J.Stockard Pro Tyer: John Satkowski, Toledo, OH, fly tying demonstrator and instructor, you can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/johnsatkowski/

If you are like me, you are always looking for ways to up your tying game. I first saw Jerry French construct a composite dubbing loop while browsing the internet for different dubbing techniques. It was very interesting to me the way he sectioned off the skrim and collar. I don’t tie a whole lot of steelhead or salmon flies, but I thought I might be able to adapt the methods to my warmwater patterns and add a little different light refraction and appearance to trigger more strikes. Baitfish patterns look surprisingly simple, but to get the effect of the proper translucence can be quite tricky. Constructing dynamic dubbing loops with lots of iridescence can be a strong trigger for predatory fish and add many attractive qualities to your patterns. I took Jerry French’s composite dubbing loop and loosely altered it to fit my needs for constructing solid warmwater flies with a lot of movement and presence.

I was looking through my dubbing materials one day and I had a pack of Angora goat dubbing I had bought on sale a while ago. Angora goat has a very spikey texture and works great on many types of flies. It also has a sheen that looks very natural and buggy in the water. When I am constructing my dubbing loops, I use the goat dubbing as the main material and supplement it with ice dub and a different length material such as rubber legs, Senyo’s Shaggy Dub, or Amherst pheasant tail fibers. Through this method, I can create loops with different characteristics just by altering the color and supplemental material. Below are some loops that I commonly construct for various types of flies, you can see they are all built basically the same way but by altering materials you can mimic different prey items.

Crayfish Loop

Material Color
Angora Goat Dubbing #1 Burnt orange
Angora Goat Dubbing #2 Brown
Ice dub #1 Rusty brown
Ice dub #2 Copper
Senyo Shaggy Dub #1 Orange
Senyo Shaggy Dub #2 tan

Baitfish Loop

Material Color
Angora Goat Dubbing #1 White
Angora Goat Dubbing #2 Gray
Ice dub #1 Silver
Ice dub #2 Pearl
Senyo Shaggy Dub #1 White
Senyo Shaggy Dub #2 Gray

Sculpin Loop

Material Color
Angora Goat Dubbing #1 Olive
Angora Goat Dubbing #2 Chartreuse
Ice dub #1 Emerald green
Ice dub #2 Gold
Senyo Shaggy Dub #1 Olive
Senyo Shaggy Dub #2 Brown (pheasant tail)

Leech Loop

Material Color
Angora Goat Dubbing #1 Black
Angora Goat Dubbing #2 Red
Ice dub #1 Red
Ice dub #2 Steelie blue
Senyo Shaggy Dub #1 Black
Senyo Shaggy Dub #2 purple

When you mix these materials together you get a multifaceted effect which has different textures and light refraction that leads to more attention from the fish. I truly believe that when you fish flies with more complex light refraction and movement you get more strikes because you are appealing to all the fish’s senses. The movement created by the shaggy dub and the light catching from the ice dub really ramps up attraction, especially in off color water or other tough conditions. Take for example a simple all black wooly bugger, a great fly and consistent producer of fish in all areas of the world. When bites are tough to come by or the fish get used to certain types of patterns, it sometimes pays off to push the limit with a little more movement and flash. Throw on a conehead for some weight and water push and build a complex dubbing loop for the collar and head with some red and blue accent and you have a fly that is more effective and the fish might give it a second look. Messing around with different materials and methods of constructing even traditional patterns can yield positive results, especially with highly pressured fish.

Baits For Bronze

If you are a smallmouth bass fly fisherman, there are going to be some staples in your fly box. I am going to talk about these patterns and how to incorporate dynamic dubbing loops into your everyday fly box. First off, you better have a go to baitfish imitation to match the local forage fish in your area. This can vary depending on your locale but shad, chubs, or shiner minnows are a pretty safe bet. If there are sculpins or gobies present in your waterway, you want to have a nice, meaty imitation of those as well. Poppers or sliders to cover the topwater bite have their prominent place in the smallmouth fisherman’s grab bag, and my favorite, to tie the almighty crayfish. When you look at crayfish they are actually quite complex creatures. While there is no need to know terms like uropods or cephalic groove, it is a good idea to have a basic knowledge of the shape, color, and basic proportions of the creatures you are trying to mimic with your flies. I have seen a lot of very realistic crayfish patterns and these patterns just do not seem to do as well as suggestive flies. Crayfish are quick to scoot backward and are very animated creatures with their long antennae and claws moving about. The more realistic patterns are usually very rigid and static in the water. They do not breathe or appear alive unless the fly fisherman is some kind of Houdini with their strips and rod tip. More complex dubbing loops really lend themselves to this appearance because you can incorporate materials like ostrich herls, turkey tail fibers, and rubber legs to really imitate not just the appearance but the movement of a skittering crayfish. I used this as the basis to design a crayfish fly that has all the trademarks of a crayfish pattern but uses some shanks and complex loops to sell the illusion.

