During August flathead numbers are excellent with plenty of quality fish being taken from the estuaries, creeks, bays, canals and other waterways.
Being a species that regularly resides and hunts in shallow waters, the flathead makes an ideal target for the fly fisher. Even though there’s a myriad of patterns to successfully target flatties, this month I thought I would throw another one into the ring.
One of the most successful flathead flies is the humble, yet well known, Clouser minnow. Lucky Lipps is somewhat of a Clouser clone with a twist: it has a small bib to vary and enhance the action in the water. Flathead love any offering sporting a wiggling, struggling or wounded action, so naturally Lucky Lipps is a prime offering.
The humble Clouser minnow is the brainchild of renowned American fly tyer Bob Clouser and probably lends itself to having more variations than a politician’s promise. The Clouser has been copied, cloned and recreated by virtually every saltwater fly tyer.
The main reason for this mimicking is that the basic Clouser pattern is an awesome offering for a broad array of species. Therefore it is readily adapted to the suit the species targeted, locations fished or to satisfy the personal preferences of the tyer.
Lucky Lipps is yet another variation of the basic Clouser fly pattern yet it has a lip to help impart more action and upwards movement with minimum effort. This is achieved by adding a small plastic lip, or bib, similar to those that minnow lures sport. This adds a natural swimming action to the standard Clouser pattern.
The pattern will also lift quicker and more vertically with the slightest twitch of the fly line. This means that the Lucky Lipps has more action, without the need to be stripped as far or fast, therefore it allows you to keep the fly in the strike zone longer. If stripped slowly, with a relatively constant retrieve, the whole pattern will wiggle like a minnow lure.
The lips used in this pattern are a fairly new product for fly tyers and should be available at the better tying supply stores. Moulded from nylon, Fly Lipps can be used in many different patterns tied on hook sizes between 4 and 2/0. Check out their website www.flylipps.com for more details and patterns.
Another change I have made from the standard Clouser is to use polar fibre for the belly instead of the conventional bucktail. This increases the action of this pattern, as it appears to kick or wriggle as the line is stripped. Even at rest, polar fibre wafts enticingly in the water and I have had flathead and bream literally suck this pattern off the bottom.
The whole combination of materials in the Lucky Lipps produces a fly with plenty of action even at extremely slow retrieve speeds.
Fishing with the Lucky Lipps pattern is no different to using any other Clouser except that you can work it much slower. Strips should either be short and sharp with considerable pauses in between or long and slow to make it swim enticingly.
While many different species of fish will find Lucky Lipps appealing, I have mainly used it to target flathead on the shallow flats. In depths less than 2m I generally use a floating line with a 3m leader. In deeper water to around 4m I will resort to an intermediate line and when probing deeper, or in very fast current, a fast sink line is desirable.
When retrieving this pattern against the current you will often find that you can almost make it dance on one spot with short twitches of the fly line and then a little slack to allow it to sink again. An extremely slow, yet constant, strip will produce a slow swimming action in moderate current.
However, some strikes are often hard to detect as flathead will generally continue to swim with the current after the take before settling back to the bottom. Sometimes they will reject the fly before you even determine that they have eaten it.
In the shallows I find that retrieving with the current, or across the current, is the ideal approach because the line is always tight and strikes can be detected easily.
All this will vary slightly depending on water depth, current and the weight of the eyes used in your pattern. Experiment a bit with different colours, eye weights and retrieves and you will soon get a combination that is perfect for your fishing situation.
(1) Secure the hook firmly in the vice with the hook point facing upwards and attach the thread with a jamb knot just behind the eye of the hook. Lay a base of thread for around 10mm back from the hook eye. Place your Fly Lipps in place, ensuring that you still have sufficient room to pass the leader through the eye of the hook. Secure the Fly Lipps with thread before whip finishing and coating the thread with some vinyl cement.
(2) Turn the hook over in the vice and secure again. Tie in 6-8 strands of krystal flash (around twice the length of the hook shank) along the back of the hook shank. Next place your eye around 5-7mm behind the hook eye and secure in place with a series of figure-of-eight wraps until it is secure. Whip finish and add some vinyl cement to the thread.
(3) Cut a portion of polar fibre from the base of the matting so you have the maximum length. While holding this length between thumb and forefinger, about half way along, preen out the shorter wooly fibres at the base. Secure the base just in front of the eye of the fly. You may need to add this material in two or three smaller lots to get the desired amount tied in securely.
(4) Pass the polar fibre evenly over the eyes so that it sits in the recess between the two eyeballs. Pass the thread under the eye and then secure the polar fibre for at least 5mm behind the eyes while keeping it taut. This will minimize the possibility of the polar fibre tangling with the hook point during casting. Whip finish and add a little vinyl cement to the thread.
(5) Turn the hook back over in the vice and secure firmly. Cut a portion of bucktail that is slightly longer than the polar fibre and similar in volume. Trim the butt end to a slight taper and tie in between the eye of the hook and the eye of the fly. Create a nicely tapered nose cone with your thread. Whip finish, remove the remaining thread and add some vinyl cement to the thread. Whip finishing at intervals while constructing the fly and putting the vinyl cement on the thread will guarantee the fly does not fall apart when one or more strands are cut by the abrasive mouth of a flathead or other species.
(6) Your Lucky Lipps is now ready to tempt some fussy flatties or other discerning species. When tying on your leader ensure to use a loop knot such as a perfection loop or Lefty’s loop knot to guarantee you don’t hinder the patterns action with a stiff connection. Don’t forget to get the chips out of the freezer before heading out to use this fly, as success is virtually a given.
Fact Box 1
|Hook:||Mustad S71S SS 2/0|
|Thread:||Flat-waxed nylon - flouro orange|
|Eye:||Brite Pupil Eyes - medium tan|
|Flash:||Krystal flash - orange|
|Belly:||Polar fibre - shrimp|
|Back:||Bucktail - orange|