B.T.S & S.B.S: Michael Rogan’s Deadly Bobber

When the waters warm in the Great Lakes in the spring, I like to experiment. I’m not as concerned with if I’ll catch a fish; I’m more concerned with what I catch a fish on. A large portion of my fishing is fueled by answering the question “what if”, and trying out new ideas. I love showing up to the river with a cane rod, a handful of patterns in an altoid tin, and a tippet spool and seeing what happens. I like to identify or challenge myself to see if a fish will eat specific classic Atlantic salmon patterns I’ve tied. When I find a pattern that works, I usually move on to something else because discovering new effective patterns is part of the fun for me. I love the Irish salmon patterns tied by Michael Rogan. At the start of this past season I set a goal to catch a fish on a mixed wing pattern that I tied in my hand. I was starting to learn to tie classic patterns, and the mixed wings seemed less technical to tie, so I got my feet wet there. At the time, I had yet to learn that there were general ways to tie these patterns. I studied many patterns tied by other people and got a feel for how things should look. I didn’t tie it the same way Rogan would have; I tied it in the way my skill set would allow at the time.

The unique winging techniques and colors have always stood out for me as a spring fish catcher. One pattern I’ve had success with is the Deadly Bobber. While I don’t freestyle tie that often, classic patterns offer enough wiggle room through interpretation of the recipe to adapt it to suit your specific needs. Michael Rogan did the same. The golden olive body and a claret hackle near the shoulder look natural and buggy. I tend to fish more natural patterns in the spring, and this one checks all the boxes for me. I landed a fish in spring 2021 on this pattern while the water was still cold. It was dressed sparsely on a heavier iron to get down in the colder flows while fishing a dry line.

I positioned myself at the head of a heavy riffle that dumped into a pool, creating a deep cut. I typically target a different type of water with a dry line. It’s an extremely popular spot, though, and there was no one around that spring day. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to take advantage of an empty run. My initial swing was awkward. I was casting at steep angles downstream to get a slow swing, but it wasn’t working. As luck would have it, a large downstream gust of wind required me to make a right-handed snake roll as my cast. That is probably my weakest cast, but the conditions required me to use it, so I played the hand I was dealt. The cast came off smoothly and was 90 degrees to the current. To my surprise, despite the fast current in the cut, the Deadly Bobber swung extremely slowly. While it didn’t look like it at first glance, the head was one of those perfect swing situations; it required no mends but a high stick to keep the shooting head in the right spot before it started to swing. As the pool deepened, I decided to hold my position rather than step down. I continued to strip the line off my reel and make casts, but I would grab the shooting line to ensure each cast went the same distance and then slowly feed additional lines to cover the new water. I was so focused on setting up the swing that I forgot I was actually fishing, I continued to experiment with feeding line into the swing and watching my shooting head. I realized I was fishing like Bill McMillan had described as the deep, wet fly swing.

The only difference was that I wasn’t throwing a pile of slack line from a double taper line; I was feeding line with a modern shooting head. I was startled from my concentration by the line ripping off my Dingley reel—an extremely aggressive take followed by a cartwheel. A fish had just eaten my Rogan pattern! My Sharpes Scottie cane rod was bent, and I could feel every head shake. It was such an incredible moment. My first fish on a mixed wing tied in hand, my first time hearing my reel growl, and my first fish on a cane rod. After a few more runs, I was able to land the fish and grab a quick photo before releasing it. It was a remarkable experience that validated the challenges I set out for myself fishing. We all want to catch fish, but when you set goals for yourself, and they come to fruition, you are left with these fantastic memories.



  • Tip: Fine oval silver tinsel (3″ long)
  • Tag: Orange Floss (3-5″ is plenty
  • Tail: GP Crest, GP Tippet, Wood Duck, Indian Crow (substitute)
  • Butt: Ostrich
  • Body: 4/5 Golden olive, 1/5 Claret
  • Ribbing: Flat silver and gold twist
  • Hackle: Claret over the claret dubbing
  • Throat: Jay
  • Wing: Orange, Yellow, and Green Goose, Peacock wing, Mottled turkey, GP Tail, Bronze Mallard
  • Horns: Scarlet Macaw
  • Head: Black wool


