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Home->Articles->Fly Patterns->The Rhea Deal   
Fly Patterns
The Rhea Deal

The Rhea Intruder
Designed by Trevor Nowak & Todd Scharf



Shank:               Daiichi 2161 #2/0

Stinger Hook:    Daiichi 2553 Up Eye Octopus Hook

Thread:              MFC 6/0, Color to Compliment Overall Fly Color

Wire:                  RIO Knotable Bite Tippet, 30# or Berkley Fire Line, 80#

Rib:                    Medium Wire

Body:                 Diamond Braid

Flash:                 Flashabou

Dubbing Ball:     Polar Bear

Rear Hackle:      Rhea

Front Hackle:     Rhea, Different Color from Rear Hackle

Wing:                 Grizzly Hackle Tips

Collar:                Webby Neck Hackle or Schlappen

Eyes:                  5/32Ē Dumbell Eyes

I have always been enamoured by the elegant flowing look of a traditional Spey pattern and in recent years, Intruder patterns featuring supple flowing rhea hackle.  Each year during my show travels I bump into a number of friends.  Trevor Nowak from Vancouver Island and I cross paths each year and I am always impressed with the rhea based Intruder patterns he ties.  Over the years I have been fortunate to amass a small collection of Trevorís Intruders.  Talking with Trevor he said that his Intruder patterns were heavily influenced by fellow B.C. tyer Todd Scharf.  Trevor stated, ďToddís the guy I have learned 80% of what I know about Intruders.  The other 20% is this and that from the web and friends.Ē 

This past show season Trevorís patterns inspired me to learn more about rhea.  What is it?  Where does it come from?  Why use it? And perhaps most importantly, how do you use it?

Cousins to ostrich, kiwi and emu, Rhea is a small flightless bird native to South America, primarily Argentina and Brazil.  Steelhead tyers such as Trevor and Todd love integrating rhea feathers into their Intruder patterns.  Fine fibered Intruders featuring rhea hackle possess an elegant swept back classic Spey look that appeals to both angler and fish alike.  Rhea use is not confined to Intruders.  It is also used for saltwater patterns and the individual barbs make excellent mayfly nymph bodies.
The individual barbs of a rhea feather are similar to ostrich herl but are much finer providing superior movement in the water due to their fine taper and pointed tips.  The overall quality of a rhea plume is more a function of the number of barbs on a plume than individual barb length.  Depending on the rhea plume, individual barb length ranges from 2-3inch up to 7-8-inches.  Shorter barbs are excellent choices for subtle summer run patterns while longer barbs are best suited for gigantic winter run flies.  Tyerís preference is often the deciding factor.

Rhea feathers readily accept dye but the overall color quality depends on the natural feather color.  Dyed natural grey feathers result in sombre tones while albino or leucisitic (reduced pigmentation) feathers work best for bright vibrant colors. 

Depending upon the tyers preference there are number of methods used to create flowing rhea hackle.  Perhaps the easiest method involves tying the rhea barbs onto and around the shank in clumps.  Simply trim a number of barbs from the stem align the tips and secure in place.  Using your thumb and forefinger you can massage the barbs around the shank or bind them in place at different points around the shank. 
Dubbing loops can also be used to create rhea hackle.  Feather sections can be placed within a dubbing loop.  Once in the loop they can be pinched into place by applying down pressure on the loop.  Trim away the stem and spin the dubbing loop tight.  I have done this method with ostrich herl.  Using a magnum sized Magic Tool makes this operation efficient and easy.

Trevor however, as with most tyers, prefers to tie in rhea by peeling the barbs and the membrane they attach to from each side of the stem or rachis.  At first this seems a tricky procedure but done correctly stripping rhea from the stem is straightforward.
Some tyers dry strip their rhea.  Like Trevor, I have had better luck stripping a soaked plume.  To begin, prepare a bath of warm water mixed with a few drops of color fast hair conditioner.  Place the rhea plume into the bath and allow it to soak for at least 10 minutes.  Some tyers recommend longer soak times, overnight in some instances.  Soaking the rhea plume eases the stripping process while softening and conditioning the individual barbs. 

