Fly Tyer's Bench
Alaskan Fly Patterns The NATURAL Imitations


When you think about what makes a fly great, there's usually more than just its ability to take fish. Of coarse it needs to catch fish, but the great ones will often be effective for multiple species in a variety of conditions. I suspect the Widow Maker will be one such fly.

When I began tying the Widow Maker, not only was it nameless, but the thought of using it for pike didn't cross my mind. It was part of a collection intended for itís saltwater cousin the Barracuda. It took 'cuda in the Yucatan, but it wasn't until it reached homewaters that I realized what a great pattern this might be for Alaskan species - Pike in particular.

The first time I used it was on a notable south-central pike lake. It was mid-day summer with marginal conditions, but we were getting enough strikes to keep us casting. I'd been systematically running through my standard flies with sporadic success when I remembered the saltwater box. I gave a few patterns ample opportunity before getting to a good-looking green and white fly. On the first cast a hammer-handle chased it back to the boat before taking it in plain sight. It was a small fish, but a fish. Over the next few hours, fishing remained slow, but the green and white produced enough fish to warrant more testing. The next week would tell the tale.

Our timing was right and we found a good school of larger fish. I started the day with the Widow Maker and was immediately into fish, sometimes taking pike on 3 or 4 consecutive casts. I was impressed with the performance of the fly, but I had this nagging feeling it might just be one of those days when it didn't matter what you used. My son was into steady action but he was casting hardware, so I knew I'd have to make my own comparisons. Under the circumstances I knew it would be a good opportunity to run through a selection of flies.

I gave each pattern six casts to produce a strike. If the pattern was hit, I'd give it another six; if it wasn't, I was on to the next pattern. Over a four-hour period, the fishing remained hot and I tested at least a dozen patterns with varying degrees of success. Because conditions and fish behavior change throughout the day, I used the green and white at least once every hour to gauge its performance against the other flies. At the end of the day I felt like I had a good comparison and for whatever reason, the green and white out-produced the others by an astounding 4 to 1 ratio.

The Widow Maker is designed in a way that not only does it look good, but it behaves well in the water and is virtually indestructible. The synthetic filaments serve as the body and the tail, and they're stiff enough to hold their position, while being supple enough to undulate and move independently of the hook as the fly is retrieved. The kinky nature of the synthetic also gives the body a scaly shimmer as it moves through the water.

The weighted, prismatic dumbbell eyes add a swimming motion to the fly and serve as an attractor. Because the entire weight of the fly is centered near the head it will naturally dive. By using a slow strip retrieve the Widow Maker will rise and dip during each strip, causing it to swim. The entire head is covered in 5-minute epoxy that serves two purposes. It adds the highest degree of durability while contributing to the head weight.


  1. Hook - Mustad 34007 stainless saltwater, size 2.

  2. Thread - Common tying thread in matching colors.

  3. Body - Super Hair or other moderately stiff synthetic fiber.

  4. Eyes - Large prismatic dumbbell eyes.

  5. Head - 5-minute epoxy


  1. Attach thread. Using figure 8 method, secure dumbbell eyes approximately 3/4 inch behind hook eye. Bring thread forward to just behind eye of hook.

  2. Cut approximately 4" clumps of green and white Super Hair. Tie in clump of white just behind the hook eye so it extends rearward along the top of the hook shank. Repeat with green so it lays on top of the white.

  3. Lift Super Hair and bring thread rearward to just in front of the dumbbell eye.

  4. Make several wraps of thread over the top of both colors of Super Hair so they're secured - green on top of white just in front of dumbbell eye.

  5. Lift Super Hair and bring thread to just behind dumbbell eye.

  6. Make several wraps of thread over the top of both colors of Super Hair so they're secured - green on top of white just behind the dumbbell eye. Whip finish.

  7. Apply 5-minute epoxy from the hook eye to behind the dumbbell eye. Cover all material and rotate to prevent sagging until dry.

Oh yeah, how did the fly end up named the Widow Maker? Long story short - its effectiveness at removing a significant number of pike from local waters has left a lot of pike missing their mates, and due to its overwhelming success at hooking up fish after fish, any angler using it will end up with their better half becoming a "fishing widow" because you just can't call it quits!

Pattern by Brad Hanson
Photo by B. Hanson ©2003

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