Thompson Spey Intruder
(Created by Scott Baker-McGarva)
Hook: Mustad 79580, 36890 #2 or #4 (Used as a foundation only as the bend and point are cut off)
Trailing Hook: #1 Up Eye Octopus Hook
Thread: Gudebrod 8/0 or 6/0 Black
Loop: Fireline (60lb, 50lb or 30lb)
Tail: Chartreuse Polar Bear Hair
Rear Hackle: Chartreuse Polar Bear Under Fur Followed By a Large Webby Pheasant Rump Feather Dyed Black
Body: Peacock Green Mylar
Body Hackle: Black Neck Hackle
Rib: Fine Gold Wire
Front Hackle: Chartreuse Polar Bear Under Fur Followed By a Large Webby Pheasant Rump Feather Dyed Black
Wing: Black Ostrich
Collar: Chartreuse Guinea Fowl
Eyes: Dumbbell Eyes
Most northwest steelhead patterns are steeped in history dictating specific materials, proportions and construction techniques. Enter the Intruder, the new kid on the block spurning history and forging its own creative path and personality. Intruder information is sparse. Internet searches reveal little other than a clear mystique surrounding the Intruder and its magic powers over steelhead and fly fishers. Washington state angler, Ed Ward is credited with the Intruder’s creation and forging a path for others to follow. Ed broke away from traditional designs designing a fly with a huge profile, inherent action and the ability to swim amongst the nastiest rubble. Since Ed’s original creations the Intruder has blossomed in popularity with west coast steelheaders. New intruders are always appearing and no two seem to be tied the same. Intruders are in a constant state of evolution and flux.
So just what does an Intruder suggest or represent? The responses fall into two categories. Some believe it is a fantastic representation of a squid or prawn, predicated by the belief that these prey items are favored steelhead fodder during their ocean phase and one of the last saltwater food items before migrating upstream. Others believe that 3 to 6 inch Intruders are nothing more than a large animated attractor capable of irritating the dourest of steelhead into striking. No matter the reason, the Intruder’s magic is based upon an ingenious design platform with a number of features and characteristics working in its favor to obtain 3 basic goals; casting ease, bulk without mass and hook size adaptability.
Bulky patterns are an aerodynamic challenge and tough to cast. Materials must shed water with ease and once wet resist collapse providing a large silhouette for steelhead to hone in on. Intruder materials must pulsate at the slightest suggestion. Large webby Spey style hackles such as pheasant rump aid this goal. Large neck hackles tied for and aft or palmered over the body help hold materials away from the body and maintain a broad acoustic footprint. Synthetic substitutes such as Polar Chenille are also making a presence. Barring UV Polar Chenille with permanent markers provides an interesting look. The pheasant family is a common source of inspiration as their stiffer tail fibers resist collapse aiding the Intruders profile goals. Depending on the Intruder’s colour scheme and complimentary materials Ringneck, Golden, Lady Amherst, Silver and Peacock are a smattering of pheasant family candidates. These long relatively stiff feather fibers can be tied around the circumference of the fly in clumps or wound on as a strip cut from a tail section. Tail feather strips are challenging but there are a few tricks to ease any frustrations. A razor blade is a preferred tool for splitting tail stems. Once split down the center place the stems in a warm water bath to soften them up. Some tyers let them sit over night while others wait a mere 10 minutes. A drop or two of hair conditioner also softens stiff stems. Some ardent Intruder designers prefer to cut their feather stems into 6 inch segments and using their skill strip the fibers from the stem still connected by a thin flexible membrane
Long flowing materials are also key Intruder features. Typically tied fore and aft, materials such as ostrich, saddle feathers and rhea provide animation. Rhea is a small South American ostrich like bird and has developed a loyal following amongst Intruder disciples. Most tyers prefer Rhea feathers with individual plumes of 3 inches or longer. The most durable Rhea feathers feature a waxy appearance and can be tied onto the fly in clumps or stripped in the same fashion as pheasant family. Long strand hair fibers such as polar bear or bucktail are another option.
Large bulky heads are a common Intruder trait. Original designs featured Muddler heads to create a hydrodynamic disturbance to animate the hackles. The addition of dumbbell eyes also serves the same purpose while adding a hint of weight and inverting the pattern. Dumbbell eyes keep the Intruder out of rubble trouble and neutralize the pattern’s tendency to ride up in the water.
