With good schools of pelagics roaming around Moreton Bay and other inshore areas, March offers some great fishing for anglers in Southeast Queensland.
Several species of tuna and mackerel often round up balls of bait close to the surface and then go on a feeding rampage. The bait is often so closely packed that the top of the bait ball (or ‘meat-ball’, as it if often referred to) breaks the surface.
With such good concentrations of bait to feed on, pelagics will generally not be the slightest bit interested in chasing one fleeing baitfish. Imagine if you had a huge bowl of lollies in front of you and one fell on the ground. It’s doubtful that you’d bother to retrieve it because you have plenty of others right in front of you to eat.
It’s the same for the pelagics. When there’s a seemingly endless supply of food in front of them, they have no need to chase an individual morsel.
Over the years I’ve noticed that a small, chromed metal slug cast into the melee is sometimes eaten as it sinks but rarely gets hit on the retrieve. Metal slugs can’t be made to sink slower, but I knew I could develop a fly that would.
I set out to make a pattern that resembled the metal slug and would hold its baitfish profile, even when it was just sinking. The Chrome Slug Minnow was born, and frustratingly fishless days were turned into productive ones. The pelagics were happy to eat the fly as it slowly sank through the bait concentration, like a wounded baitfish.
When choosing materials for the Chrome Slug Minnow, I had to consider several important factors. The main body material needed to have a lot of flash but not a lot of bulk. It also needed to hold its shape when sinking and be fairly tough so as to survive the onslaught of repeated strikes from mackerel, tailor and other toothy critters. After a bit of searching and field-testing I decided on Tiewell Sparkleflash.
The hook, I decided, needed to have a turned-in point because the fly was often picked up on a slack line. Hooks with turned in points set better, usually in the corner of the mouth, and they also seem to stay in better during the fight.
I knew the hook needed to be strong, but it also had to be light so that the fly would sink at the same rate as a baitfish, rather than dropping unnaturally fast. The Gamakatsu SC15 in a 2/0 suited the job perfectly and had the added advantage of being razor sharp straight out of the packet. This property is even more important than usual when the fly is not being retrieved on a tight line all the time.
Epoxy helps to strengthen the fly and also stops the materials tangling with the hook shank during casting. Because I was were using epoxy I also used fine monofilament thread, which is almost invisible when covered with epoxy.
An eye is a very important part of any baitfish fly and is the focal point for all pelagics. Both flat and moulded eyes can be used in this pattern.
Step 1. After tying in the fine mono thread about 6mm behind the eye of the hook, wrap it down the shank of the hook to the bend and then back to the original tie-in point. This will help the epoxy to adhere to the hook shank later on.
Step 2. Get a small quantity of Tiewell Sparkleflash in Holo UV Pearl (colour 205). It needs to be at least twice as long as the hook shank. Tie in about 5mm behind the eye of the hook, making sure that it’s tied to the top of the hook shank and not to the sides. Tie off the thread with a whip finish but don’t cut off the remainder. This Sparkleflash is a little lighter in colour than the next one we’ll add for the back, helping to give a holographic look to the belly section. Advance the thread forward until it is just behind the eye of the hook.
Step 3. For the back we’ll use Tiewell Sparkleflash in Holo Silver (colour 204). Cut a similar amount, or a little more than colour 205, and tie it in just behind the hook eye. Once again, make sure that it’s tied on top of the hook shank. This will give a high-tie effect, which helps to stop the materials tangling with the hook during casting.
Step 4. Attach a 2-3mm self-adhesive eye approximately level with where you tied in the initial thread. You will probably need to preen the materials to get them straight before you adhere the eye. Mix a small amount of epoxy (use a good brand like Devcon or Z-Poxy) and then use a toothpick or bodkin to apply it by stroking back from the head. You will constantly need to preen the materials to keep them straight and in the right shape.
Cover the area between the hook eye and a point about level with the end of the hook. Covering this entire area with an even coat of epoxy (as you would do with a Surf Candy) allows the fly to hold its baitfish profile well, and makes it more resilient to the effects of toothy critters. As the epoxy starts to set you can shape it by hand. Wet your fingers with water or saliva and you’ll be able to touch the epoxy without it sticking to your fingers. See the accompanying photo for an idea of how the fly should look.
Step 5. Once the epoxy is dry, get your scissors out and trim the tail of the fly. Materials like this are easier to shape with a pair of serrated edge scissors. These don’t have to be expensive; many of the braided line scissors on the market are under $10 and will work well. Try to get a tapered appearance [see photo] but don’t worry if the odd fibre doesn’t want to lay straight.
And that’s it. Your Chrome Slug Minnow is now ready for use.
This fly can be fished in several ways. It can be cast into a feeding school of tuna, mackerel, tailor, queenfish or trevally and stripped back quickly like most baitfish patterns. If schools of bait are showing on the surface or on the sounder screen, you can dredge the fly through them. Cast the fly to the general area and allow it to slowly sink on an intermediate line until it is almost at about 60 degrees to the water’s surface. Watch the line for any signs of extra movement as it sinks, which could indicate a take.
If no strikes are forthcoming, tuck the fly rod under your arm so that you can do slow, continuous double-handed strips until the fly is back to the boat.
The slug fly can be worked in many different ways but it’s most effective when slowly sinking through a ball of bait. Those schools of longtails that slowly mooch along on the surface, sipping down bait, can often be tempted with this fly and a ‘do-nothing’ retrieve.
With this fly in your arsenal, you’ll have fewer frustrating days when you can find lots of bait and pelagics but can’t get a hook-up. Try it out.
Hook - Gamakatsu SC15 2/0
Thread - Fine Mono
Belly - Tiewell Sparkleflash Holo UV Pearl Colour 205
Back - Tiewell Sparkleflash Holo Silver Colour 204
Eye - Self Adhesive 2mm to 3mm
Finish - Devcon Epoxy