The official recipe of this fly is as follows.
Hook - 60* jig hook 2/0
Tail - Magnum zonker strip/sparse flash, short tuft of arctic fox underneath the zonker
Weight - 3/16" tungsten bead, bell scratcher style, at the bend of the jig hook
Body - Ice Chenille (or Estaz), two colors of Schlappen
Eyes - 3D
Wing - Rubber legs
Testing this fly on Saturday is what started me thinking about this post, how to better test and trial your patterns to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak. Here's a short list of things I do and items I carry to help make the process work well.
- I tank test everything before I ever go to fish them. A sink or tub can also work, especially if you don't need current flow to fully test the pattern. I built my own test tank for about $10 out of my pocket. I got a free clear plastic hamster cage that was in a family member's basement, and the water pump I ordered on Amazon for about $10. Tank testing showed the weighting for the first version of this jig fly was too light, and the fly rolled point-down. I was able to fix the issue right in my tying room before ever hitting the water. Not every fault will be found in the tank, but it catches a lot of them.
- Carry a spool of lead or non-lead wire with you. I read this tip from Blane Chocklett, and it's a big help. It's a clever way to, on the run, add some additional weight to a pattern if it needs it.
- Carry a pair of scissors for anything that might need trimmed. In the case of this jig fly, the skirt was a bit too long. After casting and retrieving the fly a few times, I saw the skirt was tangling/fouling around the hook. I pulled the scissors out and trimmed about half an inch from the legs. The look and profile of the pattern was unaffected, but the legs stopped fouling after the trim.
- This is the hardest of all for me to stick to: don't go overboard on different color combos or tie a dozen of an untested pattern. It's a recipe for material waste disaster. After I have tank tested, I tie no more than 3 color combos of a pattern until I have proven it is worth the time and material investment.
On a chilly, slow day at the pond, the new jig pattern put a couple of fish in hand. I was pretty pleased with how the testing went, and now will go forward with tying a few more colors to add to the box. For anyone who uses a lot of rubber legs, look into the Boss brand bass skirts. There's a great array of colors, and they are priced pretty well. The color combo above used a Boss skirt in "Crazy Gill."