It’s a streamer with a life vest.

Characteristic strip of doubled closed-cell foam tied to deliver flotation and attractive surface disturbance.

The Gurgler, or the Gartside Gurgler, is a style of tying that essentially makes any streamer a surface fly.

It fishes like a popper, but it’s more like a streamer with a life vest. The flotation device of the Gurgler is the narrow closed-cell foam strip tied in to the top of the body materials. Sheets of foam are sold in fly shops, but you can get them in hobby and craft shops, too. Thickness varies, with the 1⁄8-inch type the thinnest practical. For bigger versions, 1⁄4-inch foam is good, or you can double up the 1⁄8-inch stuff. For most Gurglers, the strip should be cut 1⁄2- to 5⁄8-inch wide before tying it in. Length of the strip is typically the length of the hook shank. Some anglers choose long-shank hooks for a longer baitfish pattern (Mustad 34011). Depends on the length of the prey you want to imitate.

The fly can be sized and tied to imitate baitfish, shrimp, crab, frog or grasshoppers. The late Jack Gartside’s original version was his go-to striped bass fly, but he touted it for largemouth bass. Florida fly fishers have found that baby tarpon, snook and seatrout relish it. Though this fly floats, color can make a difference because the fly does ride under the surface a bit.

Here’s an example of an effective single closed-cell foam fly that fooled this hungry tarpon.

For smaller flies, a single foam strip suffices, but larger versions, and especially when maximum popping sound is desired, are best when tied with two strips, or a doubled-back strip is tied in. When using a single strip, you can make the turned-up popping lip stiffer by gluing on a small support strip.


Pop, gurgle, skate, wake: It does all of these things best on smooth water. Not the best choice on a choppy surface. In my experience, largemouth bass and seatrout prefer a pop-and-stop retrieve. Many times these fish blast it while it floats still. Snook, baby tarpon and redfish like it chugging along, with just a brief pause between strips. This fly works great in low light and dirty water where tarpon might otherwise not see a standard streamer.

Tie in either an eye-to-bend weedguard that is typically used for deerhair bass bugs, or a mustache mono guard wherever bits of grass on the surface is a problem. A guard also helps when casting a Gurgler under the mangrove branches. A loop knot gives the fly more side-to-side movement. FS

First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine December 2018

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