Hook: Daiichi 1750 or X472 #2-#6
Thread: MFC 6/0 or UTC 140, Color to match
Rib: Fine Silver Wire
Body: Arizona Simi Seal
Wing/Tail: 4 Dyed Grizzly Neck Feathers Tied Matuka Style
Gills: Shchlappen, Red
Collar: Deer Hair
Head: Deer Hair, spun and clipped to sculpin shape
Eyes (Optional): Prism Molded Eyes
Tying Notes: Vary the wing, body and head colors including brown, tan, black and dark olive to match various sculpin species.
Matukas are a tying style consisting of 2 or more feathers or a fur strip bound vertically along the body of a fly using wire, tinsel, Crystal Flash or other ribbing material. The Matuka or Matuku as it was originally known in its native New Zealand immigrated to North America in the early 70’s. Original Matukas were tied using the feathers from a local species of Bittern, a member of the Heron family, known to native Maoris as a Matuku. Over time the Matuku became supplanted as the Matuka, the name most tiers know today.
Matuka bodies and wings blended with a large broad head of spun and clipped deer hair or lamb’s wool make excellent sculpin imposters. Dave Whitlock’s Sculpin is arguably the most famous Matuka sculpin dressing and my Matuka Sculpin traces its roots directly by to Dave’s original concept. Capable of surviving in both fresh and saltwater environments bottom dwelling sculpins occupy a board range across North America making them favoured and abundant prey. Surviving amongst the bottom cobble and debris sculpins dart and crawl using their prominent pectoral fins. Fish eggs are a favoured prey item and sculpins frequently rob redds. Larger predators such as trout and smallmouth bass repay this thievery by pounding sculpins and sculpin patterns with reckless abandon. From rivers to lakes and saltwater estuaries Matuka style sculpin patterns are a recommended fly box inhabitant for any fly fisher.
Although tricky to master at first Matukas offer a number of benefits. Commonly used to suggest a variety of baitfish the Matuka style also lends itself well to leech patterns and broad steelhead flies. Their generic profile matches a broad spectrum of forage fish. In addition, Matuka construction techniques result in durable flies that do not foul the hook. A frustration with some baitfish designs.
The challenge mastering Matuka patterns is wing preparation and the techniques required to secure it vertically on top of the body. Practically any feather can be manipulated into a Matuka wing. Hen and cock neck feathers offer a broad profile that match many baitfish, sculpins in particular. Hen cape and soft hackle feathers are favoured by many due to their wide webby profile. Saddle hackles can be used as well to create a slender narrow silhouette. Strung saddles work fine but capes and saddles allow tiers to pick and choose feathers as pattern style and size dictate. Fur strips also make ideal Matuka wings and are easier to work with making them a great training tool for trickier feather wings. Popular fur choices include Zonker cuts of rabbit, mink, squirrel and muskrat.
Proper wind preparation is key, especially when using feathers. Traditional Matuka’s use 4 feathers for the wing. Substituting webby feathers such as hen cape or pheasant rump allow tiers to half this number. For a 4 feather wing create 2 pairs by aligning 2 feathers by the tips. Using the thigh as a surface for feather alignment works quite well. When working from a cape align the right sided and left sided feathers together. Take the 2 pairs and align them by the tips maintaining a firm controlled grip with the thumb and forefinger. Once aligned the natural left and right curvatures of the pairs cancel each other out forming a straight wing. Matuka wings are a hands on experience. It is critical to control the feathers so they behave as one.
With the wing feathers aligned measure the wing against the hook shank so it is between 1.5-2 times the shank length depending upon individual preference and the suggested forage and trim the butts. While still maintaining a firm grip on the feathers strip the barbs in small bites from butt to tip area from the lower portion of the stem that will lie along the body. Large aggressive strips often result in pulling and misaligning the feathers. The wing is now ready for tie in. Holding the wing so the fibres stand vertically along the body bind the butts down by encircling them around the hook shank with 2 controlled wraps before increasing thread pressure. This technique causes the thread to collapse around the material equally thereby avoiding thread torque rolling the materials around the hook. Add additional thread wraps to ensure a firm tie in. Gently squashing the butt area with flat nose pliers also helps keep the wing from twisting during the tie in process. Once again, deliberate controlled hand movements keep the wing together.
