I flyfish for bluegills with my pal Ken Doty, who uses only one fly he calls a “spider.” It’s a bit of white foam tied on a size 10 hook, with weensy-thin white rubber legs and a tiny sprig of marabou for a tail. I flail away with my larger, elaborately rigged poppers with eyes. I like eyes and the “plooop” sound poppers make. He has more action with tiny fish, which please him, somehow. They’re all included in his count, which he compares to mine throughout the day, though they could all swim in a highball glass. Usually I catch a few of the bigger fish, but yesterday a three-pound largemouth ate Ken’s embarrassing fleck of foam, giving him rights to “most and biggest.”
When Ken fishes Tampa Bay, all his flies fit in one small plastic box. They’re variations of a three-inch Clouser Minnow on a size 4 Mustad hook. Winter time, he uses the darker ones. Now that menhaden are back, he’ll throw a thinly dressed chartreuse-over-white variation wearing cheap lead barbell eyes.
My flies for saltwater wouldn’t fit in a 5-gallon bucket, and the flash and colors are heavenly bright. My question is, “What’s wrong with me?” I know the single most reliable fly for most areas where I fish, yet I take full fly boxes, trying a half-dozen flies in a morning’s fishing.
Is my pal a cheapskate? Sure, that’s part of it. All his fly-tying materials fit in one small side drawer of an old, scarred desk. My tying table, next to my full-sized dresser full of materials, looks like the Container Store, with four large plastic boxes marked according to contents.
I no longer drink. Could fly tying be a substitute? The scary thing is that I sound exactly like the hopelessly confused hoarder I saw on television, who said that every nasty thing she saw in her home had a purpose. And she hadn’t even made any of the junk herself. Me, throw out my flies? No way! I just need more boxes, thank you.
I’ve already got a dozen thoroughly proven poppers for my next bluegill trip, so what am I to do, quit tying flies? I’ve got countless books, articles and videos of other flies I might tie.
When I go home from Lake Okeechobee to Tampa Bay, sadly, I really need only one fly pattern, a Clouser Minnow. It’s simple to tie, like Ken’s spider. Using bucktail rather than fancier synthetic materials, I can keep the cost low. Bucktail has built-in buoyancy, so if I want a Clouser to sink faster, I use less bucktail and heavier lead eyes. Casting in shallow water from my kayak, I often use light-weight plastic barbell eyes to help keep the fly out of the grass.
In winter months, like Ken, I use a size 4 Clouser tied in dark colors to resemble crabs and shrimp, which are the main forage foods of redfish and trout. Spring brings menhaden into the surf and bay, and my Clousers go up in size and brightness. A bright white bucktail under-belly topped with chartreuse back hair does the trick.
One morning last June, I caught seven snook up to 25 pounds in the surf near Fort Pierce, using a big bucktail Clouser tied very long, green over white, with large shiny metal eyes. Ken’s ridiculous white spider fly put 50 bluegills in the cooler one memorable day. More flies, different patterns? It’s definitely worth thinking about.
Eensy Weensy Doty Spider
• Hook: Mustad 3366 size 10
• Thread: 3/0 at waxed nylon, white
• Body: 3mm foam disk 1/2” in diameter
• Tail: Pinch of yellow marabou
• Legs: Ultra-thin white rubber. Note: the rubber legs dry out living in your fly box. I tie the bodies, set ‘em aside and add new legs for each trip. It’s easy.
Do not use glue on or near this fly. Marabou and rubber legs don’t like it.
1.Tie in thread from hook eye to bend.
2.Add smidgen of yellow marabou tail and move thread to center of hook shank.
3.Pinch on foam disk, tie down with three or four wraps one third back from front of disk.
4. Cut leg material in 2-inch lengths, fold in the middle over tying thread and add to the side of the foam disk, leaving two 1-inch legs on each side.
You may be tempted to color the foam and add more substantial legs, which is ne if you want to catch fewer sh. White body, yellow tail, tiny white legs. They’ll eat it. Trust me. FS