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Bunny Baitfish
Text and photos by Alberto Jimeno

One of my favorite ways to fish for river smallmouths is by using streamer patterns on a sink tip line. This streamer is one of my go-to patterns. It is quick to tie and can be tied in many different colors.

In my opinion, tube fly streamers offer several advantages over conventional streamer patterns. Since the pattern is tied on a tube, and the hook itself is separate from the fly, you only need to carry a few hooks to rig up all of your flies. Another advantage comes after you have hooked a fish. After the hook is set, it tends to detach from the fly. This not only protects your fly from the teeth and thrashing of the fish, but also lets you play the fish on a stout, short-shanked hook.

The picture above shows one of the generic ways to setup a tube fly. In this case, the tube is made of plastic. To make heavier flies, tubes made of copper and aluminum can also be used. The short piece of soft tubing is used to keep the hook attached to the tube during fishing. It is called the junction tube. Finally there is the hook. I like to use the TMC105, shown here in a size 4 (for comparison purposes, the plastic tube is " long). To rig this fly, thread the leader through the tube and tie it onto the hook. Then pull on the leader to snug the hook into the junction tube.

Although you can buy special vises for tying only tube flies, most fly shops and catalogs will sell tube fly adaptors for your vise. These adaptors will fit most vises and will not put a dent in your wallet.

Materials for the Bunny Baitfish

    Thread: Olive flat waxed nylon.

    Tube: 1/7" diameter plastic tube, 3/4" in length.

    Junction Tube: 1/8" soft tubing, 3/8" in length.

    Tail and Wing: Olive rabbit zonker strip.

    Body: White cross-cut rabbit strip.

    Head: Tying thread, finish with stick-on eyes and epoxy.

Instructions for the Bunny Baitfish:

    1. Mount the tube fly tool on the vise. In this case, it is a HMH Tube Fly Tying Tool. The mandrel is what holds the tube on the adaptor. The tube is kept snug on the vise by using the mandrel to snug it up against the adaptor.

    2. This is how the assembled tube and junction tube are positioned on the tube adaptor. Before placing the tube on the adaptor a thread check has to be made. The thread check prevents the finishing thread wraps from sliding off the front end of the tube. To make the thread check, heat the end of the tube over an open flame just enough to make it pliable. Then, quickly press the end of the tube on a flat surface. This will form the thread check.

    3. Before placing the tube in the adaptor, the junction tube has to be cut into shape. This will allow the junction tube to (1) hold the hook in place and (2) keep the tail of the fly from fouling around the hook. The red marks on the junction tube illustrate the cut. Once the cut is finished, place the tube back in the adaptor and start the thread wraps. Start the thread about mid-tube and work your way back into the area where the junction tube overlaps the tube itself. Take a few tight wraps in this area in order to snug up the junction tube and the tube. You might have to hold the front end of the tube to keep it from spinning during this step.

    4. Tie in the olive zonker strip right over the area where the junction tube and the tube meet. The olive zonker strip makes up the tail and wing of this fly. Cutting the zonker strip to size before tying it in makes it easier to finish this fly. I like to taper the tail end of the zonker strip down to a point.

    5. This is a close-up of the tie-in spot for the white crosscut strip that will make the body of the fly. This strip is tied in just in front of the junction tube. Take a few tight thread wraps and advance the thread to about 1/4" behind the thread check.

    6. Lift the olive zonker strip out of the way and wrap the crosscut strip forward on the tube, stroking the hair back as you move forwards. Tie the strip down tight and trim. This does not have to be neat. The thread wraps for the head will cover this area.

    7. Grab the front of the olive zonker strip, pull it tight towards the front of the tube and tie it down. Form a nice, big head with the tying thread. Whip finish at the base of the wing and clip the thread.

    8. Finish the fly with a pair of stick-on or painted eyes. Give the head a thin coating of epoxy or a similar product. I like to let some epoxy soak into the base of the wing and body in order to improve the durability of the fly. Wetting down the rabbit fur and stroking it back makes the job of finishing the head easier.

    9. Now it is time to put the junction tube to use as a guard for keeping the tail from fouling around the hook. Lift up the olive zonker strip to expose the junction tube. Put a drop or two of Crazy Glue Gel on the junction tube and press the zonker strip on it.

Although I have shown the olive over white variation, this fly can be tied in just about any color. I like to keep the back of the fly darker than the body, similar in style to the Clouser Minnow and many other streamers that imitate baitfish. This fly can also be tied on a standard hook, a Mustad 3366 for example. A loop of heavy monofilament can be used instead of the junction tube.

If you have any questions about this pattern or about tying with tubes, feel free to e-mail me at . ~ Alberto

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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