Imitating a known local food source other than hatching insects.

Matching the hatch could mean anything now, from tying on a mayfly emerger all the way up to tossing a duckling tied with spun deer hair to pike and musky. The latter, now that I think about it doesn’t support my argument at all of misusing the term since I guess if pike are picking off baby ducklings behind momma then they actually did just hatch. So sue me. Anyhow, if you’re a streamer junkie like me and you want a pattern that might match a particular bait fish where you’re headed and you know what’s in there, then you can change up the colors in this tie to match that particular little morsel. Or if it makes you happy, you can tell your buddies you tied up some particularly killer streamers to “match the hatch.”

Step 1.   Put a hook in the vice. I’m tying on a nice Peak rotary vice. Before this I used a cheap knock off of a Regal, and before that a really cheap thing that came in a kit. The nicer the vice, the easier your job can be, but I’ve seen some guys start out with a hook held in a vice grip that was held in a vice. Seriously. If you don’t have a vice, I bet you could get a kid to hold the hook. So right now, either call one of the kids in from the other room or stick a hook in the vice. And don’t ask me what size. How big do you want this streamer to be? I’m not making your decisions for you. Pick the hook already.

Now start your thread wrap. Wrap the shank like the picture, give or take, and as you can see I have a few wraps of lead in there because I like my streamers to sink just a little more. If you really have a little kid holding the hook for you, at this point, probably before you even got to the lead you must be realizing the whole kid thing was a bad idea. Get a vice. You’re never going to finish the fly otherwise and the kid is going to grow up hating anything to do with fly fishing and tying because you’ve already told them to hold it tighter and to hold still a dozen times. Vice. Get one.

Step 2. Take a hackle, grey, and tie it in at the start of the bend. I use the tip of large hackles, I make them about the same length as the hook. Make it longer or shorter, I don’t really care. This is your pattern, I’m just showing you the order in which I tie them. Stop asking so many questions.

Step 3. I like craft fur. I buy it in large patches at the craft stores, the same stores where you can by beads and fabric and yarn and fake plants and Christmas decorations year round. I like it because it soaks up water almost immediately unlike some natural materials like marabou that you have to drown. Pretty much as soon as this fake crap that was made in China or Taiwan hits the water it’s acting like you want it to, ready to go. This pattern is two tone grey and olive, so I’m starting with grey barred craft fur and tying in a small bit, laying it over the top of the hackle.

Step 4. Take the thread forward to right about the beginning of the lead. If you didn’t tie in any lead don’t sweat it, just take the thread to about an 1/8”, maybe more like 3/32”, behind the hook eye. How important are these measurements to follow? Well, you’re tying in flash at this spot meant to give some sparkle to the length of the fish, but I’d proportion it by eye more than specific measurements… Fisherman are no good with measurements. We all lie about them. When you’ve got the thread around an 1/8” behind the hook eye, give or take four inches, tie in 4 or 5 strands of flash on the left flank and then the right. I cut them a little short of the tail. Don’t ask me why, that’s just how I like it.

Step 5. Take a tuft of olive craft fur about ¾’s of the length of the hook and tie it in over the flash in the same place, making sure that it’s tied in all around the hook, nice and full on both sides. This will be the middle color of the whole two tone thing. It doesn’t have to be a lot. As a matter of fact as you play with these you may find that with some craft furs sparse is better. You’ll figure it out.

Step 6. More grey barred craft fur. Tie on a good length of it on the top side. It should reach from a little behind the hook eye to about a quarter of the way down the hackle. Remember not to crowd the hook eye during the steps, you need room to finish the thread. If at this point you’re shaking your head and unwrapping thread… I feel your pain.

Step 7. Grab a sparse amount of craft fur, either more of the grey or as I used here white. This will be the belly. Tie it in in the bottom side, a little shorter than the grey on top. “A little shorter.” Sorry I’m not giving you very specific instructions, but you didn’t buy an expensive fly pattern book at Barnes and Noble. You’re reading a blog by a guy who usually tells fish stories and didn’t have anything to write about this week so he thought he’d dazzle you with bullshit. Is it working?

Step 8. Eyes. I used 3D holographic eyes, but I’m not saying you have to put eyes on them at all. Maybe you’d have better luck presenting a pattern to predators that looked like it was blind. Stands to reason that a jerk like a pike or a bully like a smallmouth would pick on a blind fish faster than a fish giving it the old evil eye, but what do I know. I’m not a fish. I’m the guy with thousands of dollars in gear and hundreds of hours of my time dedicated to catching something with a brain the size of a pea and then letting it go again. Why would you take anything I have to say seriously?

Anyways. Finish your thread wrap, whip finish the thing and cut it off. Then place a couple eyes at the front where the colors all come together and either super glue them on or use one of those fancy UV finishes like I did. It’s new to me, but it’s faster and you can build up a head pretty fast and easy. I cover the eyes and the thread wrap up to the hook eye with the UV stuff and light it up. Done.

It might look good in the vice, but it’s what a streamer looks like wet that’s truly important. However big or small you tie them, in whatever colors you tie them, these things look pretty killer in the water. Switch your colors to whatever it is that fears the big fish where you’re going and tie about ten of them. Because your fishing buddies are going to want them too. And everyone wants to be the hero. Unless you want to be the jerk catching all the fish themselves. Then don’t hand’em out. Tell them to match the damn hatch themselves.