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Spinner'd Minners
By Fox Statler, Salem, AR

Some of the best information on fly fishing is not found in books and magazines about fly fishing. The majority of money and effort spent on research of lure colors, materials, habitat, fish behavior, fish diet, and so on is coming from the bass, steelhead, and walleye portion of the fishing industry. These factions have and are devoting lots of big bucks to learn more about catching, raising, finding, and maintaining their chosen species. Why not from fly fishers? About 60% of all anglers own a fly rod but less than 1% are hardcore addicts, so the numbers of fly fishers is significantly less than other angling methods. What is the salvation for fly fishers? The best thing we can do is to adapt the knowledge discovered in other methods of the fishing industry to our sport. I often spend my time reading books, magazines, and research materials on the latest methods, tactics, and lures on bass and walleye. Simply thumbing through a lure catalog is a good way to search for new patterns and materials.

The best book that I have read lately is, What Fish See written by Dr. Colin J. Kageyama, an eye doctor and avid steelhead fisherman. The book explains how the impurities in water and the properties of water effect what the fish see. It also addresses why fish strike a lure and various myths associated with the vision of fish and the wives-tales of anglers. An informative in depth discussion on why lure colors can experience dramatic changes at depths of less than two feet because of conditions such as light, temperature, wind, water color, background color, silt, debris, vegetation and other impurities found in water is the most informative reading I have found in years. I have learned that certain colors are filtered out even in clear water. In the entire book only two pictures (the last two) are of flies—but these two pictures were enough to convince me that hair, fur, and feathers are the poorest of materials used in fly tying. The book also discusses how noises and vibrations can attract more fish to your pattern. I purchased a "See Best" test kit that was offered in the book to find out what my patterns look like in the various colors of water and over different colored backgrounds.

Synthetic materials, rattles, brightly painted or colored beads and SPINNERS are our best bets. That's right, SPINNERS. You say spinners are not traditional and haven't been around very long. We could say the same thing about graphite rods, large arbor reels, Fluorocarbon leaders, Epoxy head patterns...and so on. The truly traditional approach of fly fishing is an extremely long rod (13-17 foot long) with only a tiptop guide, no reel, a fly line of braided silk tied to the butt of your rod, a cat-gut leader, and the proper attire might be that worn by a nun. Now, how many of you are "Traditionalists?" I am sorry but I will not let some imaginary concept limit my approach to fly fishing. Everyone wants to excel in this sport but at the same time we let traditionalists place restrictions on our tactics, methods, and ideas. Fly fishers often refer to Fox Statler as "out of the box." The truth is that I never got in the proverbial "box." I always assumed that fly fishing was a sport that allowed imagination, creation, adaptation, investigation, dedication, education, revelation… and so many more "ations" and had no limits. I have not let the traditionalists restrict or pollute my approach to fly fishing. In fact, my greatest joy is to catch more fish than a traditionalist in the same water. Indicator fly fishing is mentioned in The Compleat Angler but it is not traditional. Let me get off my "soap box" and back to spinners.

The idea of adding rattles to flies is new, but the use of spinner blades is not. Unknown to most fly fishers, the first spinner for fly fishing was created about 1890 by Hildebrandt. He hammered it out of a dime for his fly rod. The idea was so successful that the company, Hildebrandt Spinners, was created and is still in existence today. Pistol Pete's flies are quite popular out west and quite successful also. These patterns incorporate a small propeller just behind the eye of the hook. Most of the Pistol Pete patterns resemble a Wooly Bugger or 56'er. I can remember trying to create Spinner'd Minners twenty years ago. The problem was the beads. Beads that had the same size of opening on each end of the hole could not be forced around the hook-bend. The beads of today solve that problem and Spinner'd Minners are a reality. Even better than the beads are the large bass tapered fly lines available. Rio's Clouser Line and others can cast a key chain and spinner'd flies are handled just as easily as a large popping bug.

Do Spinner'd Minners catch fish? Well, do moles walk funny? Do worms have short legs? Yes they catch fish--lots of fish! Trout, Walleye, Sunfish, Bass and Red Fish so far, but no catfish yet—however, I am hopeful.

Spinner'd Minners are easy to tie and with a little knowledge of the basics about making spinners you will be well on your way to creating some of the most beautiful and productive patterns ever tied at your vise.

Tying Instructions: Spinner'd Minners

    1. Use a small wire hook. The smaller the wire the better the spinner will spin (less drag and friction). Several brands and models of hooks are acceptable. Eagle Claw 214 Aberdeen hook in sizes #1/0-#1 and Mustad #36620 in sizes #1/0-#1 are my best so far. You can buy these hooks at bait shops, fly shops, department stores and grocery stores pretty cheap--about $5 per hundred. Shown is a #1 Eagle Claw 214 Aberdeen. De-barb the hook before beginning.

