Drew’s Platinum Pilchard

Our saltwater guru shares one of his best patterns for catching trophy snook and other favorite species.

[by Drew Chicone]


IF I HAD TO CHOOSE JUST ONE STYLE OF FLY TO FISH, it would be a baitfish pattern. It’s simple: Big fish eat little fish, and I have had tremendous success using baitfish imitations.

Unlike other categories of flies, baitfish patterns are extremely versatile and can be altered on the water without a whole lot of effort; carry a pair of scissors and a few permanent markers, and you’re good to go. You can fish baitfish imitations in any number of scenarios—in both fresh and salt water—and at any depth. Modifying the tempo of the retrieve, the length of the strip, and the pause between strips dramatically changes the action and effectiveness of the fly. That being said, tying baitfish flies and fishing them are two very different things. They’re not the easiest type of fly to master, and teaching beginners the fundamentals can be tricky both to explain and illustrate.

The materials used to tie realistic-looking baitfish are typically very fine synthetic fibers or coarse natural fibers such as yak or deer hair; all these ingredients are ideally supple and somewhat translucent when wet. This makes quantifying how much material to use difficult, and photographing step-by-step tying steps quite laborious. In the past, I taught how to tie baitfish patterns using natural over synthetic fibers because you can count the strands of hair. This method allows for a more accurate measure of material than, say, using “approximately a pencil width.” Yes, counting hairs sounds insane and doesn’t appeal to the casual fly tier, but it’s teachable and produces flies that are more uniform in color and fullness.

In my experience, using too much material is a common rookie mistake. This is more than just an aesthetics issue; using too much material can diminish a fly’s ability to catch fish. After spending a considerable amount of time and effort creating your masterpiece, the last thing you want is a fly that does not do what you want—catch fish! There is nothing more frustrating than a fly that tracks on its side or spins like a corkscrew when retrieved. If your baitfish floats or rides upside down, you can sometimes attribute that to the choice or quantity of materials, but where the materials are applied to the hook or the tying techniques you use will also affect its action in the water. Fortunately, with a little bit of know-how, you can correct the vast majority of these flaws.

Platinum Pilchard

Hook: Mustad C68SNP-DT, size 1/0.
Thread: Size 6/0 (140 denier) mono- filament.
Body: Small pearl and silver Mylar tubing.
Eyes: 7.5-millimeter pearl blue doll eyes with posts.
Weed guard: 20-pound-test hard monofilament.

Starting the Platinum Pilchard: Learning the Basic Tying Technique
Continue Building the Body of the Baitfish
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