  • I’ve tied a lot of these patterns. I prefer to take the time to select all my materials and have them laid out before I start rather than grab them as I go. This is the most efficient way to go about tying these patterns because to get an aesthetically pleasing fly with the proper proportions, you need to be diligent in selecting the correct sizes of materials for your hook. The only material that I don’t pick ahead of time is the throat. I wait to match that up to the hackle after it’s been tied in to ensure it’s the correct size.
  • Look through the base of a Golden Pheasant head to find a crest that appears straight rather than curved to the left or right. You are looking for one that is roughly the same length as the hook shank. I find the part of the crest where the thick white stem ends and becomes thin and yellow. Holding the crest with the arched tip pointing down, I press my thumbnail into it and flatten it. This gives an idea of how long the crest will be once tied in. You can continue to do so gently up the crest’s length to help shape it. I then take scissors and cut away the lower, shorter fibers from the white part of the stem. The tie-in point should be on the white stem if the crest is the correct length. You can also flatten it with pliers to aid in setting the tail.
  • Next, select a tippet fiber and rip 5-6 fibers from both the left and right sides. If ripped correctly, they will maintain their position and not separate. These slips of tippet will be placed on top of each other, with the bright orange sides facing outward.
  • If you flip over the GP tippets, you will find a few small feathers on the backside. You can remove one of these to substitute for the Indian crow. Trim the fluffy feathers away from the base of the stem with scissors.
  • Take a matching pair of wood duck feathers and snip a slip from a left and right side feather containing 5-6 fibers; they will be arranged like the tippets.
  • I now take my winging materials and cut slips from each feather’s left and right sides. For my colored swan, I cut slips of 3-4 fibers each, and the rest of the materials 5-6 fibers each. I place the slips from the left side of the feather on my left and the right sides on my right to prevent the sides from mixing.
  • Next, I select a claret hackle from an Indian Rooster’s neck and measure it so the fibers are the length of the hook gape.
  • Finally, cut lengths of flat, oval, and twist tinsel and orange floss. With everything laid out, I can tie this pattern in 45 minutes or so.

I use white YLI silk, heavily waxed with a tying wax made from my bees after I harvest their honey. It’s a mixture of bees’ wax, pine rosin, and olive oil. The wax is quite sticky after it’s been warmed in my hand, allowing me to lash down materials with three wraps of silk at most and keep things in place.

Start the thread just in front of the hook point on the shank. I make sure that I make touching wraps back toward the hook bend and stop just before the barb of the hook. Tie in the fine oval silver tinsel on the backside of the hook and make 4-5 touching wraps of thread forward toward the eye. The goal of wrapping down and back with touching wraps is to build a smooth foundation for both the tinsel and the floss tag.

After touching wraps, I’ll spiral the thread up the shank and out of the way. The wax will hold everything if tied in hand; if using a vise, the bobbin weight should hold things down. Make four wraps of oval tinsel and then unwind the spiral wraps of tying silk. If done correctly, the silk should be at the same point where the tinsel wraps ended.

Tie off the tinsel with 2-3 touching wraps toward the hook eye. At this point, I’ll make sure the tinsel is running along the side of the hook shank rather than on top; this creates a flat surface for future tie-ins. Keep making touching wraps until the thread is lined up with the hook point, then trim the tinsel.

At this point, I’ll tie the orange silk floss on the backside of the hook with two touching wraps forward and then spiral the tying thread forward out of the way. Stroke the floss so it is smooth and flat, and make touching wraps down to the tinsel and back up to the starting point. Unspiral the tying thread and tie it off like you did the tinsel but on the bottom of the shank. If everything has gone correctly, you should be right at the start of where the shank starts to be flat from the bend. This could change based on the style of the hook, but it’s a general rule of thumb. Before beginning the tail, the key is to ensure this section is flat and has no bumps of thread or materials. If the floss has left a bump, you can make a few thread wraps to even things up; since I’m using silk thread, I try to keep thread wraps to a minimum to keep bulk down. It’s much better to work forward how I have described than add additional wraps everywhere.