    2. Place a #1 or #2 sized In-line Spinner Blade on the hook—I use a #1 hook with a #1 spinner and a #1/0 hook with a #2 spinner but this is not mandatory for the performance of the streamer. As of yet, I haven't found In-Line Blades in smaller sizes. In-Line Spinner Blades are lighter and spin better at slower retrieval speeds than other types of blades. Most clevis–n-blade setups (French, Colorado, Indiana, and Willow Leaf blades) are heavier and require a faster retrieval rate to make them spin effectively. However, they do work great in very fast water but work the angler to death in slow water. The best selection of In-Line Blades I have found is online from Stamina Incorporated. This link, http://www.staminainc.com, has a great selection of In-Line Blades in various colors and finishes.

    3. Place a 5/32nd or 3/16th bead behind the In-Line Blade regardless of the size of hook or spinner used. The bead is needed to make the spinner spin. Both suggested bead sizes work equally well. Beads smaller than 5/32" let the In-Line Blade lay back at an angel that allows it to come in contact with the back material of the streamer, thus the blade spins poorly. Beads that are larger than 3/16" hamper the performance of the In-Line Blade by creating too much friction and spin too slow.

    4. Start the thread at the bend of the hook and tie in the tail portion of the pattern. I prefer to use red to orange thread in all of my streamers for warm to cool water patterns. Red is the color that the Sunfish family sees best due the chemicals in their eyes (black bass are sunfish). When tying in the different parts of the streamer I always put a couple wraps in the middle of the material to position it, then double it back over these wraps and finish wrapping the material down. By tying the material in using this "doubling back" technique it increases the durability of the streamer by holding the material more securely without using a lot of glue. The finished length of the tail has no effect on the performance of the streamer so a tail of one to three hook-shanks long is at the discretion of the tyer. Cut your material two to six hook-shanks long and tie it in using the doubling back method.

    I suggest tying in longer tails for larger streamers for larger predator fish--Musky, Pike, and saltwater species. On this streamer I have cut Silver Holographic Mylar Motion three hook-shanks for a finished tail of one and a half hook-shanks.

    5. Always wrap the body of the streamer full with Bodi-Braid, Sparkle Braid, Estaz, or some other material. Fill the hook-shank from the hook-bend to behind the bead. The heavier bead and blade combinations can break a thread wrapped head of the streamer loose from the hook-shank even if super-glued. By placing a body wrap on the hook-shank of the pattern, you stop the blade and bead from forcing the entire pattern down the shank. Silver Holographic Bodi-Works is used on this pattern.

    6. This is an optional step to add more flash or more color to the streamer. In this streamer, I have added more Silver Holographic Mylar Motion above and below the hook-shank to increase the amount of flash in the streamer. Often I add a different color like emerald green, bright red, yellow, olive, etc. to match the sides of a dominant minnow in the stream. If you add this optional step remember to keep the head of the pattern small so the 5/32" bead will go over the threads of the head of the streamer or use the 3/16" bead. Put a couple wraps in the middle of the material then double it back and finish wrapping it in..

    7. Tie in the back of the streamer. Put a couple wraps in the middle of the material then double it back and finish wrapping it in. In this pattern, Blue Metallic Mylar Motion is used for the back.

    8. Tie in the belly of the streamer. According to the book, What Fish See, if you use white in a pattern use the whitest white possible. In this pattern, White Fluoro Fibre is used for the belly material. Put a couple wraps in the middle of the material then double it back and finish wrapping it in.

    9. Whip-finish the head. I use a long reach whip-finisher for this job. Make sure that the thread does not whip in between the bead and the spinner. Use a small neat head on the pattern. Make sure that it is small enough that the large opening of the bead slides over the head and leaving plenty of room for the spinner to spin freely.

    10. Super-glue the head of the streamer and slide the bead over the thread wrappings. Be careful not to use too much glue and glue the In-Line Blade to the bead. After applying the super-glue, I always turn the streamer so that the eye of the hook is straight up toward the ceiling until the super-glue dries. This keeps excess super-glue from running down the hook-shank to the spinner blade.

The combinations of materials and colors are not written in stone when building Spinner'd Minners. In fact, at my tying seminars I hand out different materials and colors to each group or table of tiers so that when comparing their streamers they get a good idea of what is possible. I encourage every tier to be creative when tying Spinner'd Minners and several other of my flies.

Suggestions on colors, materials, tactics and equipment

    1st) Suggested blade colors for different colored water recommended by the book, What Fish See. Silver and Nickel plated is best in clear or blue water on sunny days, 24 karat Gold plated is best in green water, and Fluorescent Chartreuse and Copper are best in stained water. However, In-Line Blades are available in green, blue, hot pink, red and other colors.

    2nd) Synthetic materials from Spirit River materials such as: Hanked Lite-Brite, Holographic Mylar Motion, Pearlescent Fly Flash, Metallic Mylar Motion, Mylar Mirror Flash, Spectra Mylar Motion, Crystal Splash, Fluoro Fibre, Bodi-Braid, Bodi-Works, and Estaz for the tail, body, back, and belly of your patterns are the greatest materials that I have tested with the "See Best" system so far. Feathers, fur, and hair are the worst.

