Intermediate Fly Tying:
By Al Campbell
Some of the best fly patterns are the product of an over-active
imagination. You might see a different material that isn't commonly used
in fly tying and decide it has merit or might work in a particular
situation. Maybe you just got bored tying the same old stuff and decided
to try something new. Or maybe, you decided it was time to improve that
old pattern you've been using.
That's how this pattern started. It was a combination of finding a new
material and applying it to an existing pattern. The material was caulk
saver, a round foam about 1/2 inch in diameter used around windows and
doors when building homes. I was helping my wife's brother build a new
home when I spotted it in a garbage can. Being the dedicated scrounger
that I am, I retrieved a few feet of it and took it home to try in a few
As with any new material, it took about a dozen failed attempts to find
a good use for this great new material I scrounged out of the garbage.
Luckily, I read in one of the fly tying magazines about a frog diver
pattern that used pre-shaped foam bodies that you can buy from that
author for a bank busting price and a little light switched on in my
head. Why not adapt this new material to a pattern similar to the one I
read about without paying the heavy price for the foam body material the
author had used? So, I cut the round caulk saver foam at a diagonal to
create my own unique bodies.
It took a few calls to building supply centers to locate a steady source
for the round foam I had scrounged. What I found was that this material
comes in diameters ranging from 3/8 inch to about 1 1/2 inch and in
several colors. Names range from caulk backing to caulk saver. Prices
are about ten cents per foot for the 1/2-inch variety, or less than a
penny per fly. That beats 50 cents per fly for the other foam bodies
shown in the magazine article.
If you have problems finding this foam, you can always use some of the
other foams found in building centers. Some foam is square and some is
rectangle. You'll need to use a razorblade to shape the other foam a
little better, but by now you should be able to do that with ease. It's
time to get creative.
Another feature of this pattern is the hook I used. The shape of the
hook gives the body the curvature needed to make it dive and wiggle a
little when retrieved. The outward swept hackles used for the rear legs
and the rubber hackle used up front creates a realistic swimming frog
The final feature is the way the foam is attached to the hook. By
pushing the hook eye through the foam, you create a diving lip that
causes the fly to dive when the line is tugged, creating a realistic
swimming motion. Be sure to center the hook eye so the frog swims in a
straight line. A carpet needle or bodkin should be used to punch a pilot
hole through the foam lip so the foam won't tear when the hook eye is
shoved through it.
Let's tie a wiggle frog and you'll see how easy it can be.
List of materials: Al's Wiggle Frog
Hook: Mustad 37160. Sizes 3/0 to 6 depending on the diameter of the
Thread: Olive or yellow 3/0 monocord.
Tail: A mix of four dyed olive grizzly hackles, chartreuse crystal
flash and chartreuse bucktail. Depending on the color you paint the foam
body, this list will vary. It's your choice, but the tail is tied the
same as a deer hair bug or diver tail.
Weed guard: (optional).
Eyes: 4 to 8 mm doll eyes. These are glued in place with Angler's
Choice thick soft body material.
Underbody: Light colored yarn or dubbing.
Legs: Yellow or chartreuse rubber hackle.
Body: Round foam caulk saver, cut diagonal. Light green is preferred,
but white and light gray will work if that's all you can find. Color and
spots are added with waterproof markers. Although Pantone markers are
probably the best and certainly come in the most colors, you can use any
waterproof markers you can find, even the ones found in the school
section at the variety stores. The foam is sealed with one or two dips
of Angler's Choice thin soft body material.
1.Cover the hook with thread as shown.
2. Wrap yarn or dubbing around the hook where the
foam body will be.
3. Measure and cut the foam body at a diagonal.
4. Tie in some chartreuse bucktail about twice as long
as the foam body.
5. Add chartreuse crystal flash to both sides of the bucktail if desired.
The extra flash will help attract attention to the fly.
6. Add the feather tails, curvature facing out.
7.Coat the yarn or dubbing underbody with Zap-A-Gap, push the foam lip
over the hook eye and stretch the foam over the hook. Tie the foam down
in the same place the tail is tied down. Pinch the foam tight around the
underbody until the glue has set.
8. Trim the tag of foam that extends over the tail and whip finish. Then
color the body and add spots with waterproof markers. If the markers
aren't waterproof, the colors will run when you seal the body.
9. Place a drop of Angler's Choice thick Soft Body on each side of the
body and set the eyes in it. This will glue the eyes in place and seal
around them so weeds can't rip them off. When the eyes are set and the
soft body has dried, dip the body once or twice in Angler's Choice thin
Soft Body. This will seal the body and make it stiff enough to be
10. To create the front legs, sew rubber hackle through the body with a
carpet needle. The legs should be sewn through the body behind and under
11. Add a drop of Angler's Choice thin Soft Body to the entry and exit
points where the rubber hackle goes through the body to seal it and hold
the rubber hackle in place. Your fly should look like this from the
12. From the front, your fly should look like this. Notice how the lip
extends below the hook eye? This frog fly will dive and wiggle just like
a real frog.
That was easy, wasn't it? The hardest part about tying this fly is
waiting for the finish to dry. I've also used water-based clear satin
Varathane as a sealer instead of the Soft body, but I liked the Soft Body
better, and it dried a lot faster.
The first wiggle frogs I tied were large, about the size of the natural
frogs in the local lakes. While they worked for bass, they also caught a
few large sunfish. I found that smaller sizes work well for panfish and
the bass don't mind them either. I also found that other color
combinations work well too. Maybe a few tied up in the colors of a
favorite baitfish would be just the ticket for your local lake?
Experiment a little with different colors and sizes of bodies. You can
try other tail materials if you like. You'll love the way it wiggles
while it dives.
Until next week my friends, practice and have fun.
See ya next week - Remember, I'm always happy to answer
your questions, feel free to
email me. ~ Al Campbell
For more on fly fishing for panfish, check
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