Collapse bottom bar
Editor's Notebook

Origins of the Matuka

by Ross Purnell, Editor   |  January 24th, 2012 1

Original Matuka patterns from 100 years ago. Photo by Geoff Thomas

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.

Click here to read the entire story in The New Zealand Herald.


No related posts.

  • John Randolph

    My friend Geoff Thomas's story on the Matuka is accurate. What he might add to it is how the Matuka fly got to the U.S. It was brought here by Mel Krieger, who, in the early '80s was annually visiting New Zealand with his "people to people" Club Pacific fly-fishing travel program. The favorite lake fishing for this group was Lake Taupo, where at night they fished "The Fence," (a fence that ran from shore out into the lake) with Matuka flies. Mel perceived that the fly (a streamer) would be deadly in the U.S., on trout so he used rabbit strip and marabou to create Mel's Bunny, which caught on like wildfire from California to the Rockies and eastward. It remains a deadly streamer for trout, sea trout and, in some waters, steelhead. Cheers to Mel and the Matuka.

back to top