Keys Style Tarpon Flies

Sage ManSage Man Posts: 195 Officer
I'm just curious about something. Why are Key's Style tarpon flies tied back on the hook shank? I don't see other tarpon flies tied that way. Is it just a tradition or something.

Also...I've read tarpon flies for the beach fish are being tied smaller than in the past. How long should they be? 3 inches? 2 inches?
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Replies

  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 2,696 Captain
    Howdy Sage.. I may be able to answer the first part of your question since at one time I tied a bunch of tarpon flies for shops in the Keys, locally, and out of state - and I still have a few tarpon patterns I'm drawing royalties on from Umpqua Feather Merchants... Years and years ago when feather - then rabbit strip patterns were all that anyone used -tying the tail feathers as far back on the hook as possible aided in preventing them from fouling on the cast (fouled tail feathers would either trap or wrap on the hook point otherwise...).

    In addition for quite a few years, back before the advent of fluorocarbon leaders, if you used heavy mono bite tippets (the way many did...) that mono caused its own problems -not wanting to straighten after being tied onto a fly, also allowing the fly to swing in the knot and "get sideways" on the pattern (hook and heavy leader not on line with each other..). As a result folks began snelling their tarpon flies - so you left the first half inch of the hook, just behind the hook eye - bare to facilitate snelling... Here are a few pics of what I'm talking about...
    [img][/img][img][/img]SgitLp0.jpg
    [img][/img][img][/img]YpMs0Zv.jpg
    these first two patterns, the Sand Devil and the much older Cockroach were in wide use back in the eighties... and show that classic profile of tarpon flies meant to be snelled. The Cockroach was originally done by John Emery - this is my version of his classic pattern.. The Sand Devil is my own original pattern (and I still draw some small royalties on it today....

    The next two photos show a bit of the variety of tarpon bugs that I was doing for shops years ago...
    [img][/img][img][/img]jrmcqLm.jpg
    [img][/img][img][/img]nzDaapD.jpg
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • TgrassTgrass Posts: 198 Deckhand
    I guess I will say thank you for the reply, especially since I never knew why the flies were tied the way they are. I like the fact the answer came with a little history lesson.
  • FlatsFrenzyFlatsFrenzy Posts: 893 Officer
    Love those flies...and thanks for the history lesson as well.
    -
    Chris
    Gulf Coast of FL
    @flatsfrenzy #flyonly #onelessspinrod
  • bobbrownbobbrown Posts: 51 Greenhorn
    I still catch more tarpon on a cockroach than any other fly.......by a wide margin.
  • mro1mro1 Posts: 75 Greenhorn
    bobbrown wrote: »
    I still catch more tarpon on a cockroach than any other fly.......by a wide margin.

    Over the years I've had the same experience.
    Could be because the Cockroach (my version of red/black) was almost always the first fly on my rod. :)
  • Sage ManSage Man Posts: 195 Officer
    Thanks so much Captain. Your responses are always much appreciated. That makes perfect sense and I never considered that.

    Is there a "standard" length for tarpon flies today? We're over in coastal Alabama near Pensacola and the tarpon fishing I do is for the migrating ones down the beach. I've read that they have gotten harder to catch from the Keys on down and that flies have gotten progressively smaller in reaction to that.

    Again...is there a standard length for the flies people are tying today for these "beach" tarpon?
  • sparse greysparse grey Posts: 1,743 Captain
    Hey Capt.Bob, One of those flies (night fly) with ginger splayed with Chartreuse rabbit zonker spun collar. That is what I have been doing with your night fly because I can't find the white hackles with good enough webbing to do what you do. Has still been working well, & last night I was able to take a college student who caught her first tarpon on the fly & really hit the excited button. I was way stoked. The best I do & thoroughly enjoyed this.
    Ron Conner Release the fish, keep the memories. Once a Knight is enough.
  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 2,696 Captain
    Nothing like the night scene for small tarpon (20 - 40lbs) whether they're in docklights or in the shadows under a bridge somewhere... Sorry to hear you're not finding the decent wide, webby saddles you need for collars - but is the substitute works - great...

    The best small pack of feathers that I've found for those collars (and a few other applications as well) are called Deceiver saddle hackles and come from Wapsi (a wholesale outfit that supplies many, many shops with fly tying materials.). Your local shop, if they don't stock them, should have no trouble ordering them for you....

