With a good number of pelagics currently in Moreton Bay and further along the coast, I’ve decided to do a very simple baitfish pattern his month. The Bay Candy is quick and easy to tie, but most importantly it catches fish and is very hardy.
This fly imitates most baitfish, such as the juvenile frogmouth pilchards fed upon at this time of year by mack tuna, longtails, bonito and mackerel. Because this fly is tied solely from synthetic materials, it can easily be trimmed to match the exact profile of the bait present on any day, which is often the key to success.
The Bay Candy is best retrieved fast; the bait it represents will be darting around madly to avoid the pelagics attacking from below, and the birds bombing from above.
Usually the best retrieve is flat out, with a ‘cast far and strip quick’ approach. As the fly lands, tuck the rod under your arm and strip as fast as you can with both hands. This flat-out retrieve will often see a pelagic hot on the tail of the fly as the predator attempts to engulf it.
Another retrieve sees long, fast single-handed strips which gets the fly darting. The best line for this type of fishing is an intermediate, such as the Scientific Angler Striper Surf or Tropicore. If the bait school disperses as you get there, cast the fly in the general area and allow it to just slowly sink after it lands. Often a pelagic will think the Bay Candy is a wounded baitfish and will casually engulf it. If the Bay Candy sinks to around 45 to the water’s surface, retrieve it with long slow strips and reasonable pauses, which works well when the pelagics are balling up the bait again.
The Bay Candy is a great fly to have when travelling because it can be trimmed to match the local baitfish and will catch a variety of species. Almost any fish that eats baitfish will have a go at it. For me, it has caught several species of trevally, tuna, bonito and mackerel as well as tailor, dart, pike, queenfish, giant herring, tarpon and even barra. And because it’s tied solely from synthetics you’ll have no trouble clearing customs when going overseas.
Any hook pattern that is not offset can be used, and you will find this fly is most useful from size 1 to size 3/0. I like to tie this pattern on the Gamakatsu SL12S or SC15 because the turned-in point helps to keep the hook set after the strike. These hooks definitely hold in better than normal J-pattern hooks, especially over prolonged fights. If Gamakatsu made the SC15 in black I reckon it would be the perfect fly hook for pelagics.
I use streamer hair in this pattern, but you can use Kinky Fibre, Slinky Fibre or even Neer Hair if you want to. The Bay Candy is tied with mono thread because when epoxy is applied this thread becomes nearly invisible, enhancing the baitfish effect.
The size of the eyes depends on the size of the fly. The eye is, however, the focal point of the fly – just like a real baitfish, which appears almost translucent apart from the eye. I mainly use eyes around 3mm or 5/32. The standard self-adhesive eyes (flat) will work but I prefer the dome shaped, moulded eyes (also called hologram or 3D eyes) as they give the fly a realistic profile when viewed from the front. The Diamond Braid on the hook shank helps to create the belly section of the fly and also makes it easier for the epoxy to adhere to the hook.
Step 1. Attach the thread to the hook with a jam knot or similar, on the lower section of the shank where the hook starts to curve around. Tie in the end of some silver or pearl Diamond Braid and then advance the thread around the shank until it’s just behind the eye of the hook.
Step 2. Wrap (palmer) the Diamond Braid around the hook shank, with each wrap lying next to the last until you have covered the shank up to the eye of the hook. Tie off with a few wraps of thread and trim off the excess Diamond Braid. Cut a small amount of clear streamer hair and tie in behind the eye of the hook. The Streamer Hair that’s to be tied to the hook should be cut on an angle to give a neat, tapered tie-in point. If you wish, you could also tie in a few strands of pearl Krystal Flash at this stage.
Step 3. Cut a small amount of olive (or grey) Streamer Hair with a tapered cut. It should be roughly the same length as the clear Streamer Hair but should only be about 1/3 of the quantity (thickness). Tie it in at the same spot where you tied in the clear. Finish off the thread with a whip finish or a series of half hitches and cut off the remainder. Don’t put on any head cement as we will soon epoxy this area. Head cement would just make the epoxy go yellow sooner.
Step 4. Put an adhesive eye in place and stick on, and position the other eye directly opposite the first. Mix up a small amount of epoxy and use a toothpick or dubbing tool to put it on the fly. Cover the area between the eye of the hook and where the Diamond Braid ends at the curve of the hook. Wipe the epoxy on from the head backwards, otherwise it will mess up the Streamer Hair. Cover the whole area including the back, sides and belly with a thin layer. You’ll have a few minutes to shape the fly before the epoxy dries. If you have to touch the epoxy to shape the fly, wet your fingers with saliva so the epoxy won’t stick to your fingers. Put the fly on an epoxy rotator to dry or turn it over and over by hand so the epoxy won’t sag to one side.
Step 5. Once the epoxy is dry, use scissors to trim and shape the tail of the fly. Give it a tapered look, similar to that of a real baitfish. Scissors with small serrations on one blade make it easier to accurately cut the Streamer Hair. The Bay Candy is now complete. If you carry a pair of scissors with you on the water you can change the length and profile according to the situation and baitfish.
This universal baitfish pattern will catch fish in a broad array of situations, as you will soon find out. It’s a great asset to any fly box.
Hook: Gamakatsu SC15 2/0
Back: Olive Streamer Hair
Sides: Clear Streamer Hair
Belly: Diamond Braid
Eyes: 5/32 Hologram Eyes (silver)
Coating: 5 Minute Epoxy (Devcon or Z-poxy)