J.Stockard Pro Tyer: Joe Jackson, Martinsville, Indiana, Find Joe @: www.sgtbassfisher.com, Joe @ Facebook, Instagram @sgt.bassfisher

The Rusty’s White Knot is a variation of the Roberts Yellow Drake created by Clarence Roberts of Grayling, Michigan in between the years 1957 and 1959.  This variation was created by Rusty Gates, also of Grayling, Michigan, and then the owner of Gates Au Sable Lodge. This fly has been around awhile. I first heard about it (Rusty Variation) when a friend of mine from Indianapolis’ Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Program (Chris Jackson @Healed_on_the_fly ) asked me to tie him 50 of them in size 12 for a trip to the famed Au Sable River In Michigan. He and some friends were going to try and hit the annual spring hex hatch!

Chris reached out to the owner of Gates Au Sable lodge for fly recommendations. The owner (Josh Greenburg) let him know that due to an extremely wet and cold spring the Hex Hatch would probably be delayed. Something we all would hate to hear, however Josh said there were Drakes all night and Iso’s during the day. And he recommended Rusty Gates “White Knot” pattern. Pictured left from left Chris Jackson, Matt Smith, Andrew McCormick, Mike Pugh, and Jonathon Wayne)

Chris did some research on the fly eventually finding an article on Frankenfly.com and fortunately for me, JS Pro Paul Beel was too busy too tie them. That’s when Chris contacted me to tie them. At this point I had never filled an order for trout flies and all I had to go on was a picture and article on Paul’s website. But the majority of the fly was deer hair and that was right up my alley, so I said I would do them. After a little trial and error I finished the order and got them to Chris.

On day one of their trip Iso’s (white knot) were they first fly they tied on. It was the only fly they landed native brookies on that day. At dusk they wet waded downstream from their camp, as the sky filled with drakes. Then came the wind and they disappeared. No fish were caught that evening.

Day two was spent taking naps, drinking and fishing up and down the Mason Tract. That’s where the first brown was landed on the white knot.

That evening the conditions were the same. Drakes in the sky, a brief shower and bam the bugs are gone again. No fish were landed.

Day/Night three was a float at the confluence of the South Branch into the Main Branch. The brookies were hungry and the white knot was the main course on the menu. Many brookies were caught that day. And as the sun sank the drakes rose, again came the rain and again they were gone. To sum it up in Chris’ words “The White Knot was the only fly that performed. It was our utility fly, the fish finder, the only reliable pattern we had in the quiver”.

Materials List:
Hook-Size 12 Partridge K12ST Caddis/sedge or TMC 2302 Terrestrials & Caddis Nymph Hook
Tail- original Pattern calls for moose mane, I used groundhog tail.
Body- Rusty Brown Deer Hair
Post- White Belly Hair
Hackle- Dark Brown
Thread- Brown 18/0 Nano Silk
Head cement- Solarez Bone Dry black

Step 1: Place size 12 Partridge K12st (or similar hook) into vise. (I’m tying on a 20+ year old Regal.)

Step 2

Using locking wraps an eighth of an inch behind the eye, wrap a base of thread back to the barb of the hook.

Step 3

From the Moose Body (I used Groundhog-tail) cut 5-8 guard hairs and measure from the barb to the eye then tie in above the barb. Clip the excess one eighth inch from the eye, then tie down the remaining hair. Make sure your thread wraps are clean and even. This is important when building the body.

Step 4

One eighth of an inch behind the eye, tie in a small clump (quarter pencil) of white deer belly hair. Comb out under fur then Stack the hair. Measure it to half a shank length. Pinch the butt ends tightly while securing the hair to the hook, to keep them on top the hook. Cut the butt ends tight to tie down the Then pull the hair tips back and ends. Create a thread dam by tightly wrapping thread in front of the hair post.

Step 5

Once the post is standing ninety degrees to the hook, very carefully wrap thread around the post. You want the post to be sturdy but not bulky. Clean up the thread body taper one last time.

Step 6

Cut a small clump of Rusty Deer Hair. You want a clump just a tad larger than what you needed for the post. Comb the under fur and short hairs out of the clump, use a stacker to align the hair. Pinch the tips of the hair and measure from right behind where you tied in the tail, to just in front of the post. Cut the measured hair and tie in right front of the post. Tie in by doing two loose thread wraps then pull down to apply pressure, the hair will flair at this point. Do a few more wraps around the butt ends. Then make sure the hair wraps all the way around the hook. If it doesn’t, use your thumb to push the hair into the empty spaces.

Step 7

Using your thumb, index and middle fingers pull back the flared hair, pinching them at the tips. Then spiral wrap back to the tail tie in point. Make sure you are wrapping tightly enough to compress the hair which is going to give the fly a segmented look. Once at the tail tie in point wrap two tight wraps to flair the tips then spiral wrap back in front of the post. It should have a nice clean taper with no stray hairs poking out of the body. If there is try to pull the hairs or retie the body. At this point I whip finish right in front of the post and cut my thread. I then apply Solarez Bone Dry Black to the head to create a nice head on the fly. Then cure with the Solarez Resinator UV light (see next photo).

Step 8

I will then take the half tied fly out of the vise and place it back ninety degrees so the parachute post is horizontal. Then start my thread on the post. Letting my thread hang from the post, I find a proportionately sized brown hackle for the fly and strip a small section of fibers from the butt end. I then tie in the feather, shiny side facing down on the post. Then apply a small amount of Solarez Bone Dry Clear to the base of the post and cure.

Step 9

Make sure your thread is at the base of the post. Then carefully start wrapping the brown hackle down the post, shiny side of feather facing the fly body. Try to get the feather stem to touch on each subsequent wrap. Stop the wraps right before you reach the post base. Hold the unused hackle above the hook with your left hand and wrap thread around the post base securing the hackle to the post. Cut the hackle close as you can to the fly and whip finish where you cut off the hackle being careful not to trap any hackle fibers. I do a hand whip because I have more control where the thread lays.

Step 10

Put the Hook Back in the vise in the position you started, and take some photos! And post them online Tag Me @Sgt.Bassfisher and @Jsflyfishing we would love to see your Rusty’s White Knot!

Photo credits- Step-by-step Lee Barbee @redwhiteblueflies Au Sable Trip- Jonathan Wayne @Jwaynephoto


  1. Hey just wanted to let you know, that the body is suppose to be tied with a wine colored deer hair, not brown. The hackle should also be black or dark grey. The hook should also not he any sort of bent hook, a straight shank is best.
    Brookies also aren’t native to the Au Sable 😉
    Tight lines!

  2. This fly ( as is the Roberts Drake) a much simpler tie if you put the post on after the body is in place. This was the method used by the originator of deer hair parallel to the shank (Earl Madsen; likely late 30s) and followed up on by Clarence Roberts. The post is then snugged up against the butt ends of the deer hair body causing it to stand up. A few thread wraps are all that are then need to post it.

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