Like many Fly Fisherman readers, I’m aware that the Matuka streamer pattern came from New Zealand. I was not aware, however, how exactly that story came to be in Fly Fisherman in the late 1980s. Geoff Thomas of The New Zealand Herald traced not just the origins of the fly, but how the first American story on the fly came to appear in Fly Fisherman:
It started with an argument that developed as the night wore on: famous American trout fisherman and fly-tier Andre Puyans was adamant that the Matuka pattern of flies was invented in the United States.
“No, it comes from the Maori name for the bittern, a bird with brown feathers,” we insisted. “BS!” he said – well, something like that in as many words.
It was the annual conclave of the Federation of Fly Fishing in West Yellowstone, and it was a regular trip when we were involved in the trout fishing and travel business. All the famous names in American fly-fishing literature and tackle were there, vying with each other for the limelight.
On one occasion Lefty Kreh, a household name in saltwater fly-fishing, was giving a casting demonstration and explaining how tailing loops caused wind knots in the leader. The solution was to apply power smoothly on the forward stroke which prevented the rod tip from snapping down and the line hitting itself, causing the knots which bedevil many casters. He spotted the Kiwi watching and asked: “What do yoo Noo Zeelanders do about tailing loops?”
We couldn’t help ourselves and replied innocently: “We don’t really worry about them.
We’re too busy catching fish.”
Which is true. Americans study the theory and literature to such an extent that many executives will spend their lunch hours practising their casting at the San Francisco Fly Casting Club’s pool downtown, without ever putting a fly in front of an actual fish. It’s like an Olympic swimming pool, set up solely for casting.
It says volumes about the value of our trout fishing compared with that found in other countries.
But the Matuka discussion carried on well into the night, fuelled by good American whisky, and ended in a stand-off. So we tracked down the editor of the prestigious Fly Fisherman magazine, John Randolph, and suggested he might be interested in an article about the origins of the Matuka style of trout flies. “Good idea,” said John enthusiastically.