Step by step instructions to tying the effective still water and river lure.
The time has arrived when most fly fishers, apart from a few die-hards, have definitively finished their season. The main discipline of my winter fishing abstinence is tying flies and thinking up new patterns or improving older ones. It is very useful to reflect on which flies that past season had been successful and which not, and based on this start filling up a new fly box for the next season.
While going through my “winter box” this year, I came across my favorite lure/streamer pattern to share with you – my lake variant of the immortal classic named Wooly Bugger.
Lake lures usually don’t imitate anything specific from nature, but are rather fantastical designs with colors and variety made to provoke not just fish but also fly fishers. I personally prefer black lures, which represent a bit more of a natural approach to this type of lake fishing. Black or dark colors have rarely disappointed me while fishing. Such flies are very visible in cloudy and clear water, and there is a better chance of catching older and wiser big fish that keep away from colorful patterns. So, I fill most of my box with black flies to use on the point and then add a number of colorful dropper attractors to draw the attention of apathetic fish. The fly I am showing you here is a lake and river variant for large trout – rainbows and the rarer native browns.
Lake fishing is booming these days. In the Czech Republic, more and more commercial standing waters are appearing, and fishers are quickly adapting their equipment for these conditions. These sites generally offer good fishing conditions with comfortable fishing and plenty of fish for reasonable money, compared to having to bushwhack through thorny river banks to catch small fish or cast to mostly empty waters hoping to catch the trout of the year. A recent big trend is in waters offering capital fish, where you can catch trout over 60 or 70 cm. The question is, do such catches still satisfy after the third one in a day? Some of us may quickly get tired of such easy satisfaction, but that’s for each of us to decide.
The standard equipment for lake fly fishing is an AFTMA 6-7 rod up to 3 meters long, preferably with excellent action to enable frequent long casts. The aim of such casts is first of all to get to the fish, which are sometimes far from the bank. Second, we want the fly to be in the water as long as possible and attract the fishes’ attention. Some may say that the specifications given here are excessively stiff, but we have to count on conditions with strong headwinds. These can be very unpleasant of course, and these are the moments we find the harder caliber of our equipment to be invaluable for punching a hole in the wind. Another reason for using a stiffer rod is because of the fish. Fish which we play and reel in longer than necessary because of lighter tackle often are worn out beyond their ability to recover, and returning such fish to the water is not in line with how we want to treat nature. Such exhausted fish are weaker, and in most cases become ill and die long deaths. The same is true when using weak leaders. My experience is that fish don’t mind stronger leaders, and I am able to land fish quickly without fear of the hook being torn out. In addition, stronger leaders tangle less when casting long. I think that optimal leaders are 0.18 mm and higher.
A very necessary component is a lake reel with different spools for various types of lines. Nowadays, cassette-type reels are very popular, enabling the fisher to quickly change spools of line as needed, in combination with the Large Arbor type wide-diameter spools. The large amount of backing and lower line memory due to being wound in larger loops are great advantages. Long casting without tangling is much easier compared to classic reels. We basically only need three types of lines – floating WF, intermediate WF and sinking WF. Intermediate is the most universal, allowing you to cover the whole water column is best suited to the type of fly shown here. Lines known as Shooting head make casting even easier – they have a heavier front end, allowing just a couple false casts with double hauls to give the line great energy and speed for long casting. This is not a manual for casting fast and long, though – it takes practice and experience, of course.
Fishing with the Goldhead Chenille Bloodhound is much like with the Grey Knight. On lakes we cast the fly to our chosen site and retrieve depending on the conditions and the style we want, which can be constantly varied. I like best to use a retrieval method where my left hand pulls long on the line, and then two short tugs one right after the other. I then repeat this all the way in – something like the letter D in Morse code — dash-dot-dot. The fly moves in pulses of long, short, short, which is very attractive to fish. Retrieve the fly as quick or slow as the fish like – sometimes fish prefer fast and sudden fly movements, other times we are successful with a lazily moving fly. Don’t forget to pull in the fly almost all the way to the top eye of the rod– fish sometimes follow the fly the whole time and strike almost under our feet just as we get ready to pull the fly from the water! On lakes it is important to find the fish. They usually keep in schools, so we have to find these schools and follow them. Freshly stocked fish tend to keep together in large groups that seem to move back and forth without logic, so we also have to be flexible. Older fish are more solitary and have a certain periodicity to their movements in the water. With them it can pay to be patient, watchful and especially quiet.
When river fishing we must keep in mind that trout are territorial fish, and adjust our fishing accordingly. We can entice trout with this kind of fly for instance up close in pools or quiet waters under banks, or actively fish like classic streamers across the current. Large trout sometimes go out to actively hunt in such currents, which is when we want to actively lead a streamer of this type. Then the only thing to wait for is the hard strike and our contest with a fantastic spotted predator.
Tying materials used
The materials used for the Goldhead Chenille Bloodhound are very important, as they are for all flies. The most important is to harmonize the artificial materials (the head, weighting, tassels, chenille) with the natural (fur, feathers). In both cases, we consider the attractiveness of the material – the grace and movement of the natural plus the aggressive shine of synthetics. Of course we can’t neglect the durability of the entire fly.
