The saying ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ definitely applies to fly-tiers. I developed this month’s fly, the Deep Slugger, because I needed a fly that would get down deep around for mackerel, tuna, trevally and anything else lurking around. The Deep Slugger has subsequently proved its worth for fishing deep bait balls that have mackerel lurking nearby.
Due to the increased water drag associated with using fly lines in strong currents, I knew the fly would have to be heavier than the fast-sinking Striper 4 and Bluewater taper fly lines that I use. A fly that sinks faster than the line decreases the belly in the line so the current has less of an effect on where the fly sinks. And a fly and line that sink fast will put you closer to your target and strike zone.
I knew the fly also needed to have plenty of flash and that it had to be durable, because the teeth of pelagics can be taxing on your fly supply at times.
The sink rate I wanted from the Deep Slugger required me to add some weight. I decided to use a large lead eye instead of adding lead strips to the hook because this would result in the fly sinking head first, like a real baitfish swims. And when retrieved with short sharp strips, the fly would have lots of action and flash.
When I first started tying this pattern I used Estaz Chenille for the body material but I have since found a better alternative in Tiewell’s Wire Chenille. The new material has a faster sink rate, thanks to its wire core, and it has a longer fibre for more movement and flash.
Most importantly, the wire core provides added durability when targeting toothy critters. The conventional thread core I used originally was often cut by a mackerel’s tooth and unravelled. When you use a wire core, teeth can’t cut it – and even if they did it wouldn’t unravel due to the wire’s memory.
The Shimmerflash used in the tail has plenty of flash by itself, but when curled it is even more enticing.
1. Put the hook in the vice and tie thread onto the shank approximately opposite the barb of the hook. Take a decent amount of Shimmerflash and tie in at this point. Whip-finish off by hand and advance the thread along the shank to the eye of the hook. Use some head cement where you whip-finished to stop the thread unravelling if one strand gets cut.
2. Take your lead eye and centrally fix it to the back of the hook shank, a few millimetres behind the hook eye, with a series of figure-eight wraps until it is quite firm. Add some head cement to the thread to strengthen it.
3. Take the end of the wire chenille and tie in with a series of thread wraps just behind the eye of the fly.
4. Wrap the wire chenille down the shank of the hook to the tie-in point for the tail and then wrap it forward again back up to the eye of the fly. If you want it to look neat you can push the fibres back before making the next wrap so that they all lie the same way and don’t get over-wrapped. I don’t bother because I think the scruffy look has more movement in the water. Finish the wire chenille in front of the eyes.
5. Tie off the end of the wire chenille with a whip finish or series of half-hitches. Cut off the remaining chenille and thread and put some head cement on the tie-off point to secure and strengthen it. Take the back edge of your scissors and rub the Shimmerflash tail between this and your thumb as you would to curl a ribbon on a parcel. Do it a couple of times until some of the fibres curl up. This will give them more movement in the water.
Your Deep Slugger is finished!
There are several ways in which you can make your Deep Slugger imitate baitfish. The first is to just let the fly sink and then strip it back with fast, double-handed strips as you would do with a chrome lure around a beacon.
When fishing suspended bait balls, I find a good ploy is a long, fast single strip and then a pause while the fly sinks. Three or four fast, single-handed strips and then a pause will also work well.
As soon as the strip is stopped, the fly will immediately start to sink head first, which is why the curled Shimmerflash is used for the tail. This moves and flashes to looks enticing while the fly is sinking.
Hook - Gamakatsu SL12S 2/0
Thread - Fine Mono
Eye - XL Lead eye, nickel-plated
Tail - Fine holographic silver Shimmerflash
Body - Tiewell Wire Chenille holo silver
Finish - Head Cement