satkowski top gun callout

Guest Blogger: John Satkowski, Toledo, OH, J. Stockard Pro Tyer, fly tying demonstrator and instructor. Find Hohn on Instagram and Facebook.

A couple of years ago, I was hitting the river on a warm, hazy evening. Having forgotten my fly rod I grabbed one of my spinning rods from my vehicle and tied on a small Heddon Torpedo. I started nailing fish left and right and had a great topwater evening of fishing. As I was driving back home, I started to think about how I could develop a fly that has the characteristics of a Torpedo, but can be used with a fly rod. After a few attempts, the Top Gun was born. This is an extremely effective fly for all types of species including smallmouth and largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, and even has a Longnose Gar to its name.

The head of this particular pattern is unique in that I used carved foam to simulate a Creek Chub, which is the favorite forage fish around my area. In the commercial model, I would use premade foam product such as Rainy’s PSP bodies, Rainy’s popper or slider bodies, or Rainy’s frog bodies. I wanted to show how you can create very realistic patterns with just foam, a dremel, and some markers. It’s a fun project on a bad weather day or over the winter when the cabin fever is setting in. The materials are pretty common and can be ordered through a myriad of tackle building sources such as Jann’s Netcraft. The tutorial will show you how to build the fly body and some techniques for the foam head. This is an effective fly, and a lot of fun on the vise.

Hook: Mustad Signature C52S BLN hook or similar, 4-2/0
Thread: 6/0 White Uni thread
Foam Head: Cylinder craft foam, or Rainy’s PSP, Foam Diver Heads, or Rainy’s Foam Bass Poppers
Tail: White, yellow, and gray marabou
Tail Collar: UV Polar Chenille
Spine: Wire straight shaft, .051 inch wire
Prop/Bead: Hollow, metal bead and Large Propeller blades (nickel), size to match fly
Flash: Krystal Flash
Color and Markers, etc.: Prismacolor markers (), Translucent Pearl and Crystal Clear Craft Paint, Krazy Glue, wire cutters, paintbrush, 3D eyes sized to match foam head

Step 1: Insert the Spinner Heavy Wire into your vise and attach a small thread base.

Step 2: Tie in two long saddle hackles so that they splay outward. This will create some nice movement for the tail and wave enticingly.

Step 3: Pluck the fine, middle tip from a yellow and light gray marabou plume and tie the yellow on the top of the wire and the gray on the bottom.

Step 4: Tie a nice, full olive marabou plume over the yellow plume and create a nice, smooth tapered thread build-up.

Step 5: Tie in 5-6 strands of krystal flash on each side of the body. This will simulate the dark stripe that runs down a creek chub’s body laterally.

Step 6: Tie in some Polar chenille and wrap 5 to 6 times for a collar. Build up a nice, tapered head and whip finish the head and cut off your thread.

Step 7: Once you have whip finished your thread head, coat it liberally with Krazy Glue and let completely dry.

Step 8: Once dry, you can take some wire cutters and cut the wire off the back of the fly. Next, slide on a hollow metal bead and propeller. The beads and type of propeller are up to the tier, I like this style of propeller because it spins easily and creates a nice turbulence in the water.

Step 9: Insert your hook into the vise and create a thread base. For this fly, you want to create a full thread base so the adhesive has something to grab when you glue on the foam head.

Step 10: Tie down the wire on the top of the hook shank using tight wraps. Once you have completely covered the wire, whip finish and cut your thread. At this point, I will cover all the thread wraps with an even layer of krazy glue. You can use epoxy if you like but I have yet to have one come apart on me with just krazy glue. I then cut a slit in the foam head or slide the hook through an already prepared foam product. I let the whole thing dry before applying color and finishing coat.

Using scissors and a dremel tool, I cut and shaped the foam cylinder until it resembles the foam head in the picture above. I have drawn some shaping and feature lines on the foam lightly with a pencil. I think it is much easier to color and paint on the foam once it is already glued to the body so the head above was shaped and outlined, then glued to the hook. After each color and stage, I paint the head with a thin coat of the translucent pearl and crystal clear. The coat between each layer of color also helps the color blend a little smoother.

Step 1: Using a light gray, I start to shade out the darker areas and shadows.

Step 2: Several different yellow hues are now colored and blended with the help of my thumb and a piece of tissue paper. The overall appearance of any baitfish is generally darker on top and lighter towards the belly.

Step 3: I have added the darker green and olive hues and drew some details on such as the mottling of the chub and some details around the lips and gill area. I have also added the eyes by gluing on some Fish-Skull Living Eyes from Flymen Fishing Co.

Step 4: I have used Black and Dark Green to further accent the dark areas. I finish the fly off with one more coat of the pearlescent translucent finish and two more clear coats. The fly is ready to fish once completely dry.

This fly creates a nice surface disturbance very similar to a Heddon Torpedo. I like to use this fly when I am casting into weed lines and working it back quickly to elicit a reaction strike. Once it enters open water, I slow the fly down and pull it in three or four inch strips and then let it sit still as the propeller still remains in action. You can try my method or you can experiment with different retrieves and let the fish tell you what they want.
If you are a DYI addict and like to experiment with tackle and finishes, this is the project for you. Pictured above are examples of foam flies that have been carved in the same manner of the Top Gun. The Top Gun is a completely customizable pattern, you can carve your own foam or use premade heads and play with different finishes. I hope you have fun with this pattern and add some different dimensions to your time on the vise!


  1. Fly resembles my “Enticer fly” devloped many years ago which took 3rd prize on internet contest. Fly was extremely productive.

  2. It looks almost like kind of a lightweight feathered plug John. Something this light would indeed need to be tossed with a fly line though. I see what you’re driving at–a topwater plug you can cast with your fly rod. . I suspect the retrieve is a lot like you’d do in spin fishing, right? I like your paint job on the head a lot. Also the way you create length with an extension wire without use of a long-shank hook–might have some applications for Chinook streamers although I wonder if such a fly might need a hook out back. And I suspect that wire would need straightening pretty often. Does the foam head sit right on top of the water, or in the water? Do you weight it to get it to sit under the surface? I’d likely not have a use for a propellered solid-body bait like this as I don’t fish bass lakes much, but it’s interesting and the paint job is superb–I want to put it on an anchovy pizza. 🙂

    – Mike

    1. Thank you Mike, yes the foam is high density and sealed do it sits up high and the hardware is just heavy enough to make that blade go crazy…I guess this is what happens when a bass guy learns to tie flies lol I’m glad you like the paint job, not needed but it does make the fly pretty, oh I’m sure with a hook on the back this would work for salmon but that wire would definitely need to be reinforced, they are table wreckers for sure, I guess you could use muskie shafts made for big muskie bucktails, that would offer some strength, for pike I do put a stinger hook on the back because they are really good at short striking, especially in the summer months…..I’m working on a squid fly right now with kind of the same premise…..thank you for the kind words and tight lines!!!!!

  3. John,

    that is a very good looking fly that you have there!

    Love your art work on the foam head!

    Thank you for sharing this pattern. I look forward to tying up a couple and trying them out this spring.

  4. Glad you like it Carp Slayer, please feel free to email me a couple pics of your design and I’ll throw it up on Facebook. I love to see what folks are tying and what their creativity brings to a pattern.

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