Getting ready for Fiji forced me to clamp some big hooks into the vice. It’s been a while since I tied GT flies and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy tying big flies. As always, I tied quite a few patterns and ended up taking very few of the same flies (I’m not good like that!). But having a lot of pairs does ensure I have colour combos to play with; a handy addition when prospecting new waters!
Nevertheless, two patterns that I did take several of and that have worked really well me for in the past – they didn’t let me down this trip either – are a grey over white SF baitfish and another baitfish pattern with long hackles and an SF head.
These two patterns have caught me Geets on the African coast, Seychelles and now in the Pacific too. Granted, I don’t believe that GT flies need to be too fancy. At all. As long as there is a convincing profile, clear contrast and big eyes I’m generally happy to throw it at a GT. After all, a hungry GT is a savage thing!
The earliest advice I was given was to have lots of movement. Big bunny flies and marabou ties were the order of the day. Then it was, later, the “any colour as long as it’s black” theory. Which worked for a long time. However, in recent years I have become more and more convinced that grey patterns, especially by those with a dark over light colour profile, are too often overlooked.
I also love long hackle tails. I received a few packets of 10″ to 14′ Schlappen feathers from Whitings which meant flies that were loooong. I used to, and still, tie them with standard 6″ feathers but being able to extend the length is a bonus! They swim beautifully and make for some interesting options when dreaming up flies!
Below are the ingredients and basics for these two patterns. They are simple flies to tie. They are effective.
A note on hooks… I’m a SL12s believer. For me, they have fantastic penetrating power, they don’t rust easily (but I do wash, dry and store flies in a vented container) and really have good proportions in terms of weight, gauge, shank length, gape size and point angle.
[NOTE: The new Ahex range look good too and I suspect they had a few SL12s on the desk when designing the SA270 – Bluewater. I’m keen to hear how they hold up!]
The biggest difference between these flies is the tail. The method of tying the SF body is the same although amount and size will vary. I suggest less is more. SF is bulky and you will cut away a surprising amount of material when you’re done.
I like a little weight towards the head of the fly. I believe it helps breaks the surface tension of the water and dips the head a little between strips, helping with the action.
Tie this in like you would any hackle tail. I like to make sure that there is marabou fluff on the feather stem as this helps with the transition from tail to body. And the extra movement in the water does not hurt.
Tie in the on top and below the shank. I use a cross method and then tie the fibres backwards. The fibres are tied in perpendicular to the shank and then forced backwards by thread wraps. See photo in body steps. I tie a slightly larger mass of fibre on top.
I continue to (or start to – depending on the fly) tie in the SF fibres perpendicular to the shank. I then force them backwards with the tying thread. This bulks and fills up the body really nicely.
About 2/3s to the eye of the hook I start laying SF parallel to the shank. Make sure that you spread the top fibres over the top half and the bottom up to meet the top fibres – you should down to shank from the side. (I hope that makes sense). I do this 3 or 4 times, with the less wraps each time. I try to use only two wraps on the final stack. This ensures that when bring the thread to hook eye, the fibres ‘fold’ back without any gaps.
Clippers work well but I’ve always preferred a pair of sharp scissors. Cut it down to a fish-like profile. I will fluff out the fibres before cutting; it helps for a more even cut.
ADD EYES AND CHECK THE GAPE
Eyes are critical in my opinion. Bait tend to have clear, big black eyes and these are important triggers for more wary fish. I superglue them on. I also like to have a blunt ‘nose’. The gape is important; squash the belly fibres and check how much is showing. Your hook point should be proud and exposed…