The 4 Bass Flies You Must Tie
Article & Photography by  David Klausmeyer

Hold on tight! It’s “lunker time.”

Whether I’m casting to largemouth or smallmouth bass, I always carry these four flies in my warmwater fly-fishing kit. They are easy to tie, and the big bass love them. While I could make more complicated patterns, I doubt that they would catch more fish.

 

We all love catching bass on the surface, but sometimes we have to use a sinking fly that gets down to the fish. A weighted fly is especially useful on sunny days when the bass seem reluctant to smack a popper or other floating pattern. Fortunately, bass don’t seem very picky about the appearance of a fly, so you don’t have to tie an exact replica of a small baitfish or other food they eat. Instead, bass seem more impressed with a fly that is fished at the correct depth and has a lot of good swimming action.

We’re going to tie three flies that get down to where the lunkers live. The first pattern is the Crystal Bugger. The Crystal Bugger is a very basic fly that is perfect for a novice tier: it’s simple to make, the materials are inexpensive, and it catches fish. We’ll tie our Crystal Bugger with a monofilament weed guard so that it catches bass, not sticks and cattails.

Our second subsurface pattern is the Bouface. John Barr is famous for originating the Copper John trout fly, but he also creates flies for catching other species of fish. This fly is tied almost entirely with rabbit fur and marabou, so it has terrific pulsating action in the water.

Crayfish are a staple in the diets of bass, so you should have a pattern that imitates these important crustaceans. I think the action of the fly is more important than the appearance, so we’re going to keep it simple. The Killer Crayfish does a wonderful job of imitating a crayfish, but it is fairly easy to tie. The Killer Crayfish rides low in the water and does an excellent job of imitating a fleeing crayfish.

“But hey,” you must be saying, “what about tying a bass bug?” You bet. Every bass angler needs a reliable floating pattern. While hard-bodied poppers and deer-hair bass bugs are popular, they are more complicated and time-consuming to make—and often difficult to cast. Instead of demonstrating how to craft poppers or spin deer hair, I’ve chosen a simple fish-catching pattern called the Gurgler Frog. This fly, based on Jack Gartside’s famous saltwater Gurgler, is far easier to tie than traditional bass bugs. The Gurgler Frog is one of my personal favorites for catching both largemouth and smallmouth bass.

These are the four bass flies you MUST tie.


Crystal Bugger
The classic Woolly Bugger is one of the first patterns we all learned to
tie, and it’s superb for catching bass. The Crystal Bugger is a takeoff of that fly. This flashy little number is especially valuable for fishing murky or stained water.

Favorite colors for bass lures—and flies—are bass black, purple, maroon, and all shades of olive. All of the materials used to tie the Crystal Bugger are available in these colors. We’ll tie a simple weed guard on this fly so you can cast it into the cover where the lunkers live.

The Crystal Bugger is very easy to make, and in a couple of evenings you’ll have enough flies for the entire fishing season. And don’t forget to tie some Crystal Buggers in smaller sizes for trout fishing; this pattern is also a favorite for coldwater fly fishing.
 

Image Materials
Hook: 4X-long streamer hook, sizes 6 to 2.
Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier) or 3/0 (210 or 280 denier).
Weed guard: 30-pound-monofilament.
Tail: Marabou and strands of Krystal Flash, your choice of colors.
Body: Medium or large Crystal Chenille, your choice of colors.
Hackle: Saddle hackle, your choice of colors.

 

 

 

 

 









Bouface
I found the Bouface in the book Fly Patterns of Umpqua Feather
Merchants listed in the section for bass flies, but it was tied on a stainless-steel hook and sported a stainless wire weed guard. This heavy-duty chassis led me to believe that it was originally intended as a saltwater fly, but I agreed that it was a terrific bass pattern. I then found the Bouface in the great new book titled Barr Flies (Stackpole Books), but this time it was dressed on a bronzed hook. My method of tying the Bouface more closely matches the pattern described in Barr Flies.

Tie the Bouface in all of the traditional bass-lure colors. I also tie this pattern using barred rabbit strips to give it a variegated appearance. You may also tie a Bouface using more than one color of materials, such as a purple tail and black collar.

 ImageMaterials
Hook: 2X- or 3X-long heavy-wire hook, sizes 6 to 2.
Head: Medium or large bead.
Thread: Size 3/0 (210 or 280 denier), color to match the tail of the fly.
Tail: A rabbit strip and strands of Flashabou, your choice
of colors.
Collar: Marabou, your choice of colors.
Weed guard: 30-pound-monofilament.
Head: Rabbit or squirrel dubbing.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Crayfish
There are many excellent crayfish imitations. Most, however, are complicated
to tie. The Killer Crayfish is a more basic pattern that I always carry in my fly box.
You probably have all the materials on your tying bench to make the Killer Crayfish, but you can make substitutions when necessary. For instance, rather than hen hackles, you can use almost any small mottled, rounded feathers for the claws. I’m using Vinyl Rib for the rib of the fly, but copper wire works just as well. And rather than Swiss straw, you can fashion the back using Scub Back or a similar material; a strip clipped from a clear plastic freezer bag is also an excellent substitute.

Crayfish are bottom dwellers, and you want to fish this fly near the stream- or lakebed. The dumbbell tied on top of the hook adds weight to the fly and causes it to flip over and ride with the point on top to reduce snags. This is the same method Bob Clouser used when designing the Clouser Deep Minnow. Tie the Killer Crayfish in dingy orange and muddy brown.
 

 ImageMaterials
Hook: 4X-long streamer hook, sizes 8 to 2.
Thread: Size 3/0 (210 or 280 denier), color to match the body.
Weight: Medium dumbbell.
Nose and body: Antron dubbing.
Feelers: Brown bucktail.
Eyes: Large monofilament eyes
Claws: Hen hackles or some other mottled feathers.
Body: Partridge SLF or angora dubbing.
Legs: Grizzly hackle.
Shell back: Swiss straw.
Rib: Medium Vinyl Rib or copper wire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Gurgler Frog
Many years ago, a chap from Massachusetts named Jack Gartside
developed a simple, commonsense topwater fly called the Gurgler. I’m pretty sure the first Gurgler was used to catch striped bass, but I suspect this pattern has since been used to catch almost as many species of fish as has the Woolly Bugger; it’s just that affective.

I’ve made some simple modifications to the basic Gurgler design, and turned it into an easy-to-tie bass bug. Some folks—including Jack, I think—wrap a strip of closed-cell foam up the hook to add buoyancy to the fly, but I use Crystal Chenille for the belly. This synthetic material sheds water when casting the fly, but it allows the pattern to ride low in the surface like a frog; the only buoyancy comes from the closed-cell foam forming the back. And, of course, those dangling legs kick similar to the legs of a real frog.

When slowly retrieving this fly, the lip makes a gentle gurgling noise.

 ImageMaterials
Hook: Bass-bug stinger hook, size 2.
Thread: Size 3/0.
Weed guard: 30-pound-test monofilament.
Belly: Large Crystal Chenille.
Legs: Rubber legs.
Back: 2-millimeter-thick closed-cell foam.
Note: Tie the Gurgler Frog in your choice of colors. I often tie this pattern to imitate a frog, but bright—even outlandish—colors seem to work just as well. I almost always add a strip of red foam to the back of the fly. The red in the lip acts as a beacon so I can always see the fly on the water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Klausmeyer is the editor of this magazine.

 
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