Pencil Gar
  |  First Published: June 2009

All flies represent some food source or another in an attempt to interest the various species of fish we target. Obviously, different species of fish favour different types of nourishment although most will accept a broad array of offerings.

Prawns, squid, weed, bread, various crustaceans and obviously many species of baitfish can be imitated with a well-tied fly and thoughtful retrieve. Previously we have tied small baitfish patterns to imitate a wide array of bait species including herring, mullet, whitebait, pilchards and miniscule baitfish species too small and non-descript to be easily identifiable. This month we will imitate one of the larger baitfish species with the Pencil Gar pattern.


There are many species of garfish in our oceans as well as the freshwater creeks and impoundments. All gar have one thing in common, a slender and sleek body profile. The scientific reasoning for this is not known to me however I can only guess that it has something to do with survival strategy in their aquatic environment. Many species of predatory fish favour gar as a prominent food source and therefore it stands to reason that a garfish-profiled fly is a tempting treat.

In the saltwater environment there are many species of gar, some of which can grow to over 50cm in length. In the bay and estuarine environment, the pencil gar is one of the most prominent. This thin and sometimes almost transparent bait species (in their juvenile form) is commonly found around mangrove-fringed creeks, often seeking shelter amongst the exposed mangrove roots. In the more open waters of the bay gar are commonly found around weed beds, adjacent to rock walls and over shallow flats. The man-made systems, such as canals, offer them plenty of structure in the form of jetties, pylons and rock walls to hide and feed amongst.

Garfish are predatory species, commonly dining on small shrimps and other miniscule bait. Like most things in nature, garfish are also a prominent part of the food chain, and preyed on by others. They are regularly eaten by a broad array of species including mackerel, tuna, mangrove jack, barramundi, trevally and many other predators.

In the freshwater environment, species such as bass, barramundi, mangrove jack, tarpon, saratoga and others dine on snub-nosed gar, a close relative who is of a similar profile to the pencil gar. Naturally the Pencil Gar pattern can also be used successfully to target the species that eat snub-nose gar.


Garfish seem very sleek in the water however they can also appear somewhat awkward. I always get the feeling that gar never know where they are going until they get there. They seem to swim this way and that and rarely ever go in one direction long before changing course, unless they have a hungry predator up their clacker. Their erratic stop and start movement makes them seem disorientated most of the time.

Keeping this in mind we can easily strip this pattern with short sharp strips and small pauses to imitate a garfish. Mostly garfish spend a lot of their time in the upper level of the water column therefore a floating line is ideal for presenting this fly. If you wish to fish it a little deeper, try an intermediate fly line and just allow the fly to sink to the desired depth before commencing the retrieve.


(1) Place your hook securely in the vice and attach the thread with a jamb knot (or similar) just behind the eye of the hook. Advance the thread down to around half way along the hook shank and then attach a small amount of the white streamer hair that is about three times as long as the hook shank. Whip finish and apply a little vinyl cement but do not cut away the remaining thread.

(2) Cut a similar portion of white streamer hair however this time it needs to be at least six times as long as the hook shank. Tie this in just forward of the last tie-in point. Next choose around six to eight strands of the Krystal Flash that is also around six times as long as the hook shank. Tie this in at the same tie-in point as the last material. Again whip finish and add some vinyl cement but do not cut away the remaining thread.

(3) Next take a portion of seafoam green streamer hair that is slightly longer than the last yet about half the volume. Tie this in just in front of the last tie-in point. Whip-finish and add vinyl cement but do not cut away the remaining thread.

Next take a portion of the grey streamer hair that is just longer than the seafoam green, yet twice its volume. Tie this in just in front of the last material, or approximately 5mm behind the eye of the hook. Whip-finish and add vinyl cement but do not remove the remaining thread.

(4) Take a length of the Mylar tube approximately as long as the hook. Remove the inner core if it has one. Put the end just over the eye of the hook and secure with a series of wraps. Whip-finish, add some vinyl cement and then cut off the excess thread.

(5) Using your fingers push the Mylar tube backwards so that it inverts and rolls over the tied materials as shown. The ends will fray slightly and this will get worse the more you handle this material.

(6) Place an adhesive eye to each side of the head around two-thirds of the way along the hook as shown. Mix some 5-minute Devcon and then coat the entire portion of Mylar tube, from the hook eye, backwards to where the tube starts fraying. Hold and rotate the fly by hand or with an epoxy rotator until it hardens.

Using scissors, trim the frayed section of Mylar tube to provide a neat finish as shown. Trim the tips of the streamer hair to create a uniformly tapered profile to your fly.

Your Pencil Gar is ready to hook into some great predatory species.



HOOKGamakatsu SL12S 4/0
THREADMono – fine
BELLYStreamer hair – white
FLASKKrystal flash – olive/pearl
MID SECTIONStreamer hair – seafoam green
BACKStreamer hair – dark grey
HEADMylar tube – large pearl
EYEMirage Holographic 3/16
SEALERVinyl cement
FINISHDevcon 5-minute epoxy

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