Text and Images Copyright April 2000, Juro Mukai (All Rights Reserved)

and the Matuka Rat

Original Steelhead Pattern and Illustrations
by Juro Mukai


While I was learning to appreciate the generous concept of summer run steelhead, I was given a tip from a guy at the Swallows Nest in Seattle.  He told me to go short-line muddlers in the whitewater below the waterfall in the Snoqualmie River near my home.  One summer morning with the mist from the falls cooling the basin, I went rock-hopping to flip deerhair headed flies in the pockets and slots in the fast water run.  It reminded me of fishing in trout streams as a teen, probing the wakes of boulders for brookies.  Just about as I was thinking it ridiculous to be fishing with 6 feet of floating line out of the guides, a 30" summer run steelhead swiped hard on the muddler and cleaned the reel out as it cartwheeled down the rapids leaving me in a state of pure shock.  In that technique, it's the bouyant instability of the deerhair head in the gurgling wakes of boulders that makes the fly irresistible to the fish.

Later that same season, I was walking the trail along a river that feeds the mighty Columbia and saw a fly fisherman land and release a nice summer run steelhead.  As I was working my way over to the shore upriver from him to follow through, his drag began to scream again as he fought another steelhead.  As I followed him through the run, he lost a fly to a rock and when he tied on a new one I saw what appeared to be a 4" long black fur snake.  It was a black marabou articulated leech, I came to find out.

When I went back to the tying bench, my thoughts were filled with animated muddler headed black leeches - and here is the result.  I am happy to say that this original pattern has seduced a significant number of steelhead (summer and winter) over the years and is on the short list for a must-have patterns in my box.

Getting Started

You'll need a stacker for the deer hair heads, but we'll talk about that in detail later.

I prefer the loop eye salmon style hooks like the Tiemco 7999.  Daichi, Alec Jackson, Partridge of Redditch, Gamakatsu, and other companies offer up-turned loop eye salmon hooks.  The most common size I tie is #1, but will tie down to #8 and up to #2/0.

For this pattern, I prefer a medium grain coastal deer dyed in black or the color you want the bunny rat to be.  You might match the rabbit color to the deer hair, or go with the classic muddler natural deer look, it's up to you.

Silly Wabbit...

All bunny strips are not created equal.  First off, there are two primary styles: (a) bunny or zonker strips (b) crosscut rabbit strips.

The diagram shows that plain strips are cut vertically so the hide lays in the middle of the fur.

On the other hand, crosscut is sliced at an angle such that the fur lays to one side, making it more appropriate for palmering on leech bodies. 

Each has it's place.  The crosscut wouldn't make a good matuka wing because it would flop to one side.  The zonker style (plain) palmers very thickly and may end up leaving you with a fur-ball body when palmered.

Simple Steps

First, tie a piece of plain rabbit strip in to serve as the tail.  I always trim the hide on the end into a point to ensure the tail has a tapered fur-only tip.

Next tie in a cross-cut strip by the end of the hide so that the fur lays down along the body of the fly with the hair tips pointing to the rear.  Palmer this 3/4 up the shank, leaving enough to spin a deerhair head.

Stack and spin the deerhair head, trimming to form the characteristic muddler head.

Stacking Deer Hair

For all deerhair spinning applications, it helps to stack the hair.  This simply lines up the tips of the deer hair fibers.  You do this to get the circular fringe effect common to muddler minnow heads, etc. 

The "stacker" device shown above is what you need.  The stackers come with (a) a removable cylinder insert and (b) a heavy body housing.  To use, just cut a bundle of hair and place with the tips DOWN into the cylinder.  The cylinder has a flared end to assist the insertion of fibers and indicate which end goes in the stacker body.  Place the cylinder (fibers shown sticking out) into the stacker body and tap on a table as if you're trying to bounce it off the table.  Of course it won't, but the proper shock will be applied and the tips will be evened out inside the stacker.  Take out the cylinder and allow the hairs to slide out.  The fibers will be aligned at the tips, and the irregularities in lengths will be on the cut ends, not the tips of the fibers.

Spin the hair to leave a fringe of deerhair like a collar above the palmered rabbit body.  Trim the deerhair to form the muddler head.

Cousin Matuka Rat

The Matuka Rat uses all plain (zonker) strips and incorporates a dubbed body and either multi-layer pearlescent mylar tinsel for ribbing -or- silver french tinsel.

(1) Tie in tail as usual, then attach 2 doubled-over strips of pearl mylar (thus four rib strips all together).  Leave the rib for later.

(2) Actually, I drew it backwards - tie in another zonker-style bunny strip by the back end of the hide (fibers pointing rear)

(3) Spin a dubbing loop with a nice and gnarly seal fur or SLF dubbing.  Dub over the 3/4 of the body.

(3) Lay the Matuka strip down and secure 3/4 up the shank.

(4) Ignore sketch! ;-) Rib with mylar so that the matuka strip on the back gets a distinct ribbing effect.  Stop at 3/4 and tie in a throat of guinea fowl marabou, or a tuft of rabbit fur in a red or other highlight color.

(5) not shown - spin the muddler head just like you did for the bunny rat.

The dubbing spinner

The two hooks grab a loop of tying thread at the bottom of the loop.  The dubbing is placed along the length of the open loop, then this brass spinner is spun like a top from the handle protruding from the bottom.  It spins the loop into a tightly dubbed material just like chenille!

Options for throat material

Because the Matuka is not palmered, you can place a throat over the end of the dubbing and ribbing before you put a muddler head on it.

Options include: guinea fowl, marabou or a tuft of rabbit (arctic fox, badger, etc).  I prefer a contrasting color like red or purple.

Text and Images Copyright April 2000, Juro Mukai (All Rights Reserved)