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Tying the Waller Waker – Drawings and text by Lani Waller

In my opinion- as a compulsively driven, success oriented angler- fly tying is nothing more or less than problem solving. The “problems” with skating flies for steelhead or Atlantic Salmon include angler visibility, and the ability of the fly to stay on the surface over the greatest possible range of current speeds and texture, and light conditions.  The longer the cast, the more difficult these problems become.

So, the Waller Waker was not designed as a “quick tie.”  It was designed as a fly using traditional materials, and construction processes which, when correctly employed, use hydraulic principles of water pushing against the front of the fly, to force the fly toward the surface. And keep it there.

The wings are a critical element in the design. They must be slanted forward at a 45 degree angle and they must be stiff. The length of the wings should be one and one half times the gap of the hook. Too short is better than too long.

The moose hair body should be as dense as you can make it without crushing all the fibers. Crushing them with excessive wraps of thread or too much material will squeeze air out of the hollow fibers.

The “beard or the “throat” of the fly is designed to help the fly “wake” or “skim” over the surface.  It must be stiff, but it does not have to be made from the more coarse hollow body hair of the moose. You can use just the tips of the body hair, or any short stiff fibers of moose.

The Waller Waker may also be “half hitched,” as many traditional Atlantic Salmon flies are, as that technique will help lift almost any un-weighted fly with an upturned eye raise toward the surface. Make sure the half hitch leaves the underside of the fly directly below the position of the hook shank and head of the fly.   This will keep the fly in position on both sides of the river.

It is a myth that you have to half hitch your fly on the right side when you are fishing river left (facing downstream) and on the left side of the fly if you are fishing river right. I learned this several years after filming the 3m steelhead videos. Keep the hitch on bottom center and it works equally well on both sides of the river.


Body:  Un-tanned Moose hair.
Tail:  Un-tanned Moose hair
Wings:  Divided calf tail. White or bright pink or green, etc best for angler visibility under most conditions.
Beard:  Un-tanned Moose hair.
Hook:  Upturned eye. 1x or 2x long shank. Medium weight wire.

1.  Tie in tail.

2. Tie in wing material, leaving room for the head and beard of the fly which will be tied at the end of the process.

3.  Raise the wing clump to a 45 degree angle with your “non- bobbin” fingers. As you hold the wing clump in this position, make eight to ten turns with the thread, directly in front of the wing clump, as close to the base of the wing clump as you can.  This will keep the wings anchored at that 45 degree angle. Wing length should equal one and one half times the gap of the hook.

4. Using your fingers, divide (separate) the wing clump into two equal bunches of hair.

5. “Post” the wings, by tying a series of “figure eight” wraps with the bobbin between the base of each clump of hair so that each is securely separated from the other.

6. Wrap the base of each separated wing with five to seven wraps around each wing base.  This will secure the wings in place and guarantee their angle of separation.

7. Cement the base of each wing with tying cement.

8.  “Isolate” the tail and each wing by gently folding a piece of Scotch “Magic Tape” (not regular Scotch Tape)   around the tail and each divided wing.  This will keep them safely out of the way when it comes time to trim the moose hair body.

9. Tie in the moose hair body starting at the rear of the fly, and continue toward the two wings.

10. When the moose hair body has been tied, or “spun” in place make a whip finish in front of the wings and clip the thread off. This will keep you from accidentally cutting the tying thread as you trim the body.

11. Trim the body to shape.

12. Re-attach the thread in front of the wings and tie in the beard.  Trim off any butts and finish the head of the fly. Remove the Scotch Magic Tape.