Like most of you, you have all heard the saying, “He is a man on a mission.” I think that can best be described in one word, determination. Determined to be the best _______(fill in the blank) that I can be. That’s my mantra. To be the best father, best husband, best grandfather, best teacher, best ….fly tier?? No not really. But yeah, the best tier that I can be. I don’t have to be better than anyone else. I just want to be the best that Doc Andry can be. So let me explain.
Each year, during the late spring and early summer months, the bass in the two neighborhood lakes I fish, begin to gorge themselves on shad. Some mornings the feeding frenzy can be so crazy that I see 3 and 4-pound bass literally jumping out the water to catch these morsels of fish-scaled delight. When this happens, it’s truly a sight to behold but the fly fisherman is outmanned and outnumbered by the hundreds upon hundreds of schooling (and I presume spawning) gizzard shad. It gives a new meaning to matching the hatch when you have so many fresh live bait in the water. Sometimes I tell myself that the only way I’m going to catch a fish is if they get really stupid. Just last week, I did manage to catch 4 stupid bass (all between 2.5 and 4 pounds) in a span of about 40 minutes.
So, my mission these past few years, is to come up with a shad pattern that most closely looks and acts like the real thing. Youtube is full of videos about how to tie baitfish patterns and I have caught fish on many of them. However, I was still looking for a fly that had a good profile but wasn’t too bulky, one that had excellent movement when stripped, and one that was durable. If you look in my fly box you will see several varieties of shad patterns that I’ve tied over the years but nothing has gotten me giddy as a school girl than the pattern that I came up with this week.
Allow me to explain before I post pictures and a how-to-tie recipe. I wanted something that was about the size of the shad I’ve been seeing (mostly 1.5 to 2 inches long). Of course they have to have a lot of white. I want good action, which I thought I had achieved with white rabbit bonkers for the tailing section. For the heads, I had been using senyo laser dubbing and that worked well but I needed some flash. I tried crystal flash and ice wing but hadn’t found the combination I wanted. I tried weighted bar-bell eyes, tungsten beads and bead heads to weigh the fly down so it would get down further than just two inches below the surface. When I would come up with a new idea, I would test the fly in my swimming pool. Well, today when I saw the action of my latest test model, I started giggling. In my opinion, it was perfect. The tail fluttered like a real baitfish. The fly would sink, nose down and then dart upward when I stripped. It was the perfect length, and did I tell you, “it had great action when stripped!”
So here is what I came up with. It’s not a two-minute fly and it’s probably not for the beginner tier.
- Size 2 hook. Can be a stinger but I don’t think it matters. Don’t make the same mistake I made when I first started tying. There is a difference between a size 2 and a size 2/0.
- Size .025 lead wire
- Thread – I used 210 denier in white
- A pinch of white calf-tail (kip tail) to start off with (I got that from making tails on my deer hair poppers)
- A small clump of white bucktail
- Ice wing fiber (Pearl UV and Light Blue Peral Smolt)
- Strung rooster saddles, white
- Senyo’s Laser dub (white and grey)
- Eyes of your choice
- Thin super glue
- FabricFuse to glue the eyes on
Here is a picture of most of the materials
Start by putting between 15-20 turns of the lead wire and bind it down with the thread. I then add thin superglue for durability.
Then tie in a small clump of calf-tail at the the back end, about a hook shank in length.
Then add about a shank and a half length of white bucktail.
I think the bucktail adds more wiggle and gives the hackle feathers something to bounce back and forth off of.
The next step is to tie in some pearl crystal chenille (about half way up the shank).
In my initial photo of the materials, I forgot to add the ice dubbing.
A little goes a long way. I pull out a short bunch and I “tease it out before tying white on the top and then the bottom. There are lots of videos out there that demonstrate how to tie this in.
Then I tie a little bit of the light blue around the cheeks. Notice that I am building up a good-sized thread dam where I am going to tie in my saddle hackles.
Be sure to take your time to tie the hackles in straight as to provide that “baitfish profile” you’re looking for.
Next step is to tie on the Senyo laser dubbing. White on the bottom and grey on top.
Then comb everything out, trim it back to the shape you want and glue on eyes of your choice.
Here you see two tied in a size 2 and one tied in a size 4. The real beauty of these is how they act in the water. The lead weight helps it dive, ever so slowly but erratically, the hackles weave back and forth with every strip, and the shimmer is well…let’s see how the fish like it. I’ll be giving them a field test soon.