Monday, April 26, 2021

Tying Tutorial: The Starburst

The concept of a "fly rod spinnerbait" is not new. I first saw the concept in the Deke Meyer's book, "Hot Bass Flies." I was intrigued, but I never pursued the idea. Flash forward to a few weeks ago, and I decided it was time to play with the concept. Falling into a rut is easy, and lately I found that I was only fishing balanced minnows when I was crappie fishing. There's not too much horribly wrong with that, because the balanced minnow is a serious fish-producer, but sometimes showing the fish something different can pay off. Multiple variations were attempted and tested, and this is the (most likely) final draft version I have started tying. The fly casts easily on a 4wt, keels well in the water, doesn't spin/roll, and has an appropriate sink rate for where I am fishing.  



-Hook: Firehole 321 Size 8
-Weight: 3mm tungsten bead
-Tail: ultra suede/Fly Suede strip
-Tail collar: marabou
-Underbody: Ice Dub
-Body: Laser Dub
-Head: 3mm Fish Mask

Flash Arm

-25lb mono makes up the "arm"
-Egg/Ball: McFly foam
-Flash: Orvis Sparkle Hair (or flash material of your choice)


-Size 6 DoIt Molds Wacky Jig Hook

To begin, slide the bead onto the hook and leave it loose. Tie in a 1.5" strip of Ultra Suede/Fly Suede, slightly tapered to a point at the rear, beginning right above the hook point. 

Next, position the bead just in front of the bump from the tail and criss-cross wraps of thread over the bead to hold it in place.

Tie in a clump of marabou (I like bugger marabou for this) on top and bottom of the hook so that it encircles the suede tail and extends back about halfway down the tail.

Loosely dub some Ice Dub (here, UV pearl) and wrap the dubbing noodle up to within a little over an eyelet of the hook eye.

Use a strip of Velcro or a dubbing brush and lightly pick out the dubbing. It should look slightly "frayed" like in the image below.

Tie in a small clump of Laser Dub to the top of the hook shank, extending forward over the hook eye. I use the "belly color" here, white. The length should be long enough to extend over most of the marabou when you fold the material back.

Tie in a contrasting clump of Laser Dub on the other side of the hook, the same length as the belly color. In this example, I used Lavender. Once it is tied in, whip finish behind the Laser Dub and cut your thread.

Push and/or brush the Laser Dub rearward. Slide the 3mm Fish Mask over the Laser Dub. It should fit snugly. 

Reattach your thread and make a thread dam between the mask and hook eye, holding the mask in place. Add 3mm eyes to your mask. You could fish this, as-is, for a killer small minnow pattern. 

To begin the "arm," take a 2" chunk of 25lb mono and melt one end to form a small ball. Clamp the mono in your vise leaving just enough space between the melted ball and your vise jaws to tie in the egg material. The melted ball will keep material from slipping off the piece of mono.

Tie in a small clump of McFly Foam to the top and bottom of the mono, whip finish in front of the material, and cut your thread. Feel free to play with egg color. A hot color should bleed through the flash nicely. I used a cream color on this example. 

To form the egg/ball, pull up on the top piece of McFly Foam and trim with your scissors. Repeat, pulling the bottom clump down and trimming the same length. The material will naturally form a ball/egg shape.

Reposition the mono in the vise jaws, allowing enough space to tie in the flash "shroud." Reattach your thread.

Create a dubbing loop and insert a small clump of flash. I like the Sparkle Hair because it's not overly stiff/rigid and has a lot of krinkle to it. Cut the flash to about an inch in length. Insert the 1" clump in the dubbing loop and carefully spread out the flash.

Spin your dubbing loop tool to lock the flash in the loop. Wrap the material forward to the vise jaws, trying not to trap too much flash material. Tie off the dubbing loop and trim away the excess. 

Stroke the flash to the right, over the egg, and advance your thread back towards the base of the egg. This will lock the flash in place and shroud it over the egg/ball. Whip finish and cut your thread.

In this view, you can see how the flash veils/shrouds over the egg. In the water, when you strip the fly, the flash will lay over the egg. On the pause, the flash will flare back out. This pulsating action of the flash over the egg really throws a lot of flash at the fish.

Put the jig hook in the vise. I use the DoIt hook because the shank weight is really light, the hook is relatively cheap, and I like the vertical hook eye. Feel free to experiment with other shank materials. Attach your thread just behind the hook point. 

Attach the minnow portion using a short piece of 20lb mono and tight thread wraps. Try to keep the hook eye of the minnow as close to the shank of the jig hook as possible.

Trim the butts of the mono, whip finish, and apply a generous coat of head cement to the thread wraps. For security, if you wanted to extend the mono butts farther up the shank and cover with more thread, I don't think that would hurt anything. Thus far, I have had no issues with this coming loose on crappies.

The mono arm with the flash and egg should be trimmed to about 7/8-1" in length. Tie the arm in by the butt on the angled portion of the jig hook behind the hook eye. Use tight wraps and position the mono in line with the hook eye. I use several thread wraps between the mono arm and hook eye to help push the arm outward. 

If you need the arm to angle more, lightly bend the mono with your finger. I like to add a slight bend in the mono arm near the flash portion, also. Remove the jig hook from the vise and trim the hook point off as close to the minnow portion as possible. I like to add cement to all exposed thread wraps. The Starburst is ready to fish. 

