Surf Candy Slim

So in honor of catching my first striped bass this past Sunday, I thought I would post a step-by-step of the fly I was using.

The pattern itself is far from a secret.  Bob Popovics turned the saltwater fly tying world upside down in the 80s and 90s  by engineering his “fleyes” in a way that served a particular purpose, or solved a problem.  Tying with epoxy wasn’t a new concept, but Bob took it to another level, and brought us the Surf Candy in the process.  It’s a simple fly, which can be modified to imitate almost any baitfish by varying the colors and the thickness of materials.

My variation evolved out of a lack of materials.  Specifically, I was looking to make a fly that would imitate a sand eel.  I wanted to use the surf candy as a model, while keeping the profile long and slender.  But I only had white super hair, so I used a silver sharpie (yes, the kind people use for autographs) to darken the materials used for the back of the fly.  Along with some crystal flash and 3-D eyes, I think the fly looks pretty good…apparently my tiny bass agreed.


# 1/0 Daiichi 3111

(any saltwater hook will work, but I like this style with a shorter shank)

White UNI thread

(but I’ll bet clear mono would look cooler…if you’re feeling fancy, that is)

White super hair

Pearl crystal flash

5-Minute epoxy

Super glue

Silver Sharpie

Small 3-D holographic eyes

Secure hook in vise.

Begin wrapping your thread back to around a quarter inch behind the eye.

Secure the white super hair to the underside of the hook.

Tie in crystal flash as desired. I use 4 strands.

Cut another bunch of crystal flash and color it with the silver sharpie. Then tie this in above the crystal flash.

Whip finish and trim your thread. Then color the top half of your head with the sharpie.

Using your favorite super-glue, attach your 3-D eyes, leaving a small gap between them and the hook eye. This will suggest the pointy shape of a sand eel's head.

I like to mix epoxy in bottle caps. It holds enough to coat a fly or two, and then I can throw it away when I'm done.

Coat the fly with your freshly mixed epoxy and let dry. It will typically take more than one coat, so don't worry that it looks crappy just yet.

Much Better.

Once you are satisfied with your body, let the epoxy dry (hint: keep it moving to keep the finish even) and apply a final coat of head cement/sally hansens. Finally, trim your super hair to the desired length.

Take 'em for a swim.


Furled Leaders

This homemade furled leader post has been in the making for some time now; and I’ll admit that I may write about it again once I try some new formulas.  Last year, a friend of mine gave me a leader he had furled himself.  I didn’t fish it much right away, but I was instantly fascinated by its construction.  I had no idea how it could have been made out of tying thread with a few other supplies.  Long story short, I learned to make my own (with plenty of help from friends), and never looked back.  I’ve been using the same leader for almost 6 months now, and I’ve caught fish with it using everything from tiny dry flies to over-sized streamers (ok, these are a little tougher to toss, but its still doable).  There are a lot of ways to do this, but here is how I make mine.


Leader jig (this is a whole separate post post in itself…another time)

6/0 UNI thread (olive and tan are my favorite combo)

2 thumb tacks

2 paper clips

Knit picker/bodkin

Homemade dubbing loop tool/weight


Drill with small curtain hook attached as bit

Supplies and whatnot…

Begin by laying your leader jig on a flat surface and tying your thread to the center hook.  Even though I’m using the side hook here…trust me, its easier using the middle one.

Wrap your thread around the nearest peg on the left side (when looking at the starting point) of the board.

Wrap around the first peg and back around the hook for a total of five times.

After five turns around the first peg, wrap around the hook and down to the second peg.

After wrapping around the second peg, bring your thread to the first peg; and pass the spool through the five loops you just made.

Wrap around the second peg for a total of three times.  Each time, pass the spool through the loops you made around the first peg.

After three wraps around the second peg, advance to the third and final peg, making two wraps.  Again, each wrap will pass through the loops made on the second peg.

After the final two wraps, bring the spool back to the last peg, and tie off.

