The Pink Thing Story

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

The stories behind a fly’s name are always interesting. That is especially true when the fly has a global reputation. Such is the case for the “Pink Thing”, as one Aussie writer says, is “The Greatest Barra Fly of All Time”. I’ll be on my way to Darwin in 2020 where I hope to get in some decent fly fishing for Barramundi. We’ll be there during the end of runoff and expect stained water conditions in the smaller creeks and estuaries. I’ve been tying up some Pink Things and their variations for the trip. The story behind the name is an interesting one. The fly’s originator was Graham White, an English fly angler and fisheries biologist who emigrated to Australia. In Darwin, he became well-known as the guy who knew how to catch Barra on the fly. In the 1980s he was a member of a dedicated group of Darwin fly anglers known as The Saltwater Flyrodders of the Northern Territory. They met regularly after days of fishing to enjoy a few brews at one of the member’s residences outside Darwin. Although bait and spin casting for Barra was probably the most efficient method of catching these large fish, club members had an interesting rule. Anyone found to have used gear other than flyrods for the days angling was fined a carton of green cans—mostly likely Victoria Bitter, one of the most popular beers in Australia—which they had to bring to the evening’s beer fest.

On one particular angling day, no one was having much luck with flies. One of Graham’s friends, Lou Murray was fishing one of Darwin’s local lagoons with the fly, but without any success. Frustrated, he grabbed a bait caster and tied on a plastic pearlescent jig that had a pink head. The jig was successful bringing several Barra to hand. Embarrassed from the use of gear Lou failed to show for the evenings drink fest and needless to say did not pay the fine of a carton of green cans. Graham quickly discovered what Lou had been using and decided to try and replicate the pearlescent, pink headed jig with a fly. The resulting fly, which eventually became known as the Pink Thing was born.

The original fly employed six white saddles tied deceiver style overlaid with a few strands of pearl flashabou, a relatively new material at the time. The body was composed of small clumps of white bucktail. A few more strands of flash were added along with the signature element of most “Thing” flies, two pair of grizzly hackles along the sides of the fly. The front third of the fly was composed of two or three pink webby saddle hackles tightly wound. Bead chain eyes were added at the hook eye.

In its early days in the estuaries, creeks and lagoons around Darwin, the fly was a steady producer on Barra, especially in stained waters. One November, early in the Wet, Graham was fishing with a group from The Saltwater Flyrodders of the Northern Territory on Northwest Vernon Island offshore from Darwin. The lagoons and estuaries on island boast a wide variety of Northern Territory species. Graham and his fishing partner Graeme Forrester had cleaned up all morning with Graham’s new fly on Barra, Tarpon, Saratoga and Mangrove Jack. Lou Murray, mentioned above, was on the island with the flyrodders and met Graham and Graeme for lunch at a small lagoon in the middle of the island. Unfortunately for Lou, his morning had been extremely unproductive. As most anglers do, he asked Graham was he had been using during the morning’s fishing. When he showed the fly to Lou, as the story goes, Lou asked if he could have one of those “Pink Things”. The name stuck.

Popularity of the “Pink Thing” increased when it was discovered by Lefty Kreh. Lefty wrote about the fly in his 1995 Saltwater Fly Patterns and 1994 The Professional’s Favorite Flies. Lefty thought the pattern was a good imitation of large Mantis shrimp that are a favorite food of Barramundi in northern Australian waters. Over the years, the Pink Thing has seen lots of variations, most attributed to the increased use of synthetics for the body. Bunny strips have been substituted for the pink saddle hackle. They are tied unweighted, weighted with bead chain and heavily weighted with dumbbell eyes. Some tyers add wire or mono weed guards. And pink has not been the only color “Things” are tied in. One popular Australia online fly purveyor lists Pink Things, Green Things, Blue Things Red Things and Black Things. The one constant in the pattern are the deceiver style tail and the grizzly hackles that parallel the body. The most important aspect of “Things” I gather is a large profile that will push a lot of water in turbid or stained conditions.

I’ll be bringing a dozen or more “Things” over to Darwin in March. They are easy to tie on large, stout hooks. I plan on giving them a trial in Tampa this December with a new 8 weight and some SA Tropical sink tip line specially engineered for tropical waters. I need to make sure I can handle the big, heavy flies. Here’s my current selection of “Things” ready for the trials. Includes some Givens Barred and Black which is also to said to have been an inspiration for “Things”.

2 thoughts on “The Pink Thing Story

  1. Mary S. Kuss

    Thanks for sharing the fascinating story of The Pink Thing. I enjoyed the excellent photos very much. I wonder if this fly was the inspiration for Lefty’s Red & White and similar patterns in his Tarpon Fly series? Best of luck on your March trip.

    Reply
  2. Michael Vorhis

    Sadly I could never use any of these streamers because I’d never be able to choose — I’d never be able to decide which one looks like the best one. I’d have no choice but to gang them all on, and I just can’t throw a 37-foot leader with any degree of grace.

    – Mike

    Reply

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