Many tyers, including myself, struggled when tying toad style bodies where you “X-wrap” material. Flies tied with this style of body are found in every flats angler’s box from Charleston to Cuba. I find myself fishing Kwans and Merkin style flies almost exclusively when targeting Redfish and Black Drum here in the Indian River Lagoon System. This pattern I would use for larger Redfish and Drum of any size but have fed some extremely large Trout and even Snook with this fly when the opportunity presents itself. It would also be a good Permit fly and tied smaller an excellent big Bonefish Fly. Obviously you can tie this in whatever color size and weight you want. A heavier fly like this is good for cruising fish in 1 ½ – 2” of water where they won’t hear the splash if you lead them and the fly needs to be on the bottom in a hurry. A lighter color fly is preferred over white sand and olive or brown over grassy mottled bottom.
Hook: Umpqua U506 #1
Eyes: Large Brass Eyes
Egg Sack: Rust Hare’s Ear Ice Dub
Claws: Grizzly Neck Hackle
Collar: Barred Ginger Neck Hackle
Body: Livebait Sculpting Fiber
Legs: Light Blue and Pumpkin Fly Enhancer Legs
Thread: Danville Flymaster 140 Fluorescent Blue
The path to success in tying these types of flies or really any fly that uses Sculpting Fiber or any synthetic fiber that comes loose in a package like this starts well before you put a hook in the vise. The first thing you want to do is place a zip tie at the top of the hank to keep all the material together and neat. I like to put the zip tie loosely around the package and slide it onto the material leaving a ½” or so above the zip tie then tighten it. It is much easier to put back into the package and I just store all the hanks together in a Rubbermaid bin.
If I’m going to be tying multiple flies in one sitting I like to section out all the material I will need. A little preparation a head of time will lead to cleaner more consistent flies. One full length section of sculpting fiber is good for the body of anything up to a #1 for the most part. I will also match up all my claws at this point. A prep station like this made by Dave Schemezer really helps to stay organized while doing this.
Once I have my fiber and feathers sectioned out I’ll put a hook in the vise and secure my dumbbell eyes. Instead of doing figure-eight wraps I wrap 5-10 times away from me then twice that number in the opposite direction. This is much faster and ensures the eyes are on straight. Then wrap around the base of the eyes to lock in the rest of the wraps and keep them from moving side to side.
Once the eyes are secured wrap to the bend of the hook. Take a small pinch of the ice dub and twist around your thread. Wrap forward to the barb of the hook. This not only imitates the egg sack of a spawning crab which I definitely think fish key in on at times but will also help splay our hackles out more and prevent fouling.
Grab one pair of hackles and strip the fibers off a portion of the stem to give a clean tie in point. I like to leave the feathers whole so you can adjust them as needed. Tie in at a 45 degree angle to the bottom of the hook rather than down each side. This helps the feathers splay out.
Repeat on the other side and check that the claws are even. If they look good snip the excess stems off and clean up the tie in point.
Now select a hackle to palmer for the collar. Strip the stem again and tie in right on top of the claws. Palmer forward to about the hook point and tie off.
Now flip the fly in the vise so the hook point is up. This is how the fly should ride in the water if we tie the body inside the bend of the hook. One of my biggest pet peeves is when tyers tie the body on these style flies on the bottom of the hook. This will cause the fly to fish incorrectly and possibly even hook point down if tied with lighter eyes. In my option the best weed guard is a fly that rides hook point up.
Take a clump of sculpting fiber and tie in with 3 wraps parallel to the shank of the hook. Grab the short end and pull to the other side of the hook. With your other hand take 3-5 wraps over the material where it forms a v to secure it. Snip off the long end still leaving plenty to work with to trim the body and continue to work forward to the eyes.
To add legs instead of tying them in by themselves I add them to a section of sculpting fiber. This leads to a cleaner body with less separation between bunches of fiber and is faster.
Once you have worked your way to the eyes bring your thread a few wraps in front of them and you can add a weedgaurd at this time. Unless I am fishing tailing redfish in spartina or extremely thick turtle grass I believe it is more of a fish guard than a weedgaurd but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.
Whip finish and cut your thread. Before just going at it and trimming the body, clip all the legs together with a pair of hackle pliers. This will help keep you from cutting one out while trimming the body. I pull all the material on one side tight and trim at an angle off the eyes. Repeat on the opposite side and trim any stray long fibers. I’ll then knot the legs just longer than the body which I think adds more movement and looks like the knuckle of a crab leg but it’s probably more for me than the fish. Trim the legs even and apply the head cement of your choice and that’s it.