The Truth About Trout Flies, Tony Sloane

THE
WHITEBAIT FLY


SEA-RUN TROUT provide good sport in Tasmania when they pursue migrating 'whitebait' shoals in the the estuaries and lower freshwater reaches of our major rivers. Actually the shoals consist mainly of juvenile galaxiids, the true Tasmanian whitebait representing only a small proportion of the 'whitebait' runs.

The fly we use for sea-trout at these times is a simple white matuka pattern. It is very effective and should also work well in New Zealand to take trout feeding on smelt, but so far we have not been able to try it out there.

Our main idea was to produce a fly with just a vague general resemblance to a 'tiddly', because the sea-run trout charge into the shoals and haven't time to inspect a fly carefully. Often, too, they turn quickly after charging, to mop up injured fish or ones which have been isolated due to the scattering of the shoal. Consequently the fly can be cast out smartly to the swirl of the trout's point of attack and allowed to sink slowly before making a slow, twitched retrieve, or it can be cast well ahead of the feeding trout and, with sharp pulls, be retrieved speedily.

A streamer pattern is not always a good choice for this kind of fishing, because the hackles of a streamer wing tend to be a weak spot. Sometimes the wing gets twisted round the bend of the hook and all resemblance to a little fish is lost. The teeth of the hard-hitting sea-runners tend to break the hackles rather easily too, since the feathers are only tied in by their comparatively brittle butts. Tinsel ribbing is also rather frail and of doubtful durability in this type of fly.

Since there is no point in being over-fussy, we make a very simple and slim matuka pattern. Natural cream-coloured seal's fur makes an excellent body and together with the white cock hackles produces a fly with sheen and sparkle. If the hackles carry a few faint fawn blotches or bars this is no detriment, since some of the galaxiids show a little pigmentation.

We use mid-green polyester sewing thread instead of silk for tying the fly, because the thread is strong, has more bulk than silk and a tightly dubbed fly is quickly made on a No.6 or 8 long shank hook. The green thread also helps to give some illusion of the faint greenish tinge shown by some tiddlies. Thin gold or silver wire is all that is needed to tie down the hackle wings to the body and hold them in place.

When making a matuka fly many tyers trim the fibres from the lower edge of the hackles where they are to sit along the back of the fly. We don't do this, preferring to leave them untrimmed. This makes for quicker tying and the extra fibres give the fly a little more sheen to add to that provided by the seal's fur body.

To finish the head of the Whitebait Fly we use a drop of fluorescent yellow-green paint instead of the usual clear varnish. The colour shows up particularly well in dark, heavily stained water. The paint is obtainable in little bottles from hobby shops.

Finally, if a trout chops off the tail from one of these flies don't discard it. Being tied on a long-shank hook it is still useful and will still take sea-trout. Makes you think, doesn't it?

DRESSING
Hook: No.6 or 8 long shank.
Body: Natural cream seal's fur.
Rib: Thin gold or silver wire.
Wing: 2 white cock hackles, preferably with a few pale brown blotches or bars.
Head: Small dab of yellow-green fluorescent paint.
Thread: Mid-green polyester sewing thread.

To make the Whitebait Fly, first whip the hook with polyester thread from 2 mm behind the eye to the bend, catching in the piece of fine wire. Next, dub the thread with the seal's fur and make a tight, slim body, finishing about 2 mm behind the hook eye. Half-hitch the thread. Trim the top of the body short and level. Now, working away from the eye of the fly make 3 or 4 close, tight turns of thread to form a bed for tying on the hackle wings. Half-hitch the thread.

Prepare the cock-hackle wings, matching the pair for length. Turn them dull sides together and, working forward, tie them in by the butts on the bed you have just made for them. The tips of the hackles should project about 10 mm beyond the hook bend. (Now you have made a streamer fly. A matuka pattern is only a streamer with its hackle wings wired down to the body and kept upright).

The hackles must now be tied down to the body with several firm, open turns of the wire. (When passing the wire down through the hackle fibres it helps if you first part them with a needle).

Tie down the wire at the head of the fly; break or snip off the surplus, clip off the hackle butts and form a head from the tying thread in the usual way. (If you have kept the 2 mm gap behind the eye of the hook it makes it easier to form a neat head with the thread).

Finally, finish the head with a dab of fluorescent yellow-green paint.

SUMMARY
* Whip hook to bend with thread and catch in wire.
* Dub thread with seal's fur and make body.
* Make bed for hackle butts and prepare hackles.
* Tie-in hackle wings.
* Tie down wings with open turns of wire.
* Clip off hackle butts and surplus wire.
* Form head, clip off thread. Dab head with fluorescent paint.

Return to Contents Page