Hooks are the second big fly challenge. Large hooks are tough to cast and easier for fish to lever out of their mouths during the battle. Tyers face a paradox of needing long shanks for construction but not their inherent shortfalls. Enter the Fireline loop. Bound in place during the initial phases of construction Fireline loops allow for simple hook changes and the benefit of using a short shank up eye hook. Some tyers place 2 wraps of oval tinsel under the loop forcing it up from the shank datum. The original hook from the foundation shank is removed once the fly is complete. The up eye trailing hook affords a fantastic hook set and minimal risk to the fish. Keep the finished loop about 1 to 1 ¼ inches long to afford easy hook swaps. Place the trailing hook within the loop by sliding the loop through the hook eye and pulling the shank through the loop with the gape facing up. The Fireline loop should lie on the gape side of the shank. Inserted hooks must ride point up reducing hang-ups and tongue hooking.
Other foundation options include Waddington shanks featuring loops at either end. Some tyers are comfortable using Waddington’s of all sizes, others prefer to only use smaller versions concerned about the fly’s castability. Waddington shanks require different rigging options. Tippet is feed through both eyes along the shank and then through a small diameter plastic tube. The hook is knotted into place and the plastic tube is used to hold the rear eye of the Waddington and eye of the trailing hook in place. Tube based Intruders are another option and like the Waddington shank eliminate the Fireline loop. Tubes are available in a range of densities providing a host of presentation options depending upon river conditions and flow.
1) Cover the hook shank with tying thread. Take a length of Fire Line and double it forming a loop. Tie in the Fire Line loop it trails back no longer than 1 1/4 inches long, depending upon fly size. Double the tag ends of the loop back along the shank for further security. Finished loop needs to be long enough to easily faciliate hook changes. Coat the thread wraps with Fisherman's Glue. With the Fire Line loop in place and secure tie in a long tail of chartreuse Polar Bear.
2) Form a dubbing ball of Polar Bear underfur or suitable substitute at the rear of the hook out . The finished dubbing ball should extend to the point of the hook as a guide. Tie in a large webby dyed black pheasant rump feather.
3) Wind the pheasant rump fiber directly in front of the dubbing ball 2 to 3 times as the feather allows. Tie in the gold wire ribbing along the length of the shank. Tie in the peacock Mylar body and wind forward in close touching turns to the return of the hook eye.
4) Tie in a large webby dyed black neck hackle at the front of the body. Palmer the neck hackle back over the body using even open wraps. Attach a pair of hackle pliers to the tip of the hackle and let hang. Wind the rib forward catching the tip with the first wrap to tie it off. Continue to wrap the ribbing forward through the hackle using a zigzag motion. Tie off the wire rib and remove the excess. Trim the tip section of the hackle hanging at the rear of the hook.
5) Form a second dubbing ball of polar bear underfur or suitable substitute. Keep the front eye return open and uncrowded.
6) Tie in a second large webby dyed black pheasant rump hackle directly in front of the dubbing ball. Wind the pheasant rump feather in front of the dubbbing ball 2 to 3 times as the feather allows. Tie off and trim the excess pheasant rump.
7) Tie in a clump of 10 to 12 black ostrich plumes in front of the pheasant rump hackle for the wing. The tips of the black ostrich should extend back to the tips of the tail.
8) Tie in a dyed guinea fowl feather by the tip. Wind the guinea hackle forward 2 to 3 times as the feather allowsand form a facing hackle. Tie off neatly and trim the excess feather.
9) Tie in a pair of dumbbell eyes using figure 8 wraps. Whip finish and apply Fisherman's Glue to the thread wraps to further secure the head and eyes. Keep in mind that when dumbbell eyes are tied in place on top of the shank they cause the fly to roll upside down. The eyes in this example have been tied underneath the shank so that the fly rides with the ostrich wing up. Remove the fly from the vise and using a pair of side cutters carefully remove the hook bend and point. Insert a #1 up eye octopus hook by working the Fire Line loop through the hook eye. Now feed the hook through the Fire Line loop point first so that the Fire Line rides on the gap side of the hook. This ensures the trailing hook rides point up. Please look at the introductory image at the top of the page for proper trailing hook placement.