Again, it’s best to use a hook with a long shank, since the fly will have a long hairy body. The hardness is important. Classic streamer or heavier lake hooks with larger bend are the best. The size is up to you. On a small hook the fly will be a classic lake lure, while on the streamer hook shown here (size 6) it will be rather a larger lure and streamer.
Nothing in particular to specify – toughness is a given, especially we’ll be dubbing rougher body material. The color is not important.
Again acts as a weight, so that the fly sinks head-first to give it maximum attractiveness in combination with the movement of the legs and long hair.
It is good to wind this wire on the long hook shank working up toward the gold head. This way the head is secured and won’t twist, and we save space on the shank to be used for winding the narrow fly body.
Created very simply – A gold bead, sized as we wish, is threaded on the hook and slid up to the hook eye. This can be fixed by a drop of superglue into the larger hole before moving it all the way up. Today there is a wide range of choices available for these heads – Gold Heads, Bead Heads, Tungsten (Wolfram Heads), Cone Heads… or we can use similarly shaped plastic beads of various colors, such as gold, silver, bronze, black, or any number of pastels. It just depends on availability and your imagination. For my flies I use a combination of bronze/gold beads with a few winds of lead wire for weight.
Made from two colored types of marabou. A base of black turkey forms the largest part, plus a smaller amount of natural grey or brown pheasant feathers. I then try to mix them together to create an enticing two-color hide.
Here I like to use rougher material. For my purposes, dubbing dark brown or grey seal fur feels best. This fur is harder to dub because of its roughness, but it has wonderful properties in the water and overall nicely contrasts with the fine impression of the fly. Take care to make the bodies of lake flies with a narrow profile. More robust flies with thicker bodies aren’t accepted well by fish, as they likely don’t seem natural. The fundamentals of a lake fly are a narrow and well-combed body.
I use tinsel for this fly in two cases. 1) As a fine shiny additive to the marabou tail to make it more attractive – 2 strands on either side of the fly is enough. 2) As tinseling to wind around the fly body. Here I use stronger tinsel of larger diameter and just make a couple of winds. This creates a clear contrast between the shiny (tinsel) and rough/dark (combed fur).
I make from palmered hen quills in black. The color is for each tier to choose – it can easily be dark brown. It is important that hen is used and not rooster. The reason is that rooster feathers are more symmetrical, often longer, more regular, and available in a wide variety of colors, but their branchings are hard and look “dead” in the water. Hens have much finer feathers, which during each movement of the fly wave enticingly. Flies palmered from rooster quills look like a hard brush compared to those from hen, and you will notice a big difference in the number of strikes.
Used to firm up the palmered legs and the fly overall. The best is to use non-colored line, since we have already created an effect with the shiny tinsel. Another way to firm up the fly and make it more beautiful is to use wire. But remember, that simplicity also has its beauty.
The last phase is the region behind the head, the fly thorax. I tie this using various artificial chenilles. In this example I use thick olive Cactus chenille, and in another variant my favorite thinner Peacock chenille. There’s no real limitation, but try to keep in mind the natural look of the fly and therefore the use of more naturally colored chenilles.
An absolute necessity, if we want the fly to last longer than the first couple of fish.
Description of tying steps
Slide the bead on the hook and then fix in the vice in the place where we pinched down the barb. Wind on the necessary amount of leaded wire and push the winds up into the hole in the bead.
Where the leaded wire comes out of the bead we tie on the tying thread and fix the lead wire with a few turns of this thread. Lacquer the area around the wire and hook shank, and move the thread back toward the hook bend.
Tie in a two-colored pinch of marabou feathers, and using our forefinger and thumb pull off to the desired length.
Tie in a couple fine tinsel strands in the tail to increase the fly’s attractiveness.
Move the thread up toward the fixed lead wire, and in the direction of the bend begin to tie in the leader along with the thicker tinsel.
Here we start to shape the thin dubbed dark brown body. Finish the dubbing at the wire loops and then shape the body by combing with Velcro.
Wind the body with maximally 4 loops of the thicker tinsel, which we then tied down with thread and cut off the remainder.
At this point we tie in a longer black hen quill, which we grab at the end and at regular intervals tightly wind thread to create the palmered legs. I recommend wetting the quill before palmering. This way we reduce the give in the thread loops that arise when they get wet, and the legs won’t come loose in the water. When we get the quill to the hook bend, take the winding leader in the other hand and start to wind around the palmered legs in the opposite direction, fixing them well to the fly and giving the whole fly more durability. We can then cut off the rest of the quill. Before the neck area I tie in another black hen feather and create a wreath of thicker legs, but this is not necessary.
In the last phase we tie in the chenille, tie the thread up to the gold bead, and follow with the chenille. In this way we create a dense and attractive thorax. The end of the chenille is fixed with tying thread and the rest trimmed off. Finish off the tying thread with a few hidden knots and lacquer the spot where we finished.
A word in conclusion
I wish you much luck in tying successful flies with which you will catch beautiful and healthy fish. I will be extremely happy if my patterns shown here will be at least a small inspiration, and that we might be able to share in our experiences with them. To all polite fly fishers I wish continued improvement in our fishing experiences and your best season of fishing. To those less polite I wish that following an unexpected dunk in bracing water you will see the light and change your ways.