[Easy generic flies are simple-to-tie patterns that a novice tyer
can accomplish and which requires less than four dressing
Americans are not likely to be mistaken for Europeans, which
is fine with most Americans. Europeans think the export of
American popular culture has desecrated their social landscape
because we are basically uncivilized, rough, coarse, crude and
still living in the wild west. They chastize us for breaking from
tradition and for being brash enough to break ties with the past
and forge new trails. Okay, so?
American fly tyers are an inventive, almost rebellious group,
and have always used the materials at hand to create fish
catching flies. In 19th Century America that meant tying
patterns with bucktail instead of the hard-to-get European
feathers that the tightly wound Victorian anglers considered
the only proper dressing for a fly. Americans were condemned
for despoiling the fly fishing art and American bucktail flies were
considered heinous. Not that Europeans wouldn't use bucktail
flies, they just blamed their fall from fishing purist's grace on the
spawn of Satanic America.
Legend tells us the bucktail fly (or "hairwing") originated in the late
1880s in Idaho with a rancher named A.S.Trude (as in the "Trude
pattern") who was followed by Col. L.S. Thompson (as in Thompson
fly tying tools) who adapted bucktail and animal furs to smaller trout
flies. On the American east coast, in the 1930s, northeastern saltwater
fisherman began using many types of fur including elk, squirrel, bear
and deer in their salmon patterns, while southerners used a wide variety
of fur and hair from dinner items, i.e. anything they could grow, catch
or kill. Then along came Bob Clouser who developed a simple minnow
pattern in 1984, which has become the footprint for hundreds of similarly
tied flies. Since that time fly tyers with over-sized egos have modified the
basic Clouser shape under their own name, but it is basically all the
same generic bucktail fly pattern regardless of size. Saltwater patterns
are tied on hooks ranging from a size 4 to3/0 and bass/bream patterns
from size 6 to 2. Consequently, a size 4 can (and should) be used for
With the advent of synthetics came flashabou, and krystal flash
and super hair. These new materials provide an excellent
substitute for bucktail under most circumstances, and make
purists cringe. For generic flies, super hair is the substitute
of choice although it will not spin or float and is more
expensive than natural bucktail.
There are good reasons for using bucktail: (1) it is durable
for toothy saltwater fish and practically indestructible for bass
and bluegill, (2) it takes dye well so lots of colors are available,
(3) it is flexible enough to torque down on tying thread or to
bend or spin the hair even 180 degrees without it breaking,
(4) it can provide some buoyancy and when tied down it flares
to provide body width without extra material, (5) it moves
(breathes) in the water, (6) it is readily available, and (7) it is
inexpensive. As opposed to many other tying materials,
bucktail is easy to work with and provides uniform results
without the requirement for great tying expertise.
Because bucktail patterns are generic, the tyer isn't looking
for exact replication of the subject. The bucktail fly represents
a minnow, so the most important aspect of a bucktail fly pattern
is the size and colors used. Two or three layers of hair (one
almost always white) are common to achieve the desired result,
which is accented by eyes and/or dressing on the hook shank.
Actually, the most confusing part of tying bucktail for a novice
tyer may be choosing other dressing items to add. Bucktail is
attached to the hook near the eye of a long shank hook so there
is plenty of shank left to decorate. Here are some of the choices,
and none are wrong choices, just different ones.
Fishing technique for a bucktail should be something like
strip-strip-strip-pause-repeat or strip-pause-strip-pause. The
object is to replicate the actions of a wounded minnow or baitfish
and this stripping pattern will produce a sine wave shape as it moves
through the water. Strikes are usually hard (frequently with an
immediate run) but the fly is normally not taken deeply in the fish's
throat. The tyer should remember that a sparsely dressed fly casts
easier and generally works better, and if some bucktail is tied to so
that it overlaps the hook point it can act as a weed guard. A hair
stacker can be invaluable to even out tips of the bucktail, and you
want to insure tips are trailing the hook.
