Step-by-Step: How to Tie the Perfect Santa Claus Fly

Written by: Steve Cobb

The author’s original sketch eventually led to the fantastic pattern described here.
All photos by Steve Cobb

Editor’s Note: Steve Cobb’s Santa Fly has been a favorite on this blog for a few years now. We’d like to see YOUR versions on Instagram. Post photos with hashtag #orvissantafly.

A couple of years ago, during the holidays, I scratched out a sketch of a fly that I thought might be a fun tie for the Christmas season. The first few Santas to come off the vise were so hideous that I thought the big guy might cross me off the “nice list” permanently. But the marabou kept flying, and after a while, I had a fly that I thought captured the spirit of old St. Nick.

He’s undergone a few changes over the course of the years, with a couple different materials and a couple minor changes to make the tie a little easier. So here’s the recipe for my “Santa Fly.” There are lots of steps, but none of them is particularly difficult, so don’t be intimidated. Forget traditional fly tying: this recipe starts at the eye and works its way rearward. Have a jolly good time tying it…and don’t worry about that naughty list.

Steve Cobb lives and fishes in Upstate New York, on the northern edge of Adirondack Park. You can follow him on his blog at

Santa Claus Fly
Hook: Stainless steel hook, size 1/0.
Thread #1/nose: Red, 6/0.
Thread #2: White, 6/0.
Beard Base: White deer hair.
Beard/hair: White marabou (long).
Head/face: Sheep’s wool.
Hat brim: White marabou.
Hat: Red turkey flats.
Eyes: 5X tippet and Small black glass beads.
Hair: White marabou.
Adhesive: Head cement.
Tools: Sewing needle

1. Start the red thread and build up a ball about the size of the hook eye. Whip-finish, cut the thread, and coat with head cement.

2. Attach the white thread, and select a clump of white deer hair about the length of the hook point to the eye.

3. Move hair up to the tie-in point, just behind the ball of red thread.

4. Spin the deer hair.

5. Work all the hair to the bottom half of the hook and tie it off.

6. Wrap back forward to the flared hair, and tie in another clump on the bottom of the hook.

7. Tie off the hair, and push everything tight toward the hook eye if necessary.

8. Snip (and discard) the tip of a long white marabou feather. Wrap the thread back up to the flare and tie in feather to the bottom of the hook.

9. Wrap back to halfway point on hook, and trim off excess.

10. Choose a small long, narrow clump of sheep’s wool. Bring the ends together to form a ball, and tie it in to the top of the hook so the ball is even with the red thread.

11. Tie in a small clump of white marabou (the shorter, fluffier ones), one on each side.

12. Here’s how things should look so far. . . .

13. Find two marabou feathers with the longest tips you can and snip them out. Holding the feather by the tip, strip off any loose flyaways from the stem of each.

14. Holding the first feather by the stem, catch it midway with a couple loose thread wraps, and then pull the feather until just the tips are caught. Tie in tightly with a couple wraps.

15. Take the second feather and, holding it by the tips, tie in the shaft at the feather base with a couple more wraps.

16. Grab the free end of both feathers and twist them slightly. Stop twisting just before they begin to kink.

17. Wrap the twisted cord loosely around the wool ball.

18. Tie off the marabow. Don’t worry about a few loose flyaways, as you can trim them later.

19. Tie in a good full marabou feather, with the stem flattened, on the bottom of the hook.

20. Strip the fluff back from two red turkey flats and snip them off, leaving some shaft. Strip one side completely from each.

21. Trim both to match. The shaft side should be about ¾ of the hook in length (not including the fully stripped off part).

22. Tie in the red feathers by the bases of their stems. If the tops flare away from each other a little, you can place a drop of glue at the very top to hold them together.

23. Tie a bunch of knots in the middle of a 12-inch piece of 5X tippet. Thread the ends through a small glass bead. Heat the knots with a flame, and then flatten them to the bead. Touch up the melted tippet with a black marker or paint. Cut one tag end off. Make two of these.

24. Thread the beaded tippet on a sewing needle. Pass the needle through the wool, starting at each eye position and angling the tippet so it exits next to the hook on each side.

25. Let the beads stay out away from the wool, initially.

26. Pull each piece of tippet so the bead just contacts the wool, and secure the tippets with two wraps. Check for eye placement and adjust if necessary.

27. Wrap the thread back and cut the feathers and tippets. Secure them well with cement.

28. Tie in another marabou feather by the stem.

29. Twist the marabou and wrap it around and back up to the red feather. Catch the ends and tie in.

30. Do two or three big half hitches and secure them with cement.

31. Trim off all the loose ends and flyaways. Push the marabou from step 11 toward the hook eye and trim. Trim the beard feathers to suit.

The finished product: Ho, Ho, Ho!

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