Ways to keep your flies weed-free.
Much of Florida fly fishing takes place in waters that have abundant surface and subsurface vegetation, oyster shell, shoreline cover and manmade structure. Fish love all of this habitat—the kinds of places where you will hang your flies. So you need to protect your hook point. Depending on the size of your fly and the type of cover you are fishing, most guards are fashioned from hard mono in the 15- to 25-pound range or light gauge single strand wire. The following options will get the job done.
Single Mono Strand
This one is the standard guard used in bass bugs but it also works well on streamers. Use “hard type” 15- to 20-pound mono such as Mason. Tie the bitter end of a 5- to 6-inch strand in atop the hook bend with plenty of thread wraps. It is advisable to first lay down a foundation of thread to keep the mono strand from slipping around the hook shank. Wrap the thread down to the middle of the bend, then advance it back to the top of the bend. Lightly cement the thread wraps. Tie the fly, leaving enough room on the shank behind the hookeye to tie the guard in. Once the fly is finished, pull the strand forward and tie it in with a few wraps of thread. Now adjust the guard so that it is positioned just below the hook bend, protecting the point. Once in place, tie it in securely and cement the wraps. (You can opt for two strands for extra weed protection.)
Unlike the single mono strand guard, this one does not fill the hook gap. Rather, it extends down from the hookeye and is tilted back at a slight angle toward the hook point. It is tied in after the fly is completed. Be sure to leave enough room on the shank to tie it in. Lay down a thread base just behind the hookeye. Form the loop first in your hand by doubling over your strand of mono. For example, if your fly hook has a half-inch gap, figure on making the finished loop 3⁄4-inch long (start with about a 3-inch strand of mono). Match up the bitter ends of the mono and crimp the tips with a pair of forceps. Bend back the crimped tips to align them to point toward the hookeye. Tie them onto the hook shank securely and cement the thread wraps.
This is basically an inverted Horseshoe Loop, described above. To form it, start with a 3-inch strand of mono, and crimp it at the midpoint. Tie the fly, leaving sufficient space behind the hookeye to tie the guard in. Hang the crimped guard over the shank, and tie it in with figure-8 thread wraps until secure. Cement the thread wraps. Clip the bitter ends of the mono strands so that they extend below the hook point enough to provide protection. (Crimping the ends of the stands and bending the tips back a bit allow bits of algae to slide off.)
If you buy rather than tie poppers, you can add a guard rather easily. Heat the tip of a fly tying bodkin (or a big sewing needle) and sear a hole in the bottom of the foam body. Dip the end of a stiff strand of mono (20- to 30-pound) or single strand wire into quick-dry epoxy and insert it in the hole. Trim, crimp and bend back the tip of the strand to allow bits of vegetation to slide off the guard.
Some flies are somewhat weedless without an added guard. Bonefish patterns and the venerable Bendback streamer are tied inverted (wing materials are tied in “under” the hook shank to force the fly to flip over and swim point-up). Guards can be added to these flies as well; in fact many bonefishers are doing just that to be on the safe side. The key is to use fairly stiff winging material to make the fly as weed-proof as possible. FS
First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine November 2016