A little look back at the Iron Man prawn fly.

A little while back LeRoy Botha and I once again found ourselves on a grunter bank. The initial plan an ambitious one involving leeries, but when the onshore breeze and rising swell chased us off, we ran for the river. It turned out to be a quiet evening on the bank with very few fish tailing and scant inquiries on everything we threw. So, I tied on what was something of a blank buster (although I fucking despise that term). A prawn fly that has pride of place in my grunter box but doesn’t come out very often.

It should be in a glass box, really.

It is the very first Iron Man LeRoy ever tied.

And, it worked (again). It got me the tiniest grunt in the river on that day but proved a savior. I since retired it.

Smallest grunt that you ever did see.

This is why:

The first time he showed me that fly, in early 2018, I told him (rather flippantly) that the underside profile resembled that of an Ironman triathlete in full tuck position on their time trail bike. The name, as they tend to do, stuck.


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• T U R D • A small selection from my growing collection of grunter turd flies. Got the feeling the bastards recognise Aghas and other turd styles by now (many of the fish we cast to are resident..) so doing what we can to keep it fresh. The “folded legs” version has been dubbed Iron Man Turd by, in reference to the bug leaning forward and riding that hook for maximum dynamics – like an iron man competitor on his bike. 😂 Despite referring to a different Iron Man, I’m considering a red and yellow version for evening fishing. Jazz has the original for testing on his home river. Spun foam version is getting desperate for a name, suggestions welcome.🙏 The flies imitate surface swimming prawns of genera Upogebia and Callichirus.. #huntthegrunt #grunteronfly #turdfly #throwaturd #themissionflymag #thecultofflyfishing #goodfishingiswhereyoureat #feathersandfluoro #saltwaterflyfishing #saltwaterflies #flytying

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“It wasn’t much of a case of reinventing the wheel,” laughs LeRoy, referring to the magnitude of deerhair turd versions out there. “I knew the wheel was there and working well; and I was indeed standing on the shoulders of giants to create the Iron Man.”

“I never really wanted to (or thought that I would, or think that I did) improve on turds or Henkie’s Breede killer – the AGHA,” he add. “It’s just that I’m a tweaky, tinkering, bastard who prefers to fish his own patterns and I wanted to do something that was just a bit me.”

It is a bit more complicated than he let’s on:

He had been experimenting with spun-foam headed turds for some time. And, that 2018 season also hadn’t been a particularly productive one at our ‘home’ grunter spot and he was in search of an edge. Something that would turn those frustrating, typically-grunter days of boil-enquiry-after-fcking-boil-enquiry into solid eats.

So deep did the fly savant go down this rabbit hole, that he pumped plenty of prawns (both sand and mud) and tanked them, studying their behaviour over a period of time. He did some illustrations (one of which is above) and filmed long minutes of videos. Through it all the one big thing he noticed, was their legs. “In particular, how they tuck them in when they swim,” he says.

“That forward position… Like the Iron Man cyclist you first mentioned – I tried very hard to imitate that, feeling that you might get an edge from that.” He further believes that while you still need turds in your box, they’ve never really gotten the profile of a free-swimming sand or mud prawn quite 100%.

“Those other (turd) patterns are not replaceable, but my goal was to get a wakey kind of pattern, I never wanted this to be a dead drift fly, I wanted it to push a nice V and that is partially why the nose is pointed as it is,” he says, talking his way through the improvements.

As the pattern evolved, so did the name – shedding the Ironman cyclist reference and becoming the Marvel character.

“We’re now at version 3.0. And it is called ‘The Suit’ – in reference to the Marvel character Iron Man’s battle regalia,” he says, alluding to the fact that early durability concerns were addressed in version 2.0 – which featured a SF back section rather than the original deerhair, and lots of glue.

Spotted Grunter on fly
Peter Coetzee putting 2.0 through its paces on the Breede

“Version 2.0 – as far as a ‘fishing’ fly goes – is still my favourite and that is the ‘official’ Iron Man, if you will, but I still wanted to improve the profile.”

So he started prototyping some tails and ended up adding a slightly more realistic, silicone-based one. “I do believe on very difficult days that can give you an edge.”

The Suit with its tail is almost double the work of 2.0, however so he’s not really tying those for orders – they’re simply too time consuming to be economically viable.

(Although I managed to scam one off of him which is why the original prototype has been retired).

Spotted Grunter on fly
The Suit

ENDGAME (or not)
What’s next however, is what he’s calling the ‘Hulkbuster’ from the Avengers film (if you don’t know your Iron Man suits, here’s a full history). The idea is as good in terms of profile as The Suit, but as quick to tie as 2.0. No pressure.

“And, you will hopefully be busting Hulks on it!” he says, noting a substantial increase in the fly’s size.

“I’m also working on what may be my final effort with the pattern,” he adds, “As in the films: The Mk85 aka Model-Prime = it will be a very frickin advanced Iron Man. Smaller than Hulkbuster, but a trophy fly, no less.”

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