Ruined For Life – Part II

Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

Part 1 of this article described the popularity, uniqueness and color choices of the famous “Intruder” streamer pattern for migratory salmon and steelhead. This installment goes into hook type, tying materials, and some aspects of the tie itself.

Pettijean Clips

We’ve discussed basic construction and color choices. So then…what materials? Original Intruders were tied leaning heavily on marabou, although it’s fragile stuff and thus not necessarily well suited to the rigors of multiple Chinook attacks, nor to icy winter steelhead conditions. Finn Raccoon and supple synthetic hair are preferable for durability, but using typical tying techniques they can lack the interesting look of discrete marabou strands each waving in the current. My solution is to use the Marc Pettijean super-clips to combine fine hair of various colors and types in a common dubbing loop. I can make just about any sparseness or clumpiness or mix I want…and with the added benefit that a single composite dubbing loop can apply such different materials and colors in one shot…so tying is efficient. I get good color, good movement, and really good fly durability. A little head cement at the base before winding the loop can’t hurt the ruggedness either. These clips take a little getting used to but you can do a lot with them.

Body of Intruder

Again, Intruders are tied on a shaft other than the hook’s own. The stinger hook can be slung from braided line or from wire. Like many tyers (and especially those who use braided line), I like to make sure the hook-attach loop is doubled back through the body shaft’s eye, lest it slip out. This greatly adds to the fly’s strength–so important when you seek to do battle with serious monsters. So the shaft’s eye, where the leader will ultimately be attached at fishing time, needs to be big enough to pass three strands through it. Big 5/0 to 7/0 hook usually have eyes plenty big enough (you could fit a hawser through some of them), as do the articulated shafts. For the hook loop I use 50-pound braid, and since it’s a loop, that means (in a frictionless world anyway) it’d take about 100 pounds to break it–I suspect that’s enough, as anything that could break that would beat me to death with its fins if I ever beached it. The loop extends roughly 1.5 inches or so past its tie-in point, or whatever will let the stinger hook clear when attached with a loop-to-loop attachment. (One of mine in the photos may be just a little long.) At least that distance is recommended because it gets the stinger back where a shy or careless strike will still hit cold hard steel.

I use line that when doubled over can still thread easily through the stinger hook’s eye. Note that braided line can be a bit soft and can droop while swimming the fly slowly. Wire may be preferable, but even 30-pound wire has trouble fitting through a hook’s eye when doubled over. For either doubled-over braid or wire, it helps to thread it through the stinger hook’s eye using a bit of 3x tippet.

Hooks Threaded Poorly and Well

Attaching the hook at fishing time deserves at least a little thought–depending on how it’s attached, the point can end up aimed where you want it aimed, or not. Picking a hook that makes this decision easier helps too. I like up-eye hooks, but down-eyes work as long as you thread the loop through in a direction that doesn’t cant the hook down too much. Figure 7 illustrates. And if it’s important for snag resistance in the river you’re fishing, you can attach the stinger to ride point-up, too, which can affect how you choose to thread it on. But be aware there may be nothing in particlar that keeps the “top” of the streamer above the “belly” when it’s in the water, unless you tie in some feature that accomplishes this (some weak floation up high such as strands of hollow bucktail, or create a “keel” of some kind, or the positioning of dumbell eyes…something. If you care.)

A Finished Intruder-Style Streamer

Intruders can be tied with dumbell eyes, or with “eye” feathers alongside the other materials, or with eye-dots painted onto the thread head, or even eyeless; it may not be provable which is better, but my experience and opinion is that eyes uusually help a streamer. I make sure the sclera of whatever eye I use is very light (typically I use white) so that it looks like an eye even from afar, and I like small dumbell eyes because they add a little weight. Skagit lines can throw a weighted Intruder without issue. I’ll add some weight to the shank too, underneath the estaz or the palmered hackle or whatever I’ve built the body from–the possibilities are multiple for getting the streamer to sink. Just don’t assume the fly has to do all the work of sinking itself–the sink tip between it and you should do much, if not all, that work.

To be effective, an Intruder needs to “flow” and “swim” in the water. So many materials make this possible. Other than that, and color, and depth, and the river you’ve chosen, and how you swing and strip it, the rest may be up to the fish.

A Finished Intruder-Style Streamer

There are many features anglers tie into an Intruder. Most include a shiny body and some long hackle or premium marabou palmered along it, but some simply go with a good estaz, which works well too and is faster to tie. Many build in a bright “blob” on the rear of the shaft, often of hot pink or chartreuse, as a kind of hot spot or trigger point. To me it resembles a firefly glow bulb of sorts, and is intended to catch the fish’s eye. Not all variations start with such a color-contrast trigger feature. I’ve never seen an Intruder that didn’t feature some long, dense, flowing hackle or long flowing premium marabou wound as a collar up front behind where eyes (if they’re used) would go, and this hackle is either bright, or establishes a serious silhouette and “shoulders” to the fly (like black does), or both. On top of that there are usually strands of flash, and long streamer hackle (usually grizzly dyed whatever the fly’s reigning color scheme is…and also darker hackle such as dark blue or black, tied in at the head and left to arc over the body to establish a “back.” And there are often some strands of Lady Amherst pheasant tail feather added randomly along the sides, for complexity.

I won’t presume to present step-by-step tying instructions; they can be readily found everywhere, and there are so many variants and great sequences for tying this streamer…they’re all bright, all high in contrast, and all with passionate endorsements of a ton of anglers who swear by them.

The Intruder is a very easy fly to tie. It can be as simple or involved as your tastes dictate, and it’s a lot of fun to put one together too. For me the only delay was that so many of the materials needed weren’t in my trout fly tying kit, such as its drabness was…but once again J. Stockard and maybe a little creative substitution have come to the rescue.

Two Finished Intruder-Style Streamers

Regarding sizing, most tyers use shafts in the 35mm length range, but some go bigger, especially if they plan to toss into salt. I go bigger and then cut off the rest after tying. The gauge of the stinger hook depends on the hook style and manufacturer, so I won’t name a gauge…I stick with short-shank stingers and otherwise just eyeball what I think will work. There are Intruders tied smallish but they seldom go with shafts shorter than a little under two millimeters. To my knowledge there are no tiny Intruders; there would be little need to trail a stinger hook behind a fly when the whole tie gets smaller than a certain threshold.

If you’ll ever find yourself on water that holds migrating salmon or steelhead, consider adding a few of these big babies to your streamer box. They seem to be the go-to pattern, they’re easy and fun to tie, and whipping them up fuels the obsession that’ll ruin you as it has me.

3 thoughts on “Ruined For Life – Part II

  1. Mary S. Kuss

    Excellent post, Michael. Thanks for all the great information. I have dabbled with tying Intruders, this will inspire me to explore this style of fly in more depth.

    Reply
    1. Michael Vorhis

      My pleasure! I know we’d love it if you’d post photos of your intruder ties in a future blog entry. Everybody’s take on the Intruder is a little different; I love to see others and get good ideas.

      Reply
  2. Michael Vorhis

    Note, all, that there seems to be a typo near the end of Part II:

    “There are Intruders tied smallish but they seldom go with shafts shorter than a little under two millimeters.”

    That should have said “centimeters.” I think there’s little need to point out that you’ll find none smaller than two millimeters. : )

    – Mike

    Reply

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