The Alter Ego
A streamer for any occasion.
By Rich Strolis

In today’s ever changing landscape of fly tying, it seems the new norm is to attach as many materials to a hook as is humanly possible, with the goal of enticing more “likes” on social media than “eats” in the actual water. While many of these what I call “eye candy” patterns may seem cool at first glance, the experienced angler quickly recognizes what patterns are designed to catch more anglers than fish. Often the aesthetics of these “eye candy” flies trumps the importance of the materials—a problem because a fly’s materials can determine whether your time on the water is enjoyable or resembles something like work. Casting a well-designed fly that jettisons through the air with ease is much more pleasant than attempting to fling a sandbag.

The beauty of tying your own flies is that you can tinker, tweak and fine tune pretty much any aspect of the fly. And if you take people fishing for a living, you can add another layer to that equation, as day in and day out you will have a very wide spectrum of experience to make observations from. Having such a backlog of knowledge gives you an edge in designing universally effective fly patterns that fish well over a broad spectrum of angler skill sets.

I truly enjoy fishing streamers, and I have grown even fonder of those that have a natural swimming action to them. There is just something about a fly that slinks, darts and serpentines through the water column as the angler imparts a variety of actions through the manipulation of the fly line. I guess you could say if the angler likes the way the fly looks in the water, there is a higher probability that they will have confidence in its success and keep it where it needs to be—in the water. But contrary to popular belief, it isn’t always necessary to build a multitude of sections into a fly pattern to get this enticing action; it can be achieved on a single platform or a two-part platform very easily.

The Alter Ego, like flyfishing itself, is a streamer pattern that can be as simple or complex as you like. You alone control how far down the rabbit hole you choose to go. Personally, I prefer streamer patterns that have mutiple dimensions of appeal built into their design, and the Alter Ego is one that articulates that theme on a variety of levels. The broad profiled deer hair head and collar is the first thing that immediatley comes to mind. This head design is the catalyst for the actions that can be achieved from this fly, as once wet you will see that this pattern shimmies and shakes with even the subtlest of manipulations. But there are other dimensions of appeal that can be altered when constructing the body of this pattern.

For example, although a solid color base fishes extremely well, I often prefer to blend a variety of colors into the head, collar and tails sections of this pattern, as this approach offers a new layer of appeal with only a little more effort and time. Ultimately, experimentation is left to the person sitting at the vise, but remember that less is often more so when tying this fly: please listen carefully when I emphasize keeping materials at a minimum. This alone will vastly enhance your love of this fly, as its castability will be greatly increased for even novice anglers.

The Alter Ego is not what I would term a species-specific fly pattern; in fact it has fooled fish from a variety of locations both in fresh and saltwater. One could argue that this pattern falls into that category of “predator food” as its action in the water provokes predatory reactions from just about any fish. As you can see, it can be tied on a variety of hook configurations, so adjust accordingly to whatever you are targeting. A majority of my time fishing this fly is spent targeting larger brown trout and smallmouth bass, so I typically tie the bulk of these in a 4-6 inch size range. But you can go smaller or much larger as well.

As a result of it’s neutrally bouyant design, the Alter Ego fishes best on any type of integrated sinking line with a 3-6 foot (or more) leader tapered to 12-16 pound test. I prefer a sink tip of 25-30 feet, and as of late I use flourocarbon in the construction of my leaders as it stretches less and holds up better than standard monofiliment. These are just reference points to start experimenting from. An intermediate line works well too in the proper situations, and I have also been known to use this pattern in an all-black configuration with a greased leader and floating line for large nocturnal browns as well.


Thread: Veevus 140 Power Thread
Rear Hook: Ahrex TP 610, sizes 1, 2 or 4
Tail: Whiting American Rooster Saddles
Flash: Micro Lateral Scale or Krinkle Flash
Body: EP Sparkle Brush or MFC Flash Brush
Wing: Arctic fox tail reverse tied in the round
Bead: 3D Pro Bead and 19-strand Beadalon

Front Hook: Ahrex TP 610, sizes 1/0,1 or 2
Rear Collar: Marabou
Body: EP Sparkle Brush or MFC Flash Brush
Flash: Micro Lateral Scale or Krinkle Flash
Wing: Arctic Fox tail reverse tied in the round
Collar: Premo Deer Hair flaired 180 degrees
Head: Premo Deer Hair spun with 100 denier gel spun thread


Step 1: Inserting the rear hook in the vise, start your tying thread at the eye and work your way back to a point just past the halfway point of the hook shank.