Prior to securing the wing along the body take one half turn of the ribbing so it hangs directly down below the body. This trick ensures the initial securing wrap binds the wing down onto the body, not behind it on the shank. Lay the wing down the center of the body. Pinch it at the bend of the hook and do not let go until the wing is secure. Using saliva or water moisten the wing and stroke it forward to stand and separate the fibres. Using a zigzag motion weave the rib through the wing using even open spirals. A dubbing needle can be used to assist clearing a path through the wing for the rib. The initial wrap is the trickiest. Each successive wrap becomes easier as the wing is secured. Applying securing pressure to the rib on the down stroke seats the wing on top of the body and avoids the ribbing motion shifting the wing out of place. With each wrap inspect the wing to free any trapped or misplaced fibres. If the wing is out of place at all it can be easily manipulated back into position during these inspections as well.
Matuka’s are as versatile today as they were when they first arrived in North America over 30 years ago. In addition to forage fish patterns remember the Matuka style works for slender flowing leech patterns and broad steelhead flies that stand out on the swing of a greased line presentation. Make a point of scattering a few designs through your fly boxes.
1) Cover the rear 2/3rds of the hook shank with tying thread. Leaving the front 1/3 of the hook clear establishes a proportional goal post ensuring there is enough room for the deer hair head. Tie in the fine silver wire along the near side of the hook. Using a dubbing loop form the body and wind it forward to the 2/3rds point on the shank, tie off and trim the excess.
2) Take 4 grizzly neck hackles (2 left and 2 rights) and align them by the tips. Holding the matched feathers firmly by the tips measure them against the hook shank. Trim the paired feathers so they are 1 ˝ to 2 times the hook shank.
3) Still maintaining a firm grip on the matched feathers strip the fibres from the lower half in small sections. Stripping large sections in an aggressive manner may result in miss-aligning the feathers. Tie in the 4 matched feathers on top of the hook directly in front of the body by the butts. Wrap the tying thread around the butts using 2 loose controlled wraps prior to tightening. This helps ensures the feathers do not roll out of position. Using a pair of flat nose pliers or forceps to squash the quills at the tie in point also works well. Take the wire rib and make one half turn so the wire is hanging directly below the body.
4) Moisten the fingers and gently stroke the matched feathers so the fibres stand perpendicular to the stem. Wind the wire through the wing using even and open wraps. A dubbing needle or similar tool can be used to help part the fibres in conjunction with a gentle zigzag winding motion with the wire. Apply tension to the wire to seat the wing on top of the body on the downward stroke on the far side of the hook. This avoids torque pulling the wing out of position. Tie off the wire at the front of the wing and using a gentle pulling and twisting motion break away the excess.
5) Tie a red schlappen feather in place in front of the body, wet fly style. Wind the schlappen feather 3-4 times around the hook. Tie off and trim the excess feather. Using the thumb and forefinger sweep the schlappen fibres down and back and tie in place. Pinching the schlappen along the body after tie in further augments the swept back posture of the fibres.
6) Trim a clump of dear hair fibres from the hide about the diameter of pencil. Remove the soft fur and shorter fibres from the clump. Even the prepared deer hair tips in a hair stacker. Measure the stack so the tips extend back half way down the body. Still holding the stack between the thumb and forefinger trim the butts almost flush. Place the stacked deer hair on the hook in front of the body. Make 2 controlled wraps around the deer hair and then apply tension. Do not allow the collar to spin. Continue winding the tying thread through the deer hair butts securing it in place. Pack the deer hair collar against the body, hackle and wing using the thumb and forefingers or a hair packer.
7)Prepare a second clump of deer hair in the same manner as the collar. Trim the tips so the prepared deer hair stack is about 1 inch long. Lay the deer hair stack across the shank in front of the collar. Encircle the stack using 2 loose wraps. Continue winding the thread with tension as the hair begins to flare release the deer hair and allow it to spin. Continue winding thread though the spun hair to secure it. Pack the deer hair back to clear the hook eye. Avoid packing the hair too much as this adds buoyancy. Stack and spin a second clump of deer hair if necessary but avoid crowding the hook eye. Build a neat head, whip finish and apply head cement.
8) Remove the fly from the vise. Trim the spun deer hair head to a triangular sculpin shape, flat along the bottom and tapered back along the top and sides. Using Zap-A-Gap or Goop affix a pair of moulded eyes along each side of the head.