Summer is here, so it won’t be too long before we have large schools of mackerel marauding baitfish within Moreton Bay and various other locales along the east coast. Mackerel are an awesome fish and are highly prized as sport and table fare.
Getting close to the schools is not usually difficult as the mackerel only have one thing on their mind – eating as many baitfish as they can. The mackerel’s tendency to immobilise a baitfish by slashing off its tail with samurai precision, using their razor like jaws, often results in short hits when targeting them with flies.
This month’s pattern, Mack-the-Slasher is a fairly basic baitfish profile. It is however, tied on a tandem hook configuration to eliminate missing hookups on short striking fish. Flies with stinger hooks in the tail, will greatly increase your hook up rate when working the edges of bait schools targeting mackerel.
The feeding patterns of mackerel can vary, depending on how much bait they have managed to locate and round up. When there is a good concentration, the mackerel will herd the baitfish into a tight ball and then take turns attacking this ‘meat ball’. Individual fish that try and flee the onslaught are quickly dispatched.
Working your flies around the edges of this bait will quickly get the attention of any marauding mackerel. However, when the baitfish are a little more scattered, the mackerel will feed more erratically, attacking any individual fish in their path.
At other times, when bait species are extremely scarce, smaller numbers of mackerel, usually 3-10 individuals, will cruise the surface looking for action. Anglers will often sight small V-shaped wakes on the surface during favourable conditions, which indicate the mackerel’s presence. Casting a fly anywhere near these fish will general create an aggressive response with each individual trying to beat the others to the punch.
In all these situations, mackerel will readily chase down a fly, often severing the tail with the first pass. This is where many fly fishers miss hookups, as the point of the hook is too far forward in the pattern. Flies with stinger hooks, such as the MTS will greatly increase your results.
Generally an extra fast stripping technique, with the fly rod tucked under your arm and both hands coming into play to strip the fly as physically fast as possible, will win the day. At times, when mackerel are making marauding runs through meat balls trying to wound and injure as many individuals as possible, just allowing the fly to sink can produce hook ups. They will think it is an injured baitfish and will slurp it down as they pass.
However, the possibility of the mackerel totally engulfing the fly will result in many more bite-offs when using monofilament and fluorocarbon leaders.
There are many different materials that can be used in this pattern. The main aim of showing you Mack-the-Slasher is to demonstrate the twin hook fly. I like to use piano wire to join the two hooks, as it has a good degree of rigidity and is easy to use. Nylon-coated wire is sometimes used but this generally requires crimping and results in a less rigid rig, which is more prone to fouling.
The rear hook I have used is a popular bait fishing hook, the Mustad Penetrator, which I like for this purpose as it is made of a fine wire construction yet is super sharp and strong. I have used pliers to take most of the offset out to eliminate the fly spinning in the water. Any similar hook can be used and you will find a hook pattern with a down turned or upturned eye is easier to connect with the wire.
The main body of the fly is streamer hair, which is used for two reasons. Firstly, it will appear relatively clear in the water, similar to many of the bait species on which mackerel feed. Secondly, it adds a degree of rigidity to the pattern, which is important to almost eliminate the possibility of the material tangling with the rear hook during casting.
The winging material is Sparkleflash, which is available in many great metallic finishes that are ideal for imitating baitfish. If you wanted to decrease tying time for this pattern, you could eliminate the diamond braid that I wrapped around the hooks and wire.
Putting epoxy around the head and vinyl cement over the diamond braid will decrease the chances of these materials totally unravelling if one strand were to be nicked by a mackerel’s tooth.
(1) Pass the piano wire through the eye of the straightened Penetrator hook and then wrap tightly approximately a dozen times around the hook shank. Pass the tag end of the wire back through the hook eye and then finish with at least six tight wraps around the main wire. Cut the tag end off.
Place the main section of wire along the hook shank of the main hook and then adjust until you get the desired length for the entire rig. Pass the wire through the eye of the main hook and then fold it back and wrap it tightly around the hook shank and the wire around dozen times. Again trim the remaining tag end of the wire. Your twin hook rig should look roughly like mine.
(2) Attach the flat-waxed thread to the rear hook and then tie down the end of the Diamond Braid. Wrap the thread forward (roughly will do) until you get to the main hook. Now wrap the thread a little more closely, covering the entire hook shank all the way up to the hook eye, then whip-finish.
(3) Wrap the Diamond Braid along the rear hook, over the connecting wire and along the main hook, finishing it just behind the eye of the hook. Whip-finish the thread and cut away the remainder. Totally coat the entire wrapping of Diamond Braid with vinyl cement. This will prevent it all unwrapping when cut by the mackerel’s teeth.
(4) Change the flat-waxed thread in your bobbin to monofilament thread. Tie this in with a jamb knot just behind the eye of the main hook. Cut a length of streamer hair that is around one centimetre longer than the entire twin-hook rig. Position this along the back of the hook shank and use your thread to tie this down just behind the eye of the main hook.
(5) Cut another length of streamer hair the same length as the first and tie this in at the same spot, yet this time underneath the shank of the main hook. You will need to part the streamer hair around the bend of the hook, so there is an even amount on both sides.
(6) Cut a small portion of the Sparkleflash that is just longer than the streamer hair. Tie this on the back of the fly as shown. Build up the head with your thread and then place a 3mm self-adhesive eye on each side. Wrap the monofilament thread over these eyes a few times to hold them in place. Whip-finish and trim away the remainder. Apply a coat of UV epoxy (or 5-minute epoxy) over the entire head area and cure. Use your scissors to trim the tail materials to create a tapered tail as shown.
Your Mack-the-Slasher is now ready to hook any mackerel that even comes close enough to sniff it.
|MAIN HOOK:||Mustad C70S D #2/0|
|STINGER HOOK:||Mustad Penetrator #1|
|WIRE:||Piano wire – approx. 50lb|
|RIBBING:||Diamond Braid – silver|
|BODY:||Streamer Hair – white|
|BACK:||Sparkleflash – (205) Holo UV Pearl|
|EYE:||Self-adhesive – 3mm silver|
|FINISH 1:||Vinyl cement|
|FINISH 2:||UV Epoxy|