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The Mighty Matuka

Originally called the Matuku, this classic streamer is fun to make and catches a wide variety of fish. 

[by Barry Clarke]

A LARGE AND ELEGANT BIRD CALLED THE BITTERN, or “matuku” as it’s known in the native New Zealand language of Maori, was the source of material used for the wing of the internationally famous pattern we now call the Matuka. Like its name, the Matuku-style streamer originated in New Zealand. Unlike a traditional featherwing streamer, where the wing flows freely over the hook shank, the wing on a Matuku is attached to the body using the wraps of the wire or tinsel rib.

After a protection order was placed on the quickly diminishing bittern population, along with a total ban on the use of its plumage, hardy followers of the Matuku quickly looked for replacement feathers for the wing. Tiers initially wanted a substitute that would look and behave much like the original bittern feathers. Soft hen pheasant flank feathers were the first choice, but today hackles are commonly used.

IMPERIAL MATUKA TOBIS

Hook: Mustad L87-3665A, sizes 6 to 2.
Thread: Gel spun.
Wing: Vulturine guinea fowl hackles.
Body: Flat gold tinsel.
Rib: Medium copper wire.
Throat: Red hen hackle.
Cheeks: Jungle cock.

Tying the Matuka
Spreading Popularity and Tying Tips

After the Matuku’s popularity spread, especially to Australia, Britain, and the United States, where the original fly and even its name changed to Matuka, a whole variety of fresh patterns emerged. Tiers used new materials and the name now represented more a style of fly rather than a specific pattern.

Prado Matuka

Hook: Mustad L87-3665A, sizes 6 to 2.
Thread: Gel spun.
Wing: Coq de Leon hackles.
Body: Spirit River UV2 Diamond Brite Dubbing, root beer.
Rib: Medium copper wire.
Hackle: Red.
Cheeks: Jungle cock.

Play with and adjust the dimensions of this pattern to meet your own tastes and needs. Use larger hackles to make the tail long, or use hen hackles to make the fly shorter and rounder in the tail and higher in the wing. You can combine hackles to create different color effects; for example, tie on two large blue hackles as the center of the wing and place a smaller green hackle on each side. Make the body using tinsel, chenille, or any kind of dubbing. Use your imagination and create your own Matukas.

The only real challenge to tying a Matuka is wrapping the rib evenly and neatly through the wing hackles. I spread the hackle fibers starting at the rear of the wing using a short dubbing needle. A short needle is much more precise and easier to use for this purpose. Make one wrap of the rib each time you spread the feather fibers.

Another method is to thread the ribbing material through the eye of a needle, and use this to thread each wrap through the hackle. When using this method, hold each previous turn of rib in position with your left hand so it doesn’t lose tension.

Leprechaun Matuka

Hook: Mustad L87-3665A, sizes 6 to 2.
Thread: Gel spun.
Wing: Green hackles.
Body: Green Antron yarn or thick floss.
Rib: Medium oval silver tinsel.
Throat: Red hen hackle.
Cheeks: Jungle cock.

You can make the Matuka using a vast combination of materials and colors to imitate just about any baitfish, or you can create attractor-style patterns that imitate nothing but still catch fish. The fly we make in the tying exercise, which is one of my own patterns, has proven excellent for catching sea-run brown trout here in Northern Europe. This was the very first original pattern that I tied using exotic materials commonly found on salmon flies; they have become known as the “saltwater classics.”

Some of the first Matuka-style flies tied in the United Kingdom were made using jungle cock and other fancy feathers; these patterns were known as Imperials. The Imperial Matuka Tobis was designed to imitate a sandeel (Tobis) for catching autumn saltwater sea trout along my local coastline, but sea trout and Atlantic salmon in fresh water have also fallen for this fly.

The Matuka is an adaptable pattern. Wherever you live, use this style of tying to create flies to catch fish on your local waters.


Barry Clarke is a regular contributor to this magazine. He is a brilliant tier and first-class photographer. To see more of his flies and photographs, go to his website, www.thefeatherbender.com. Barry lives in Norway.