Rattle Their Cage

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

The Lateral Line is a system of sense organs found in aquatic vertebrates, used to detect movement, vibration, and pressure gradients in the surrounding water. The fish we routinely target have and depend on their lateral lines to detect and find food. Many flies, especially streamers and top water patterns, are specifically designed to “push or disturb water” in a way that most probably stimulates a fish’s lateral line. The Muddler Minnow, Dahlberg Diver or any fly with a large, stiff head pushes or displaces water when retrieved. That displacement is detectable by a fish’s lateral line.

If you pick up just about any hard bait for freshwater or salt, it will rattle. As those baits travel through the water, the rattling sound is detectable by nearby fish. Even spoons and spinners, as they move through the water, displace water thus creating vibrations detectable by the fish’s lateral lines. So, adding something to a fly that rattles and creates vibrations probably enhances its overall effectiveness. It’s not a new concept, but still an important one.

This is generally a technique for larger flies—streamers, divers, large top water flies and all sorts of saltwater concoctions. There are essentially two methods for adding rattles to your flies—glass rattles or rattle chambers and beads.

Glass rattles and rattle chambers are simply small, hard, sealed tubes with two or three loose metal balls inside. When incorporated into the body of a fly, the fly rattles when moving through the water. Glass rattles or rattle chambers come in a variety of sizes, but I’ve found the smallest sizes to be most suitable for typical streamers, top water and saltwater flies. The smallest rattles are easy to secure directly to the hook shank and don’t add too much bulk or weight. The profile of a large fly with or without a rattle would be the same once all the body materials are added. The small glass rattle above is secured with thread wraps over a thread base and sealed with flex cement. It was used in the Gurgler shown below. When the rattle is incorporated into a traditional and effective pattern like the Gurgler, it makes the fly even more effective without altering the overall design.

Glass rattles and rattle chambers can also be enclosed in the various types of braided tubing body materials like Pearl Flashabou Minnow Body. Slide the hollow tubing over the hook shank. Insert a glass rattle and secure both ends of the tubing. Most tiers use epoxy or UV cured cement to coat the entire tube and create a very durable, but rattling body. In large solid foam bodies, glass rattles can be embedded in and sealed into the foam.

There are two basic techniques for creating rattles with beads. Weed guard rattles are very effective on flies fished in shallow, weedy water, fresh or salt. A stiff piece of mono is secured to the hook shank just in front of the hook bend. Once the flies tailing and body materials are added, two or three beads are thread onto the mono. The Mono loop is then secured at the hook eye. This is a very common technique with bonefish and redfish flies simulating shrimp and crabs.

The other method of using beads to create rattles is to thread two or three beads on the hook shank but leave sufficient slack to allow them to move a bit fore or aft. This technique provides the most versatility in fly size because very small beads can be used this way on much smaller hooks.

I am confident that the fish we anglers pursue use all their senses—sight, smell, hearing and touch—as necessary to find and consume food. That is evident by all the various techniques we fly tiers use imitate prey, create attractive contrast and flash, as well as cause commotion on and in the water. They are all important with no single technique holding sway over another. But when it comes to stimulating that lateral line, when it comes to getting a fish’s attention, try and rattle their cage some time. It works.

One thought on “Rattle Their Cage

  1. James Weber

    Nice article. I often neglect the rattle factor when I could incorporate it in my flies. Very good reminder and display of the options. Thank you.

    Reply

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