Tie a second strand of thread to the hook where we started and begin the same wrapping sequence…five wraps, then three, then two (Yeah the above pic is after the twisting process…but bear with me here).  Once both sections of thread are tied off, we can start the twisting process.

Loop the end of your wraps through a paperclip, then loop that through the hook attached to your drill.  Fire up the drill, and begin twisting.

Approximately 2 minutes is what worked for me.  The longer you twist, the better (and tighter) the furling process will turn out.  Regardless, I suggest timing the twisting process, as you want each side to be twisted as tight as the other.  This creates an even furl.

Once twisted, tack down your first loop of thread.  Repeat the twisting process with the other side.

Note that twisting one side will cause the section to pull towards the starting hooks.  Again, tighter is better here; and by timing yourself, you can help get this as even as possible.

Then grab your weight…mine is a homemade dubbing loop tool made with a cabinet knob, a piece of a coathanger, and some 5 minute epoxy.  Next, transfer both sections to one paperclip, using your knit picker or bodkin to help make a small opening near the clip.

Next, stand your jig up, so your thread sections hang freely and watch it spin!

Just about done here…you want it to stop twisting completely.  Once the spinning is complete, you can remove your leader and take a look at it.

If your leader come out like this, you need to start over.  I kinda screwed up on this one while combining the sections and tried to salvage it (never works).  Notice how the twists look kinked and not very tight.

Much better…this is what we’re looking for.  Make an overhand knot at each end to keep the leader from unfurling, and trim the loose ends.

On each side of the leader, make an overhand knot with the tag ends, forming a loop on each end of the leader.  Next, tie off the tag ends created by the overhand knots.  Dot the knots with superglue and let dry.

That’s it!  Once the glue dries, your furled leader is ready to fish.  To summarize,  the formula for my typical trout fishing is 5, 3, then 2 wraps around the three pegs, respectively.  A thicker or thinned taper can be achieved by making more or fewer wraps at each section.  I should also note that the distance from my hook and the final peg is 88 inches.  Once furled, trimmed, and finished, my finished leaded usually stretches around 72 inches or 6 feet.  I then attach a section or two of tippet from there, and I’m ready to fish.  It will be a little firm at first; but after a day or so on the water, it will soften up.  It will naturally absorb water and sink, lending itself to nymph and subsurface fishing.  But a light coat of floatant will keep it up on the surface for hours if dry flies are the order of the day. Plus their texture helps prevent drag, which can ruin even the most accurate cast.  Aside from the economy of making my own leaders (did I mention that I’ve been using the same leader on my trout setup for over 6 months?), they flat out work.  Give em a shot and I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Blue Winged Olive SBS

Now that fall is here, I thought I would dedicate a post to my favorite pattern for the overcast, drizzly days when blue winged olives start showing up again.  I’ll start off by saying that the inspiration came from the Better-Winged Olive post on Global Flyfisher.  But since the original pattern called from a few materials I didn’t have, I simplified it and made it work with what I did have…hackle, dubbing, and thread.

It’s a versatile pattern because it can pass for both a dun or a spinner, depending on the situation.  And while it’s simple, there are two key features of the pattern.  The first is the thorax, which is loosely dubbed to suggest the bulk of the natural duns.  The second is the trimming of the hackle.  This helps the fly ride lower in the film, imitating both the natural BWO, and almost any mayfly spinner, for that matter.

This being said, this pattern can be modified to match nearly any dry fly scenario.  Just substitute a larger or smaller hook, change the tail and hackle color, and you’re covered for essentially any hatch.  But to stay on track…when I am fishing a BWO hatch, I’ve had my best luck tossing a #20 to represent the smaller baetis variety. For the larger drunella lata, I would suggest a #14 or #16.


Hook : # 14-22 dry fly

Thread : 8/0 UNI

Tail : Dun hackle

Body : Olive Orvis blended fur dubbing

Wing : Dun Hackle, underside trimmed flat

Step 1: Secure hook in vise and pinch barb if desired.

