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Tinker Mackerel
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Tinker Mackerel
By Bill Catherwood

Previously published in the Fly Fishing New England magazine. We thank them for sharing this with our readers.

To write about my Tinker Mackerel pattern I had to look back and recall just when I originated it. Back in the 1950s I went to Stoddards in Boston to find some suitable fly-tying hooks. Back then, Jerry Rosenfield managed the fishing department. Jerry and I hadn't met before and he inquired as to what I tied. I told him I tied trout flies and bass bugs on a commercial and custom basis for money, while for my personal use I tied Herring and Mackerel imitations for use in saltwater. Jerry was surprised to hear this and was pleased to learn I had a few in my pocket. He then ordered some for Stoddards. Back then, both patterns were only about three inches in length.

I was aware that Mackerel are sometimes blue and sometimes green, and I originally tied Tinker Mackerel Blue and Tinker Mackerel Green, which were what Stoddards sold. Not long after our initial meeting, Jerry told me he and some others were forming a fly-tying club and invited me to attend. It was the first meeting of what was to become The United Fly-Tyers.

By the time the first meeting took place in Jerry's parent's Mattapan kitchen, my Tinker Mackerel had grown to six or seven inches. Instead of two color variations of green and blue the pattern had become a composite of the two colors and has remained unchanged since 1959. Many of the streamers also had blunt bullet-nosed, deer-body hair heads. This style was to prove to become my favorite.

It was during this meeting that I first met outdoor film-maker and narrator Paul Kukonen. After introductions and folks learning who was who and who did what, Paul said, "You're the guy! My buddy and I found one of your Mackerel streamers lodged in Badgers Rocks and we wondered who did such a thing and how was it done."

Badgers Rocks are on the Salisbury side of the Merrimack River near the Tooth Pick, a large red marker shaped like a pyramid. Paul and I became lifelong friends and he is sorely missed by so many sporting folks.

When tied with a clipped deer-body hair head this streamer has almost neutral buoyancy and will only sink to a depth of six or seven inches. The blunt nose creates a wake and sends out vibrations announcing its position which attracts fish. The Tinker Mackerel has taken just about all predatory game fish including Tarpon. Enough said, tie one as follows:


Belly:  White marabou.

Shoulder:  Green, pink and blue marabou.

Underwing:  Green saddle hackle.

Overwing:  Blue saddle hackle.

Wing:   Grizzly saddle hackle.

Head:  Blue and green deer body hair.

Eyes:  Crystal eyes colored with orange marker.

[Hook:  2/0 to 4/0 saltwater.]

Tying Steps:

1. Tie on a white maribou feather concave side facing upwards. This represents the mackerels belly.

2. Tie on a green maribou, a pink maribou, and a blue maribou feather to represent the shoulder.

3. Tie on two green saddle hackles back to back, streamer style.

4. Tie on two blue saddle hackles, streamer style.

5. Tie a grizzly saddle hackle along both sides of wing.

6. Tie on a big bunch of blue dyed deer body hair with the tapered ends facing towards the rear.

7. & 8. Tie on a second bunch of body hair and a pair of crystal eyes colored with orange marker.

9. Tie on a bunch of green body hair.

10 & 11. Tie on a final bunch of blue body hair and trim head to shape.

12. Go fishing!!! ~ Bill Catherwood

About Bill Catherwood:

Originator of the series of flies now known as the Giant Killers, Bill Catherwood's vision and innovation is an integral part of saltwater flyfishing history. Developed in the 1950's, his oversized baitfish imitations are an extraordinary combination of blended marabou, hackle, and hair that have influenced an entire generation of salwater fly dressers. (From Streamer Fly Tying & Fishing by Joseph D. Bates, Jr., published by Stackpole Books.)

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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