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  • Designing Flies That Move Part 3: The Usual Suspects
  • Post author
    John Satkowski
  • fly fishingfly tyingstreamer fishing

Designing Flies That Move Part 3: The Usual Suspects

This is Part 3 of a 4-part blog series on articulated fly design. Read Part 1 here and read Part 2 here.

There Are a Few Categories of Flies You Should Have in Your Fly Box at All Times.

If you're going to lace up your wading boots and go fly fishing (especially in cold weather) you should have these types of flies in your fly box: a sculpin imitation, a baitfish pattern, a wide-bodied fly, and a wild-card pattern. The four flies in this part cover these categories.

Herbert Hoover once wrote, “Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.” The thing to take away from that quote is our forefathers did not have Articulated Shanks, Chocklett's Body Tubing, or Sculpin Helmets to tie with. So many great materials are available now to tie virtually any kind of fly pattern you can imagine.

When tying these flies, I chose materials that move and breathe well in the water (if you've never tied with black bear, it is a wonderful material and moves great in the water). Examine the water you'll be fishing for the native baitfish and tie these patterns in according colors.

The Mouth Breather

Back Hook

  • Hook: Gamakatsu B10S size 6
  • Thread: 6/0 Unithread (tan)
  • Tail: Gold holographic flashabou trimmed to a taper, tan marabou spike on top, yellow marabou spike on bottom
  • Body: Gold ice dub in a dubbing loop and brushed out
  • Collar: Tan marabou on top, yellow marabou on bottom
  • Legs: Gold flake silicon rubber leg strips

Middle Hook

  • Hook: Gamakatsu B10S size 6
  • Thread: 6/0 Unithread (tan)
  • Tail: Gold holographic flashabou, tan marabou spike on top, yellow marabou spike on bottom
  • Body: Gold ice dub in a dubbing loop and brushed out
  • Collar: Tan marabou on top, yellow marabou on bottom
  • Legs: Gold flake silicon rubber leg strips

Front Hook

  • Hook: Gamakatsu B10S size 6
  • Thread: 6/0 Unithread (tan)
  • Tail: Gold holographic flashabou, tan marabou spike on top, yellow marabou spike on bottom
  • Body: Gold ice dub in a dubbing loop and brushed out
  • Collar: Tan marabou on top, yellow marabou on bottom
  • Legs: gold flake silicon rubber leg strips
  • Head: Tan craft fur spun in a dubbing loop, colored with orange, brown, and black permanent markers

The Mouth Breather is tied to imitate a wider-bodied prey item such as a shad or bluegill. The double articulation really brings this fly alive in the water. The heavy lead eye of the Intimidator has an up and down movement in the water column creating a nice swimming motion for a generic baitfish imitation.

The Mouth Breather came out of my frustration with my normal articulated flies being just a little too big for certain situations. I wanted to tie a smaller articulated fly with a lot of movement that would be noticed from a distance.

Small Water Fly Fishing: Streamer Design and Tactics

The Mouth Breather came into play when I arrived to fish a river right after a heavy thunderstorm. In the summer months, heavy rainfall can turn the water into chocolate milk. When I arrived, the transition was already in progress. The water was fairly low and the bass were already not taking the bigger stuff the day before. Taking into account the dirty water and challenging conditions, it was not looking to be a good for fishing. I tied on the Mouth Breather, cast it, and after three strips of the fly line an axe-handle pike came up and absolutely crushed the fly. The fly’s colors, movement, and flash were enough to get the fish’s attention through the murky water. I ended up catching some decent smallmouth that day in addition to some pike.

When you are tying the Mouth Breather, you can experiment with different head materials to compensate for different situations on the water. 

The Intimidator

  • Hook: Gamakatsu B10S size 2-2/0
  • Thread: 6/0 Unithread (red)
  • Tail: Clump of gold ice dub center tied and pulled over, gold holographic flashabou, brown barred olive magnum rabbit strip
  • Body: Gold ice dub in a dubbing loop and brushed out
  • Wing: Black krystal flash under black ostrich herl
  • Head: Clump of black deer body hair, green barred marabou on bottom tied forward and black bear fur on top tied forward, pulled back and tied down Thundercreek style
  • Throat: Red wing-n-flash tied in
  • Weight: Large lead dumbbell eyes (red/black)

This is a great workhorse streamer that moves and breathes well in the water. I named this fly the Intimidator because this is one fly I have a lot of confidence in and can take anywhere and have success with it. So far this fly has been one of my most productive patterns. Its construction allows for good durability and it has enough bulk to tempt both small and big fish.

I made the choice to use black bear for the head because I know how destructive black bear hair jigs can be in cold water in a river. Black bear moves great in the water and adds a nice dimension to the movement of this fly. If you don’t have black bear, then badger, raccoon, opossum, or any other longer-haired critter will work. When fishing the Intimidator, retrieve it rather quickly and then let it rest and slowly sink in the water column. That's usually when the strike comes.

