By: Sonder Selvig
This style of sculpted baitfish is a great fly for a large variety of species. It can be shaped or colored in a plethora of ways to imitate almost any type of baitfish. Sculpting Flash Fiber is great choice for this fly as it holds its trimmed shape underwater unlike most natural materials. This allows the tyer to dial in the profile and be assured it will look that way underwater.
Tips: Material amounts/thicknesses in this step by step are good for 1/0-3/0 hooks. Outside of this range, use more or less material per clump of SFF. Be sure to trim these flies slow and with care. More material can not be added after trimming so be sure to make small cuts the whole way through. Be sure to also leave some width on the head when trimmed. This will help the fly push more water and if done right, results in a “walk the dog” action underwater. This is extremely effecting as it allows the angler to “sell” the fly the fish by showing a side profile.
Hook: Gamakatsu SC15 sz2/0
Thread: Danville’s Monofilament Fine
Tail: Sculpting Flash Fiber (2 colors)
Head: Sculpting Flash Fiber (2 colors), 5-Minute Epoxy Coating
Eyes: 3D Plastic Eyes
Secure hook in vice and dress hook. Leave approximately an eye length of shank bare behind the eye of the hook.
Prepare a clump of the top color of sculpting flash fiber (SFF) that when condensed, is about half a pencil’s thickness. Tie this clump in with three to four tight wraps near the bend of the hook. The fibers extending rearward should be approximately the length of the tail of the finished fly. The fibers extending forward should be at least 2/3 this length. This clump should cover the top 180 degrees of the hook.
Prepare a second clump of SFF, this time the bottom color. The thickness of the clump should be the same as the top. At the same tie in point, but on the bottom, tie in this clump, covering the bottom 180 degrees of the shank.
Reverse the top and bottom clumps one at a time or at the same time and tie down. The tie down point remaining the same as before. Use lots of thread pressure here to ensure materials remain locked in. Then jump the thread onto the shank and advance a couple millimeters.
Prepare 3 clumps of each color that are between 1 ½ – 2” in length and about ¾ the diameter of a pencil when condensed. Pick one clump from each color and slightly taped the ends. These two will be the first clumps tied in, as the taper will help them blend into the body more seamlessly on the finished fly. Starting with the top color, tie in at a 45-degree angle facing away from you with three to four tight wraps.
Remaining on the same tie in point, tie in the bottom color at an opposite 45-degree angle on the bottom of the hook. The two tie ins should form an “x”. Do not advance thread.
Carefully separate the two colors facing towards the eye and grab the top color. ½ of the top of the shank should be covered by the top color. Fold the fiber back onto the half that is not covered, and tightly tie down with at least 3 wraps.
Repeat step 7 but for the bottom color. At this point, 360-degrees of the hook should be covered with the first head stack, half one color, half the other.
Repeat steps 5-8 two more times for a total of 3 head stacks. The remaining two clumps of each color do not need to be tapered. Once the final stack is tied in, whip finish 2 times on the tie down point, not advancing the thread onto the shank. Cut thread.
Remove the fly from the vise and brush out the head and tail with a lice or dog brush. Fan out the tail vertically in preparation for trimming.
With a long, sharp pair of scissors, begin the trim the tail to the desired shape depending on what you want to imitate. Cut slowly and do not remove much material with each cut.
Next grab a smaller pair of scissors and begin to trim slowly 360 degrees around the head. Just try to round out the head and remove the long fibers, don’t get caught up with an exact shape yet.
Now with a rough shape, use the long scissors the trim the tail to the desired profile, and the short scissors the trim the head. Pictured is a mullet imitation so it had been trimmed with a tall, wide head. Something like a shad would be trimmed tall, with a narrower head. Continue using a brush during this step to help separate the fibers and make them easier to trim. This also reveals long fibers that need to be trimmed, especially in the head. GO SLOW and make SMALL CUTS throughout this process.
Fully trimmed fly.
To add eyes, use gel super glue and make a dab 1-2 eye lengths behind the final tie off point. Gently place the eye onto the glue and make sure the center of the eye (use pupil as a measurement) is slightly above the shank of the hook. Do not press the eye into the fiber as you want to preserve the bulk in the head to help push water and give the fly action. Do the same on the opposite side and make sure the eyes are lined up to ensure the fly behaves correctly in the water.
An optional, strongly recommended last step, is to add an epoxy mask. This greatly increases durability and ensures the head will remain shaped correctly, even after many fish. Mix 5-minute epoxy and apply around the front of the head and eyes carefully with a toothpick or bodkin. The mask should only be a thin layer as to not weigh down the front of the fly. No not add epoxy too far back onto the fly, as it will jeopardize the hook gap.