Lures from New Zealand:
An Introduction

Flies With a Story


Flies With a Story #68

The Flytier: John Nicholls of New Zealand

Johnno writes: "I have been fishing and tying flies for over 30 years. Give me a choice of fishing or tying, and I would probably take the tying. Hunting is another pastime of mine and I try to use as much fur and feather from the quarry I hunt as I can.  I also enjoy delving into the history of flies and flytying, both of our native patterns and of those from overseas. Living in close proximity to two lovely rivers gives me the chance to test not only new patterns, but the very old ones as well.  New Zealand has an almost forgotten trout fly history extending back nearly 130 years.  There have been a lot of very old and very good patterns wet and dry, streamer and nymph, many unique in style that have been passed by.  Many of the older patterns and styles still work and very well"

Johnno has a set of flies on Ed Gallop's Web site,
Johnno has a set of flies on Han Weilenmann's Web site,


Lures From New Zealand by Peter Frailey

During the fall I posted a question about the Matuka streamer on the Fly Fisherman Bulletin Board.  John (Johnno) Nicholls of New Zealand replied with some excellent information, right from the horse's mouth.  You see, the Matuka was originated in his country.  I learned from him that the original name was the Matuku, as this is the name of the bird from whose feathers the first flies were tied.  He informed me that these birds are currently endangered and the use of their feathers is now banned.  For no known reason, over the years the common name for this fly changed from Matuku to Matuka, and today it is even called that by most New Zealanders.

When I observed that the hooks on his flies were shorter than I expected for streamers, Johnno pointed out that New Zealand streamers (lures, as they are called there) started out on standard trout hooks because that was all that was available.  He estimates that 95% of the streamers tied in New Zealand are done so on regular length hooks.  The Mustad 3666 is the standard choice. 

The fly "arrived" in American in the 60's and 70's where the hook length increased. In American, most streamers are tied on long hooks, such as 3xl, 4xl and even longer. The 4xl Mustad 79580 is perhaps "the" classic streamer hook.  A quick look on the Orvis Web site finds that a 4xl hook is specified for the Matuka, in a size 6 or 8. 

Johnno's favorite lure size is a size 6, though size 4 and size 8 are common in his fly boxes.  Because of the shorter shank of the 3666, it would therefore seem to me that smaller streamers are fished in New Zealand. Perhaps I am erroneously jumping to a conclusion.

Offline, I emailed Johnno several times with additional questions, and he was very helpful and generous with his responses.  Because the lures used in New Zealand are quite different from our standard fare, I was able to coax (it wasn't hard!) Johnno into sending a few flies for

I was so surprised and pleased when I received by air mail a dozen beautiful lures with historical information and recipes included!  In addition to several Matuka/Matuku style flies, he sent multiple samples of several other styles of lures: Killer, Pukeko, and Hackle styles.

Here are some terms used by Johnno and what they mean to North Americans:


Johnno's  flies survive customs and arrive in Massachusetts in perfect condition!

My plan is to photograph each of the twelve flies, and add them to this site along with recipes and historical background, as provided by Johnno.  I expect to divide the project into four parts, with a separate Web page for each part:


Part I:
Part II:
Part III:
Part IV:
Matuka/Matuku Style (5 patterns)
Killer Style (2 patterns)
Pukeko Style (3 patterns)
Hackle Style (2 patterns) soon

---Peter Frailey
January, 2006


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