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Doug's Articulator
By Capt. Doug Sinclair

About a year ago I was operating our tractor to clear some brush near the barn. I ran into a low hanging branch which pinned my knee into the clutch pedal on the tractor. Weeks later after seeing a surgeon, I had an MRI. I needed a Total Knee Replacement. After playing sports in my earlier life and following about 10 knee operations including an ACL reconstruction, I didn't want a knee replacement. As a fishing guide I could not afford to be off the water for 12 weeks. Plus I couldn't afford the operation.

A fly-fishing friend and doctor at Coastal Physical Medicine in New Bern suggested I try acupuncture. He would be willing to treat me and see if any improvements could be made. Basically I had nothing to lose. And, I was in such reeling pain that I would try anything just for a little relief. Dr. Jeff Pierce is one of a handful of physicians in North America that are Board Certified to practice Acupuncture. After a treatment one day, he gave me a box of Chinese acupuncture needles that he wasn't using and asked that I consider some application for fly tying. After much thought, a lot of trial and testing, the Articulator was born. The fly works very similar to a "Gotcha Grub" and has become a local hit, especially for speckled trout and puppy drum (red drum) in eastern North Carolina. Oh, by the way, I haven't had any pain since January 2005. Chinese medicine really works. Jeff is now setting up an Acupuncture Program at Eastern Carolina University Medical School.

Materials List: Doug's Articulator

    Hook: Owner Fly Liner, 2 - 1/0.

    Eyes: Painted dumbbell 1/50 oz. black pupil on Chartreuse.

    Hinge/Tail: Hwato Sterile Disposable Acupuncture Needles, Made by Suzhou Medical Instruments Factory in China. The needle is about 3 inches long. Using wire cutters, carefully cut the brass end leaving about " of stem left on the needle.

    Thread: #280 Denier Waxed Chartreuse or White.

    Tail: Chartreuse or White Marabou with Gold or Copper Flashabou.

    Body: Large Ice Chenille, Gold, Silver, or Hot Pink Estaz.

Tying Doug's Articulator

    1. Start by doing a thread wrap about " long from the eye of the hook towards the shank.

    2. Attach the dumbbell eyes using figure-8 wraps (you can apply some super glue or zap).

    3. With the stem and needle in hand, carefully bend the needle with a pair of pliers.

    4. Attach the stem behind the eyes and cement in place then wrap fully to the bend of the hook.

    5. Whip-finish.

    6. Cut the thread and lay this part aside.

    7. Put the cut stem part of the needle into the vise with the open eye facing out (like you were putting a hook into the vise).

    8. The stem should be sticking out no more than about " from the nose of the vise.

    9. Apply a tight wrap over the stem close to the nose of the vise. If you apply this too close to the eye of the stem the stem will bend.

    10. Attach 8 strands of gold or copper flashabou.

    11. Attach one clump of chartreuse or white marabou.

    12. Attach 8 strands of gold or copper flashabou.

    13. Do a half hitch knot and then apply some large ice chenille (I prefer gold or hot pink).

    14. Wrap the chenille over 2-1/2 times and then whip-finish on the stem. Remove from the vise.

    15. Put the hook back in the vise.

    16. Attach the tail to the hinge by slipping the eye of the stem over the needle which is now towards the back of the hook.

    17. Wrap the needle down on to the shank behind the dumbbell eyes so that the tail can swing freely.

    18. Now apply 8 strands of gold flashabou and one bunch of chartreuse marabou.

    19. Apply 8 more strands of gold flashabou.

    20. Attach the large ice chenille (gold or pink) in front of marabou and wrap over and under and around the dumbbell eyes.

    21. Whip finish at the nose of the hook in front of the dumbbell eyes.

Fishing Tips:
    1. For a #2 hook and tandem setup use at minimum a 6 wt fly rod.

    2. Allow the fly to fully settle in the water before you start your strip.

    3. Watch how well this fly swims. By altering your rod tip, essentially mending the line, the fly will move side to side, up and down.

    4. The fly will also track with the hook inverted which makes it easy for a grassy area.

    5. Do not hard set the hook. Allow the fish to take the fly and then a soft side strip will set the hook.

Last Notes:
"After forwarding your story to my lovely wife, she told me that it was she who came up with the name "Articulator." She is a speech pathologist at ECU and of course has a focus on articulation, etc. I don't think she is looking for royalties or such but did want me to give her credit. So it was Saturday at dusk, Miss Rita and I were on the dock and I was going to give the "Articulator" another try. First cast to the downstream bank with a quick strip yielded a strike and a run to deep water. I turned the fish back to the shore and it leapt out of the water. I could see it was a "pike." (chain pickerel). Over the course of the next few minutes or so, Rita drank her martini and watched me get the fish on the reel. She made a comment to the effect that she could see how fly-fishing might offer an advantage with regard to presentation but a handicap with regard to landing the fish. I agreed. The fish weighed just under a pound, by my judgement, and was released," Dr. Jeff Pierce. ~ Capt. Doug Sinclair

About Doug:

Capt Doug Sinclair is a saltwater fly-fishing guide, casting instructor, writer and photographer from Alliance (Oriental), North Carolina. You can find him on the web at or call him at 252.617.5580.

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

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