Step 2: Affix a pair of rooster saddles along the hook shank on either side with three loose thread wraps keeping the feathers flat along the shank. Once they are in place, work your thread down the stems forward to the hook eye, and trim the excess. (Tier’s note: If your feathers tend to roll on the shank, trying both flattening their stems with a pair of pliers and adding a drop of Gel Loctite glue to the hook shank before tying the feathers in.)

Step 3: Take one piece of flash and cut it in half, then tie both halves in the middle on the nearside of the hook with a pair of loose thread wraps. Fold the other half to the far side of the hook and secure it with a thread wraps rear to the base of the rooster feathers. Both sections of flash should run along the centerline of each feather.

Step 4: Tie in the Sparkle Brush and advance your thread forward to a point about one eyes length back from the hook eye.

Step 5: Wrap the brush forward with open spiral wraps similar to palmering a hackle while preening the flash rearward with each turn. Tie off the brush with 3 turns in front and behind the brush, cut the wire with a pair of wire cutters and then cover the burr with thread wraps.

Step 6a: Cut a section of Arctic fox hair from a tail roughly the diameter of a pencil and comb out the underfur.

Step 6b: Reverse tie the clump of hair in at the front of the hook behind the eye and build an even thread collar back to the base of the sparkle brush. Be sure to roll the fox hair around the hook shank so that it is evenly distributed “in the round” about the hook shank. For reference, the tips of the fox hair should bleed into the midpoint of the tail feathers.

Step 7: Using a piece of tubing or the exterior of a pen, push the fox hair rearward to evenly distribute the hair backwards.

Step 8: Grab the tips of the fox hair with your other hand and remove the tube from the front of the hook, and then work the tying thread through the fox hair. Take 2-3 turns around the fox hair before removing your other hand from the bundle and then make 3-4 more turns of thread before completing a 4 turn whip finish. This is the time to brush and preen the fox hair around the hook so that it is evenly distributed. This is definitely a step where less is more; try to use just enough fox hair so that it looks even but is relatively translucent. You want to be able to see the Sparkle Brush beneath. A little practice makes this step perfect, as too much hair will deter the fly’s movement and furthermore make it more difficult to cast.

Step 9: Cut a 3-inch section of Beadalon, thread it through the hook eye and then affix the 3D bead to the Beadalon. Set aside for the time being.

Step 10: Place the flies front hook in the vise, then attach your tying thread behind the hook eye and run a course of thread to a point on the shank where the bend begins.

Step 11: Affix the tail section of the fly to the hook with three loose wraps of thread. Be sure to manipulate the beadalon so that the wire is side by side along the top of the hookshank as seen in the picture. Three loose wraps will be just enough to hold it in place if you need to do any minor manipulations to the connection. It is important to leave a loop in the wire that is roughly the same size as the bead to ensure that you get maximum movement out of the tail section of the fly.

Step 12: Cover the Beadalon with four courses of the thread wraps. One course from the tie-in to the hook eye, a return, and then a second course to the hook eye and another return to the hook bend.

Step 13: Take your marabou plume, preen the tips at the top of the feather and tie it to the hook shank.

Step 14: Tie a marabou plume in by the tip and wrap it with four turns to a point just shy of the middle of the hook shank. Tie it off, trim the excess, and then run a course of thread wraps back over the marabou rearward while preening the fibers rearward. Stop your thread at a point between the hook beak and barb.

Step 15: Repeat step 5, affixing the Sparkle Brush to the hook, wrapping forward to the halfway point of the shank, tying off and preening rearward.

Step 16: Cut another piece of flash in half and tie the two halves in at the midway point on the nearside of the hook, then fold the other halves over to the far side and tie them off.

