Published Feb 9. 2023 - 1 year ago
Updated or edited Feb 9. 2023

The Shanked Blonde: Development of a Keel-Shaped Articulated-Shank to Replace the Mustad 79666 Keel Hook


A video about making keeled shanks, as well as tying and testing a Shanked Blonde is posted on YouTube:


This video is about a streamer named the "Shanked Blonde" that is tied on an articulated shank bent into the form of keel hook. The Shanked Blonde name is used here to link the lineage of this latest incarnation of the Blonde series back to Galloup’s Stacked Blonde (Galloup, 1999, 2019)--and then on back to a high-profile variant of the blonde pattern promoted by Al Toth circa 1960’s (Bates, 1979). Toth’s high-profile-wing variant is in turn based on the low-profile-wing Blonde-design originated by Homer Rhodes in the late 1940’s (Bates, 1979).

Galloup’s innovation in his Stacked Blonde variant is the inspired use of a keel hook flipped over with its hook point down--that is reversed from its normal point up “weed-free” orientation. This reversed-hook orientation supports a high-profile double wing--one wing of marabou lashed over a wing of bucktail. Both wings lashed to the keel run and routed up and over the body run. The allure of Galloup’s high-profile double wing is that it has an extra spring to it that imparts an enhanced breathing action during a pulsed retrieve. The Shanked Blonde uses a similar wing configuration but in this latest high-profile variant it is lashed onto an articulated shank bent into a keeled form, not a keel hook. The keeled shank in the Shanked Blonde variant also allows the hook point(s) to project out of the bucktail to try and increase the chances of hookup as well as holding on the fish.

So why replace the keel hook? While the Mustad 79666 is an improved weedless design that made it easier to fish the “impossible places” (Probst, 1974), keel hooks tend to have a small effective bite that in practice may lose too many fish. To remedy this issue, the point run angle can be bent out to 30 degrees to increase hookup (Bates, 1979)--but this change may act to decrease fish holding ability as that made the point run angle two-thirds of the way to a definition of hook failure at 45 degrees (Proper, 1982). Finally, Valla (2018) in his review of bucktails discusses how easy it is to overdress a keel hook and thereby interfere with hooking-- seemingly because the bucktail bundles can act to shield the hook point.

So, for whatever reason, the Mustad 79666 keel hook became less popular and is no longer made. While there are other keel hook designs now available that may overcome some of the 79666 issues, it seems that a better way to go is to use an articulated shank that has a seemingly superior trailing stinger-hook system.

A keeled shank and stinger hook system has several advantages over a fixed-design keel hook: it allows the tier to select the hook orientation, up or down, set the hook style and size, and perhaps most importantly allows the hook point to be placed out of the bucktail bundles as well as out towards the tail of the fly where it should be--somewhat like an intruder fly. The system also makes it possible to go to a two-hook articulated fly by using a hook on the shank ahead of the other hook on a trailing loop. Finally, it's easy to bend up your own keeled shanks in the profile, size, wire strength, and length that you need-at your flytying bench and at a reasonable cost.

Keeled shanks seem strong enough to take on large salmonids. A keeled shank withstood, without permanent deformation, the pull of a 16 lb. (7.3 kg) 0X fluorocarbon tippet—that was pulled until the tippet broke. See this test starting at the 26:34-minute mark in the video.

The Shanked Blonde uses as a starting point the Stacked Blonde dressing (Galloup, 2019) but as shown in the video that dressing had to be adapted to work on a keeled articulated shank, instead of a keel hook.

The Shanked Blonde with its keeled shank and trailing stinger-hook system fishes well and seems a good choice as a workaround to using a keel hook.

Shanked Blonde Recipe

Thread: 100d Nanosilk or 240d Ultra-Thread. Color to match bucktail body and marabou wing. The fly is commonly tied using a one-color scheme in white, yellow, chartreuse or black.

Shank: Senyo ‘Steelhead and Salmon’ articulated shank, 40 mm size uncoated --or color to match bucktail and marabou color.

Stinger hook: Trout-sized version: Owner model # 5377-111 mosquito-hook in Size 1/0 with the barb closed. I use this extra gap hook to help place the hook point up and clear of the bucktail stacks that can interfere with hooking. For trout sized flies, the stinger hook is directly clipped into hook loop on the Senyo Shank.

Jumper: In the trout sized version only: a short piece of 17 lb (7.7 kg) test AFW Surflon leader cable is tied onto the stinger hook shank and then is jumped over the hook attachment to be lashed in on the body run of the keeled shank. The jumper in this case is not load bearing and is only intended to position the hook vertical and straight out the rear of the fly.

