Sunday, April 6, 2014


We have a good friend who comes into the shop now and then to talk about fishing, flies, and life (what else is there to talk about?).  He is well placed in the world of FFF fly casting; is one of the most proficient casters and instructors out there; and one of the most calm focussed and centered persons I've ever known.  

Years ago, before they moved across the road in Last Chance, ID, I was in Trouthunter's fly shop, and who should walk in, out of the blue, but our good friend.  Never mind pleasantries -- the first words out of his mouth were 'John, do you have any more of those tubes with you?'  He was float-tubing down Box Canyon hooking 'very large rainbows' on marabou streamers tied on tubes.  And he knows we're into tubes here and I guess he just assumed I always travel with boxes of all kinds of tubes.

The point here is that as excited as any of us get about big rainbows (wherever we can get them), our good friend goes completely off center when you bring up smallmouths.  

(photo courtesy of Matt Erny, who fishes Michigan 
(which, ecologically speaking, in many ways is similar to Maine). 
And, in the interest of full disclosure, this fish wasn't
 caught on a jig fly, but it could've been.)

We have excellent smallmouth fishing here in Maine, including right outside the shop in the Andro, if we could ever find time to get out there.  Well, our good friend does, and recently he walked into the shop and, to make a long story short -- well, shorter -- he showed me a  fly tied on a heavy bead head jig hook…

...and said how amazingly effective they were at catching big smallies "and anything else in the vicinity".

That got me to thinking, and I asked in a rhetorical way, hmmm, i wonder if I could put a jig fly on a tube?  Then he said hmmmmm, and that he'd be real curious to see what i came up with.

And here's what I came up with.

Why jigs on a tube?   1)  Why not?  2)  Because we can do it.  3) and because we then gain the primary advantage of using tube flies, which is to use a short-shank hook on relatively long flies. 

The technique is pretty straightforward.  Follows is a brief tutorial.

1.  I use the HMH Poly tubes.  They are easy to work and i don't need to use hook holder when i'm done.  First, make a hole in the side of the tube near the front end -- doesn't really matter how close to the end because you can always trim it to size.  Our Micro tubing is 1/16" diameter, so to make things simple, I heat a 1/16" drill bit because its really easy to melt through one wall of tube by slowly spinning the bit in your fingers.  Ream out the hole pretty well, and maybe oversize it a bit if you can.

2.  Next, trim a piece of HMH micro tubing (regular or thick wall) to an angle like a hypodermic needle.  This makes it easier to feed the micro tube around the 90 degree corner when you poke it down into and through the poly tube. 

3.  When you feed the micro tubing into the Poly tube, you want the angle of the cut to be flat against the opposite wall of the tube.  Obviously, the more gradual the angle of the cut, the easier it will be to get the micro tubing around the corner.  And, like just about every other aspect of fly fishing and fly tying, a little spit will help here to lube up the micro tubing.

4.  Push the micro tubing all the way out the back end of the poly tube, trim the micro tubing flat, and then burn the tiniest little button on the end.  This little button will help lock the tubing inside the poly tube.

5.  Pull the micro tubing back inside the poly tube and keep pulling it up towards the front of the tube, but leave, say, at least 3/8" or more of the micro tube inside the poly tube (you can see this in the image here).  Then trim off the micro tube, being sure to leave enough tubing to accommodate whatever cone or bead you're going to use for the jig head.  

6.  Drop the bead or cone down over the micro tubing, trim the tubing leaving a 1/16" - 1/8" of micro tubing extending beyond the bead/cone, and then burn it back to rivet the bead/cone onto the poly tube.  I cut a short piece of starter pin to keep my hole size consistent.  You'll want to hold the bead/cone tight to the poly tube during this process to make sure the cone stays tight to the poly tube when you're all done.  Yes, your fingers might get a little warm, but what price are we willing to pay for the joy of being clever and creative and of catching monster fish?

Then I burn a button on the front end of the tube ahead of the bead or cone just to finish things off nicely and to serve as a thread stop for the head if you choose to tie it all off in front of the bead or cone.

And, Voila, the jig tube is ready to tie.  Note here how I've pulled the micro tubing well up towards the bead.  I did this so if i tie a short body to the fly, I'll still have room for the hook eye (this is an HMH Poly Tube, so i don't need to use hook holder, which means nice things for the proportions of these jigs).   If you are tying a longer fly pattern, then you can leave the micro tubing further back.

Regardless, when you lay down your thread base with some nice tight turns, you will collapse the Poly tube down onto the micro tubing, thus locking everything together so it won't pull out while tussling with your leviathan from the deep.

I intend to give these a shot for spring steelies (I hope); early heavy pocket water for recalcitrant landlock salmon, and of course, when we reach the magic 50 degree mark, Smallies.

I'll report back.

Get a grip, and try something new.


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