Step 17: Repeat steps 6 through 8: cut and comb out a section of fox tail, reverse tie it, distribute the hair evenly around the hook shank, and then push it rearward before tying off to form a bullet. For reference, you want the hair tips to bleed into the front 1/3 of the rear section. Whip finish your tying thread and cut it from the fly.

Step 18: Take your 100 denier gel spun thread and attach it behind the hook eye. Lay a course to the base of the fox fur and put in a half hitch.

Steps 19a, 19b, 19c, 19d: Using a hair stacker, cut a section of Premo deerhair roughly the diameter of a pencil straight from the hide. Comb out the underfur and then place the hair tips facing down into the stacker. Tap the stacker on your bench to align the tips and then remove them from the stacker. This is the hair for the collar, which should bleed into the midway point of the fox fur. Transfer the hair by its tips to your tying hand, trim the butt ends of the hair just past where you plan on tying the hair in and then take 6 thread wraps with increasing tension to secure the collar to the hook while maintaining the bundle’s position on the top of the shank.

Steps 20 - 21: Once you have made the six tight thread wraps to secure the bundle, use the thumb and index finger of your bobbin hand to push down on the bundle with your thumb and up on the underside with your index finger to ensure that the collar is distributed 180 degrees around the top half of the hook shank. When done correctly you will get an even starburst of hair. Advance the thread in front of the collar bump.

Step 22: Cut another bundle of deer hair from the Premo strip, clean and comb out the under fur, align the butt ends in your hand and trim away the solid tip sections from the bundle as that part of the hair will not be needed as it doesn’t spin. Take three capturing wraps around the center of the bundle of hair.

Step 23: Take your thumb and index finger and push down on the bundle of hair while holding the bobbin and maintaining light pressure on the thread. Once you have pushed on the bundle of hair and feel it has distributed evenly, simultaneously pull down on the thread to spin the hair around the hook. Work the thread through the hair trying not to trap any hairs and advance the thread in front of the spun hair.

Step 24: Repeat the last step and cut a second bundle of hair, clean it, attach it the same way and spin it in the same manner. To make this fly properly you DO NOT want a tightly packed deer hair head like you would in a bass bug. Rather, you want a head spun out of hair that has more sillouette with less material. This will ensure the fly sheds water on the back cast and will penetrate the water rather than float on the surface.

Step 25: Pull the deer hair rearward away from the hook eye, work your thread through the hair, and take a few turns behind the eye. Whip finish and trim thread.

Step 26a - 26b: Now it is time to begin trimming the head to shape. Take a double-edged razor and hold it by the sides, slightly bending the razor in a small semi-circle. You want to maintain this curve while trimming tge deer hair, as this shape will aid in the fly’s ability to swim and dart in the water. Next, invert the hook in the vise and trim the bottom of the fly in one swoop, removing the trimmings but not cutting so far that you damage any of the fox hair wing.

Step 27: The bottom of the head is now roughly cut; any loose or errant hairs can be trimmed later with scissors. As you can see the deerhair is trimmed right to the fox wing.

Step 28: Hold the collar rearward with your hand and repeat the last step in the same manner with the double edged razor. Take care not to cut into the deer hair collar.

Step 29: Once you have established the basic shape with the razor, you can go in with a pair of curved scissors and clean up any stray hairs and establish the overall shape that you are intending. As you can see there is a great deal of space between fibers, which aids in water expulsion on the back cast.

Step 30: Looking from the front of the head, a properly trimmed head should have a tapered oval shape which helps the fly dart and swim on the retrieve.

The completed fly.

Rich Strolis
Rich Strolis can typically be found searching out that next vicious eat, behind a set of oars rowing friends or clients, or at the jaws of his Regal vise where he ties copious amounts of flies for a living. He is the author of Catching Shadows: Tying Flies For The Toughest Fish and Strategies For Fishing Them and is a signature fly designer for the Montana Fly Company. You can see more of his work at, where you can purchase some of his creations customly tied to fit whatever it is that you are after.