Ideally, you have selected a GP crest for the tail that is roughly the shank of the hook in length, trimmed the shorter fibers where the base of the stem is white, and flattened the stem with pliers. I like to hold the tie-in point of the tail on the hook, take a look, and make sure it will extend flat off the back of the shank. You can continue to shape the stem with your thumbnail if it doesn’t. If everything looks good, hold the tail with the thumb and index finger of your left hand and tie it down with two wraps of thread next to each other rather than on top of each other. At this point, I keep tension on the thread with my fingers and check to see if the tail is centered on the hook and sitting correctly. If it isn’t sitting how you want, unwind the thread and try again until you’ve got it right. Remember that each additional thread wrap is building a base for the next step. Thread control is essential, as is a flat surface for the tail veilings and the butt. I’ll make 5-6 thread wraps forward and back to lock down the tail stem, and the remaining floss ends.

The tail veilings are the next step. I pick up the tippet sections and place them back to back, with the good sides facing out and the left slip facing you. Do the same with your wood duck and stack them on top of each other. Hold them in your right thumb and index finger, place them on top of the tail, and measure so that they extend just past the bend of the hook.

Once I have them measured, I’ll switch hands and pinch the tie-in point with my left index and thumb. Hold this point tightly so that materials cannot move, and make a soft thread wrap up and over the materials. Pass the thread underneath the hook and pull upward to tighten without letting go with the left hand. Make two more wraps, and then take a look. If everything looks good, pick up the Indian crow sub and tie it on top of the wood duck in the same way you did the tail. This feather likes to roll, so it sometimes helps to line it up slightly toward you before wrapping it so the thread tension pulls it on top of the hook; after tying in, make 4-5 turns of thread forward and back to the same point to ensure a flat surface for the ostrich. Don’t trim the materials at this point.

Strip off the barbules from the bottom 1/4′ of the ostrich herl exposing the stem. When you do this, you’ll notice two things: the stem is flat, one side is wide, and the other will look very thin. When you tie it in, you want the stem to look wide, and the barbules should extend upward. If done correctly when wrapping the ostrich, the barbules will face towards the back of the hook, giving the correct shape of the butt. Tie in on the side of the shank right next to where you tied in the tail veilings. Make 4-5 touching wraps to tie in and spiral the thread out of the way. Start wrapping the ostrich by touching the wraps forward and stroking the fibers back as you do so. The key to the butt section is having a flat foundation; if your wraps have been touching and not overlapping at any point, then the ostrich should lay down perfectly. I like to do 3-5 wraps of ostrich and then tie it off. When tying off, I try to tie it off on the side of the shank, similar to where the herl was tied; this keeps things even. Make 1-2 wraps to secure the herl, run it along the shank, and continue tying down the exposed materials to build up a body. I like to keep wrapping forward to where I want the throat to be and then wrap back to just in front of the butt.

The Charlie Muddler tutorial describes preparing the flat tinsel by cutting it at an angle. I flip the hook upside down so I’m looking at the backside of the shank. I stop my thread wraps in front of the butt about 2-3 wraps short of it. Tie in the flat tinsel on the backside with one wrap and then twist just above (if the hook is upside down, below if the hook is right side up), wrapping back to the butt.

I’ll examine the body and decide if I need to build up any parts with additional wraps. My goal is a tapered body that gets thinner towards the head. The first 4/5 of the body is Golden Olive dubbing, so I’ll continue to use my white thread for that section because I think the dubbing looks better in the water with a white thread base than a darker color. You could also match the tying thread to the dubbing color here. Wax the thread and dub the body until roughly 1/5 of the body section is left.

I changed the thread colors to black and started the thread where the white ended. I’ll also select my hackle. When picking a feather, try to find one with fibers about the length of the hook gap. I fold the fibers by holding the base of the feather with hackle pliers on my left and the tip of the feather on my right. With my left index and thumb, I stroke the fibers downward, pinching them from the stem and stroking down. Wrap back to the Golden olive dubbing and tie in the folded Claret hackle. Tie in on the backside of the hook with the hackle fibers pointing downward. Dub the claret section of the body and then secure it with a half hitch if tying it in hand; otherwise, let the bobbin hang and begin the ribbing.

Flat tinsel goes first. Aim for five evenly spaced wraps, with the 4th passing just in front of the hackle tie-in and tie-off on the bottom of the shank. The twist follows the same way, touching the flat tinsel and tying it off on the bottom. Finally, wrap the hackle forward following the twist so the feather’s stem is tight enough to the twist. This protects the hackle from breaking due to fish teeth. After I’ve followed the twist, I’ll make two turns in front of the 5th tinsel wrap and tie it off on the bottom.

