There are a lot of baitfish patterns around, many of which are time-consuming to tie. The McMylar Minnow, by contrast, is relatively quick and easy and has the added advantage of being a very productive and durable pattern. With the tailor season upon us, now is a good time to tie a few McMylar Minnows, as a tailor’s teeth can quickly make short work of other painstakingly tied patterns.
Bait fishermen swear by the humble pilchard for tailor and many other species, but tying a fly that matches the profile of a pilchard would require at least a 12wt rod to cast it, which is obviously impractical and tiring. In any case, the majority of the bait eaten by these types of predators is much smaller than a pilchard. At this time of year, a lot of baitfish, mainly frogmouth and white pilchards, are around 4-5cm. Smaller flies are a natural choice to imitate this bait and the McMylar Minnow is one exceptional offering.
There are several effective retrieves used to entice the different species of fish that can be caught on this fly. One of the popular approaches is a ‘cast far and strip quick’ method, which sees the fly rod tucked under the arm and the fly retrieved flat-out with double-handed stripping. This often excites the pelagic fish to give chase and strike.
Sometimes however, the pelagics have plenty of bait balled up to eat (often called a meatball) and subsequently have no need to expend energy chasing down one little baitfish. In this situation, it is often better to just cast the fly into the melee and allow it to sink. A clear intermediate line such as the Scientific Angler Striper (or Striper Tropicore for northern waters) will do the job well as it is a low visibility line that sinks slowly. Flourocarbon leaders are highly recommended for this pursuit as they neither reflect nor attract light in the water, which makes them as close to invisible as you can get.
Once the fly sinks down and the fly line is around 45-60 to the water’s surface, it can be lazily stripped back to the surface with a slow double-handed retrieve. Quite a few other combinations of strips and pauses can be employed and you may have to try several different ones until you discover what works on that particular day.
The material list for this fly is quite limited and most tiers will already have these available in their supplies. The hook needs to be an O’Shaunnessy pattern at the very least, however a long-shanked hook such as the Tiemco 9394 No.4 or Mustad 34039 No.2 (old pattern) would be my choice.
The body material is Mylar tubing, which comes in several colours. My favourites are silver or pearl but you can also get gold, olive pearl, pink pearl, purple pearl, blue pearl and yellow pearl. A flat self-adhesive eye can be used and size will vary on the profile you tie the fly in. Epoxy is used to coat this fly, so fine monofilament thread works to bind the materials, as the mono is almost invisible under the coating. A good brand of epoxy, such as Devcon or Z-poxy should be used, as cheaper brands will usually discolour within a few weeks.
Step 1. Use a jam knot or similar to affix the monofilament thread to the hook just behind its eye. Do several wraps and make sure that it will not slip. Cut a piece of Mylar tubing about one and a half times as long as the hook shank. If the tubing has a core, remove it so that you just have the Mylar cylinder. Put the end of the Mylar over the hook so that the eye is now inside the tubing. You may have to part the fibres of the tubing in one spot so that the thread isn’t interfered with.
Step 2. Wrap the mono thread so it secures the Mylar tubing to the hook shank. Bind all the way up to the eye of the hook. Give the Mylar tubing a few gentle tugs, which will ensure that it isn’t bunched up under the thread, affecting the end appearance.
Step 3. Secure the thread with a whip finish (by hand) and cut off the remainder. Roll the Mylar tubing back on itself so that it is now turning inside out and covering the hook shank.
Step 4. Once the Mylar tubing is fully unrolled, lightly tease out the last 1-2cm to allow the fibres to part around the bend of the hook so that the fly keeps a straight profile. You will need to do this up to the end of the shank of the hook where the bend starts.
Step 5. Holding the mono thread with your finger against the tubing and shank of the hook, start doing some wraps (or a jam knot) around the Mylar tubing until the thread is securing it to the end of the hook shank. Once it is secure, you can whip finish it off and cut the remaining thread. Flatten the Mylar tubing with your fingers so that it has a good side profile but a thin profile when viewed from above. This is done so that the fly will not hold too much air when coated with epoxy, which would not allow it to sink properly.
Attach a self-adhesive eye at the head of the fly. You can use some waterproof marker pens to draw on gill slits or darken the back if you wish. Mix a small amount of epoxy and use a bodkin or toothpick to wipe it along the entire fly, except for the tail. You will need to continually turn the fly (an epoxy rotator is great) to prevent the epoxy sagging to one side. When the epoxy starts to cure after a few minutes, you can stop rotating it. If you need to flatten it again, wet your fingers with water or saliva and do so now. Trim the tail a little if you wish.
This is a simple fly that is very durable, even for toothy critters. It can be fished in many ways and will take a host of species, as it closely represents the most prominent juvenile baitfish inhabiting our waters. Silver ones are a good copy of juvenile frogmouths, while the juvenile whitebait is best represented with pearl. I have even tied olive McMylar Minnows to catch bass around the weed beds in both the Hinze and Maroon dams.
The McMylar Minnow can be tied in sizes down to #8 and as large as #8/0 if you can get your hands on some extra large Mylar tubing. You can even add a rattle under the Mylar tubing for a little more noise in dirty water. They will probably be the hottest item on the piscatorial menu this season.
Hook: Tiemco 9394 size 4
Thread: Fine mono
Body: Tiewell Mylar tubing, medium
Eye: Self-adhesive 2mm silver
Finish: Devcon epoxy