Fly Of The Week
Girdle Bug
Girdle Bug
By George E. Emanuel, N.J., USA

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Girdle Bug

The Girdle Bug is widely known and used in the big waters of the Western United States where it was developed. The fly has for many years saved the day for many anglers on some of the toughest waters of that region. Trout are the primary quarry, but we are not concerned with them here.

As I have said on many previous occasions, I am an unabashed card carrying member of the Tom Sawyer Division of Fly-Fishing.

Summer, and especially the dog days, raises water temperatures on many streams across this great land far above the temperature where one can responsibly fish for trout. Tailwaters, and Spring Creeks aside.

We often credit trout with superior intelligence, and if you want to buy into that theory have at it. We all, I suppose, would like to feel we are fishing for a superior species as doing so must be done by a being of equally superior intelligence, or so we delude ourselves.

Now, matching the hatch has its place and I have a great deal of respect for wary wild trout. A more finicky creature one would be hard pressed to find. But, I will put a smallmouth bass right up there with that wild trout! The smallmouth also fights much harder than does the trout.

Before you all go turning me into the fish police for writing blasphemy and heresy, I do fish for trout also. I like trout. I like to eat a trout on occasion.

It is just that trout are not the only fish that can be a blast on a fly.

Would you like to be smallmouth fishing today on a creek which was last week 15 feet or better above its' still swollen banks, stained in color, much cooler than it had been, and immediately after a cold front with heavy overcast? Ideal conditions? You'd like to stay in bed I'll bet. No decent fish is going to be in a feeding frenzy with these conditions, are they?

You are right, the deck is stacked against you from the first cast, but, you can catch fish, and you can catch good numbers, if you know what to do.

Typically this creek will provide you with large numbers of panfish with surface bugs. Lefty's Bugs, Chernobyl Ants, Sneaky Petes' all work great under normal circumstances on top.

Sub-surface a Woolly Bugger, a Partridge and Orange, a Sparkle Grub, or other such sub-surface fare will get you into fish. And in my experience, all with about equal results.

But under the terrible conditions outlined above, the Girdle Bug, tied as shown is a true panacea. When nothing else will work, this thing will perform. It is a "go to" fly and a confidence pattern you can count on to catch lots of fish.

Let's tie it up and then we'll get into how to fish it for great results.


    Hooks:  9672 size 6 to 10 (larger for bass, smaller for blue gills).

    Thread:  Yellow 3/0.

    Tails:  Yellow metal flake rubber.

    Body:  Medium yellow chenille.

    Legs:  Yellow metal flake rubber.

Tying Instructions:

1. Begin by tying on at the hook point and wrapping a thread base to the rear of the barb. Tie in a piece of rubber tailing about 3/4 the length of the shank in a "V" as shown.

2. Tie on a piece of chenille, by stripping the flue back about 3/8" so you tie down the threads securely as shown.

3. Wrap the chenille forward two turns and secure with two thread wraps. Bring the running end of the chenille back to the rear and out of the way.

4. Tie in another set of rubber legs as before. These will stick out on the sides of the fly, rather than sweep backward.

5. Wind the chenille forward working it past the rubber legs from underneath the hook shank two turns in front of the legs.

6. Repeat this step twice more so that you are at the eye of the hook. Whip finish the head and cut your thread.

7. Apply head cement.

Fishing the Girdle Bug:

Now for the fishing, and this is where it gets to be real fun.

Dead drift is absolutely not the only way to fish this fly. Down and across ala wet fly is also a great presentation, but it is not the most productive, especially in stained water. The current and subsequent swing are great in clear water, but when it is off-color you have to get the fly down.

You could weight the fly, but it will hang up on objects you can't see. Besides, it is just more of a challenge un-weighted.

The best way to fish this fly is up and across with a "tuck cast". (A tuck cast can be done by using slightly more acceleration on the power stroke and stopping the rod high. This allows the fly and tippet to "tuck" back under the line and hit the water first, allowing it to sink.)

Now comes the fun. Your fly because of the "tuck" is drifting ahead of your line. You may not feel anything on the take as this is truly a dead drift and you have slack between the fly and the end of the fly line.

You must concentrate, you must watch the end of your leader where it breaks the surface film. If it does anything you suspect to be abnormal, raise the rod tip and set the hook. Not a violent hookset, but more like a lifting of the rod. If you sharpen your hooks this is all you need to set the hook. And if you don't have a sharp hook, the most violent use of the rod will not set it.

If this sounds like nymphing, well that's because that is essentially what it is. We are just using a fairly large attractor, with wiggly, teasing, appetizing legs, instead of what you normally think of as a proper nymph. (Bitch Creek not withstanding).

A greased leader will help with floating the end high where you can see it. Just grease it to within about two feet of the fly.

Is this an easy way to fish? Well, probably not, it may be the most difficult, but therein lies its true charm.

By giving the fish every advantage possible you can make even the incredibly dumb bluegill a real contest of skill. And you would be surprised how much it can help your nymphing game when you go after that superior fish, the trout.

After you master this, a trout is just another bluegill.

Fish on, and On and On!!!

DISCLAIMER: This is not the original pattern or colors but an adaptation for a very specific purpose, please do not write to tell me it is inaccurate. (The original was tied with black chenille and white rubber legs.) ~ George E. Emanuel

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