Once the feather has been soaked remove it from the bath and pat it dry using a paper towel.  Hold the feather by the tip section using both hands.  Near the tip section begin stripping the barbs and the membrane they attach to from one side of the stem using a firm slow downward pull with the thumb and forefinger.  Work the stripping and non-stripping hands together down the plume to peel the barbs from the stem in short steps.  The goal is to peel the entire side of the plume in one long section.  Avoid using one long pull.  Once one side of the feather has been stripped remove the barbs from other side of the stem to finish preparing the rhea for tie in.  There are some online video tutorials available on You Tube that do a great job demonstrating how to strip a rhea plume.

It is important to tie in the stripped rhea so the barbs flow back over the fly creating the Intruderís signature look.  To figure out which end of the strip to tie in hold the stripped section convex side facing you tip towards the ceiling.  If the strip came from the right side of the stem tie it onto the hook by the tip.  If the strip came from the left side of the plume tie it in place by the base.  Once the strip is in place wrap it forward as you would any hackle making sure to sweep the barbs back after each wrap to ensure they flow properly and you donít accidently trap any barbs.

To me, the elegant flowing look of a rhea based Intruder is tough to beat.  I find these patterns appealing to the eye and a source of confidence when I swing my fly through a promising run.  Migrating salmon and steelhead also seem to share my appeal.

Tying Instructions

1) Double the wire material and push the doubled end through eye of an octopus hook.  Cover the hook shank with tying thread.  Tie in the prepared trailing hook on top of the hook shank so the octopus hook rides hook point up.  Double the tag ends of the trailing hook wire back over the shank and secure in place.  Trim any excess trailing hook wire.  The rear of the trailing hook should extend back no further than the length of the shank to avoid accidently injuring the fish.  Secure the dumbbell eyes on the underside of the shank just back from the hook eye using figure eight wraps.  Apply head cement or superglue to further secure the eyes.

2) Tie in the wire rib and Diamond Braid body material.  Wind the diamond braid body forward to the three quarters point on the shank.  Tie off and remove the excess.  Spiral the wire forward over the body using open even turns.  Tie off and break away the excess using a pulling and twisting motion. 

3) Double three strands of Flashabou around the tying thread.  Secure the doubled Flashabou in place on top of the shank where the body and rib materials were tied off.  Trim the Flashabou about half the shank length past the trailing hook.

4) Form a dubbing loop where the Flashabou was tied in.  Insert a pencil sized clump of polar bear hair into the dubbing loop so the tips of the hair point rearwards, perpendicular to the loop.  Spread the polar bear hair along the length of the dubbing loop.  Spin the dubbing loop tight.  Tease out any trapped polar bear hair from the dubbing noodle using a dubbing needle or bush.  Wind the polar bear dubbing noodle around the shank forming a small dubbing ball.  Stroke the long fibres back so they flow along the body.

5) Tie in a stripped section of rhea.  Wind the rhea around the shank 4-5 times so the barbs flow back over the polar bear and body well past the bend of the trailing hook.  Tie off and trim the excess rhea.

6) Tie in a contrasting color of rhea directly in front of the rear rhea hackle.  As with the rear hackle, wind the rhea around the shank 4-5 times so the barbs flow back well past the bend of the trailing hook.  Tie off and trim the excess rhea.

7) Tie in two narrow grizzly hackle tips on top of the shank in a tent like manner over the top of the rhea hackles.  The tips of the grizzly should extend back to the tips of the rhea hackle.

8) Strip the soft flue from the base of webby neck or schlappen hackle.  Tie in the prepared hackle by the stem directly in front of the grizzly hackle wing.  Form a hackle collar by winding the feather forward to the rear of the dumbbell eyes.  Sweep the fibers back after each wrap so they flow back over the grizzly wings and rhea hackle.  Tie off and trim the excess.  Whip finish and apply head cement.  Using a pair of side cutters remove the bend and point of the foundation hook leaving only the trailing up eye octopus hook.

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