Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fly Tying Series #7 Foam gurglers

This week, I'm going to post some foam bodied surface flies.  The first, is by no means an original design.  In fact, I first learned of it over on Fly Angler's Online.  I'm not even sure the postings there are original designs.  This fly can be tied in a lot of different configurations to make a spider, or just about any surface fly one can imagine.  The ones I tie are VERY simple and the basic method to make this fly is the same regardless of the final style or what you're tying.

So as you look over the pictures, use your imagination on shape, size, if you want to sandwich different colors together, use rubber legs, use hackle instead of marabou, paint them, use dubbing on the hook, etc.

I catch a lot of bass (on the larger sizes) and bluegill on these flies.

Follow the jump to read more.

Fishing these flies is much the same method as a popper.  There are different ways to fish it and under the right conditions any of them work.  Some days,  cast it out, let it sit until the ripples disappear and then lightly twitch it and let it sit until the ripples disappear and do it again.  On some days, start bringing it back in as soon as it hits the water with erratic twitches with no significant pauses between the twitches (this tactic works very well on bass during warm summer evenings here in Kentucky).  Then on other days, a slow to moderate "swimming" retrieve with constant motion interrupted by by a few pauses works great.

So, there are a number of ways to fish this fly and all of them produce.

  • Hook - 1X or 2X long shank hooks - I typically use streamer hooks but I reckon stingers and appropriately sized dry fly hooks will also work.
  • Tail: Marabou fibers. (I strip the fibers off the feather shaft and tie the clump in at the tail)
  • Body: 2mm craft foam cut in appropriate width for the size fly and hook you're using.
  • Thread: I use 210 Denier (fairly heavy) of appropriate color
  • Legs: Optional
  • Colors: Green, Black, Yellow seem to be the best producers around here.  I have tied in orange, red, white and purple and have cuaght fish on all of these colors.

Start by tying in the clump of marabou tail feathers.  This clump is pretty sparse but I have also tied them with much more "robust" clumps.  The marabou seems to give it some life in the water.

Take thread back to about 1 eye distance behind the hook eye and tie in your strip of craft foam.  I tend to tie most of these in green, yellow and black. (while optional, I do lay down a good thread base because I tend to use a drop or two of super glue to help hold things together and the thread base seems to help with this).  Secure with 5 or 6 wraps and then take your thread back to about half the distance between your tie in and the hook point.
TIP: The one problem with these flies is the foam tends to not want to say put and after a couple fish have chewed on them, the foam will want to move to the side of the hook.  2 or 3 drops of super glue on the hook shank right at the tie in points will keep this from happening.

Next, make 1 or 2 more tie ins along the way with the last one being about where the barb ins on the hook.  If you look closely, I made my middle tie in a little farther to the back.  This was a mistake but it really doesn't matter to the fish.  I doubt if they have dividers or dial calipers to measure the distances.

Your tie in just above the hook's barb needs to have a few more wraps because you're going to fold over the foam.  I usually put 7 or 8 good tight wraps here (remember the super glue tip above.).

Next step is to fold the foam over the top and tie in at your middle tie in point. 
TIP: A drop of super glue here helps hold things together.
TIP: To give the fly a thicker profile, you can insert another layer of foam here between the folds.  I've seen some tiers get pretty artistic with multiple colors.  I've tied a few up this way and while they look good and have a certain "oh ain't that cool" factor, I've never noticed them working better on the fish so I usually just skip the step for the sake of spending more time fishing.

Now, take your thread up to the front tie in point and make your last tie off.  After a few wraps, take the tread under the foam up to the hook eye, tie in a good thread head and whip finish.  You can use head cement or not, it's a personal choice.  I usually put a drop or two of clear fingernail polish.

Here is something to keep in mind.  When you cut off the foam, make it just a little past the hook eye.  I typically cut these off at an angle (see above photo) to kind of simulate something that resembles a head.  Also, leaving the top layer of foam a little past the hook eye makes these things kid of pop and gurgle when you twitch them back in.

The above fly has put a lot of bass and bluegill in the net.  Also, on some days, I've caught crappie.  One day last April (April 2009), I caught 50 crappie one evening using a yellow with black tail gurgler.

Experimental Fly -
ideas wanted.

 OK, this is an experiment.  I'm not sure how this is going to work, if it's going to work and would appreciate ideas from you guys.

What I"m looking to make here is something that will be a wounded minnow.  Think about how a Rapala works on the surface.  I'm thinking something that will kind of wiggle and maybe even dive an inch or so below the surface.

If I can get one with the action I want, I'd then find a way to cover it with something shiny like tinsel and give it a try.

Here' are some photos of how I tied it.  Again, if you guys have links to a fly that will do what I want or have ideas to improve this, I'm all ears.

clip the tip of the foam on an angle to make it not as bulky at the tie in point.
This is the "lip" that I'll be gluing to the fly.

I'm thinking there has to be an easier way to get the lip on this or to make one act on the surface the way I want it to.  Cutting the lip and holding it in place until the super glue sets up is kind of a pain.  It violates my "You should never spend more than 5 minutes on a fly" rule.

I will make an exception to the 5 minute rule for spinning deer hair.  Next weeks' flies will be deer hair.  Now, before anyone gets their chops wet, I'm not an expert in spinning deer hair and when it comes to trimming the stuff, I have the artistic abilities of a brick.  I'll be tying a few up, and post what I've done here.  Like always, I would appreciate comments, suggestions, ideas for how to do it easier and hopefully will generate some comments, some ideas and some sharing of techniques to make us all better tiers and enhance our fishing with our flies.

Thanks everyone for your positive comments to date. (and I also greatly appreciate the less than positive comments, feedback is a gift).

I hope you all have a wonderful and wonder filled week.



  1. Try tieing in a thin plastic lip before wrapping the foam. Maybe cut it from some kind of packaging.

  2. Joe,
    That's a good idea. I bet the plastic from one of those water bottles would be about the right thickness. Cut it out with a little point or somethig that would tie onto the hook, and use the thread and foam to hold it at the right angle.

    I did float the fly in a bowl of water and as I feared, it floated sidewys. I glued a little bit of lead wire to the lip and now it floats hook point down. As far as I can tell in the bowl of water, it is going to do what I want, but all the piecing and gluing together is not going to cut it.

    I think the plastic lip is a great idea. That with a little lead wire tied under the hook up close to the head should make it have a really nice action.

    Wrap some silver or gold tinsel for flash. What I'm thinking is something like a "fly rod Rapala".

    When I'm usimg spinning gear, the Rapala is a deadly lure.

    I'll be playing around with the idea some more and will post an update in a future blog post after I get to tie a couple more to see how the progress is going.

    Thanks for the suggestion.