|  First Published: December 2012

This month’s pattern is a classic, the Gotcha.

It is alleged that Jim McVay was the first to tie the Gotcha as a pattern targeted towards bonefish. He apparently tied this fly with some carpet trimmings he acquired from a Nassau taxi cab. In the following few days he caught quite a few bonefish on this new fly he had created.

Obviously this pattern has been copied, cloned and changed many times over the years. It lends itself to many different variations, depending on the waters it is intended to be fished in, the target species and also the preferences of the tier.

The pattern tied today is a variation that I have found useful for a broad array of species in salt and freshwater environs and is tied with more modern day materials.

The Gotcha is very similar to the Crazy Charlie, yet with more body, movement and materials. Extra movement is created with materials such as polar fibre, which wafts and pulses with the slightest strip of the fly. The rubber legging material, which also moves enticingly in the water, makes it appear as if these are active legs, similar to those of a small crab, yabby or other crustacean. The sparkle (diamond) braid of the underbody adds a little flash and lifelike appeal.

The materials list for the Gotcha can be altered a fair degree yet it still maintains its appeal and action underwater.

The size, weighting and style of the eyes can be altered as well. Lighter eyes are used for situations with slower water flow, less depth or when you want the pattern to sink very slowly. Heavier eyes are ideal for the reverse.

The rubber legs can be purchased in the desired colour or you can use plain legs and colour them (often just the tip 1cm) by using a waterproof permanent marker (such as a Sharpie) or by dipping them in some Spike-it Dip-N-Glo.

Using an orange or pink coloration in the pattern, as used in the legs and thread, gives the pattern more real-life appeal because many crustaceans have orange or pink markings. Additionally, the roe that many crustaceans carry is also generally an orange colour. Many predatory fish see this as a sign of weakness as an egg-burdened crustacean can be a little slower in its movement and an easier target.


Good target species for the Gotcha can include species as diverse as bream, flathead, bass, estuary cod, jungle perch, mangrove jack, tarpon, trevally, permit, golden trevally and a plethora of reef species. Obviously the successful stripping pattern for each can be fairly diverse, depending on water depth, current speed, fly line used and probable target species.

Basically, patterns like the Gotcha are usually worked with a series of short, sharp strips and then a pause to allow the fly to again sink. How long the pause needs to be will depend on the aforementioned facets plus the weighting of the fly.

For shallow sandy or muddy areas when targeting species such as flathead, whiting, bonefish, golden trevally and the like, a slow mending of the line will produce a shuffling retrieve, similar to a small crab, prawn, yabby or other crustacean foraging in the silt. I have fished this pattern for bass in the past. It was cast to the leading edge of some weed beds and as it sank I simply gave a small twitch on the line to breathe some life and action into it. Once it reached the bottom it was worked back with a series of small strips with short pauses. This worked a treat for the bass and additionally caught saratoga.

I know of anglers who have employed an almost identical approach when using the Gotcha to target bream around floating pontoons, jetties and anchored craft. The fly was allowed to sink in under the floating structures with the current while the occasional small twitch was given to the fly line. Reports were that darker colours such as claret, dark red, black and dark brown worked well, possibly because many of the small crustaceans that live amongst weed and molluscs adhered to these structures were of a dark colouration.


(1) Place your hook securely in your vice and attach the thread with a jamb knot at the rear of the shank where it just begins to turn into the bend. Wrap the thread forward up to the eye of the hook and then back around 5mm. Attach the eyes at this position with a series of figure-of-eight wraps until they are secure. Whip finish and add a little vinyl cement, especially around the eye area.

(2) Just behind the eye of the fly attach the end of your sparkle braid with some thread wraps. At this same point, tie in the tips of a small portion of tan Flash’n’Slinky fibre. Whip finish and add a little vinyl cement to the thread.

(3). While holding both the sparkle braid and the Flash’n’Slinky between your thumb and forefinger to hold them slightly taut, wrap your thread along the length of the length of the hook shank to secure them. Continue all the way up to the end of the shank (where the bend starts) and then wrap the thread back along the hook shank until you get all the way up to the eye of the fly.

(4) Palmer (wrap) the sparkle braid evenly back along the length of the hook shank with each wrap snug to the previous until you get all the way up to the eye of the fly. Secure the end with a series of wraps and whip finish. Advance the thread forward to just in front of the fly eyes. Pull the tail material forward and trim the end approximately level with eye of the hook so that the tail is now effectively the same length as the hook shank.

(5) Turn your fly over in the vice and re-secure. Take a portion of Flash’n’Slinky (the same as used previously) that is approximately twice as long as the hook. Secure this in just in front of the fly eye as shown.

(6) Take two long strands of rubber leg material and fold them evenly over the thread before sliding them down the thread and secure just in front of the eye. You should have two strands trailing down each side of the pattern.

(7) Cut a decent portion of polar fibre away from the backing. While holding it roughly half way along its length, preen it from both ends to remove the shortest fibres and longest fibres. The remaining portion should still be roughly long enough so the tips are level with the end of the tail when tied in. Secure these in place with a series of wraps before whip finishing and removing the remaining thread.

(8) Trim the rubber legs so you now have one short and one long strand on each side. The longer strands should be just a little shorter than the entire tail. Your Gotcha is now ready to tempt a broad array of your favourite fly fishing targets.


Hook: Mustad S71S SS #1
Thread: Flat-waxed nylon, orange
Eye: Brite Pupil Eyes, medium gold
Body: Sparkle braid, tan
Tail: Flash’n’Slinky tan
Underwing: Flash’n’Slinky tan
Overwing: Polar fibre, tan
Legs: Sili Leg, barred fluoro fire orange
Finish: Vinyl cement
Reads: 994

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