I have created a bunch of crayfish patterns over the years, but the following pattern has been by far the most effective and caught the most species. This fly is not hard to tie as long as you can construct the dubbing loops, and it has some serious natural movement in the water. It has enticed everything from bass, carp, garr, walleye, and even some channel catfish. It is easy to throw and can be worked back to the angler a lot of different ways. I prefer a twitch, twitch, rise and fall retrieve. It really gets the message across that this thing is food and needs to get eaten. You can tie it in many sizes but I find that the fly tied slightly on the bigger side seems to work better. We have the invasive Rusty Crayfish which are larger than softshell crayfish so the fly’s larger size and color key in on that, but you can tie it in any color you want. I tried to highlight the building of the dubbing loops so they are clear and concise. As long as you follow the steps, a tyer of any level can tie an impressive, dynamic fly that flat out catches fish.

Tying the Ditch Disrupter Crayfish

Attach your thread to a Gamakatsu B10 hook. You can scale the hook to whatever size craw you would like to make. I usually use 6/0 Unithread but for this thread I sometimes double up the loops for strength.
I take two strands of black rubber legs and tie in for the antennae. I small pinch of bucktail is then tied in almost as long as the hook shank.
Take some heavy mono (40-50lb.) and melt the end into a ball with a lighter. Once you get a fairly large ball, I color it black with a Sharpie and then coat the top half with some orange Gulff resin.
Tie in the mono eyes on each side trimming them about ¾ down the hook shank. This will help build up the thorax. The eyes look nice on the pattern, but they are actually functional to keep the rabbit claws separated and moving correctly while fishing.
Tie in the mono eyes on each side trimming them about ¾ down the hook shank. This will help build up the thorax. The eyes look nice on the pattern, but they are actually functional to keep the rabbit claws separated and moving correctly while fishing.
I use a piece of paper with a Sharpe length drawn on it to measure the loop. I took small pinches of Angora goat and put them in alternating a light and dark color. In this case, I used brown and orange. When first starting out, less is more in terms of materials.
I then sprinkle a sparse amount of ice dub on the length of the Angora goat dub. For this fly I also used tan and orange Senyo Shaggy dub in sparse amounts along the length of the loop.
I take my Loon Dubbing Tweezers, it makes picking up the loop fast and efficient, and grab up the entire loop and put it into my looped thread and spin the loop tight.
Once wrapped, I take a bodkin and pick out the loop as much as possible. I fold the materials over with the help of some water on my fingers and wrap them. Once I have secured the loop, I brush the materials to the front and to the back and your loop should look like the picture above. I then tie in a mallard flank feather as a collar over the dubbing loop to add some mottling and movement.
Grab some rabbit strips and a rubber fly tail for each strip. I trim the end of the curly tails a little thinner so they sit nicely on the rabbit strip.
Super glue the curly tails on the end of the rabbit strip. Take care not to get any glue on the rabbit strip.
Tie in the rabbit strips so that the curly tails curve inward. This will create amazing action as the fly is hopped along the bottom and stripped in quick, sharp movements.
Create another dubbing loop longer than the first one and wrap it down the shank. Create a neat, little head and whip finish. Brush the fly so that the fibers blend a little bit with the body and the rabbit strip claws.
Add a small Flymen shank and create another dubbing loop on the shank.
Repeat the process of the dubbing loop again and leave a small space for the silicon rubber strip and sculpin helmet.
Take a whole silicon rubber leg strip and tie in, trim the ends, and whip finish. The tying portion is complete.
You can trim the rubber leg antennae so that they are one fly length long. Trim the silicon leg strips so that they are just shorter than the claws and superglue a sculpin helmet on. Take it and throw it in the drink for a hungry crustacean eater.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *