Welcome to Intermediate Fly Tying

Part Fourty

Intermediate Fly Tying:

Wiggle Frog

Wiggle Frog

By Al Campbell

Some of the best fly patterns are the product of an over-active imagination. You might see a different material that isn't commonly used in fly tying and decide it has merit or might work in a particular situation. Maybe you just got bored tying the same old stuff and decided to try something new. Or maybe, you decided it was time to improve that old pattern you've been using.

Foam caulk

That's how this pattern started. It was a combination of finding a new material and applying it to an existing pattern. The material was caulk saver, a round foam about 1/2 inch in diameter used around windows and doors when building homes. I was helping my wife's brother build a new home when I spotted it in a garbage can. Being the dedicated scrounger that I am, I retrieved a few feet of it and took it home to try in a few pattern applications.

As with any new material, it took about a dozen failed attempts to find a good use for this great new material I scrounged out of the garbage. Luckily, I read in one of the fly tying magazines about a frog diver pattern that used pre-shaped foam bodies that you can buy from that author for a bank busting price and a little light switched on in my head. Why not adapt this new material to a pattern similar to the one I read about without paying the heavy price for the foam body material the author had used? So, I cut the round caulk saver foam at a diagonal to create my own unique bodies.

Foam Body

It took a few calls to building supply centers to locate a steady source for the round foam I had scrounged. What I found was that this material comes in diameters ranging from 3/8 inch to about 1 1/2 inch and in several colors. Names range from caulk backing to caulk saver. Prices are about ten cents per foot for the 1/2-inch variety, or less than a penny per fly. That beats 50 cents per fly for the other foam bodies shown in the magazine article.

If you have problems finding this foam, you can always use some of the other foams found in building centers. Some foam is square and some is rectangle. You'll need to use a razorblade to shape the other foam a little better, but by now you should be able to do that with ease. It's time to get creative.

Another feature of this pattern is the hook I used. The shape of the hook gives the body the curvature needed to make it dive and wiggle a little when retrieved. The outward swept hackles used for the rear legs and the rubber hackle used up front creates a realistic swimming frog motion.

The final feature is the way the foam is attached to the hook. By pushing the hook eye through the foam, you create a diving lip that causes the fly to dive when the line is tugged, creating a realistic swimming motion. Be sure to center the hook eye so the frog swims in a straight line. A carpet needle or bodkin should be used to punch a pilot hole through the foam lip so the foam won't tear when the hook eye is shoved through it.

Let's tie a wiggle frog and you'll see how easy it can be.

List of materials: Al's Wiggle Frog

  • Hook: Mustad 37160. Sizes 3/0 to 6 depending on the diameter of the foam.

  • Thread: Olive or yellow 3/0 monocord.

  • Tail: A mix of four dyed olive grizzly hackles, chartreuse crystal flash and chartreuse bucktail. Depending on the color you paint the foam body, this list will vary. It's your choice, but the tail is tied the same as a deer hair bug or diver tail.

  • Weed guard: (optional).

  • Eyes: 4 to 8 mm doll eyes. These are glued in place with Angler's Choice thick soft body material.

  • Underbody: Light colored yarn or dubbing.

  • Legs: Yellow or chartreuse rubber hackle.

    Anglers Choice Soft Body

  • Body: Round foam caulk saver, cut diagonal. Light green is preferred, but white and light gray will work if that's all you can find. Color and spots are added with waterproof markers. Although Pantone markers are probably the best and certainly come in the most colors, you can use any waterproof markers you can find, even the ones found in the school section at the variety stores. The foam is sealed with one or two dips of Angler's Choice thin soft body material.

  • Tying steps:

  • 1.Cover the hook with thread as shown.

  • 2. Wrap yarn or dubbing around the hook where the foam body will be.

  • 3. Measure and cut the foam body at a diagonal.

  • 4. Tie in some chartreuse bucktail about twice as long as the foam body.

  • 5. Add chartreuse crystal flash to both sides of the bucktail if desired. The extra flash will help attract attention to the fly.

  • 6. Add the feather tails, curvature facing out.

  • 7.Coat the yarn or dubbing underbody with Zap-A-Gap, push the foam lip over the hook eye and stretch the foam over the hook. Tie the foam down in the same place the tail is tied down. Pinch the foam tight around the underbody until the glue has set.

  • 8. Trim the tag of foam that extends over the tail and whip finish. Then color the body and add spots with waterproof markers. If the markers aren't waterproof, the colors will run when you seal the body.

  • 9. Place a drop of Angler's Choice thick Soft Body on each side of the body and set the eyes in it. This will glue the eyes in place and seal around them so weeds can't rip them off. When the eyes are set and the soft body has dried, dip the body once or twice in Angler's Choice thin Soft Body. This will seal the body and make it stiff enough to be durable.

  • 10. To create the front legs, sew rubber hackle through the body with a carpet needle. The legs should be sewn through the body behind and under the eyes.

  • 11. Add a drop of Angler's Choice thin Soft Body to the entry and exit points where the rubber hackle goes through the body to seal it and hold the rubber hackle in place. Your fly should look like this from the side.

  • 12. From the front, your fly should look like this. Notice how the lip extends below the hook eye? This frog fly will dive and wiggle just like a real frog.

  • That was easy, wasn't it? The hardest part about tying this fly is waiting for the finish to dry. I've also used water-based clear satin Varathane as a sealer instead of the Soft body, but I liked the Soft Body better, and it dried a lot faster.

    The first wiggle frogs I tied were large, about the size of the natural frogs in the local lakes. While they worked for bass, they also caught a few large sunfish. I found that smaller sizes work well for panfish and the bass don't mind them either. I also found that other color combinations work well too. Maybe a few tied up in the colors of a favorite baitfish would be just the ticket for your local lake?

    Experiment a little with different colors and sizes of bodies. You can try other tail materials if you like. You'll love the way it wiggles while it dives.

    Until next week my friends, practice and have fun. See ya next week - Remember, I'm always happy to answer your questions, feel free to email me. ~ Al Campbell

    For more on fly fishing for panfish, check Panfish!

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