Trailing loop and Stinger option: For a Steelhead/Salmon sized version--add a trailing wire loop made of 26 lb (11.8 kg) test AFW Surflon leader cable that is lashed unto the Senyo shank and extends out to the rear far enough (about 1 ½ of the stinger hook overall length) to allow the hook in the loop to be changed. The trailing loop should be firmly tied on the shank, then doubled over itself and lashed in again. These thread wraps are finished by soaking them with superglue.

Tinsel: After the stinger hook is lashed on and superglued, tie in 4 strands of thin pearl flashabou and one strand of silver holographic tinsel lashed in on both sides of the shank and out towards the tail. I trim the strands to a length about equal to the what the first stack of bucktail will be tied in at. I tie the first bucktail bundle in at about 1.5 -2 times the articulated shank length.

Ballast: made of a combination of the weighted red eye and lead wire. Wind the thread down to the eye run after tying in the stinger hook and tinsel. Lash in a short piece of 0.030 (0.76mm) or so lead wire tied in behind the hook eye and route it on around either side of the flat portion of the eye run and then cover with thread. The ballast combo balances the weight of the cable and trailer hook hanging out the opposite end of the fly and keep fly upright and level in the water. That said, leaving off the ballast makes the fly tend to turn up on its side in the water-- a presentation that can be effective at times.

Note: Weighting using the red eye and(or) lead wire should be done judiciously as Blonde flies are generally tied in a lightweight, easily castable, style that makes the fly sink slowly-- if at all—because of liberal use of buoyant bucktail hairs in the pattern.

Red-Eye: A red-eye is specified because one of the prominent features I notice in injured prey fish is that they often appear to have blood in their cornea or aqueous humor that gives the fish a red eye around a black pupil. The weighted eyes are used along with ballast to balance the fly. The red-eye spec, in order of heaviest to lightest weight as needed to balance the fly (all Hareline brands): a red small-size tungsten predator-eye to a brass pseudo-eye to a small aluminum sea eye with red-eye insert of your choice glued in.

The red eye is tied in on the upper side of eye run a little off of center towards the keel run. After the red eye is lashed in, superglue it to the thread covered eye run and underlying ballast to lock the assembly in place.

Also, consider supergluing the thread wound on across the shank to make a firm foundation for the bucktail bundles that follow.

First Bundle: Cut-out a bundle of long bucktail hairs that, after cleaning out the short hairs, yields a bundle about the thickness of two tooth picks. All the bundles are the same color on a given fly. Again, tie in the bucktail bundle at roughly two times the shank length. Recommended: superglue each bundle after they are lashed in—but it can delay further tying until the glue sets.

Keep in mind that it is easy to overdress this fly as there are a three more bundles of bucktail coming--so keep each bundle small: To reiterate--after cleaning out the short hairs, the bundle should be about the diameter of two toothpicks.

Second Bundle: Tied in at the midpoint of keel run at about the mid-point with the butts continuing out over the red eye towards the hook eye. The bucktail tips are cut at a reverse angle (i.e., shortest cut hairs next to the shank) with a length that, when lashed down, tapers towards and lays down just short of the tippet loop.

Third Bundle: Forms a wing that supports the marabou wing and holds the wing up at acute angle over the Body run. Tied in on keel run and then the butts are routed out over the red eye. The bucktail tips are then finished like the second stack just behind the tippet loop.

Fourth Bundle: Bottom of eye run. As described above, the butts of the hairs are trimmed at an angle and tied down just short of the tippet loop.

Fifth Bundle: Depending on the number of longer barbs on the quill, add 1 or 2 marabou blood quill tips that form a second wing tied in on top of third stack.

Continue to wind the thread around the head to capture all of the tag ends of the bucktail and to give the head a finished look.

Whip finish. Coat thread and bucktail head on the eye run with Superglue.


Bates, J. D. 1979, Streamers and Bucktails: Knopf, NY. 395 p. See pp.127-129 about keel hooks & pp.125-126 about blonde flies.

Colegrave, B. and Gaunt, J., 1990, Bucktails and Hoochies: Heritage House Publishing Co., Surrey, BC, Canada. 94 pages. See p.15.

Galloup, K., 2019, Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout II. Dean Publishing, Cameron, MT. 170 pages. Stacked blonde-- See p.103 and pp.96-97.

Galloup, K., 1999, in Linsenman, B. and Galloup, K., 1999, Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout. Countryman Press, Woodstock, VT. 160 pages. Stacked Blonde--See pp.134-135.

Probst, D., 1974, Fish the Impossible Places: The Story of the Keel Fly: Freshet Press, NY. 160p.

Proper, D. C., 1982, What the Trout Said: Knopf, NY. 273 p. See pp.93-94.

Valla, M., 2016, Tying & Fishing Bucktails. Stackpole Books, Lantham, Md. 227p. See pp.22-23.


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