The Esox family has evolved over thousands of years to give us a top predator to chase on the fly.
These beasts' senses are tuned to the max.
Their #1 sense is vision. It's the first thing we think when we first get out on the water to fish: what colors should we use today? Is the water clear or muddy
The clarity of the water and the amount of sunlight will usually dictate what color streamer to tie on your leader.
While I believe strongly in the importance of the visual aspect of my flies, I'm equally firm with presenting “loud” flies.
One sense that is important for pikes/muskies is the lateral line, a system of tactile sense organs located in the head and along both sides of the body, used to detect movement and vibration in the surrounding water.
They use their lateral line in conjunction with their sight to give them a more accurate picture of what’s going on – how far away their prey is, how fast it's moving, and its size.
The lateral line is often forgotten by the fly angler. We tie pretty flies, but most of them have a very small footprint in the water. I'm not saying these don’t work, but why not maximize your chances of attracting more fish or perhaps bigger fish?
Flies that have a big presence are quite important on most days to attract more fish. Just ask any musky fisherman, there’s a good reason why they like using big blades so much.
So how can you make a loud fly?
I use 3 main ingredients to achieve this. Rattles, wiggle tails, and Body Tubing.
Epoxy heads with large rattle inside.
Rattles are my least favorite of the 3 ingredients for tying loud flies.
I've fished many hours with and without rattles, and can't say I've seen a huge difference on my catch rate from using them.
They do add a little something, but not enough for me to feature them on most of my flies. Another problem I encounter with rattle flies is they usually don’t last long with toothy predators – they get crushed on a regular basis by the power of their jaws.
On pressured water where you have mostly lure anglers, the pike have learned to stay away from this clicking sound after being fooled too many times by lures, as most lures have rattles inside them. I know a few lure anglers who now fill their lures with silicon to stop the noise and get better hookups with silent lures.
Fly tying with rattles.
There are many ways to tie a rattle to your fly.
My favorite method is to tie the rattle inside the head of the fly and then cover the whole head with epoxy.
This does 2 things:
First, it protects the rattle (big toothy predators have a habit of crushing rattles, both plastic and pyrex rattles).
Second, it creates more noise… A lot more noise.
2. Wiggle Tails.
Fastach clips on Wiggletails, easy to remove and customize depending on the fishing conditions.
Wiggle Tails do exactly the same work as a rubber lure, giving good vibrations for the fish to find, follow, and hopefully crush your fly.
They come in many sizes, shapes, and colors these days and are becoming more and more popular.
They can change shy takes into positive attacks. They are easy to tie and change on the water. If you need a different color, shape, or size, this can be done in seconds.
Fly tying with Wiggle Tails.
I like to keep my wiggle tails simple.
On a large single hook (6/0 to 8/0), tie a small length of single strand titanium (30 lbs. will do the job nicely) at the back of the hook, and at the bottom end crimp a small loop with a sleeve to be able to change the tails once they are worn off or to suit different fishing situations.
A fastach clip on the tails makes for an easy change.
3. Body Tubing.
Classic big head with Body Tubing. Small flies like bunnies are very effective with a Body Tubing head. It's not only for big flies.
Lastly, my favorite material for tying loud flies: Fish-Skull Body Tubing.
Rattles and Wiggle Tails have a low life span with esox but the Body Tubing is a tough material – I've often found broken teeth inside them. And if it gets damaged a bit, just run a flame over it to melt and weld it back.
If you look at my Instagram feed, Body Tubing is featured more and more on my ties, and for good reason. I have turned many fishless days into success by switching my fly to a T-Bone or any fly with a big bulky Body Tubing head.
Just while stripping your fly line you'll notice the difference.
The big heads push a lot of water and give a different swimming action, especially if you add articulation in the mix. They leave a great footprint for the fish to follow, which is especially important when water clarity isn’t great.
Now don’t think for a second this means you can only push water using huge flies – you can achieve this even with a small fly if you use a size of Body Tubing appropriate to your creations.
The first reaction I get from clients when I pull a fly like this out of my box is they think it's overkill. They see a fly they think will be heavy and hard to cast.
And they couldn’t be more wrong.
Body Tubing allows you to create the illusion of bulk while keeping your fly light and easy to cast all day because you don't need much material between the Body Tubing.
It takes a bit of practice to tie with, but after a few flies you will get a good feeling for this great material.
Fly tying with Body Tubing.
Use smaller diameter tubing for the body of your fly, usually the 1/4" and finish this with a 1/2" head.
If you're wanting to tie a head with a more natural look, tie the 1/2" tubing a little further back and cover it with fibers or dubbing.
To tie the heads, I wrap a little strip of chamois leather on the hook so the Body Tubing will sit well and have a good grip when you apply some glue.
Nothing worse than a head that starts getting loose on the shank of your hook.
Bringing it all together.
Combination of rattle, wiggle tail, and Body Tubing.
It's not always about fly colors, especially if you fish murky waters or need to fish deep where the visibility is near nonexistent.
At the moment, I'm working toward combining some of the different materials, especially a rattle inside Body Tubing, coated with some epoxy. These are great to fish deeper waters; they sink fast and are very loud.
Give it a go! Make some noise, create a big presence in the water, and see how it helps improve your success rate!
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About Norbert Renaud:
Norbert was born in France, but has lived in Ireland for most of his life. His father came to Ireland for fishing in the late 1960s and passed the bug onto him. Living in an area that holds 365 lakes and rivers, it's easy to get addicted to fishing. There are little predator species locally to chase on the fly: trout, perch, or pikes… His choice is very easy. He runs L'ile Verte Fishing Lodge and when not behind the stove cooking for the clients, he's either guiding, tying flies, or fishing for himself.