June 02, 2019
By Charlie Craven
With all the new tying materials these days, it has become really easy to complicate things. It’s hard to look at a delicious pile of fluff and feathers and limit yourself to using only what’s needed, without piling everything onto the hook. This affliction seems most prevalent in modern streamers. Designing a fly using a minimum of commonly available materials, and thoughtfully applying them, is a challenge we all face.
Matt Winkler has obviously got a pretty good handle on this skill set. His Kamikaze Sculpin is a simple fly that uses common materials, but they are applied to create an entirely new pattern that works well in both form and function. Everything on this fly has a reason for being there, and is well thought out in both selection and use.
Winkler starts with a pair of heavy eyes lashed to the point side of the hook shank. Attaching the eyes to the point side assures the fly rides hook point down, which may seem a bit counterintuitive, but hooks that ride point up have a greater likelihood of injuring trout. The fly is designed to ride close to, but not on the bottom, and the forward placement of the eyes tilts the pattern head down. This fly gets to where the fish are, but doesn’t snag the bottom as frequently as you’d imagine.
He adds a bit of soft flash for a tail to extend the overall belly profile, creating a longer pattern silhouette without unnecessary bulk. On top of this, Winkler ties in a standard black-barred rabbit strip rather than a wider, magnum strip as has become so common on the “bigger is better” streamers we see today. Standard-width rabbit strips create a lot of movement, but don’t involve all that extra leather that just soaks up water and makes the fly heavy to cast. This is one of my favorite, subtle details of this pattern. Recognizing just what a pattern needs and not overdoing it is something we should all strive for.
The body of this fly is built with a dubbing loop with long, coarse-fibered synthetic fur and flash mix from Arizona Dubbing. This forms a fly with a deep belly, again, through the use of a relative few long, loose fibers rather than sheer bulk.
The collar may be my favorite part of this fly. A couple turns of long, gangly mallard produce a wide, Spey-like collar that can imitate the fluttering fins of a baitfish. When I tied the fly shown in the accompanying step-by-step photos, I came across a mallard flank feather that had subtle brown tips on the otherwise gray and white speckled feather, and I couldn’t resist incorporating it here, although any mallard flank feather will suffice. The key on this collar is sparsity.
Winkler finishes the head of his fly by creating another dubbing loop, this time using four strands of thread. He hand-twists his dubbing loops for better control, and the double loop allows a bit more finesse when working with the loose rabbit fur. He cuts the fur from a magnum rabbit, as the width allows him more material per bunch in order to build sufficiently sized rope for the head. He then wraps the head, figure-eighting the noodle over the tops of the eyes (bring the noodle over the top, under the far-side eye, around the eye, and back over the top, under the near-side eye, around the eye, and back over the top) to yield more bulk on top and round out the head shape while keeping the bottom relatively flat. There is no trimming required, as the natural fibers blend handsomely back into the mallard collar.
While the name says “sculpin,” the shape is generic enough to imitate a wide range of baitfish in both rivers and lakes. The gray version shown here imitates a small whitefish or dace, while a ginger/tan looks more like smaller brown trout, suckers, or crayfish. The olive version matches up well with its namesake. The Kamikaze Sculpin is easy to tie, versatile, and smartly designed to get the job done. I’m willing to bet you don’t have these in your fly box. Don’t you think it’s time to fix that?
Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado, and is the author of two books: Charlie’s Fly Box (Stackpole Books, 2011) and Tying Nymphs: Essential Flies and Techniques for the Top Patterns (Stackpole Books/Headwater Books, 2016).
Tying the Kamikaze Sculpin
- Hook: #4 Tiemco 5263.
- Dumbbells: Large red Pseudo Eyes.
- Thread: Gray 3/0 Monocord or 6/0 Uni-Thread.
- Flash: Pearl Angel Hair.
- Tail/Wing: Black-Barred Rabbit Strip.
- Belly: Silver Minnow Arizona Simi Seal Dubbing.
- Collar: Natural Mallard Flank.
- Head: rabbit fur dubbing loop.
Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado. He is the author of four books, most recently Tying Streamers: Essential Flies and Techniques for the Top Patterns (Stackpole Books, 2020).