Tying the minnow portion tightly to the jig shank allows the hook to pivot and flex when a fish is hooked, but is rigid enough to keep the minnow in position where it needs to be while being fished. Having the weight only in the minnow portion keels the fly nicely. I like to fish the Starburst in short bursts and strips, making the flash pulsate as much as possible. Strikes on the Starburst have been very hard, and the fly has hooked fish very well. The Firehole 321 (or any heavy curved hook) seems to really pin fish well. Thus far, I have only tied/fished this pattern in this small size, but larger sizes should be productive for larger species like bass. This is a unique pattern to tie and very fun to fish. Tie up a few and let me hear how they do for you!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Tying Tutorial: One More Balanced Minnow

What happens when you mash up a balanced minnow with a Myakka Minnow and a Surf Candy? Well...this. A few years ago, I played around with a similar version of this pattern that was more or less unweighted. The fly caught some fish, but I didn't fish the fly as much as some of the balanced patterns I had in my boxes. Finally, curiosity got the better of me and I did a balanced version of the fly. The clear, heavy inspiration for this pattern is a Surf Candy, a popular and highly durable/effective saltwater pattern. Another is Steve Gibson's Myakka Minnow, a popular panfish and bass fly in Florida. The end result is a very durable, very flashy small minnow pattern with the added attraction of an internal glass rattle.


-Hook: Hanak 400 size 8
-Thread: 6/0 (color of your choice, it won't be visible) and mono thread
-Weed Guard (optional): 25lb mono
-Weight: 3.5mm tungsten bead on a sewing pin
-Belly: Ripple Ice Fiber
-Rattle: 3mm glass rattle
-Back: Ripple Ice Fiber
-Eyes: 3D or flat eyes of your choice
-Finish: thick UV resin of your choice

1) I begin with the weed guard, which is optional. I fish these patterns for crappies, mostly, and like to be able to drag and drop them into brush and cover. This guard is by no means 100% effective, but I rarely snag and lose them. Tie the short piece of 25lb mono to the inside of the hook with the 6/0 thread, the side facing the point, and wrap thread right up to the hook eye. Adding a few wraps between the mono and the eye seems to help hold it in place. Trim the mono so the tip of it narrowly misses the hook point when pressed down.

2) Next, put the tungsten bead on the pin and tie that onto the back of the hook shank, also with the 6/0 thread. I use the non-mono thread for this portion because there's less thread bulk. The pin should extend past the bend in the jig hook roughly two beads in length. Now switch over to the mono thread.

3) Grab a clump of Ripple Ice you wish to use for the belly, based on the color combo you chose for the fly. In this case, I am using Silver Holographic. Tie the clump in near the pointy end of the pin and wrap forward to the front of the pin with open wraps. The fibers should extend well forward of the pin. Tying the belly material in before the rattle gives the rattle a better, more stable, place to "sit."


4) Place the 3mm glass rattle on top of the Ripple Ice and secure with mono thread wraps. Use tight wraps and be sure to keep the rattle centered on the hook. If the rattle has a pointy end, it sits nicely up against the bead.

5) Grab another clump of Ripple Ice Fiber in your "back" color, typically a darker contrasting color. Here, I am using Bronze Peacock. Tie it down on the inside of the hook, also extending forward of the bead/pin. The tricky part is working around the weed guard and hook eye. I like to spread the Ripple Ice into two clumps and pull them around the guard and hook eye, then tie them down. Continue to monitor the position of the rattle, because it can try to shift on you as you add materials.

6) Pull the belly color of Ripple Ice rearward, tenting it over the rattle evenly, and secure it with a loose wrap or two. This is your chance to manipulate the Ripple Ice and spread it evenly over the rattle before tying it down securely. Once you are satisfied with the distribution of the flash, tie it down securely.

7) Repeat the process with the back color of Ripple Ice. Again, I like to spread it into two clumps and pull it around the guard and hook eye. Lightly secure with a wrap or two, check the distribution over the top of the fly, then tightly secure it. At this point, you can whip finish and cut the mono thread. 

8) Tack the eyes in place with CA gel (super) glue. In this case, I used 4mm size 3D eyes in a hot orange color. On this size fly, the 4mm eyes position nicely below the hook eye.

9) Once the eyes are set, coat the fly from the thread wraps to the front of the pin in the thick UV resin of your choice. Spread the resin evenly and be sure to cover all sides. Cure the resin thoroughly. When possible, I even sit mine outside in direct sunlight for a few minutes just to be sure the resin is cured. If you wish, you can also top-coat with Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails or a product like Hard as Hull. Trim the Ripple Ice to your desired length. I tend to angle the cut to trim the belly fibers slightly shorter.

This fly, with its streamlined shape and design, gets down quickly considering the relatively light weight. Color combinations abound with Ripple Ice Fiber. If you balance test the fly out of the water, hanging from mono, it will sit slightly tail-down. However, in the water it hangs horizontally, and that's where it matters. During cold months, fishing a balanced minnow under an indicator is deadly on crappies. The fly can be cast to structure or holding areas and simply dead-sticked, hanging in front of the fish's face. This pattern pairs nicely with the small size DriftRite indicator.