The Fur Invader

Back Section

  • Shank: 28 mm Fish-Skull Big Game Shank with Senyo Intruder Trailer Hook Wire (black), size 2-2/0 Owner Mosquito Hook
  • Body: Purple ice dub spun in a dubbing loop and brushed out, silver polar chenille, black under purple craft fur clumps backwards tied, several strands of purple holographic flashabou over section, purple wing-n-flash backwards tied over entire body

Front Shank

  • Shank: 40 mm Fish-Skull Senyo's Articulated Shank for steelhead and salmon flies, black.
  • Thread: 6/0 Unithread (purple)
  • Body: Purple ice dub spun in a dubbing loop and brushed out, silver polar chenille, black under purple craft fur clumps backwards tied, several strands of purple holographic flashabou over section, purple wing-n-flash backwards tied over entire body, head and body separated with small section of silver holographic tinsel (small)
  • Head: Same as body only adding natural grizzly long saddles under purple schlappen under Guinea fowl feather and a jungle cock nail per side

Intruder flies are beautiful and cool looking, but can be tedious and time consuming to tie. I tie and fish mainly for bass, pike, and trout, so I usually don’t have a lot of rhea or other feathers on the rarer side laying around, but I do have a ton of long saddles and craft fur. Because of this, I took two shanks to maximize movement even on a swing and the Fur Invader was born.

How To Fly Fish For Smallmouth Bass In Winter

This fly really glows with all the fine wing-n-flash mixed in with the craft fur. This is a great alternative to tying a true intruder, and takes about a quarter of the time. You can also buy that new fly rod you’ve been wanting because craft fur and wing-n-flash are pretty cheap.I have the Fur Invader and similar patterns as my wild-card type of fly because its movement and effectiveness can save the day and put fish in the boat. Whether you're fishing it in Alaska or here in the contiguous states on a steelhead stream, the Fur Invader pushes water and catches fish. I use this fly pretty frequently to tempt bass and pike as well. A word to the wise, if you are tying this for pike I would upgrade the hook to a larger size and use a little stronger wire.

You really can’t talk about movement in fly patterns without talking about craft fur. The stuff moves so nicely in the water and it is relatively easy to tie with. Intruder flies breathe and move because they are almost entirely tied out of materials that lend themselves to movement very easily. Ostrich, rhea, and schlappen all move with very little effort so it’s no surprise that these flies are very effective. The materials move well but they can also be pricy depending on your source, so I wanted a way to get all that movement with a small price tag. Craft fur fit the bill so I reverse tied it much the same way you would tie bucktail on a hollow style fly. It flares out and the exaggerated movement in the current is truly impressive. Tie some of these and take them out fishing, you won’t be disappointed. Plus, it’s also a really fun pattern to tie.

The Mud Muffin

Back Shank

  • Shank: 20 mm Fish-Skull Articulated Shank
  • Body: Grizzly mini marabou with a hare’s ear wiggle dub body spun in a dubbing loop
  • Collar: Grizzly hen feather

Middle Shank

  • Shank: 20 mm Fish-Skull Articulated Shank
  • Body: Grizzly mini marabou with a hare’s ear wiggle dub body spun in a dubbing loop
  • Collar: Grizzly hen feather

Hook Section

  • Hook: Any small stinger hook, Umpqua Stinger or Gamakatsu B10S in small sizes
  • Thread: 6/0 Unithread (white or tan)
  • Body: Hare’s ear wiggle dub body spun in a dubbing loop, grizzly mini marabou feathers tied on each side under grizzly hen feather pectoral fins
  • Collar: Grizzly hen feather
  • Head: One clump of pink Senyo laser yarn on the bottom, Australian opossum fur spun in a loop and trimmed flatter on the bottom
  • Weight: Small to medium lead eye (red/black)

I really enjoy carp fishing as it gives a different fight than that of other gamefish; they're like golden-brown missiles. They're smart fish and have keen senses as well. I wanted to create a natural-looking fly with great movement in the water but also has good mouth feel for the carp. A carp can suck something in and expel it almost instantly, so the fly needs to feel right for them to hold on to it long enough for a strike.

3 things you must know to chase carp on the fly.

This fly was tied to represent a goby or sculpin. A huge number of waters have these little critters living in them and they are an important food source for many types of trout and other fish. Lake Erie has a ton of these tiny little invaders bouncing around the bottom of the lake. The goby is an invasive species, but several species of native fish have developed an appetite for them, including bigger carp. If you look at the recipe for this fly, you will see I used some pink laser yarn for the belly. A lot of people know that carp like the color orange, but they will also respond to pink fairly well in certain situations, so have both in your fly box. You can also tie this fly in olive, all black, brown and orange, or white and pink for success with the "Kansas Bonefish".

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About John Satkowski:

John Satkowski resides in Toledo, Ohio, where he fishes for all fish that swim in the rivers and lakes of southeastern Michigan and northwest Ohio. An artist, fly tying demonstrator, and fly tying instructor, John shares his love of fly tying and fishing as often as he can. For the last fifteen years, he has focused on unlocking the secrets of smallmouth bass, carp, trout, and northern pike on the fly, chasing after them in the rivers and lakes of the Wolverine state and the glory waters of Montana. John is also an accomplished realistic tyer and always tries to add a little realistic flair to his patterns. John’s patterns often use creative fly materials and unconventional tying styles. Check out his bio and commercial fly patterns at Rainy's Flies. You can get a hold of John by visiting the River Raisin Fly Company page on Facebook or through email at RiverRaisinFlyCompany13@gmail.com.

  • Post author
    John Satkowski
  • fly fishingfly tyingstreamer fishing

Comments on this post (4)

  • Jan 04, 2018

    keek up the great work

    — capt.george tuthill

  • Jan 04, 2018

    Thank you Daniel

    — John Satkowski

  • Jan 04, 2018

    sign up for email articles

    — Dennis Lockett

  • Jan 04, 2018

    Hi John, great patterns, thank you for share !!

    — daniel

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