Simple Baitfish

bastard crab

In my view, a fly has to meet two criteria to be appealing – it has to catch fish, and it has to be straightforward to tie.  Thirty-step, 10 material, complicated flies can certainly be effective, but I generally am not interested in spending an hour at the vise tying a single fly. If for no other reason, it just hurts too much when that fly is lost. Granted, there are times when a single fly catches fish for an entire week of fishing, but there are also days when five flies is not enough. I know others don’t feel this way, but it works for me - keep it simple and catch fish.

Somewhat based on Bob Popovics' style of flies, the Simple Baitfish meets my requirements for catching fish and for being an easy fly to tie. Plus, it uses only two tying materials - Flash 'n Slinky and Puglisi dubbing brush - and eyes and some glue. The pattern makes use of the hi-tie style for tying in the slinky 'n flash body, which provides a great profile while keeping materials sparse, and keeps the hook point clear for solid hookups. I can tie up enough in short order to last me a while, and I don’t sweat it when I lose one.

Another nice thing about this pattern is that with a simple switch of colors you can have flies appropriate for different habitats, conditions, and gamefish.  For example, I use a tan with gold flash version for backcountry redfish and snook, a white and chartreuse combination for casting seagrass beds for spotted seatrout, and an all white version for fishing along the beach or chasing false albacore.

Using all artificial materials, the fly is durable. It stands up well to all gamefish, even toothy ones like Spanish mackerel. And the construction – sparse body, compact head – gives it a good swimming motion.  

So far, even though I’ve been using the fly only a short time, it’s been chewed by spotted seatrout, snook, redfish, small tarpon, Spanish mackerel, and false albacore.


Hook – Mustad 34007, size 1, or similar
Thread – Danville flat-waxed nylon, color to match head
Body (wing) – Slinky N Flash or mixture of Slinky Fiber and Wing N Flash or Angel Hair flash. Tie in materials on top side of hook hi-tie style.
Head – Puglisi dubbing brush. Either to match the body (as in all-white version), or contrasting color (as in the example above - good for spotted seatrout over seagrass beds).

Tying steps

  1. Start thread at mid-shank
  2. Select a full-length clump of Slinky N Flash, tie it in on the top of the hook shank. Tie the Slinky N Flash at its mid-point, so that half of the fibers extend rearward past the hook shank, the other half forward past the hook eye.
  3. Make two wraps at the mid-point of the fibers, fold the forward-pointing fibers backward so they overlay the rear-facing fibers.
  4. Make two or three thread wraps on the hook shank in front of the folded-over fibers. Make sure the thread wraps are made up against the fibers so the folded-over portion continues to lay rearward and upward.
  5. Repeat this process using three or four clumps of fiber. Be sure to leave plenty of space for the head.
  6. After the last clump of Slink N Flash, tie in one end of a Puglisi dubbing brush, and palmer the brush, moving toward the hook eye. Make three or four wraps.
  7. Tie off the dubbing brush and clip. Finish the head with thread, tie off and trim.
  8. Use a bodkin to tease out the dubbing brush fibers, use your fingers to brush these fibers rearward.
  9. Apply stick-on eyes to the dubbing-brush head.
  10. Apply a drop of Goop to each side of the head and, after wetting your fingers with soapy water, use your fingers to spread and smooth the Goop to cover the stick-on eyes and front portion of the dubbing-brush head.  The key here is to use just enough Goop to cover the eyes (to ensure they stay on) and forward portion of the head with a thin layer. Don’t apply too much!
  11. Trim the Slinky N Flash into a fish profile.