CRAFTING FLIES TO MIMIC SUCCESSFUL LURES

The advances in fly tying technology over the past 50 years is staggering. Whereas in the past flies were constructed from fur, feathers, wire and thread, nowadays there is a dizzying array of materials that are used in “crafting flies”. Foam, man made fibres and films, rubber legs, hot melt glue and UV epoxy in particular have revolutionised fly tying techniques. The possibilities to create innovative patterns are endless which is truly exciting.

Bento flies 002

As anglers embraced the new materials and adjusted their tying styles the line between what constitutes a fly and a lure is becoming increasingly blurred. Nowhere is this happening more than in saltwater fly design. Bob Popovic arguably started the movement by using epoxy with the Surf Candy and followed by adding flies with bibs in the 1990’s (Siliclones and Pop Lips). Many anglers embraced his vision and now few saltwater patterns use traditional materials exclusively. Some of the saltwater fly patterns available now are incredibly realistic, at least to the human eye.

The first freshwater fly to use synthetic materials was the probably acetate buzzer but this involved using an acetone solvent so did not appeal to many traditionalists. This has all changed now as freshwater patterns are steadily following the saltwater fly lead towards synthetics.

One of the first crossover freshwater flies was the Silicone smelt. In its crudest form it was nothing more than a blob of silicone sealant smoothed around a hook shank and cut to shape. It had the flexibility of a matchstick but in current or retrieved enticingly it was very effective. I can remember making these with my father in our garage workshop in the early 1990’s. Silicone sealants back then were tricky to work with and we initially did not have a mould so you can imagine the mess.

It was probably Pat Swift who first realised the shortcomings and took the Silicon smelt to another level by adding the body and paddle tail from a Delta or Redgill lure. Now even the slightest line twitch made the fly move like it was a real smelt and the effectiveness improved still further. It did not take long for others to follow and improve, most recently the Black Magic Jelly bean.

The move to synthetics gained momentum as a result of the innovative use of foam by talented fly tiers, such as Stu Tripney. His Bionic bug was so effective on trout that it really showed local dry fly anglers that synthetics had a place and this encouraged many to use foam in their fly designs.

The biggest step in my own fly crafting development occurred around 2007 when I was asked by UK inventor David Edwards to test his new UV epoxy, Bug Bond, and provide feedback. It was a revelation. Suddenly it was possible to do things with synthetics that I had previously found time consuming or difficult. Coating delicate materials to provide longevity, shaping bodies to improve realism, locating and securing eyes suddenly became simple. This lead me to experiment more in my fresh and saltwater fly patterns.

By now you are probably thinking where is this all leading?

Bento flies 2

Well over the past few years I have been using a 7.5 cm (3”) Perch Bento bait soft plastic lure extensively when stalking the flats with my spinning rod. On a 7 gram jig head it has caught trevally, snapper, kahawai and kingfish, especially in current. The success of the Bento got me thinking as to whether it would be possible to replicate the key triggers in a saltwater fly.

The fly would have to ride point up to prevent snagging so tying it “Clouser” style made sense. It would have to have a red tail that moved in the current and also movement in the front third to make it appear sinuous in the water, just like a smelt or small anchovy.

Eventually I opted for a tail of Red Marabou and white marabou as the bulk of the “wing”. I used German Madeira tinsel for the body and coated this with Bug Bond UV epoxy. Madeira is a variegated metallic tinsel-nylon blend described as “yarn for embroidery or knitting”. The full pattern is:

Hook: Mustad Aberdeen long shank 1/0. Black nickel coating.

Tail: Red Marabou.

Body: Madeira Tinsel (Shade #380) coated in Bug Bond.

Eyes: Wapsi painted lead dumbbell eyes. White colour. Size small.

Wing: Under layer consisting of 6 strands of Hareline UV Minnow Belly, then add a pinch of white Marabou, next four or five strands of Pearl Krystal Flash and top this with a pinch of Enrico Puglisi Game Changer fibres (Tarpon Streamer blend).

The big question is did they fly work? It certainly did. I fished it in a rip and landed three kahawai of around 1.5 kilogram within my first 12 casts. One kahawai took the fly down so deeply that it lodged just in front of the gill rakers. I tried it again the following weekend and nailed another kahawai of the same size. As experiments go, my first attempt at crafting a fly to mimic a lure was very encouraging and time will tell if the fly will become a classic.

Bento flies 003

Not happy with this I opted to follow the lead of Pat Swift and replace the fly body with the shortened body and tail of a red or orange Delta eel. Everything else about he fly is the same as the “Clouser” styled original above. Again the hook will ride point up and the eel tail should give the fly more movement so that it works effectively in still or moving water. I’ve called this hybrid fly a “Flure”. Note that I’m not claiming ownership of the design as “nothing under the sun is truly new”. The full pattern is:

Hook: Mustad Aberdeen long shank 1/0. Black nickel coating.

Body and Tail: Red or Orange Redgill eel cut to length. Wrap shank with thread, coat with Zap-a-Gap and slide on body. Apply UV epoxy to the hole at the hook bend and behind the eyes to lock the body in place.

Eyes: Wapsi painted lead dumbbell eyes. White colour. Size small.

Wing: Under layer consisting of 6 strands of Hareline UV Minnow Belly, then add a pinch of white Marabou, next four or five strands of Pearl Krystal Flash and top this with a pinch of Enrico Puglisi Game Changer fibres (Tarpon Streamer blend).

I’ve yet to try this fly but I’ve shown images of the prototype to Mike Ladle and he said it reminded him of a hybrid fly that used to be sold in the UK called a “Waggy”. Apparently it was banned because it was so deadly. The only difference was that the “Waggy” had a whirl tail body. I’ve got my fingers, legs and eyes crossed the “Flures” that I’ve crafted are as effective.

Bento flies 001

In conclusion, the advances in fly tying technology are leading to a blurring of what is a fly and what is a lure. Rather than bother to try and separate the two, let’s embrace both and create more hybrid designs that fish find irresistible.

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