Project Description

Turk’s Tarantula

Pattern Description: Guy Turk developed his Tarantula in 1990. George Anderson used this fly to win the Jackson Hole One-Fly Contest that year and it has since become one of the most popular attractor flies in the world.
Mr. Turks creation has all you could ask for in an attractor; wide profile, great buoyancy and visibility. The combination of readily available materials and ease of tying make this an essential western fly.
One of the best things about this pattern is its versatility. I like to fish the Tarantula dry along the bank and when it sweeps under the water at the end of the drift I let it swing on through. Once hanging directly downstream, I will start a strip retrieve, fishing the fly back to me as a streamer. One fly as a dry, wet and streamer is pretty versatile and I can clearly see how George Anderson could wreak havoc with a pattern like this.
The Tarantula is also my favorite Mothers Day Caddis pattern. Yes, I know its way too big but the fish really seem to be able to pick this big buoyant fly out of the crowd and voice their opinions with crushing strikes. There are a few tricks to tying the Tarantula that I have tried to clarify in the following tutorial. Pay close attention to the details and crank out some of your own. Feel free to use alternate color schemes and substitute materials as needed. I have added the barred rubber legs to this version because they are so easy to do I can’t help myself and I really like the look. Play with this one and see what you can come up with.

Materials Needed:

Hook: TMC 5262 #2-14
Thread: 3/0 Tan Monocord
Tail: Amherst Pheasant Tippet Fibers
Rib: Small Copper Wire
Body: Hares Mask Dubbing
Underwing: Pearl Krystal Flash
Overwing: White Calf Tail
Collar: Natural Deer Hair Tips
Legs: Tan Medium Round Rubber, barred with a marker
Head: Spun and Trimmed Natural Deer Hair

Step 1

Attach the thread about one third of a shank length behind the hook eye and wrap a thread base back to the bend.

Step 2

Peel a clump of Amherst Pheasant Tippet fibers from the quill taking care to keep the tips even.  This clump should be roughly equal in width to the hook gap.

Step 3

Fold the tippet fibers into a bunch and tie them in at the bend to form the tail.  The tips should extend beyond the hook bend about one third of a shank length.  Wrap forward over the remaining butt ends to where you started the thread and clip the excess there.

Step 4

Tie in a six-inch length of copper wire at this point and wrap back over it with the thread to the bend of the hook.

Step 5

Apply a heavy layer of hares mask dubbing to the thread and wrap a thickly tapered body from the bend to the two-thirds point on the shank.

Step 6

Spiral wrap the wire forward over the dubbing for the rib and tie off at the front of the body.  Twist the end of the wire around until it breaks off.

Step 7

Tie in three strands of pearl krystal flash in the middle of their length at the front edge of the body.

Step 8

Double the front strands back over the body and tie them all down to the front edge of the dubbing.

Step 9

Form a smooth thread base from the front of the body up to the hook eye and back to the body again.

Step 10

Cut, clean and stack a large clump of calf tail hair.  A large diameter hair stacker is useful for stacking the calf tail.  The larger stacker gives the hair enough room to shake down to the bottom of the stacker and become even.  Measure the calf tail against the hook so it is equal to about two-thirds of a shank length.

Step 11

Tie the calf tail in at the front edge of the dubbed body with a tight, narrow band of thread.

Step 12

Cut the butt ends of the calf tail at an angle so they form a slightly tapered base.

Step 13

Wrap the thread over the butts and form a smooth, tapered thread base over them. Make sure not to build too much bulk on the hook with the wing tie down.  We will require a relatively thin and smooth thread base to spin the rest of the head on later.  Cut the ends of the krystal flash at irregular lengths about even with the end of the tail.  Leave the thread hanging at the base of the wing.

Step 14

Cut, clean and stack a clump of deer hair.  Look for hair with short, blunt tips and large diameter butts.  This will make for a nice looking collar and still allow the butts to flare, as we need them to.  Measure the stacked tips of the deer hair so they are at about the mid-point of the calf tail wing and the ends of your fingertips are at the back edge of the hook eye.

Step 15

Cut the butts from the hair at the pre-measured point and place the hair on top of the hook with the butts sticking out of the front of your fingertips as shown.

Step 16

Make two turns of thread over the hair just in front of your fingertips.

Step 17

Hold the tip ends of the hair tightly as you pull down and back on the thread to flare the clump.  This bunch of hair should not spin around the shank.  Make another tight wrap of thread over the hair in the crease created by the first two turns to secure it.

Step 18

Leave the thread hanging at the tie down point.  Wrap a single strand of round rubber leg material around the thread and use the thread to pull the center of the rubber strand into the crease where the hair is tied down.

Step 19

This picture shows the detail of the rubber leg tied into the center of the initial hair bunch.

Step 20

Repeat the rubber legs process again on the far side of the shank.

Step 21

Make a couple more turns of thread through the hair and over the rubber legs to secure them.

Step 22

Wrap a piece of .020 lead wire around the rubber legs, wing and collar to hold them out of the way while you complete the spun hair head.  Move the thread to the front of collar butts.

Step 23

Cut, clean and stack another large clump of deer hair.  You want this bunch to be rather heavy as it is what will form the rest of the head.

Step 24

Cut the tips off the hair bunch leaving only the large diameter butts.  The hair clump should now be only about a half inch long.  Place the hair over the hook with the middle of the clump at the front edge of the collar butts.

Step 25

Place two turns of thread over the hair at the center of the bunch and pull down slightly to crease the hair.

Step 26

Hold on to the hook and pull down and back on the thread to spin this second bunch of hair.  Notice the angle of the bobbin and the direction of pull in the photo.

Step 27

The hair should spin completely around the hook and form a ball as shown.

Step 28

Wrap the thread forward through the hair in small incremental wraps to the back edge of the index point.  These wraps will continue to spin and flare the hair as you wrap.  Be careful to keep these wraps close to vertical as you travel to prevent trapping any hairs down parallel to the shank.

Step 29

When the thread has reached the index point, fold all the hairs back slightly and whip finish and clip the thread.

Step 30

Trim the head using a double-edged razor blade.  Start with a flat cut from the eye to the base of the head along the bottom of the hook.  Be sure to hold the legs out of the way as you cut.

Step 31

Make another angled cut across the top of the head, again from the eye back to the collar.

Step 32

Bend the blade to round the corners of the head into a conical shape.  Clean up any edges and stray hairs with your scissors.

Step 33

Stretch the rubber legs out and color several bands on them with a marker.

Step 34

Cut the legs to the desired length.  For warm water use I tend to leave the legs a little on the long side, but for trout, I cut the rear legs about even with the tip of the tail and the front legs about half that long.

Step 35

Finished fly, top view.  Notice length of the tail, wing and legs as well as the overall proportions and the shape of the head.

Step 36

Finished fly, bottom view.  Note the diameter of the body at the front and how it butts seamlessly up against the head.

Step 37

Finished fly, side view.