Step 2 : Wrap thread back to the hook bend.

Step 3 : Measure hackle fibers to one hook length and tie in at the bend.

Step 4 : Dub a tapered body.

Step 5 : Tie in hackle and loosely dub a buggy-looking thorax.  This loose dubbing will add some lifelike bulk to the front end of the fly, while leaving some space to wrap the hackle forward.

Step 6 : Liberally wrap your hackle forward to create a thick, buoyant wing.

Step 7 : Build a small head, whip finish, and dot with head cement.  You’re almost done.

Step 8 : With your scissors, clip the underside of the wing, just above the hook point.  This will let the fly ride low in the current.

My largest wild trout of the year came on this pattern on Valley Creek during a warm day in March.  Hopefully, it will produce for you as well.

Al’s Rat SBS

Another Al Miller original, the Al’s Rat is easily one of the most effective midge pupa immitations out there.  Just like Al’s Trico, the key to this pattern lies in it’s simplicity…you only need three things to tie it.  Hook, thread, and a pinch of dubbing.  Simple enough?

The only change that I make to the pattern is that I like to use curved scud hooks.  The original pattern, as tied by Mr. Miller, used standard straight shank hooks.  Either way will work.  I just think the curved shank looks a little bit buggier.

Al’s Rat

Hook: #20 scud

Thread: 8/0 Brown UNI

Thorax: Muskrat underfur (any dubbing will work)

Step 1:  Secure the hook in your vice and pinch the barb if desired.

Step 2: Starting at mid-shank, begin wrapping the thread forward.  Stop just short of the hook eye.

Step 3: Wrap the thread back towards the bend of the shank, clipping the thread’s tag end as you secure the first wraps.  Stop just past the bend of the hook.

Step 4: Wrap back up to where we stopped earlier, leaving some space behind the eye.  Notice that by starting the thread and initially wrapping forward, this creates a natural taper in the body of the fly.

Step 5:  Take a pinch of muskrat underfur and dub the thread.

Step 6: Wrap to form a small thorax with the dubbing.

Step 7: Form a tiny head, whip finish, and dot with head cement.

Step 8: Go Fishing.

Al’s Trico – SBS

What kind of fly fishing blog would this be if I didn’t show a step-by-step of some of my favorite patterns?  Since my awesome girlfriend has been letting me borrow her camera lately, I’ve been experimenting with taking some pictures of my tying.  They still aren’t great shots, but for the flies in this tutorial being a size 24 (really small), I think they’ll do for now.

With the official start of summer having come and gone, I decided to tie a fly with some relevance to my upcoming fishing.  That being said, I’ll be tying the Al’s Trico…in honor of these reliable (and did I mention tiny?) mayflies that show up every summer.  The key to this fly is its simplicity.  Without tails or the traditional poly-yarn, spent wings, even the pickiest of trout have a hard time finding something wrong with this imitation.  Just thread, a pinch of dubbing, and hackle…that’s it!

Al’s Trico

Hook: #24 dry fly

Thread: 8/0 (or smaller) UNI thread – Substitute Lt. Cahill for female and Black for male versions

Thorax: Brown or dark olive dubbing

Hackle: White

Step 1 : Secure the hook in the vice and pinch down the barb if desired.

Step 2 : Begin wrapping the thread from about the mid-point of the hook.  This helps me build a slight taper when finishing the body later.  Wrap back to the edge of the barb.

Step 3 : Begin the thorax with a tiny pinch of dubbing and tie in the hackle.

Step 4 : Wrap the hackle to form the wing and tie off. With another pinch of dubbing, form the other side of the thorax (It should look slightly more even than in my pic).

Step 5 : Begin wrapping the thread towards the eye, using the base we made before to form a slight taper from the bend to the hook eye.

Step 6 : Once the body is complete, whip finish and dot with head cement.