    3rd) Be creative. One of my favorite patterns use a 24k gold blade, a 5/32nd gold bead, red thread, a black flashy tail material, a black body wrap on the hook shank, a broad gold stripe above the hook shank, a pearl-white belly, and a brownish-dark olive back. This pattern is a killer in the Spring River and the South Fork of the Spring River because it imitates the Bleeding Shiner--the most dominate minnow within these two rivers.

    4th) "Cop Colored" Spinner'd Minners (black, white, and silver) are great producers for fishing near the surface on bright sunny days when the water has a little chop due to wind or current. Trout seem to especially fond of this combination in a moderate current.

    5th) When fishing a Spinner'd Minner, I use a 7 ˝ foot, 0x tapered leader with a #12 Barrel Swivel, then about 2-3 foot of 0x-3x for tippet material. The Barrel Swivel prevents the leader from twisting and weakening it.

    6th) A #1 In-Line Blade Spinner'd Minner can be easily cast with a 5 weight rod. For #2 use a 7 weight and larger with a Rio Clouser or some other bass taper fly line.

    7th) Surprisingly, controlling the action and the downstream movements of an In-Line Spinner'd Minner is easier with a fly rod than a spinning rig. One example is when fishing across the current. With a spinning rig the angler must immediately begin to retrieve the spinner in order to make it spin. The fly fisher can rely on the fly line to pull the Spinner'd Minner and can even "reach cast" putting out more line and letting the spinner travel down the "current edge" before retrieving, even when the current is very moderate. Adjusting the spin of the blade is quite easy when fishing across the current. Simply raising and lowering the rod tip regulates the amount of line catching the current, thus adjusting the speed of the blade while the streamer is still moving downstream.

    8th) Because Spinner'd Minners are very light, they do not spin when falling, instead they wobble and slide on their way to the bottom. Often times a fish will take the streamer on the fall, so be ready for the slightest of strikes.

    9th) Spinner'd Minners are light so don't be in a hurry to start retrieving them. Give the pattern plenty of time to sink and get down to the level of the fish. The Spinner'd Minner may not be seen from the surface by the angler but have faith. The flashy spinner blade and material are reflecting back what ever light is present at that depth. Remember bass do not have eye lids so to escape the light they move deeper and deeper letting the properties of the water filter out the harsh light. Also remember that in total darkness the spinner blade is sending out vibrations that are sensed by the lateral lines of fish. The more prominent the lateral line on a fish the better they sense vibrations. Basses and browns are fine examples of prominent lateral lines.

    10th) Since knowing the amount of vibrations created by a Spinner'd Minner is important to the angler, I now build rods with Tennessee Sensor handles instead of cork. Cork has a deadening effect to all vibrations carried down the rod, where the Tennessee Sensor handle is a resonator and amplifies the vibrations. I find that this handle enhances any type of tight line fly fishing—this will be another article later.

This is a Smallmouth Bass and the Spinner'd Minner that took him. I caught this Smallie on the first cast to his lair which was also the third cast of the day. It was Saturday, July 31 at noon and 90 degree plus. I did not take the time to measure this fish because it was so hot, but the tote lid in the picture is 33 inches across and the Spinner'd Minner is 4 inches long. Needless to say the old rascal fought like a bulldog.

Here is a copy of an email and a Louisiana Redfish caught by my friend Ralph Bates:

Fox,
When I returned home, I decided to tie a couple of your Spinner'd Streamer with the materials I had available. I have attached a photo of the streamers and the first redfish I presented the streamer to. I kept the fish for a neighbor and photographed it just in case this was the first redfish to admire the streamer. The second redfish I presented the streamer to pursued and attacked the streamer in such a frenzy that I set the hook to quickly and pulled the streamer away from him. I only fished the streamer for a few minutes before going back to a surface bug because of the extreme shallow water and structure.

I did return to the streamer later and caught 4 or 5 small speckled trout. The larger trout will not return from the Gulf for another month or so.

Ralph L. Bates

Here is another email and a Argentina Rainbow from Derrick Filkins.

Fox,
Attached are some pictures of fish I caught on the spinner'd minnows in Argentina. The rivers were all clear but they had different backgrounds above the water and in the water. These are all rainbows because the streams we fished where dominantly rainbow rivers. The first two pictures are from the Rio Grande, a big wide river that I would say is similar to the White in color. It may be slightly darker. The next three pictures are from the Arroyo Pescado which was gin clear but very muddy bottom and grassy banks. The last picture was taken on the Rio Rivadavia which is gin clear water with heavy green forest on both sides. The gold spinner with dark olive top and banana bottom was significantly better than the silver spinner with black top and white bottom. That was also the true for the Rio Grande River and the Arroyo Pescado spring creek. I caught fish in the Rivadavia and Pescado on worm scud patterns too. I did that just do see if they would work down there. Fishing the spinnered minnows was more fun and I did not have to wait as long to get bites. Got to go, more later. Derrick

Fishin' What They See, ~ Fox Statler


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


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