Going way back in the archives: “The Art of the Flatwing” by Tom Keer

“The Art of the Flatwing,” written by Tom Keer, appeared in the Summer 2001 issue of Fly Tyer. I’ve had this article in pdf form for years — and now it’s got an online home. Speaking of flatwings, I interviewed Ken Abrames yesterday. Our focus was on the Razzle Dazzle-style patterns in A Perfect Fish: color rationale, nomenclature, genesis, anecdotes and other good stuff. I’m not sure what form it will take, but you’ll get to read/hear some of it in the future.


Here’s my take on the Razzle Dazzle, one of the featured flies in the piece. Ken once described this fly as a caricature rather than a detailed painting or sculpture.



Instead of peacock herl, the topping is an olive saddle and a silver doctor blue saddle tip.



What you leave out of a fly is as important as what you put in.




11 comments on “Going way back in the archives: “The Art of the Flatwing” by Tom Keer

  1. Dave Studeman says:

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Steve Culton says:

      You’re welcome, Dave.

      • David Studeman says:

        Steve, thanks again for the flatwing article by Tom Kerr. Since Kerr uses Joe Cordeiro to tie his example, I’m sure they match Joe’s great videos on YouTube. Here’s my question to you: do you use the one-wrap per feather approach that Joe uses to build your flatwings? While this technique works fine for me if I am building a tail with 3-5 feathers, more comprehensive flatwings like the Crazy Menhaden, are a challenge. I often find the whole thing collapsing as I start to tie the setting wraps down the hackle stems. This sometimes happens regardless of how tight I am gripping the tail assembly. Do you use this technique or another one? Any tips you can provide on this critical part of building flatwings would be appreciated. I didn’t see a video or maybe missed a previous post on flatwing that touches on this subject – love to see a video from you on this one. Thx, Dave

        PS Really enjoy your posts! I learn alot and am entertained!

      • Steve Culton says:

        Hi Dave,

        I don’t do it like Joe. Obviously his method works for him, but I tie the saddles in the way Ken taught me, which is securing each one, one feather at a time. I place the tie-in point of the feather on the pillow, make a couple taut wraps, and if all’s well bind down hard along the stem and back to the pillow. I really do need to get some flatwing videos out there! Hope that helps, and thanks for your kind words. Fun is good. 🙂

      • David Studeman says:

        Thanks, I’ll get to work.

  2. Kenny says:

    Steve- your energy has me “bedazzled.” This was another wonderfully captivating article. Thanks, once again.

  3. James Taylor says:

    Nicely done. I’ve tied a few flatwing patterns (e.g. The Wood Special), but the main difficulty in tying this style on longer hooks is the availability of appropriate, long flank feathers for the wing in larger sizes. Where do you get your wings?

    • Steve Culton says:


      Legacy patterns like the Woods Special use a totally different feather than I’m using for my striper flatwings. I just buy flank feathers in bulk, and in person if I can so I can eyeball them. Some patterns like the Nine-Three and the Supervisor were Ken’s inspiration for the modern flatwing, but those use hackle, not flank. If you browse through currentseams, I think I have a picture of a flatwing saddle patch somewhere from January 2018. Hope that helps.

  4. Alan Petrucci says:

    Steve, I was wondering how the jungle cock nail holds up, when fished in the salt?

    • Steve Culton says:

      Hello, old friend. I’d say pretty well. I have fished some flatwings for years that kept the nails intact. If a nail is split before tying, I may run the dull side through some low tack wax, then coat the shiny side with Flexament. Even if I lose a nail, the effectiveness of the fly is not altered.

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