Monday, August 5, 2013


The Grande Retriever and  smallie.
Photo by Matthew Reilly
    Two to three months following the bass spawn, fry in lakes and rivers are growing past the one-inch mark, towards maturity.  This means that baitfish-imitating streamers are good starting points for fishermen looking to “match the hatch.”

    Unfortunately, Mother Nature has left area rivers high and muddy, with little respite, since mid-June, making smallmouth fishing like salmon fishing in Yemen. 

    In periods of dirty water, so concludes a Michigan study, smallmouth feed more often on crayfish, as opposed to baitfish, primarily because when visibility is limited, they can relate to the riverbed that crayfish rest on.

    However, as waters begin to run clearer, as they are now, but still retain some suspended silt, baitfish patterns again become effective.  Increasing a fly’s visibility in this situation can be done with a large profile and some flash.  This gave me a great opportunity to field test a pattern I’ve been working with.

    Inspired by Jim Finn’s Golden Retriever, this fly utilizes flash and a colored underbody for added allure.  Jim Finn’s fly is a local favorite for trout, bass, and panfish, but I found myself looking for a larger profile that wouldn’t get lost in stained water, and that would be more appealing to calorie-burning summer-time lunkers.  Ultra chenille and “grande,” as opposed to medium, estaz enables this.  Here’s how to tie it as I do.
Materials.  Photo by Matthew

Materials:            Mustad C52S BLN, Size 2 stinger hook
                           .025 lead wire
                           White flat waxed nylon thread
                           White marabou
                           Wine ultra chenille
                           white grande opalescent estaz
                           ¼” hologram Mirage Eyes
                           Super glue or head cement

1.       Secure the hook in the vise and make 20-25 turns of wire between the hook point and the eye, leaving enough space for a head and tail.

2.       Start the thread behind the wire.  Wrap sparsely over wire turns to lock in place, and return to the bend of the hook.

3.       Create a thread dam just behind the wire, tapering towards the bend of the hook.

4.       Tie in 1 or 2 marabou feathers for the tail  on the bend, and clip the tag so that the securing thread wraps create a body uniform in thickness.  Trim the tail so that the fibers are a constant length, which I feel creates a more lifelike tail and makes the fly track better.

5.       Secure a length of estaz at the back of the hook, making sure the natural slant of the fibers point backwards.  Then tie on a length of ultra chenille.  Run the thread to the eye of the hook.

6.       Wrap the ultra chenille forward in touching wraps, stopping with space for a head.  Secure the end, and trim the tag.

7.       Place a wrap of estaz behind the butt of the chenille body.  Going forward, place several more even wraps in between wraps of the ultra chenille, stroking the material backwards to minimize trapped fibers.  Finish off with multiple wraps at the head.  Tie off, and trim the tag.

8.       Fashion a tight head, whip finish, clip the thread, and add a drop of head cement.

9.       To finish the fly, select a pair of Mirage Eyes, place a drop of super glue on the back and on the body of the fly, and glue to the appropriate location on the estaz body.
The Finished Product.  Photo by Matthew

    This fly is still being proven, but has caught a few smallmouth I would consider to be trophies of 12 inches or bigger.

    I use wine as the color for the underbody because it accompanies the greens, blues, and whites of the pearl-colored estaz well, and is suggestive of the herring fry that inhabit our state’s rivers.

    When super-gluing the eyes on, I make backward strokes with superglue on the body to strengthen and flatten it, reinforcing the baitfish profile.  This also makes gluing the eyes easier, and makes for a fly with a surprising amount of buoyancy for its weight.

    Variations can be made with different colored chenilles, estazes, and marabous; trading stick-on eyes for a bead head; and excluding the wire wraps for a weightless fly.

    As Dave Hughes says, fly tying is the other half of fly fishing.  This definition encourages improvisation and variation.  So this summer, in between trips or when Mother Nature rains down on your favorite fishing spot, spend some creative time at the bench working on a fly to produce on your home water.

Originally published in the Rural Virginian

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