Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tying a Thoroughly Modern Magog Smelt

Over the past several years, my experiences on-stream, river and lake indicate to me that flash works.  Doesn't have to be a lot of flash, probably even shouldn't be a lot of flash, but my flash-added streamers are just more effective.  And for the material hoarder in me, there's so much in the way of flash out there.  Name your poison.

Here's the venerable Magog Smelt all dressed up in modern materials as I tie it:
Thread: Black Gordon Griffiths 14/0
Hook:  Daiichi 2271 size 2
Body: Orvis E-Z Body Braid, size extra small and in natural pearl with lateral line with silver mylar underbody
Wing:  Hair of your choice.  Purple over yellow over white, flash mixed in and over to whim.

Don't forget you can click on the pics to see a larger version!

1.  Tie in thread about 1/4" from where you want the body to end and wrap back to that end point:

2,  Now wrap forward half the distance to the tie-in point.  That rear portion of thread is important; it will give you, your thread and the E-Z body braid something to grip when you tie it down:

3.  Cut a length, maybe 7 or 8 inches, of wide silver/gold mylar.  Taper the end that you will be tying in:

4.  Tie in the mylar with the silver side facing the hook.  This somehow magically allows you to wrap the mylar with the silver side facing out.  Intuitively, that just seems wrong.  Wind the thread to the head.  You don't have to be wickedly careful about how you do'll be wrapping the mylar tightly and the little ridges formed over the thread just give the fly that much more star power.

5.  Wrap the mylar forward in tight, touching turns (as Scottish tyer Davie MacPhail likes to say with a brogue so thick it took me about 10 of his videos to figure out what he was saying).  Tie off and remove thread:

6.  Find the E-Z Body Braid under the pile of materials on your bench:

7.  Measure twice and cut once as carpenter extraordinaire Norm Abrams likes to say, and slide your segment of body braid over the hook:

8,  This is where you're going to be really glad you left that 1/8" of thread wraps at the rear of the hook.  If you don't, the body braid will just slip and slide and elude your every effort to tie it down.  Trust me on this one.  Start the wrap maybe a 1/6" back from the butt of the E-Z Braid, making sure the lateral line in the braid runs straight down the side of the hook like a good lateral line should:

9. Wrap back over the Braid just like you were finishing the head of the fly:

10.  Tie off with a couple half hitches where the thread meets the braid and hit with your head cement of choice.  I like this butt to look as good as the head, so its 3 to 4 coats of Cellire Clear Varnish for me (which mean several days of application and drying, but who's in a hurry, anyway?):

11.  Time to finish the fly.  Tie in your thread - and this is why I like Gordon Griffiths 14/0 so is incredibly strong and with the Braid you've already got a pretty big head developing; heavier/thicker thread isn't going to help matters one bit - securing the forward portion of the Braid.

12.  Tie in the first batch of hair, which for the Magog is white:

13.  The nice thing about tying on a down-eye hook like the 2271 is that you can trim the hair from the front of the hook rather than the side.  You get a much better taper going this way, which is important to keeping it so it doesn't look like you've got a black block of cement on the front of your hook when you're done:

14.  I add a dab of head cement and make a bunch of wraps on each layer of hair...helps keep the head small (because remember I'm using that 14/0 thread and can get away with it) and helps keep the hair on the fly when you're fishing it, which is a good feature of any fly.  I tossed on several strands of pearl midge flash at this point, too:

Tie on the yellow and purple layers, always trimming off from the front to keep that taper thing going:

Traditionally, there's some peacock herl topping the Magog Smelt.  I use peacock krystal flash.  It's all about the flash after all, ain't it?  Voila, a thoroughly modern Magog Smelt:

Wait'll the landlocks and atlantics get a load of this little darling this coming May!


Todd Towles of Kingfisher River Guides ( suggested tying this smelt up with blue in place of the yellow.  I had just gotten some blue dye in, so this morning I dyed up a pile of hair.  There's a spring atlantic salmon fly called a Blue Smelt...this beauty has got that beat for looks by a mile.  I will definately be giving it a swim in May on the Miramichi!


  1. Beautiful. An old classic buck-tail dressing type. In the manner of the greatest of them all, the Mickey Finn. But sans the influence of old John Betts and his synthetics.

  2. I really enjoy your blog Gary. Thanks for the incredible level of detail!

  3. I'm convinced it's the purple. Try omitting the yellow and adding royal blue on a few. Nice job.

  4. Thanks for the kind words, guys. Todd, I just got some royal blue dye; will do up some hair and tie it as you suggest. Will add a photo of it to this thread.

  5. Well I know I shouldn’t have any envy at your tying skills, but how can I not have, beautiful fly Gary! A question that I have is in your coating of the braid with Cellire, do you then but the fly on a drier?

    All the best, Rick

  6. Rick, I only coat the tying thread that binds down the butt end of the braid. I put 3 or so coats on, and just set the fly on the drying rack and work on others. I don't coat the whole braid. It's really best to let Cellire dry for 24 hours between coats...but I don't always wait that long, but certainly some hours.
    Good to hear from you!

  7. Sweet looking fly Gary. Use it on blue bird days in the spring and clear and cold days in the late fall. Water clarity will come into play with this color combo. Clear is what you are looking for to throw this in.

  8. Sounds like a plan, Todd, thanks!

  9. Sweet little step by step Gary, You should add it over on the site man so we all can see and have it at our finger tips. I think that body looks deadly and you tie a great fly sir.


  10. Thanks, Rene, I'll post the link back to the blog...don't think I can cut and paste the whole SBS.

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