Three Methods of Weedless Fly Design

Guest Blogger: John Satkowski, Toledo, OH, fly tying demonstrator and instructor, you can find him @ River Raisin Fly Company on Facebook

Where we want to fish…Where the fish are…We have all been there, you want to throw your fly in the garbage and pull out a pig that you know is just sitting in there. The problem is between you and the fish of a lifetime is about seven yards of jungle and wood that would make Rambo cringe. How do you get your fly through the nasty and have it present cleanly to the monster buried within it? Here are three simple methods to get your flies to where the big boys live.

1) Invert the hook

This is probably the easiest way to keep your flies out of a watery grave. Crayfish and sculpin patterns are becoming increasingly tied to ride hook point up to avoid snags. Usually adding lead eyes is the easiest way to invert your hook, but you can also tie a strip of lead wire on the underside and then wrap the chosen area with lead wire if you don’t want the action of a lead eye. Inverting your hooks when tying heavier flies to imitate bottom-dwelling creatures is a good start for preserving the contents of your fly box.

2) Tie on different hooks

When you go to your local fly shop, or wherever you buy hooks, you’ll see lots of styles and sizes. To tie various weedless patterns, you can walk past the fly hooks and go to the hook section where all the bass tournament guys go. Hooks designed for plastic baits such as texas-rigged worms or tubes are made to keel so they are almost a no brainer to tie weedless flies on. The only challenge to tying on some of these hooks is limited space to tie. If this is a problem for you, simply find a hook with a longer front shank area. The VMC 7319 Extra Long WG worm hook is a nice choice. You may have to get a bit creative, but these hooks make nice, functional flies.

3) Tie flies with weed guards

Whatever kind of weed guard you put on your fly, you have to make sure of two things: the weed guard doesn’t become a fish guard and any part of the weed guard doesn’t slip out. The kind of guard shown here needs to be positioned and tied correctly so that it is effective against snags and not fish. I always burn a large ball on the end of the mono and then cover the mono with tight turns wrapping towards the back of the hook. Super glue is also used where I tie the mono in near the eye of the hook just for some extra reinforcement. I have tied two flies that utilize different styles of weed guards to illustrate the variety that is possible using a mono guard. Both of these weed guards are effective so it is personal preference and the type of cover you will be fishing that will dictate how you tie your weed guard.

**Thoughts on fly design

When I start designing a fly with a specific purpose in mind, in this case a fly to get through the weeds, I always consider different materials and the properties of those materials. I love using long flashy synthetics and rabbit strips as go to materials for pike but those materials can be hazardous around weeds because a long, undulating fibers can get stuck and caught in weeds. I chose Polar Flash for the tail on the demo fly because it is stiffer than Flashabou and has more subtle colors. The reflective quality is also enhanced when you use bright colors on your fly, Polar Flash tends to reflect and refract those colors as it is moving through the water. When the fly enters a weedy area where the light can’t necessarily get to, the Polar flash picks up any available light and shines and the rattle on the fly is ringing the doorbell at the same time. Always consider the way materials act when wet and try to pick the best material to do the intended job. You wouldn’t screw a screw in with a hammer, picking materials is the same methodology and practical thinking.

The next time you sit to tie some flies, think about where you are going to throw these flies and what you are going to imitate with them. You can adapt your fly to the conditions that you will face on the water. Whether you are going to be fishing near lily pads, timber, grass, or any other type of cover, be ready to throw something in the cabbage to a big boy.

NOTE FROM J STOCKARD: Watch for our November Fly of the Month. It will be one of John’s weedless designs.

3 thoughts on “Three Methods of Weedless Fly Design

  1. Jim Weber

    Great article on weed guards! also, I sometimes use springy, stiff, stainless wire as a weed guard, the kind of wire that used to be used for saltwater trolling and for “flash”, sometimes use yak hair because of it’s translucent qualities and it is stiffer than many synthetic fibers, yet has good movement around grass, logs and rocks. anyone else find this to be true, or what do you use? Also Beadlon craft wire as follow guard, not original to me.

  2. Jim Weber

    Also, on “ton of hooks”, I have tried TrapperTackle style #30610, Dropshot/Livebait/Finesse; StandOut style #ST8ZS Finesse Bass; Gamakatsu style # 306411 Wicked Wacky; Mustad pre-wired weedless hook, used by Jim M. on YouTube. The variety makes tying so much more interesting, though sometimes I spend way too much time on one fly. I enjoy it.

  3. John Satkowski

    Good points, I love yak hair, I use it to tie big chub imitations for the pike around my area. Icelandic sheep is another one of those hairs that has a nice sheen in the water and it ties excellent, durable flies.


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