    For Sage man -- there's no standard length for tarpon flies anywhere -but there are strong local preferences... You need to hook up with fly shops that supply local tarpon anglers up on the Gulf coast to see what they recommend. In my case, fishing the dark waters of the Everglades mostly - we're tossing really big flies at big fish (my standard bug), is called a Tarpon Snake and it's every bit of 6 to seven inches long, worked deep and slow for big fish in and around the rivers that drain out into the salt from the brackish portions of the interior on a full intermediate fly line.. Here's a pic of the original version (all black) and a second pic of one of the many color variations...
    [img][/img][img][/img]ARPzAju.jpg

    [img][/img][img][/img]9rpjl3t.jpg
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • tarpon41tarpon41 Posts: 183 Deckhand
    SM: My venue for Tarpon is Key West and usually it is west in the keys to Marquesas and what the guides put on my line are small around three inches on 2/0 or 3/0...I don't tie so I'll stumble with the description...no collar no feathers...reminds me of a Clouser but with very small plastic eyes instead of lead or nothing...tied with more substance than a typical clouser but not long...and usually one color no flash...simple and no toad head...
  • Sage ManSage Man Posts: 195 Officer
    Thanks to both of you on the size suggestions.

    Capt Bob...I hate to say it but in terms of fly shops that specialize in tarpon flies I'm afraid it's pretty slim pickings (how's that for a Southern expression) around here. We have Bass Pro and some local shops that are great for fly tying supplies etc. but not a lot of knowledge about local tarpon flies.

    I've been told there's an Orvis Shop over near Destin that's pretty good. A lot of our shops have some flies but the people working there don't necessarily (and probably don't) flyfish for tarpon. Great advice on which Columbia shirt to buy but not a lot of nuts and bolts fishing info.

    I've just read articles that say that everything is being downsized...both the size of the flies and down to 40lb straight fluoro leaders. I think I'm going to experiment with that this season. I'm not getting many bites so at least maybe that part will improve. If they jump and are gone I'm fine with that at this stage of my career with "tarpons".

    Thanks again for your insights and comments.
  • Sage ManSage Man Posts: 195 Officer
    For you guys who mentioned the cockroach...are you catching the big, migratory "beach" tarpon with them?

    Up here on the coast of Alabama we don't have resident, smaller fish (at least not very many). Most of what I do is fishing the beach during the migration in the summer. Is the cockroach one that I might have some luck with?
  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 2,696 Captain
    The advice about "smaller flies", lighter longer leaders is very valid - if you're fishing the clear waters of the oceanside out of the Keys... where the fish are really heavily pressured. Maybe pretty good, as well, for similar situations. Maybe pretty worthless in places with less than clear water where not very many folks at all fish for tarpon with a fly rod... Since I tied for as many as three shops at the same time some years I've always produced what each shop specifically wanted - and you can bet the requests varied a fair amount from area to area... Where I fish tarpon, up inside, and along the Gulf coast of the 'Glades my leaders are rarely more than 9 - 10 feet long and my flies are in the 3/0 to 4/0 size range (occasionally smaller - but mainly only smaller for smaller fish - big flies with big hooks simply don't hook 40 - 60lb tarpon very well, while a smaller version on a 1/0 to 2/0 hook nails them...),

    You're right on the money about shops with fly materials and fly fishing gear - but without folks that work there and actually know a bit about the sport - wish it weren't so. You can bet that the situation is likely to get worse since the internet has been flat killing retail shops in every category with rare exception. With no shops nearby, look for other sources of info. One of the best is to scout for fishing clubs that might actually have anglers that use a fly rod (or at least there's a fly category to compete in, if it's a competitive club). Clubs are always looking for new members and most clubs will cheerfully give you a chance to get acquainted with them. A lot of what I learned after I was no longer working in a tackle shop or working on charterboats was from various club members down here in paradise... I'd be pointing you in the direction of magazines as well - but these days many magazines are little more than advertising rags without much in the way of hard information (and for guys like me that did write articles - magazines can no longer afford to pay an outside writer -with rare exception...). Lastly do a bit of scouting for boat dealers and find out just who it is locally that sells the kind of skiff you need to tarpon fish with - then see if you can talk to them and find out if any of their customers are tarpon fanatics. Find someone like that, show some interest, and pay attention (even invite them aboard your skiff on a trip if you find someone with the knowledge you're seeking...).

