Satkowski's Predator Bulkhead

John Satkowski, Toledo, OH, fly tying demonstrator and instructor,

Life is often like a river, deep, shallow, but if you take it for granted you just might get wet. Heraclitus once said,”No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” This also draws a parallel to navigate through life, you may have learned about the river and adapted to it but you still might end up wet. Well, this Christmas it seems I took a wrong step in the river and all of a sudden I am in over my head.


In the midst of a divorce during the holiday season where family and friendships are celebrated, it is a trying time. My anger has flowed and ebbed into a shallow gloom that seemingly permeates everything like a ripe bag of chum. It is hard to not walk around and see happy families and not get a pang of jealousy or feel lower than a catfish’s belly. Luckily, my therapy has been the water where the current can wash away any negativity and hurt. It’s an odd thing when you feel sad and happy at the same time but life will go on. 


The only constant in life is change. Things like jobs, relationships, and families can change in a matter of seconds. Having to say goodbye to the people that have been in your life for years is one of the hardest things you can ever do. Even the toughest people walk away from that with a piece of themselves missing. People that are born in pain often forget it’s what forged them. All I know is the searing burn of a pike’s gill raker cutting your hand can be a warm comfort on a brutally cold winter day. I often wonder if people who fish for toothy predatory fish do so because when they get cut and bleed are they making ensuring they can still feel.  

A separation is always difficult despite the time involved and always leaves you feeling lost. Miles and miles of explored river will always lead to parts that you have never set your foot on. A new part of a river can be intimidating, you have to decide how to fish it, feel out all the underwater features, and take your best cast and try and hook something. That is where I am at, feeling out this new, scary unknown part of the water to see if I will take a wrong step or have sure footing. Fortunately, beyond the face of fear is freedom. That is what we are all after, the freedom to be happy and cast again no matter what the fates have in store. 


Like many of you probably reading this, fishing and tying flies is my outlet. It eases my stress and it takes the weight of the world off my shoulders. Life is often like fly fishing in that you tirelessly prepare a fly that you think will be successful. You painstakingly tie something you think will be a killer but when a fish sees it and turns its nose up at it you feel defeated. The great ones learn from their time on the water and go rework the fly at their vise and tie another one to fix the issue. That is the biggest metaphor for life I can think of, you have to always be willing to cast out a fly and accept the chances of a fish hitting it. Sometimes you make the perfect cast and a nice fish blasts your fly, sometimes everything that could conceivably go wrong does. The only true path to failure is to stop trying and accept defeat.


As I wade through the river there will be boulders, tree jams, and foot sucking silt along the way. There will be times when my feet get stuck and I may stumble and fall. The hardest part will be getting up after you fall, bruised and bleeding you must continue moving forward. The current may push back and make the journey tougher than it should be, but you keep going. The trophy of a lifetime may be around that next bend and only time and perseverance will build the bridge to get there. 

So as the snow starts to fall and you may be watching out a frosted window or wading in a frigid river, take solace in the fact that the snow will continue to fall and the fish will continue to bite. A key thing I have vowed in all this mess is never stop giving myself to people and to not let myself retreat into a hole and live there. The fly below is a great pattern that I can share and my Christmas/ Holiday gift to you the reader. Whatever religion or belief system you have we can all share this pattern and do the thing that we love. Cheers!!

Satkowski’s Predator Bulkhead (Radioactive Sucker Color)

Hook: Gamakatsu b10S (4/0-2)

Tail: bucktail underneath 4-6 long barred saddles and schlappen feathers with flashabou over feathers

Body: bucktail tied bulkhead style with butts pushed backward (Popovic style) with each clump of bucktail the butt section of the bucktail will get longer, 4-5 strands of flashabou doubled over clump

Head: barred saddle hackles tied laterally and different color of bucktail tied bulkhead style

Topping: peacock herl curled with the handle of your tying scissors

Eyes: Hareline Real Fake Jungle Cock Eyes


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