When the body section is completed, we must add the underwing for this pattern. This can be done a few different ways depending on your winging materials. My peacock wing, yellow and green goose, was shorter than the other materials, so I chose to tie this in as an underwing; I’ll utilize my longer fibers as the main wing. The method that I build this wing is what I find gives me the best fly for fishing. I’ve tried multiple ways, and this method gives me the most movement in the water. I realize that others will probably not like what I’m describing as it isn’t the most historically accurate method, but how you add in the wing allows for some creativity for those of you reluctant to follow a classic pattern.

I begin by separating each fiber from my peacock, yellow and green goose, and line them up so the tips line up. The fibers from the left side of the feather are on my left, the right on the right. This forms two piles, one of the lefts and one of the rights; I lay them on top of each other so the good side of the lefts is facing away from me and the good side of the rights is facing me (near and far wings). The only thing that I’m concerned about is having the tips line up the same length.

I pick up the entire mass of fibers and hold it by the tips. I’ll take a toothbrush followed by a mustache brush and brush the butts of the wing material, trying my best to separate them so they don’t marry. I’m trying to destroy the little hooks that allow these fibers to marry. You could think of the intentions of the wing as a hair wing at this point rather than a married classic salmon fly wing. Next, grab the butts and comb out the tips. After doing this, I’ll roll the mass in my fingers to mix it up further.

Measure the wing similarly to how we did the tail veilings by holding it in the right hand and measuring it to extend just past the bend of the hook. Grab the tie-in point with the left hand again, make a soft loop, and pull up to tighten. Repeat two more times, and then take a look. I want the mass of fibers on top of the hook shank rather than on the side, so if any slip, you can squeeze them back on top and tighten down. If all looks good, make 3-4 wraps forward on the butts to create a foundation for the jay throat.

The jay throat takes up a bit of space due to the thickness of the stem. This feather has a good and bad side; the good side has vibrant colors and barring, while the bad side is greyish. It needs to be split to deal with the thick stem. To split, place the stem in a vise and try to find the center of the tip. Pull the center towards the good side so the bad side splits away from the main stem. Once it’s been split, tie it in on the far side with the hackle fibers pointing downward so that when wrapped, the good side of the fibers show. Make 2-3 wraps over the butts of the underwing and tie off.

At this point, you can trim the butts at an angle to minimize the step created from the throat hackle stem. Cover the butts with thread wraps so the main wing has an even surface to be mounted on. You’ll follow the same process as the underwing, except keep the left wing slip fibers separate from the rights. Take the left wing slips (turkey, mallard, orange swan, GP tail) and separate into individual strands. You can play with the ratio of color to natural here, but I used four fibers of orange swan and four fibers each of the naturals. Line the tips and brush before. This bundle will be mounted on the far side of the hook rather than on top of the underwing. Measure the wing so the fibers are a touch longer than the underwing, a little past the hook bend, so the wing has a nice taper. Lockdown with two tight wraps and check to see that the fibers haven’t rolled underneath the hook shank; if they have, you can grab the butt ends and maneuver them to sit on the side of the hook. Follow the same process with the right side fibers and mount them on the side of the hook closest to you (near the wing). You’ve effectively tied in two bundles of fibers that will move independently in the current, opening, and pulsing. In my opinion, that is far more important than a fly tied to look like it belongs in a frame. Again, my fish here respond to orange, so I’ve adapted this wing to suit my needs. All that is left is to mount two horns of scarlet macaw (one on each side) that extend slightly longer than the wing, and this part is finished.

I wax the thread heavily and make a few more touching wraps to lock everything in. The wing butts can be trimmed at this point. Trim a few fibers at an angle at a time rather than all at once. This helps to shape the head of the fly. I apply a coat of cellar head cement to the butts and begin to prepare the wool for the head.

Pull a single piece of black wool into pieces with your fingers until it resembles a dubbing ball. An inch-long piece of wool is plenty.

Dub a thin noodle on your tying thread and wrap forward 3-4 wraps, building the head. Whip finish, and the fly is complete.