    Hope this helps, and the Cockroach works best when fish are eating shrimp or crabs... when they're eating baitfish use something else...
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • trout069trout069 Posts: 4,056 Captain

    toads on 1/0 and 2/0 owner5180 hooks.pugilisi baitfish on 2/0 and 3/0.and then something using Mangum's dragon tail.the tarpon you are fishing same ones 70 miles east and that is what is used for them.black and purple,why it works in clear water?,olive,tan and of course lime toads.

  • mro1mro1 Posts: 75 Greenhorn

    The Sand Devil by Bob inspired me to tie this up so I'll have another fly in y big fish box.

    And this is my R&B Roach

    Mike

  • TgrassTgrass Posts: 198 Deckhand

    Bob in a little bit of off topic, I read how you use a P&S camera with the timer and a tripod to take your pictures and I tried it. I like the results I got. I need to wok on a good lighting source however, My question is do you ahve a special set up.

    This is one shot of one of my Striper flies since that is what I am making right now.

  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 2,696 Captain

    You’re halfway there... background makes the fly pic every time. Some years ago I went to the local craft store and bought an assortment of foam craft sheets in every color they had. Whenever I’m doing good photo work I take several shots of each fly and simply change out the foam sheet behind the fly until I get the contrast that shows off the fly the best. For just a few bucks you can make your fly shots really pop.

    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • Skinny RunningSkinny Running Posts: 66 Greenhorn

    @lemaymiami said:

    As a result folks began snelling their tarpon flies - so you left the first half inch of the hook, just behind the hook eye - bare to facilitate snelling...

    Interesting.. I didn't know that was the reason for it.

  • Ol'DirtyCasterOl'DirtyCaster Posts: 2,180 Captain

    @Skinny Running said:

    @lemaymiami said:

    As a result folks began snelling their tarpon flies - so you left the first half inch of the hook, just behind the hook eye - bare to facilitate snelling...

    Interesting.. I didn't know that was the reason for it.

     I always assumed it was just an easy way to carry a 2" profile on a 1/0 hook. I've never seen anyone snell a tarpon fly.
    
  • JWTJWT Posts: 299 Deckhand

    @Ol'DirtyCaster said:

    @Skinny Running said:

    @lemaymiami said:

    As a result folks began snelling their tarpon flies - so you left the first half inch of the hook, just behind the hook eye - bare to facilitate snelling...

    Interesting.. I didn't know that was the reason for it.

     I always assumed it was just an easy way to carry a 2" profile on a 1/0 hook. I've never seen anyone snell a tarpon fly.
    

    snelling with a heavy leader creates a rigid link & will make the hook dig. taking a sharp fly snelled to 60# & drag it across your leg & it will bite. anymore i use lighter stuff & really don't care too much if they stay on after the first couple jumps:)

  • Ol'DirtyCasterOl'DirtyCaster Posts: 2,180 Captain

    @JWT said:

    @Ol'DirtyCaster said:

    @Skinny Running said:

    @lemaymiami said:

    As a result folks began snelling their tarpon flies - so you left the first half inch of the hook, just behind the hook eye - bare to facilitate snelling...

    Interesting.. I didn't know that was the reason for it.

     I always assumed it was just an easy way to carry a 2" profile on a 1/0 hook. I've never seen anyone snell a tarpon fly.
    

    snelling with a heavy leader creates a rigid link & will make the hook dig. taking a sharp fly snelled to 60# & drag it across your leg & it will bite. anymore i use lighter stuff & really don't care too much if they stay on after the first couple jumps:)

    It also creates an offset unless you're using a hook with an upturned eye. I'm thinking my leg is pretty safe. I trust Bob, I'm sure that when he says guys used to do this, they absolutely did. You, not so much.

  • jaymjaym Posts: 88 Greenhorn

    I can confirm that the old guides used to snell most of their tarpon flies. I still have a couple from back in the day that are still on leaders in a stretcher. I am not sure who started it but the guy that showed me is in his 70s.

