A Fish Tailor Made For Flies
  |  First Published: July 2006

At this time of year I always start wanting to catch tailor on fly tackle.

It’s not an overly difficult task; you just need to find a fish within the reach of the fly. If you have a boat, you just need to look for likely tailor habitat before setting up a berley trail. Target Moreton Bay’s reefs, mouths of canal estates or edges of banks on the east side of the bay. Where shallow water drops off to the deeper stuff is the best.

Berley works really well in all of these areas. Any sort of chopped up fish, pillies, old left over bait should be included in your berley. It doesn’t take much to bring tailor on the bite and they will find a berley trail rapidly.


Shore-based anglers will be looking for spots that have white water or deeper water hard against features such as rock groynes or river walls. There is nothing wrong with getting a fly into the outflow from a canal estate but the ocean rocks and the outer sections of our river walls such as the Seaway will produce better results. If you’re back casting just make sure there aren’t any spectators behind you.

Fish will be feeding at daylight or dusk, try to keep the fly line from getting tangled. A stripping basket is the way to go and most tackle stores will stock them. Otherwise, it’s easy to make one from a plastic basket with a slot cut in the back to allow a belt or bungy cord to go through and keep it braced against the waist. Glue a few cable ties into the bottom that protrude upwards to stop the line from tangling. Drill some holes here and there to let the water out.

A stripping basket is indispensable. When fishing off rocks your fly line won’t last long if it’s allowed to fall down onto the surge and get caught on barnacles.


Tailor tackle should be strong enough to offer a good cast and also to play a strong fish, which is exactly how I would describe tailor on the fly rod. An 8 or 9 weight rod is fine.

Your reel should hold a corresponding fly line, slow sink or sink tip designation, and have a decent drag, not just a clicker to stop over runs. Tailor will take line very quickly so a workable drag is a handy asset. As the reel is likely to get a bit of saltwater through it from the line it’s wise to give it a wash out after use to stop it from seizing the next time you use it.

Your leader can be a store bought 6kg job or you can make one from two sections of mono. The first bit should be 1.5m of 15kg line followed by 50cm of 12kg line finishing with a 50cm tippet of 10kg line.

I have found the Crazy Charlie, Clouser Deep Minnow and Deceiver style of fly to all be very successful. Beginners may not understand and old hands will certainly know that an exact imitation of an established pattern isn’t required. It’s just a general starting point, something to look at and work with. My Deceivers don’t feature bucktail, I prefer to use synthetic material instead but they still work a treat.


I’ve had some interesting times putting together flies for tailor. At Fraser Island there are usually tailor to be had around Indian Head with one set of rocks often firing at full tide. I’ve had ample opportunity to try out various colour combinations. Flies that look like pilchards have failed to evoke much response from tailor. Deadly on tuna, dynamite for flathead and endearing to dart these flies really looked the part but there would always be a lot of casts between tailor. A fly that has plenty of red or yellow in its tail will see fish fighting over it. Yellow was best colour of all.

I made some Deceiver look-a-likes by tying in a collar of contrasting material in red, white, or black, and then used four yellow saddle feathers for the tail. Hook size was 4/0.

Don’t forget a solid trace. A bit of 10kg fluorocarbon line around 50cm will prevent bite-offs, just remember to check it after each fish to make sure it’s not too badly chafed or nicked.

1. Richard Harvey with a fly caught Fraser Island tailor.

2. One fly that tailor do find hard to resist is the yellow Deceiver.

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