Fly Of The Week

Previous Flies
Fly Tying Terms

The Fathead Diver
By Skip Morris

In The Sunfishes, A Fly Fishing Journey of Discovery, Jack Ellis describes his Fathead Diver as "a very small Dahlberg Diver," and for the most part it is. There are really only two significant differences: (1) the Fathead Diver has a simpler tail than most versions of the Dahlberg Diver, and (2) the Fathead has a snag guard of unique size and unusual design.

A snag guard in a pan-fish fly - when I first saw it I was skeptical. In fact, it struck me as rediculous. Experience told me that most pan fish have small mouths - so small that they have trouble enough getting a plump fly into that mouth without adding to that a bulky snag guard - and that their taking of a fly is too light to get past that snag guard to a hook's point anyway. On the weight of experience, I ignored the pan-fish snag guard for a full year.

Then, finally, I tried it. And it worked.

So I'd relied on the weight of experience, and that experience had proved to be underweight. Another lesson in humility, one among thousands. Humility is one topic I can discuss intelligently.

...In The Sunfishes, Jack describes three patterns for his Fathead Diver: the standard version described in the pattern below; a shad version with a marabou and Flashabou tail and a cream or pale-yellow body and collar; and a frog version with a grizzly-hackle tail, a chartreuse collar, and a cream or pale-yellow body. But in his article in American Angler includes a photograph showing Fatheads with hair of green, purple, white, yellow and red. This suggests that colors for this fly are open, as, in fact, they are for nearly all bass and pan-fish flies....But as with all the flies in this book, I'll show you may personal approach to tying this one, not because my way is the best, but because I understand my way best.

The Fathead Diver does its work very well. Of course it is as Jack freely admits, nothing new, just a couple of twists on an already established fly. Still, a tiny Dahlberg Diver...a good idea.

Materials List: Fathead Diver

    Hook: Regular to heavy wire, short shank to 1X long (a tiny bass-bug or stout dry-fly hook), sizes 10 and 8. (The hook shown is a Mustad 3366, which Jack uses for this fly.)

    Thread: Red 3/0 for the snag guard and tail; white or gray size-A rod thread for the collar and body hair (Jack prefers 6/0 and 3/0)

    Snag Guard: Mason or Maxima monofilament of 0.012 diameter (A snag gurad is optional.)

    Tail: Squirrel tail under red marabou under brown marabou.

    Skirt: The stacked tips of the first bunch of collar-hair.

    Collar: Natural deer hair.

    Body: Natural deer hair.

Tying the Fathead Diver

    1. Start the 3/0 thread on the shank, directly over the hook's point; then bind on the end of the snag-guard monofilament, again, directly over the hook's point. Wrap tight thread-turns to the bend - but do not wrap down the bend as you normally would for a snag guard (A snag guard here is, as usual, optional.) Bind in a small bunch of squirrel tail over the mono. Trim the hair's butts closely. The squirrel can be stacked, if you wish, and should project 1 to 1 1/2 shank lengths from the bend.

    2. Bind a bunch of red marabou over the squirrel; then bind a bunch of brown marabou over that. Trim the marabou's butts closely. Use only small amounts of marabou. The marabou should extend noticeably beyond the tips of the squirrel. Here, I moistened the marabou before tying it in - this really increases control.

    3. Whip finish the thread slightly ahead of the tail, trim the thread, and start some size-A rod-wrapping thread over the whip finish. Cut, comb, and stack a modest-sized bunch of deer hair. Hold the bunch atop the shank and take 2 light thread-turns around it. Hold the hair firmly in place and then pull the thread tight. The tips of the hair should end slightly before the tips of the squirrel.

    4. Secure another modest-size bunch of hair in front of the last; again, it should stay mostly atop the hook. This bunch needn't be stacked. Compress this second bunch back into the first.

    5. Flare and compress hair to just back from the hook's eye (or right up to the eye, if you skipped the snag guard). Whip finish the thread (or add 3 half hitches) and cut its end.

    6. Shape the body exactly as you would for a Dahlberg Diver (See Dahlberg Diver.) Trim the collar as you would for a Dahlberg.

    7. Start the 3/0 thread again at the hook's eye. Bring the monofilament around the hook's bend and then up through its eye, but don't fold it back - you can't complete this snag guard in the normal fashion because if you do, there won't be enough room remaining in the eye to accept a leader-tippet. Adjust the mono snag guard to slightly undersize; then bind it to the shank's underside with a few light thread-turns. Trim its end right at the hook's eye. The snag-guard loop should look oversize for the hook; use the photographs as a guide.

    8. Slowly and carefully pull the mono back until its end is under the shank, right at the rear of the hook's eye. Add some right thread-turns, whip finish the thread, trim its end, and add head cement to the whip finish. Jack coats the colar with head cement. I don't. Your choice. ~ SM

Credits: Excerpt from The Art of Tying the Bass Fly published by Frank Amato Publications, Inc., P.O. Box 82112, Portland Oregon 97282; Phone: 503-653-8108

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

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice