As we approach the middle of summer here in Pennsylvania, my tying (and I'd assume quite a few fellow Pennsylvanians' tying as well) starts to shift, gradually at first, but more rapidly as Labor Day approaches, from dry flies and bass bugs to egg patterns, nymphs, and streamers in anticipation of steelhead fishing in the fall. This transition is a chance to look back on the winter, spring, and early summer fishing season and recall any particularly killing patterns to keep in mind when replenishing fly boxes during long winter evenings. Sometimes it's a classic pattern that I've just started to really use that year, other times its a niche pattern that fills it's specific need perfectly, and other times it's some homemade creation. Any which way, it's a pattern or two that made a name for themselves over the season, that you want to have backups of when next spring rolls around.
For me, spring 2012 was mostly a missed opportunity of a season. With a long 8 hour class every Saturday, from January until May, my weekend fishing was effectively non-existent for the entire spring season. Even when I got out during the week, it was limited to just an hour or two after work, before it got dark. That said, 2012, more than most seasons, has seen a higher proportion of warmwater fishing than trout, simply because when I finally got to hit the water, not only did I have a new 8wt to try out, but also, warmwater fishing was just getting into prime time.
So my fishing saw much more tossing streamers to bass and pike than drifting dries and emergers to cagey trout. Because of this, I tied far more #4 and up streamers than any other type of fly this year. While several produced fish, the clear standout has been Doug McKnight's Home Invader. Striking a perfect balance between impressionism and realism, the Home Invader is liable to take any species that eats fish. Of course, like any good fly tyer, I've made a few minor tweaks from the official patter that, in my opinion, make it even more effective in my fishing. So, without further ado: the Home Invader...
1. Start off with a long shank streamer hook in your chosen size. While I suppose you could tie it in any size, this is one of those flies where the nature of the materials will dictate proper proportions for the overall finished product. That being said, for the materials I've chosen, I'd recommend a large hook, somewhere from #4 up to #2/0. Also bear in mind that this is a patter that will ride point-up. With these two key characteristics in the pattern, I've chosen a #2 60-degree streamer hook, designed to ride point-up anyway, with the addition of weight, this hook will ensure that the fly rides properly every time.
2. Tie in a zonker strip tail, upside-down compared to the usual. This is the biggest change I've made from the original pattern. The original calls for marabou, but to me, marabou is meant for drifted patterns, or swung streamers in slow currents, where the feather fibers can breathe, while the rest of the pattern is more suited to faster flows. Substituting rabbit fur in the form of a zonker strip adds some body without compromising on motion in the water. When dealing with warmwater fish, the hide strip may even add a bit of durability. In this fly, I used a 'magnum' zonker strip, for even more body.
3. Next add some flash. The specific type and amount isn't strictly limited, just keep in mind your general idea for the rest of the fly and adjust accordingly (If you're tying something big and bright for maximum visibility, load up on flash! If you're going for natural looking realism, laybe limit to just a few strands, if any.) In this tie, I used some UV polar chenille in silver flash color. I find the amount I used to be enough flash to set off a pattern without being so gaudy that it turns off fish in clear, calm conditions.
4. If you do decide to use the polar chenille, definitely layer it. The fibers are long enough to handle it, and without it, the flash will be subtle/skimpy indeed. Cover the back half of the shank in 2 layers of flash. If it looks like too much now, understand that this fly is all about layers, and there will be plenty of material to shroud this, making a layered, translucent effect.
5. Once you're finished wrapping that flash, clip a small bunch of your fur of choice (silver fox shown, though any light, compressible, flowing fur will work...keep fiber length in mind based on hook size), strip out guard hairs, and clip the butt ends evenly to size. Then tie the clump in, on top of the hook, facing forward, extending over the hook eye. Once you have it tied in, sweep the hair back over the flash, spreading it around evenly over the top half of the pattern. After this, continue to tie in clumps of hair, but instead of keeping them on the top, distribute the hair around the shank, tie it in, then sweep it back uniformly around the entire body.
6. Once you tie in 3-5 clumps, you should have a body that looks kind of like this, with the front of the series of bunches up near the eye. You can put a few thread wraps over the front of the tie in point to sweep the hair back a bit too.
7. Invert the hook, either by inverting the vise or removing the hook and putting it back in the vise upside down. Add in a few hackles along each side of the top of the body, sort of like a tent or roof over the body, but with some space between the top edges. I've used two hackles on each side to make them more defined, though one feather per side would give a more translucent effect. Consider both solid hackle colors and patterned feathers like grizzly and badger. This is also a great time to use some interestingly colored dyed feathers.
8. Add a pair of hourglass eyes near the hook eye, making sure to super-glue them into place.
9. Using a dubbing loop, dub the head of the fly around the eyes, then whip finish and trim!