    Stretchers are things we used to use back in the day before flouro to keep the heavy mono leaders straight. If you have never tried making straight leader material you should try it sometime. It is loads of FUN, get some 100lb and do it! I recall a hitch and a tree one time.

    Interestingly I had a commercial guy show me a way to bend the eye down a touch and run the terminal end of the snell through the eye which causes the hook to flip around point first. This is especially effective on circle hooks. I recall Larry Dahlberg demonstrating it also.

  • Ol'DirtyCasterOl'DirtyCaster Posts: 2,180 Captain

    @jaym said:
    I can confirm that the old guides used to snell most of their tarpon flies. I still have a couple from back in the day that are still on leaders in a stretcher. I am not sure who started it but the guy that showed me is in his 70s.

    Stretchers are things we used to use back in the day before flouro to keep the heavy mono leaders straight. If you have never tried making straight leader material you should try it sometime. It is loads of FUN, get some 100lb and do it! I recall a hitch and a tree one time.

    Interestingly I had a commercial guy show me a way to bend the eye down a touch and run the terminal end of the snell through the eye which causes the hook to flip around point first. This is especially effective on circle hooks. I recall Larry Dahlberg demonstrating it also.

    Like I said, if Bob says they used to do it, I believe him. I just think they had very good reasons for discontinuing the practice. I certainly wouldn't trust it.
    For straightening shock leaders, I use a 12" section of 1" pvc with a cap on both ends. I'll fill it with 11" pieces of 50/60lb flouro, then seal it up and boil it on the stove. I can do a full season's worth in about 12 minutes total. They come out straight as an arrow.
    And I haven't seen a tarpon fisherman using stainless hooks In 10 years. Try to bend a carbon steel hook and it'll break every time.

  • JWTJWT Posts: 299 Deckhand

    @Ol'DirtyCaster said:

    @JWT said:

    @Ol'DirtyCaster said:

    @Skinny Running said:

    @lemaymiami said:

    As a result folks began snelling their tarpon flies - so you left the first half inch of the hook, just behind the hook eye - bare to facilitate snelling...

    Interesting.. I didn't know that was the reason for it.

     I always assumed it was just an easy way to carry a 2" profile on a 1/0 hook. I've never seen anyone snell a tarpon fly.
    

    snelling with a heavy leader creates a rigid link & will make the hook dig. taking a sharp fly snelled to 60# & drag it across your leg & it will bite. anymore i use lighter stuff & really don't care too much if they stay on after the first couple jumps:)

    It also creates an offset unless you're using a hook with an upturned eye. I'm thinking my leg is pretty safe. I trust Bob, I'm sure that when he says guys used to do this, they absolutely did. You, not so much.

    for someone that had no knowledge of this before this thread you seem to be an authority now. let me help you. a properly snelled tarpon fly the leader does not go thru the hook eye. the leader will exit the hook just under the eye creating a straight pull. the hook eye just creates a "bump" that wont allow the snell to slip off the front of the hook. there is no "offset" as you state. i am sure i have some old rigs around & i can send you pictures of some old flies if you cant picture the concept. tie a sharp hook like this & you will not be able to drag it across your skin before it takes a bite! i don't use it any more because the fish have become too pressured for heavy leaders. i use ridiculously light stuff any more & am happy if i get a couple of jumps.

  • JWTJWT Posts: 299 Deckhand

    @JWT said:

    @Ol'DirtyCaster said:

    @JWT said:

    @Ol'DirtyCaster said:

    @Skinny Running said:

    @lemaymiami said:

    As a result folks began snelling their tarpon flies - so you left the first half inch of the hook, just behind the hook eye - bare to facilitate snelling...

    Interesting.. I didn't know that was the reason for it.

