Cut Bait
  |  First Published: September 2009

Flyfishing has come a long way since the days when stuffy tweed-clad, pipe-smoking, English trout fishermen patrolled the banks of cold streams shallow enough to make one wonder if their source was just an incontinent cow further up the valley. Even nymph fishing was frowned upon; no fish was worthy unless it was a trout taken on a dry fly and you possessed the correct gentlemanly stance as you delivered the fly.

Luckily, forward thinking fly fishers have broken free of these stereotypical trout-trickers and we now have a broad array of flyfishing techniques for a plethora of salt and freshwater species.

Serious saltwater anglers have really broken the boundaries of conventional flyfishing techniques and have developed many new ways to entice fish into taking the fly. Weed-eating luderick, scum-sucking milkfish, jellyfish-gorging batfish, bonito-busting broadbill and everything in between has been tempted with flyfishing tackle of various weights and thoughtfully tied flies. Now, nothing is off limits for wand waving aficionados.

Drifting flies into a berley trail is one technique that has gained momentum for tempting large pelagic species such as tuna, cobia, kingfish and even marlin.

This technique is as simple as it sounds. Anchor in prominent areas where these pelagics are likely to be lurking and then deploy a constant berley trail. Usually this consists of cut up pilchards and other baitfish, as well as mulched fish frames, squid, crustacean shells, tuna oil and anything else remotely fishy.

Pelagics are not only enticed due to the constituents of the berley trail but also the baitfish activity promoted by the trail. The feeding antics of the various baitfish and other demersal species that may enter the trail to savour the succulents within, will not go unnoticed by any larger predators in the area. Appropriate flies drifted into the trail amongst the berley are also engulfed. Most baitfish patterns will work in this situation, as well as patterns such as the Cut Bait, which is designed to look like a baitfish that has been cut in half.


One variation made to the Cut Bait pattern that is different to most other fly patterns, is that we tie it on an offset hook, as opposed to the normal in-line pattern. As the Cut Bait is dead drifted down the trail but not stripped back in the conventional manner, the spinning associated with offset hooks is not a problem.

An offset hook will be easier to set into the hard mouth of pelagics and this is the main reason for its use. Many anglers also tie this pattern with offset circle-hooks, which promote secure hook setting in the corner of the fish’s mouth.

Physically, the hook is fairly heavy. To offset this we have used materials with a degree of floatation, such as deer hair and dolls eyes, to prevent the fly sinking too quickly, which would appear unnatural. The peacock herl used for the back has a degree of natural shine, yet enough rigidity to maintain the profile of this pattern when wet.

The Cut Bait remains a simple yet effective pattern for drifting down your berley trail. It is a generic pattern that looks similar to a pilchard, saurie or slimey mackerel but does not imitate any of these too closely. You can experiment with other materials and hooks for this pattern and can make a pattern to specially imitate the succulents you are using for berley.


Fishing the Cut Bait fly is very simple and best of all you do not have to be a gun caster with heavy rods for this type of fishing. Once you have anchored in a promising spot, such as near a beacon, ledge, wreck or other aquatic attractor, begin to berley with whatever you have.

Then it is simply a matter of putting the fly in the water then allowing the fly line and backing to trickle out through the guides as the current drags the fly away, along with the berley.

The depth of water and current flow will dictate the type of fly line used but I generally find that an intermediate or floating line works well. If you are fishing deep water with a slow current flow then you may need a line with a 3-6 sink rate. Once you have drifted the fly back 30-50m, retrieve it and start again. If you have a take, strip-strike and hold on.


(1) Place the hook securely in the vice and attach the thread with a jamb knot just behind the hook eye. Take a portion of the white deer hair and tie this in just behind the eye of the hook. Whip finish but do not cut away the remaining thread.

(2) Take a portion of the royal blue deer hair that is around half the volume of the white. Tie this in on top of the white. Trimming the butt section of the deer hair on an angle will allow a tapered look to the tie-in point. Whip finish and again leave the remaining thread.

(3) Cut around 10 strands of the blue holographic flash which is just longer than the deer hair. Tie this in on top of the last two materials. Whip finish and leave the remaining thread in tact.

(4) Take a portion of the black deer hair, similar in volume to the blue. Tie this in on top of the last three materials. Whip finish and leave the remaining thread.

(5) Cut around 8-10 strands of peacock herl, which are at least as long as the black deer hair. Again, tie these in on top of the last four materials. Whip finish and cut away the remaining thread.

(6) Mix a portion of two-part, five-minute epoxy. Apply this to the head and nose area of the Cut Bait and also use some to affix the dolls eyes in place. You may need to hold the eyes while the epoxy cures to keep them in the correct place.

Once the epoxy is dry, take your scissors and trim the tail of the fly on an angle so it looks like a baitfish that has been cut in half with a knife. Using a red waterproof marker (such as a Sharpie pen) colour the last centimetre of the fly so it looks like a bit of blood around the cut mark.

Your Cut Bait fly is now ready. Just add water and berley for some serious bluewater action.


Hook:Black Magic KS 4/0
Thread:Flat-waxed nylon – black
Belly:Deer hair – white
Mid Section:Deer hair – royal blue
Flash:Shimmerflash – Holographic Blue
Upper Section:Deer hair – black
Back: Peacock herl – natural
Eyes: Doll eyes – 5mm black/white
Epoxy: Devcon Epoxy – 5-minute
Finish: Waterproof marker – red
Reads: 169

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