I asked Yewchuck how he became so fascinated with tying and fishing rodents. “Believe it or not, my rodent fishing started during the day. I tied my first mouse six or seven years ago to fish on the West Branch of the Delaware River. It was something different the fish hadn’t seen before and it worked—right in the middle of the afternoon when everyone else was playing match-the-hatch and getting skunked!”
Ring Leader Rat
Rear shank: Montana Fly Company 80-millimeter Big Game Shank.
Tail: Foam tip glued to a leather strip.
Underbody: 2-millimeter-thick foam.
Body: EP brush. Rear legs: 550 paracord.
Hook: Ahrex PR350 Light Predator S/E, size 6/0.
Midshank: Montana Fly Company 80-millimeter Big Game Shank.
Underbody: 2-millimeter-thick foam.
Body shields: 2-millimeter-thick foam.
Body: EP brush. Front legs: 550 paracord.
Head: Flymen Fishing Company Double Barrel Popper on a 40-millimeter shank, EP Brush, and foam ears.
Whiskers: Round rubber legs.
Eyes: Flymen Fishing Company Dragon Eyes.
“I wanted to design a rodent fly that had a realistic profile and natural swimming action. The Ring Leader is meant to be fished for big predatory fish like pike, muskies, golden dorado, taimen, and Murray cod. One of the problems with large rodent flies is fouling. I addressed this by connecting all the sections with shanks to keep the fly aligned while casting. Note, the middle shank is tied and glued to the top of the hook with the rear loop extending just past the rear of the hook. I use this method with any articulated fly that has a center hook because it keeps the rear sections from twisting and fouling. The next concern was to keep the fly light enough so it would cast easily and absorb very little water. I did this with synthetic brushes. The great thing about synthetic brushes is they don’t absorb water, and they shed residual water with one false cast. The fly is colored with Copic markers.”
“Mousing” soon became an obsession for Yewchuck, and like many dedicated mousers, he carried his obsession into the dark. “It really took off when I started fishing at night. I did so much night mousing that I started making a glow-in-the-dark silicone to put on the top of my flies. You charge it with a UV lamp, it’s durable, and it has a lifelike texture that fish hold on to.”
These types of innovations draw many rodent-fishing aficionados to Yewchuck’s work. He’s constantly trying new things to improve his rodent patterns. Another example of Yewchuck’s creativity is his original approach to stinger tails.
“I didn’t like the way most stinger tails were tied, because they foul-hook fish. I started playing around with paracord, and I found that if I stripped out the core, I could run backing through it to the hook. I tied a piece of foam on the stinger hook to keep it upright so when a fish takes the front hook, the stinger gets pushed out of the way and stays above the fish. It has excellent movement but is stiff enough to keep from foulhooking fish. Trying to fix a problem like that is a good way to be inventive.”
An Art Degree at Work
Yewchuck’s rodent patterns are so impressive, it’s easy to overlook how skilled he is in other areas. I was blown away by his unique take on a crayfish. There are thousands of crayfish patterns, but Yewchuck’s KingKray toes the line between form and function with a creative intensity not seen elsewhere. And Yewchuck not only ties a bat imitation, but designed a complete foam wing structure using Kiley’s Exo Skin as wing webbing.
“The wings are articulated so they move in the water, and it makes casting easier because they lie back while you’re casting. That was a fly that came out exactly like I wanted it on the first try.”
Yewchuck is a mad scientist with an eye for detail, and a tier who can be as selective as the fish he is trying to catch. In the last three years, he’s become interested in muskies and other apex predators, and his flies have grown in proportion.
“I tie a huge articulated muskrat and throw it on a ten-weight rod. I’ve transitioned to synthetic materials because they don’t absorb as much water. With these materials, you can tie some beast-size flies that still cast great. They even cast with a stiff eight-weight, but they aren’t cheap to tie. I probably use twenty dollars in brushes plus hooks, shanks, and other materials. They take an hour or more to tie.”
Yewchuck’s skills haven’t gone unnoticed. He guides in the Great Lakes and Catskill regions, using his flies to put clients onto migratory brown trout and steelhead in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Canada. He has designed several patterns for the likes of Flymen Fishing Company and the Montana Fly Company. Recently, he was featured in Tony Lolli’s book, The Art of the Fishing Fly. Yewchuck has been tying for 28 years, but it’s clear he’s only getting started.
“I guess, in a way, I’m putting my art degree to use,” he says. “Fly tying isn’t a traditional artform, but it’s pretty badass.”
Head: Flymen Fishing Company Double Barrel Popper, airbrushed for color, with 8.8-millimeter Flymen Fishing Company Living Eyes.
Hook: Gamakatsu Round Bend, size 2/0.
Body: Spun deer hair and Hairline Chocklett’s Body Wrap.
Arms: Ostrich herls and dry fly hackle.
Tentacles: Hairline Micro Pulsator Strips.
Mantle: Montana Fly Company 55-millimeter shank, EP Tarantula Brush, and Hairline Chocklett’s Body Tubing.
Fins: Preshaped Kiley’s Exo Skin.
Tail: EP Fibers over paracord filled with two size 3 shots. Melt and close the end of the paracord.
“A few years back, I was invited to fish for stripers on Martha’s Vineyard during the squid run. I gathered as much information as I could to design a squid fly. The Kraken is the result of that process. It’s weighted in a unique way with paracord and split shot to give it realistic motion. The articulation and free-flowing tentacles add to this realism. One of my favorite materials to use is Kiley’s Exo Skin. It’s very flexible and can withstand a ton of punishment. I use it to imitate the characteristic fins of a squid.”
Regardless of what he’s tying, the unifying theme at the heart of Yewchuck’s flies is the intersection of form and function. They look fantastic, have realistic action, and are durable enough to withstand the rigors of big predatory fish.
There are tiers who design imitations using standard ingredients, and then there are tiers—like Yewchuck—who create unique and innovative flies using new materials in unconventional ways. These pattern designers keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
Ryan Sparks writes, fishes, hunts, cooks, and talks nonsense to his English pointer, Tippet. You can follow his writing and photography at www.flywatermedley.com. To see more of Steve Yewchuck’s incredible flies, go to his Instagram page: @envisionflyworks.