Tied Down Minnow
Hook: Daiichi 2220 #6-#12
Thread: MFC 8/0 or UTC 70 white, clear Mono for the final finish
Tail: Grizzly Marabou or Spirit River UV2 Grizzly Soft Hackle mixed with the tips of the tips of the shellback material
Shellback: Dyed or Bleached Pheasant Tail or Mallard Flank Feathers
Body: Silver, Gold or Pearlescent Diamond Braid
Gills: Red Marabou, pinched to length
Head: Tying Thread covered with clear 1/8 inch Stretch Flex
Eyes: Adhesive Tape Eyes, Silver, Mirage, Red or Yellow
With the increased interest in salt water patterns over recent years epoxy has become a component of many baitfish patterns. Epoxy also laterals to the freshwater world as well for creating bullet proof bodies, shellbacks and wing cases. Providing durability, shine and in some applications translucency one might wonder why anyone would want to consider a substitute.
The reality of any fly pattern material or component is that it is not always roses. Regarding epoxy some find it one messy material to play with. To get things just right epoxy must be mixed properly to ensure proper drying and with a minimum of air bubbles. In some instances the correct brand and type of epoxy can be a challenge to locate. Other tyers may be concerned with the possible toxic side effects of prolonged epoxy use. Fly tyers also need to locate or fashion a motorized drying wheel to produce any measure of pattern volume and consistency of application. As a final consideration if you possess any of my tying deficiencies time is often against you. In many instances the night before a trip is a frenzy of both equipment preparation and binge tying. Having access and awareness of a potential substitute provides solace for epoxy challenged circumstances.
Scud Back, Stretch Flex or Stillwater Solutions Midge Flex are three examples of the synthetic explosion that fly tyers can consider as an epoxy substitute. These materials are readily available in two widths, 1/8 inch and ¼ inch to cover a wide range of fly size and application. Scud back and its cousins is also available in a wide variety of colors that further adds to the experimentation options. Now admittedly this synthetic epoxy is perhaps not as clear as cured epoxy but from an ease of application and time point of view it serves as an able alternative. The debate of whether a fish cares or notices can be saved for another day.
Using Scud Back is simple. To aid the tie in process and to avoid excess bulk trim one end of the Scud Back to a taper and tie it in by this point. Once secured apply tension to further reduce bulk. Scud Back coverage is up to the individual. For a body, shellback or wing case shroud a single wrap or cover should suffice. Consider two covering wraps for baitfish heads, one forward one back might be in order. I recommend this procedure for finishing the head for the Tied Down Minnow featured in this column.
The trick to creating baitfish heads requires building up the head area to a natural shape of the suggested minnow or fry utilizing light colored or white tying thread. Trim a length of clear Scud Back to a point and tie in at the head area and build up the head using tying thread. Satisfied with the overall head shape and proportion whip finish and remove the tying thread and switch to a clear mono thread. Gudebrod makes some wonderful thin and strong mono threads down to size 10/0. Consider coating the head area with a metallic or glitter style head cement or nail polish for additional attractive sparkle. Using a bodkin press a pair of adhesive eyes to the sides of the head one pupil at time. Placing a fold down the middle of the eyes while still attached to the backing sheet cups the eyes so they match the curvature of the thread head. With the eyes in place spiral wrap the mono thread forward and back locking them in place. Using firm tension to reduce bulk and increase translucency wind the Scud Back forward to the eye and then back to the rear of the head and tie off. Presto, one hassle free clear protected head.
Now some might ask if I have forsaken epoxy my response would be, “Absolutely not.” Epoxy will always remain a component of my repertoire it pattern requirements or time allows. That said fly tyers should always strive to think out the box and look at materials for alternative options besides what is obvious. It is this creativity and allure that makes fly tying the innovative process it is. The next time a pattern calls for an application of epoxy consider a workable substitute such as clear or dyed Scud Back.
1) Cover the hook shank with tying thread. Tie in a small clump of natural grizzly marabou for the tail. The finished tail should be about one half the hook shank in length.
2) Tie in a clump of pheasant tail or dyed mallard flank so that the tips are the same length as the tail. Once the tail topping is in place fold the remaining butts of the pheasant tail or dyed mallard flank back over the tail and tie down.
3) Tie in the body material and wind forward to create a nice even body. Tie off and trim the excess body material. The finished body should occupy three quarters of the hook shank.
4) Tie in sparse tuft of red marabou as a beard to suggest the gills. Trim the excess gill material. Pinch the gills to length so that they extend back no further than one third the hook shank.
5) Pull the shellback material over top of the body and secure in place. Trim the excess. Taper one end of a length of clear Strech Flex and tie in at the head area. Build up a tapered minnow shaped head with tying thread. Once the head is complete whip finish and remove the tying thread. Change to clear mono tying thread.
6) Attach a pair of stick on eyes to each side of the head. Using open spiral wraps wind the clear tying thread forward and backward over the eyes to secure in place. Once complete the tying thread should be hanging at the rear of the head.
7) Wind the clear Midge Flex forward over the head and eyes. Pull tight to reduce bulk and increase the transparency of the material. Tie off at the hook eye, whip finish and apply cement to complete the fly.