Fly Of The Week
Merkin (Permit Crab)
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Fly Tying Terms

Merkin (Permit Crab)
By Captain Thomas Rowland
Thanks to Umpqua Feather Merchants, for photo use permission.


Hook:   Gamakatsu wide gap in Sizes 1-2/0, Mustad 34007 or 7766.

Thread:   Flat waxed nylon, chartreuse, yellow or blue.

Tail:  Wide, webby hackles of tarpon quality. I try to match the tail to the body of the fly using brown/grizzly, olive/grizzly, tan, cree, or gray hackles. I place a small bunch of marabou between the feathers and incorporate a very small amount of flash to match the feathers.

Body:   Rug yarn. Some tyers use "sparkle yarn" but I prefer to use the smaller diameter yarn very similar to carpet yarn. Color: Tan, brown, olive, gray. I have also been experimenting with other synthetic materials such as Sea Fibers, Widows Web, and Body Dub in the same colors.

Legs:  The original fly calls for white rubber legs with red tips. With the advent of so many leg choices, the tyer can be creative. I incorporate Zebra Legs and Sili-Legs in various colors to my Merkins as well as the original white rubber legs.

Eyes:  I weight the flies to the situations that I plan to fish. Most of my flies have the 3/16-inch eyes on them. I tie some with the 7/32-inch and 5/32- inch. I prefer chromed eyes without eyes painted on them, but will use black or natural lead eyes.

Weed Guard:   Optional, I use 20 pound Mason Hard Monofilament.

"The most interesting aspect of the Merkin is that it is truly a fly that changed salt water fly fishing. Before Del Brown created the Merkin and began to regularly catch some of his 370 plus permit on a fly, anglers and guides would just take passing shots at the wary fish. Capt. Nat Ragland created a fly called the Puff, which was responsible for a few fish, but not until Brown's creation did permit fishing take off. Del Brown, guided by Steve Huff, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that permit fishing is not only effective, but also a worthy way to spend the day. The two routinely caught permit, set world records, with days where they caught numerous permit. At the time, their records were staggering since the number of anglers who had caught even one permit on a fly was amazing low.

Pioneering flies and techniques for permit, the pair created quite a stir in the Florida Keys and elsewhere. We can all thank Del Brown for the sport we now know as permit fishing with a fly." ~ TR

Tying Steps:

1. Start by running your thread from the eye to the tie-in-point and completely cover the hook shank.

2. Return to the eye and tie in the eyes by making figure 8's with your thread and finish by wrapping around the base of the eyes with turns parallel to the hook shank. This will build a nice support for the eyes and prevent "roll-over". Make sure to leave enough room for the weed guard if you choose to use one.

3. Return the thread to the rear of the hook shank. Begin the tail with a small clump of marabou to match the rest of the fly. I prefer my tails a little longer than normal using about a 1 to 1-1/2-inch piece to make most of them..

4. Tie this in on the top of the hook shank. Tie in about 3-4 strands of flashabou or other matching flash material on top of the marabou.

5. Now select your hackles and pair them. I use 2-3 hackles per side. Splay the hackles so that the feathers curve naturally outward.

6. Begin the body by cutting yarn into 2-inch lengths. The original Merkin calls for alternating bands of brown and tan yarn, but I like to be creative with both color and the amount of each color in the fly. If I want an overall lighter colored fly, I might use a few more pieces of tan yarn than brown.

7. To create the body, tie in a single piece of yarn crossways to the hook. Secure the yarn in the middle with figure 8 turns. Tie in the next piece as close as possible and secure with figure 8's. Continue tying in yarn pieces until you reach the eyes.

8. If you would like to install a week guard you can do that now. Cut a 3-inch piece of Mason 20-pound monofilament. With pliers, flatten one end for a more secure tie-in. Just behind the eye, tie in the weed guard and wrap around the mono so that it extends almost straight up.

9. Cut the weed guard to extend just beyond the hook point.

10. Whip finish the fly.

11. You have created something that will look nothing like the finished product. Similar to tying spun deer hair flies, we will now trim the fly to shape.

12. Very carefully begin at the eye and trim backwards. I trim extremely small amounts at a time. We want the fly to end up looking like a teardrop or the shape of a Colorado Spinner blade.

13. Trim a little at a time tapering from the front of the fly to the rear. At the rear, taper to the tear drop shape. The fly should be very narrow at the eye and get progressively bigger towards the hook. This shape is EXTREMELY important. If you use a round or other shaped version, it will not sink properly and the fish is likely not to eat it or even see it. We are trying to get the fly to fall quickly at a 30 to 45 degree angle to the bottom.

14. When you are happy with the shape, you can install the rubber legs. If you choose to use white with red tips, a neat trick is to take the package of rubber legs and cut the entire strand the length you desire. While the legs are still held together, use an indelible marker to color the tips of the entire strand of rubber on both the top and bottom. Somehow you will get full coverage and have lots of legs the right size and already colored.

15. Simply thread the leg through the body and tie it in with a single overhand knot. I have never had one of these come off the body and it looks better than tying a granny knot on the legs. Tie in 3-4 legs throughout the body.

Special Comments:

You may have noticed that I did not call for any glue or head cement on this fly. Permit are very difficult to catch because they have an incredible sense of smell and I don't want to take a chance of them smelling any glue on the fly. Incidentally, be very careful with sunscreen and bug repellent. A tiny bit of sunscreen on the fly will ruin any chance you might have had to catch a Permit. ~ TR

Note: For an associated article on fly fishing for Permit, click HERE.

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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