J.Stockard Pro Tyer: John Satkowski, Toledo, OH, fly tying demonstrator and instructor, you can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/johnsatkowski/

You can’t really talk about composite and complex dubbing loops without discussing some trout swing flies. If you know anything about me, you know I am not much of a steelhead fisherman. I have caught most of my steelhead accidentally fishing for other species. I do, however, enjoy tying steelhead intruder flies, brook and brown trout streamers, and swing flies. I love going to northern Michigan and fishing the beautiful rivers for feisty brookies. Whether you enjoy swinging flies for chromers or throwing streamers for browns or brookies, a dynamic loop fly can change the odds in your favor.


Although you can make any fly you can think of with a complex dubbing loop, the most popular style nowadays is the complex loop intruder. Intruder flies have what are called stations. You can have one station or up to four or five stations depending on what you are tying. Most flies have two stations, a front and a rear with some sort of flat, flashy material in between. You will hear terms like Hoh Bo spey flies, and most of these patterns have a single station. I know that there is a lot more to these style of flies, but I am keeping it fairly basic in terms of description. The intruder style fly uses a ball of dubbing or some other kind of support to spread out the station. The same is usually done on the front station as well. Your prop materials can be anything from mylar piping unraveled, chenille, or you can make a small composite loop with materials like feather barbs, Ice Dub, Amherst pheasant fibers, Ringneck pheasant, or even turkey tail fibers. A softer and suppler material is then tied in over the top. You can use a myriad of materials for this, but I really like arctic fox, marabou, opossum, flashabou, and various furs mixed with Angel Hair. If you stick to the basic design and construction of an intruder you can make really nice flies. Tiny versions of streamers with composite loops are becoming very popular as well so you can alter the size and shape of your fly by changing and trimming materials down to fit your needs.

In some of the flies pictured, the dubbing loop also offers some support for palmered marabou on top of it. You can get some really natural looking results with this method of streamer construction. Nymph flies can even be constructed with dynamic loops and the results are often great for creating a really “buggy” looking nymph with a small bit of flash to get the fish’s attention. I know brook trout especially love an area of flash or a hotspot on a nymph drifting by. Since my local rivers have an abundance of the almighty hex, a slightly flashy hex nymph can also get some attention from the resident smallmouth during the pivotal times of the season. You can experiment with lots of different materials with different colors and textures to see what the fish like. I find that a dynamic loop with mostly natural materials and sparse amounts of flash is best for tying small nymphs or even dries. You can really ramp up your stone or steelhead nymph patterns with some Senyo Shaggy and ice dub to create the effect of more movement and a glint of flash to help the fish key in on your fly. In murky and rough conditions, this may be your savior from going home with the skunk.

When tying larger flies for trout, I like to play around with different heads and collars to either create movement or to move some water. One of my favorite methods to create a head is to tie a lead dumbbell on the bottom of the shank and stack deer hair on the top of the hook shank and alternately tie some Senyo Laser yarn on the bottom. This method makes really nice heads and depending on how tight you stack the deer hair, you can alter the sink rate and action of the fly. Make no mistake about it, deer hair heads push some serious water, but I wanted to try some new methods. I made a typical dynamic loop with some flash, small rubber legs, longer fiber dubbing, and I clipped a clump of a couple different colored deer hair and spun that all up. Once I wrapped it and brushed it, I was surprised at how natural and blended the head looked. I added some eyes to complete the head and was very satisfied with the results. The head not only looks good, but pushes a lot of water and you can trim the loop to any shape you wish, use resin to bulletproof it, or epoxy to shape and protect the eyes. This method is now one of my favorites to complete a head on a streamer. Don’t be afraid to put whatever materials you prefer in your loops, most of my most successful streamers were happy accidents with dubbing loops.

Prey For Predators

When you are talking about predatory fish, your main fly choices will most likely revolve around some kind of baitfish. There are millions of baitfish patterns out there, but putting a dynamic dubbing loop on the fly can really bolster some attention from the fish. Pike for instance, love forage fish such as juvenile gamefish, shad, chubs, and various kinds of sucker species. If you take a close look at the shape and coloration of these fish, they are full of many colors and hues. A sucker has an overall color of olive, brown, and a rusty orange, but ramping up some of the oranges and olives in your dubbing loop can help sell the suggestion of a sucker. Adding some flashy elements of some of the colors of the baitfish you are imitating can yield results. One of my favorite methods to do this is add some Ice Dub accent and strands of Flashabou or Krystal Flash in your dubbing loop to accentuate these tones.

I love deceiver style flies but they can slim down once they are in the water. They certainly work and have worked for ages, but I got to thinking about profile and movement in the water. There are times that even savage predatory fish like pike get picky. They may lean towards biting slimmer, smaller flies or natural colored flies over something bright and artificial. I also wanted some extra water push on the front of the fly so I grabbed some Flymen tubing and created the head out of that. I wanted some extra light catching effects and a body that would flow a little better than fairly static bucktail. I created a dubbing loop and added a couple different colored materials to emulate the multicolored bodies on many baitfish. The result was really striking and the body flows and moves in the current. I put some fairly large eyes on and coated the eyes and the front of the tubing with resin to get some extra water push and the resin makes the fly move erratically when stripped. I usually tie it unweighted and fish it in the top third of the water column attempting to imitate an injured baitfish. The strikes are usually really aggressive, and the hackle tail of the fly really rings the dinner bell.

Whip Finish

Whether you are constructing your own dubbing brushes or making them on your flies as a loop, be creative and do not be afraid to use different materials. The Internet is a wealth of resources to look at demonstrations, tutorials, and materials, but the more loops you physically make the easier and quicker they become. Fly tying should be a creative and stress reducing activity. Constructing dynamic dubbing loops is a great way to show your creativity while creating fish catching patterns. The sky is the limit and to harken back to one of my previous articles, you can even update older and traditional patterns with some dubbing loops that can really electrify them. Take for example a simple wooly bugger, usually constructed with chenille, a hackle feather, and a marabou tail. You can keep the marabou tail but substitute the chenille and hackle for a dynamic dubbing loop with ice dub, small rubber leg material, and some slightly longer fibers such as Baitfish Emulator or Mega Simiseal. You can even use some of your favorite Flymen materials to assist you in your dynamic loops. By using the method that Blane Chocklett uses to create the T-Bone fly, you can support and spread out your dubbing loops with the Body Tubing. This creates some bulk without adding additional weight allowing you to make bigger flies that weigh a fraction of what they should. Another little trick I employ that is hidden in some of my streamers is using a small Double Barrel head in the slider position towards the front of the fly. I can then backwards tie some craft fur or construct a dynamic loop in front of that and it adds support for the materials of the head. It can also create a big push of water. You can also use some resin to slick down the materials over the head making a nice head that is buoyant for higher floating patterns. Next time you’re at the vise, play around with some new dubbing loops and materials to push your patterns to the next level.

A simple popper fly can use dynamic loops to bring some flash and lively movement to bring it to the next level. Finish it off with a Double Barrel head and you have a killer popper fly.

With realistic, articulated legs, this frog popper really turns heads. The fly is keeled to ride hook up to avoid snags and the mallard flank feather on the belly helps it slide over lily pads. With the head riding high and the legs kicking in the water, this is a fly for big fish in nasty spots.

 

My Insidious Leech is not only a blast to tie, it has some killer movement. This fly feels at home in any steelheader’s flybox, but it was actually created for springtime smallmouth. The wiggle and extra flash help this fly get noticed when swung in cold, off color water. This fly incorporates two Senyo Flymen shanks and has more wiggle than a Beyonce video.

A little on the smaller side, I use long shank hooks to create a small, single station intruder fly. This fly has the basics of an intruder, but not necessarily all the bells and whistles.
Some serious water push is headed your way. Lots of flowing marabou, rubber legs, and a deer hair dynamic loop make this fly a definite fish catcher. The head also has a backwards conehead that creates a lot of turbulence in the water
Whether you want to imitate a lamprey, baitfish, or other aquatic prey, this fly will deliver. A hook, shank, hook system keeps this fly swinging and moving. An Australian Opossum and Senyo dub head makes this a streamer with an attitude.
This fly should look familiar to you, the famous gamechanger with a twist. There is a mono stem coming off the jighook. Once the fish skull is glued down, I burn the mono down flush and put some resin on it for security. Each shank has a dynamic loop followed by hen hackle giving it a really swimmy movement and feel.
The almighty deceiver with an overhaul. Backwards tied bucktail helps support the dubbing loop. Predator wrap, Ripple Ice, ostrich herl, and Angel Hair are really nice light catching materials. You can alter the materials for more or less flash and get subtle color blends by using various materials. The body tubing head creates nice movement in the water and gives some extra push up front.
This little Hex nymph moves like the real thing. The back section is tied on a wiggle shank and helps sell the package when these nymphs wiggle and dig in the silt. Hitting the major characteristics of pronounced gills, large eyes, and wingcases, this is a must have anywhere Hex are found.
Don’t fear, I did not forget about those salty dogs fishing in the big water. With the added action of a Cray-tail, this crustacean imitation excels for getting the attention of reds and the like. I do not usually tie this pattern with eyes because it is more of a catch all creature fly. Alter the color and shape of this fly to imitate your desired prey item.
Rabbit strips, palmered marabou, barred flashabou, rubber legs, and custom dynamic brushes make this fly a good attractor fly for many species. The bead chain can be substituted for lead eyes to control depth and the dynamic brush up front can be constructed from many hairs and furs. This head is made from EP fibers, arctic fox, flash, and Ice Fur.
Now it is time for the big boys. This is one of my favorite flies for pike in the warmer months when they rest near vegetation. Riding hook up, this fly can slither through weeds and vegetation to get right into the predator’s face.
The Hellbender Slider is definitely not for the faint of heart. A Cray tail was tied up front in a crankbait lip position that gives the fly a wobble and wiggle when fishing. You can tie this fly in a myriad of colors and the extra shank between the hooks really gets this fly moving. This fly was created to imitate bottom dwelling prey. This is the crayfish color scheme, however, it can be tied very dark to imitate madtoms, olive and brown to imitate sculpin and gobies, or tan with white for minnows and chubs.
This is one of my favorite flies to tie and fish. The Demon’s Tongue is loosely based on fellow Michigander Tommy Lynch’s Drunk and Disorderly. It has a lot of the same movement but you do not have to mess with a deer hair head or throw it on a sinking line. The tail on this fly is also important to note, it is cut from a chatterbait/spinnerbait silicon trailer. The pitch and roll movement of the fly makes this tail dance and wiggle making it irresistible to predatory fish.
When you fish this fly, you should use a hop, hop, and lift retrieve. When the fly nears the angler, a couple hard, short strips can entice a follower to react. Fish tend to hit this fly hard with most of the takes coming when the fly is settling on the bottom.

5 Comments

  1. Personally, while I find all but the simplest of single-material dubbing loops difficult to create for the smaller flies I tend to tie, I have to say I’m impressed with the variety and complexity of the many files you featured in this article John. They seem to target larger species than I normally do, but the complexity as shown by these great photos is clear. I’d guess that special dubbing-brush-creation tools are needed for most of this.

    I do especially like some of the big streamers…they’d be nice to have around Chinook season. Really like those frog & dragonfly poppers, too.

    1. Thank you for your kind words Michael, smallmouth and pike are my bread and butter so I tend to tie flies that are geared towards those species, but I do have some smaller carp patterns such as Hex and Stonefly nymphs that more complex loops help with. The only tool you really absolutely need is the Loon dub loop tweezers, it just makes life so much easier. Other than that, I just use a cheap wire brush I got from a hardware store and some dubbing wax. I actually rarely make brushes, most of my dubbing loops are created on the fly with a piece of white paper laid down to set out the materials that I have marked with different lengths with a Sharpie. I can then cleanly pick up the loop materials with the tweezers and put them in the loop. Then you spin, spin, spin and you are off to the races!!

      1. Thanks John. I always have issues with long materials twisting up in a loop. I’ve come to the conclusion that spinning with the loop in a horizontal posture is probably the better way to go, but stuff still either falls out or ballistically flies out, depending on how abruptly I let the thing spin. So mostly I use a loop only to twist up simple dubbing, and when I get dozens of circular strands of dubbing double-trapped in the loop, I just manually trim them. Not very fancy. I can see how those patterns you showed would be great for smallmouth.

        1. Longer materials are definitely more challenging to work with, I find adding more extra tacky wax helps to hold them in the loop. A lot of Musky guys are starting to make loops and brushes with bucktail and flash and they usually use some sort of brush table to do those though.

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