     I always assumed it was just an easy way to carry a 2" profile on a 1/0 hook. I've never seen anyone snell a tarpon fly.
    

    snelling with a heavy leader creates a rigid link & will make the hook dig. taking a sharp fly snelled to 60# & drag it across your leg & it will bite. anymore i use lighter stuff & really don't care too much if they stay on after the first couple jumps:)

    It also creates an offset unless you're using a hook with an upturned eye. I'm thinking my leg is pretty safe. I trust Bob, I'm sure that when he says guys used to do this, they absolutely did. You, not so much.

    for someone that had no knowledge of this before this thread you seem to be an authority now. let me help you. a properly snelled tarpon fly the leader does not go thru the hook eye. the leader will exit the hook just under the eye creating a straight pull. the hook eye just creates a "bump" that wont allow the snell to slip off the front of the hook. there is no "offset" as you state. i am sure i have some old rigs around & i can send you pictures of some old flies if you cant picture the concept. tie a sharp hook like this & you will not be able to drag it across your skin before it takes a bite! i don't use it any more because the fish have become too pressured for heavy leaders. i use ridiculously light stuff any more & am happy if i get a couple of jumps.

    that being said, the origninal reason for tying so far back on the shank was the lack of good hackles. it was hard to find good feathers that were stiff enough not to foul. the snelling was a byproduct that lent it's self to the original design & just another side road on the path to increasing the success rate....

  • JWTJWT Posts: 299 Deckhand

    some shots of old snells. i knew i had a stretcher with some of these.......


  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 2,696 Captain

    I still have a whole stretcher loaded with flies rigged like that somewhere (I'll have to dig it out and take a pic or two). Like I said before the advent of fluorocarbon bite tippets ended the need for not only stretchers but also snelling tarpon flies - but the design feature on many tarpon patterns hasn't changed much...

    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • Ol'DirtyCasterOl'DirtyCaster Posts: 2,180 Captain

    @JWT said:
    some shots of old snells. i knew i had a stretcher with some of these.......


    That's not a snell, it's a nail knot. But if I were looking for a terminal knot that would leave me unnecessary exposed to a mouth that regularly chews through 60lb I'd be all over it.

  • Ol'DirtyCasterOl'DirtyCaster Posts: 2,180 Captain

    @JWT said:

    @Ol'DirtyCaster said:

    @JWT said:

    @Ol'DirtyCaster said:

    @Skinny Running said:

    @lemaymiami said:

    As a result folks began snelling their tarpon flies - so you left the first half inch of the hook, just behind the hook eye - bare to facilitate snelling...

    Interesting.. I didn't know that was the reason for it.

     I always assumed it was just an easy way to carry a 2" profile on a 1/0 hook. I've never seen anyone snell a tarpon fly.
    

    snelling with a heavy leader creates a rigid link & will make the hook dig. taking a sharp fly snelled to 60# & drag it across your leg & it will bite. anymore i use lighter stuff & really don't care too much if they stay on after the first couple jumps:)

    It also creates an offset unless you're using a hook with an upturned eye. I'm thinking my leg is pretty safe. I trust Bob, I'm sure that when he says guys used to do this, they absolutely did. You, not so much.

    for someone that had no knowledge of this before this thread you seem to be an authority now. let me help you. a properly snelled tarpon fly the leader does not go thru the hook eye. the leader will exit the hook just under the eye creating a straight pull. the hook eye just creates a "bump" that wont allow the snell to slip off the front of the hook. there is no "offset" as you state. i am sure i have some old rigs around & i can send you pictures of some old flies if you cant picture the concept. tie a sharp hook like this & you will not be able to drag it across your skin before it takes a bite! i don't use it any more because the fish have become too pressured for heavy leaders. i use ridiculously light stuff any more & am happy if i get a couple of jumps.

    If your definition includes being paid, endorsed, and published, than I've been an authority for a very long time.

  • jaymjaym Posts: 88 Greenhorn

    ODC,

    The commercial guy was definitely not using carbon steel and I am not sure if Larry Dahlberg bent it or not but the main line was opposite the hook point than ran through the eye. It would not work for flies though.

  • Ol'DirtyCasterOl'DirtyCaster Posts: 2,180 Captain

    @jaym said:
    ODC,

    The commercial guy was definitely not using carbon steel and I am not sure if Larry Dahlberg bent it or not but the main line was opposite the hook point than ran through the eye. It would not work for flies though.

    That's a legit snell, I get that. If you're a bait guy, and you like clean rigging on hooks with an upturned eye, sure, absolutely.
    I've compared notes on rigging with the best in the industry for 16 years, and I know a few guys with some pretty strange rigging habits, but they always had a logical reason for doing whatever it was. They fish where I don't, why should I question it? But I've done a lot of fishing, with a lot of guides, and if any of them ever had a habit of snelling flies, they did a good job hiding it.

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