1. Lead eyes, bead chain eyes, beadhead or conehead. None
are required, but they are recommended and each one will add
weight. Bucktail flies normally work better with weight at the
head so they undulate like a sine wave on the retrieve.
2. Body dressing. This might be nothing, or chenille, tinsel,
floss, mylar tubing, thread or wire, or a combination of these.
The dressing is wrapped around the hook shank and bucktail
is tied in front of the dressing above, below or all around the
3. Flash. Interspersing some flashy materials (e.g. Flashaboo
or Krystal Flash) among the bucktail fibers is can provide another
attracting feature to the fly. The length of the fly should be
appropriate to the baitfish/minnows in the water. Bass feeding
on 5" shad will ignore a 1.5" bucktail, and usually visa versa.
The dot on the shad pattern can be added with a sharpie marker.
A 3" adolescent bluegill pattern (green, yellow and white) is
effective on most shad-free ponds. If lead or bead chain eyes
are not used, stick-on eyes can be directly applied to bucktail,
but using superglue or Zap-a-Gap is required to make them stay.
A better option for cheap eyes is to put a drop of dark fingernail
polish or model airplane paint.
Generic Bucktail Fly
Hook: Mustad 34011 Size 4.
Thread: flat waxed nylon or 6/0.
Highlights:(optional) flashabou or krystal flash.
Eyes: Dumbbell, bead chain or paint.
1. Wrap ¾ of the hook shank with thread to underbody color.
2. Tie on eyes ¼ inch behind hook eye using figure eight wrap.
3. Cut and stack a small bundle of white bucktail 2-4" long.
4. Rotate your vise 180 degrees or (with a fixed vise) insert
your hook upside down in the vise.
5. Tie down clipped ends of white bucktail in front of the eyes.
Start with 3-4 not too tight thread wraps and once the bucktail
is in place and horizontal to the hook shaft, place 4-5 thread turns in
front of the other thread to snug the bucktail down. If excess
bucktail extends past the hook eye, clip this at an angle down to and
behind the hook eye.
6. Turn the hook back over.
7. Cut and stack a small bundle of chartreuse bucktail 2-4" long.
8. Once again, tie down clipped ends of bucktail in front of the eyes.
Place 4-5 thread turns in front of the other thread to snug the bucktail
down. If excess bucktail extends past the hook eye, clip this at an angle
down to and behind the hook eye. Behind the eyes (the collar), place
3-4 not too tight thread wraps to pull the bucktail horizontal to the hook
9. Tie in a few strands of 2-4" flashabou or krystal flash on each
side of the fly at the collar.
10. Using thread create a cone shaped head (around the eyes
but not covering the ends).
11. Whip finish and coat threat with Hard As Nails. ~ Bob
Robert Lamar Boese has fly fished for five decades. He is an
environmental negotiator, attorney and educator who has provided
environmental legal services for more than thirty-three years including
active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Justice. He is a
well known fly tyer with several unique patterns to his credit. He has
developed and authored federal and state regulatory programs
encompassing a broad spectrum of environmental disciplines, has
litigated environmental matters at all levels of the federal and state
court systems, and is a qualified expert for testimony in environmental
law. He has authored over 60 published text chapters, comments or
articles on environmental matters, is a member of the Colorado, District
of Columbia and Louisiana Bar Associations, and is a certified mediator.
In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Boese has been a high school
teacher, an associate professor of Environmental Law and Public Health,
has authored numerous fiction and sports publications, and is a softball
coach and nationally certified volleyball referee. He is the president
of the Acadiana Fly Rodders in Lafayette, Louisiana and editor of
Acadiana on the Fly. He has been married for thirty years and is the
father of two fly fishing girls (25 and 21). For additional information
contact: Boese Environmental Law, 103 Riviera Court, Broussard, LA 70518
or call 337.856.7890 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.