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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Purely Functional Skater (aka Little Wang) Step by Step

I started tying the first versions of my current skater in the fall of 2012 and I've been honored and humbled that there are folks out there that like my pattern and have asked for step by step tying instructions for it.  I apologize to those who have waited on me for so long - I'm such a steelhead fanatic that every spare moment of my time is spent taking advantage of those windows of opportunity to fish so it is only now that I have finally gotten around to putting this together.   I also apologize that this is coming out after the summar/fall skating season has ended for most of us.  This "tweener" time between summer steel and winter steel, has finally given me some forced down time from fishing to keep my word on finally getting this step by step done.  Hopefully, folks can start tying their supply of skaters for next summer!

My Pentax point and shoot sucks and with it's built in flash and not being able to utilize natural outdoor lighting, the photos exhibit harsh contrast, annoying shadows, and hot spots, but I hope they will suffice for now to get the tying steps across.

My skater was born out of the necessities of of pure function, so efforts to create a pattern that stays on top and has good visibility were the key goals in it's conceptualization.  Over time, the pattern continues to evolve and I continue to tinker with colors, visibility posts, flash, etc.  This pattern is one that lends itself to many color combos, but I'll just use the purple/black/green butt version in this SBS.

Materials list:

hook:  Mustad R73 (9671 equivalent), 2xl streamer hook.  The Tiemco 5262 or other similar hook can be substituted.  I most frequently use size 6's and 4's.

tail:  Moose body

thread (rear half):  white 3/0

Flash:  purple holographic flashabou, over tail and cross wrapped up front

butt:  florescent green floss, use a single strand

tinsel:  Lagurtan fine oval silver

body:  purple globrite floss

Foam shellback/lip:  pink 2mm foam, cut into a tapered piece approx 1" x 3/8" x 3/16"

Flash ball:  Large purple cactus chenielle (distributed by Hareline)

Thread (front half):  140 denier black gelspun, for strength in tying down the elk hair wing

Wing:  Black Cow Elk, select a patch with as straight hairs as you can find.  Too much curvature in the hair makes tying down difficult.

Rear facing visibility post:  yellow 2mm foam, cut into a rectangular piece about 3/8" x 3/4".  Cut a V into one side.

Front facing visibility post:  orange 2mm foam, cut to approximately 3/16" x 1/8" x 7/8"

This is not a difficult fly to tie, but it is labor intensive, so be patient in learning to tie it.  Even when I'm on a roll, I can take 20-30 minutes to tie each one.

So here we go - hope you have fun with this one and even get to experience seeing it disappear in a surface steelhead attack sometime!

Materials laid out

I start by flattening the barb and putting a slight dropping bend in the hook using needle nose pliers. 

Putting the bend in the shank is probably not a big deal, just appeals to my sense of aesthetics

Start the white 3/0 on the rear half of the hook.  Wrap until even with the barb of the hook.  This marks the body proportions I use on this fly.

Stack a small bunch of moose body, measure so that the overall length of the tail is equal to or slightly longer than the body length.  Trim butts even at the mid body point.  I also take a couple loose wraps around the base of the moose, at the rear of the fly, just to help keep the tail fibers gathered together

Add four strands of holographic flashabou on each side of the tail if desired.  Trim even with the tips of the tail.

Tie in the butt using one strand of floss.  Tie the floss down until it is a bit short of the tail.  Wind the floss to the tail and then back onto itself making sure the floss covers the white thread underneath.  This is the purpose of using white thread here, to give the floss a bright underbody.  A minor detail, but who knows, it might make a difference.

Tie in tinsel rib

Tie in two strands of purple floss in front of the rear body section.

Wind the floss to the butt then wind forward, being sure to cover the white thread, tie down.  As you can see, I left a bit of white thread showing, but I'm not too much of a perfectionist so will let it slide and hope the steelhead don't care too much.

Wind the tinsel forward.  I like to make 5 wraps for some strange reason.  tie down securely.

Cut a tapered piece of pink foam about yey big.  (This piece is 1" x 3/16" x 3/8").  This size works for both size 4s and 6s and will ultimately be trimmed in the end.

Tie pink foam in by the tip.

Tie in the the cactus chenielle by it's core, right in front of the foam.

Take three tight wraps, tie off.

Cross wrap 8 strands of purple holographic flashabou in front of the cactus chenielle.

Pull up on the flashabou and cut to even them out.

Cut a clump of black cow elk about yey big, Remove fluff and guard hair and even tips in a large hair stacker, set aside.

Tie off the white thread and start the black gelspun to facilitate tying down the elk.  Wind the gelspun back until it is right in front of the cross wrapped flashabou.

Carefully gather the black cow elk from the hair stacker.  Holding the clump in the right hand, evenly distribute the hair around the perimeter of the hook, making sure there is roughly an equal amount of hair on top and bottom.  Measure the hair so the tips are even with the bend of the hook as seen above.

Carefully transfer holding of the hair by the tips to the left hand, being sure to also gather the flash as well.  Take the thread and make a couple soft wraps around the hair and slowly tighten down with firm pressure.  The object is to flare the hair in place, not to spin the hair around the shank.  Make another wrap or two at most to secure the hair down.  DO NOT LET GO OF THE TIPS OF THE HAIR WITH THE LEFT HAND AT THIS POINT.  KEEPING A HOLD OF THE TIPS SERVES AS A GUARD WHEN THE BUTTS ARE TRIMMED IN THE NEXT STEP BELOW.

While still holding on the the tips of the elk with the left hand, grab your scissors and roughly trim the butts of the elk down.

At this point, snug down on the gelspun a bit more, push back on the trimmed butts, work the tread to the front of the butts and make a few wraps behind the eye of the hook.  Trim the butts very short/flush and the hair on the bottom can be trimmed flat at this point as well.

Evenly part the top section of hair with the closed tip of your scissors to allow the pink foam to be brought through.

I make an upward facing pinch in the pink foam and make a couple soft wraps and slowly tighten down.  Be careful not to apply too much pressure or the thread will cut through the foam.

Cut a piece of yellow 2mm foam 3/8" x 3/4" for the rear facing visibility post.

Cut a V into half of this foam piece.

Upward pinch on the yellow foam before tie down.

Tie down with 2-3 wraps, tighen slowly, again careful not to apply too much pressure. 

Cut a piece of orange 2mm foam for the front facing visibility post.  I cut this one to approximately 1/8" x 3/16" x 7/8"

Tie the orange foam down with the wider side on the bottom, 2-3 wraps as seen above.

Work your thread under the fly and around just the eye of the hook, make a couple wraps.

This part may be a bit tricky for some - At this point, hold the foam back while making a whip finish, then follow up with making a second whip finish around the first one to secure everything.  Since head cement would not hold very well to gelspun, I have resorted to this double whip finish routine.  I typically do the whip finishes manually without a tool, but I have been able to use a whip finish tool as well, it's just a bit clumsier.

Cut off the gelspun close to the eye.  This is what fly looks like at this point, the foam lip still needs a trim.  You'll note that some white thread is showing.  I could have afforded to have pushed the elk wing closer to the chenielle when I tied it down.  Again, I'm not a perfectionist and am not about to tear this fly apart as I don't think Mr. Steelhead will mind.  It's all about pure function!

Foam lip trimmed, this about what I like it to look like.

Side view

Top view - BC here I come!  Oh darn, that's next fall....

Other flavors - black/blue, purple/black, green butt, October caddis, yellow/orange

A few extra flies

I have been finding that the orange/yellow color combination for the visibility posts are probably the most easily seen under varied conditions.

I hope this SBS may help ease us into the winter season!  Please feel free to comment with any questions or ideas you may have regarding my weird fly!

Wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving and holiday season,



  1. thank you so much - I definitely owe you a beer for this strong work

    1. Thanks Lee, hope you found my first SBS helpful.

  2. This may be a duplicate....I have been trying to get in touch and had lost your great to see this blog and specific detail on your were kind to send me several a year ago which have gotten by the way...rave reviews from well seasoned guides in Methow and Columbia......I am hoping I can entice you in doing a video of it so I can post it on FB/My Blog......I wanted to also reach out and see if there wasn't any way we could get together this winter and do some swingin!.....Please drop me a line and we can check our calendars if your game......all the best, Michael

    1. Michael:
      Thanks for your comments. I believe I still have your email so will send you a note back. Glad to hear that folks on the Columbia and Methow liked my skater. My friend Tony Torrence was going to be helping me put a tying video together for this fly at some point, will let you know when it happens and will post it on here as well. Yes, we can defintely try to work out a day to fish sometime this winter.


  3. Todd - sorry if this isn't the best way to contact you. I was on the Clackamas yesterday and ended up very much enjoying sharing a run with a guy called Adrian. Since he was fishing a bamboo rod in March with a skated Muddler (I think, it was raining!) I (wrongly) assumed he might be you and told him I had a Little Wang. I mean a Little Wang in my box... anyway, we fished a beauty of a run together on a perfect day and I meant to ask him for his number or email, if you check with him and then connect the two of us I'd be very grateful.

    1. Will, I forwarded your message to Adrian. He told me someone mistakenly thought he was me on the Clack. Yes, we are the same kind of crazy!

    2. Will,
      I sent you a message on instagram, let me know if you get it.