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  • Writer's pictureWill

Fly Tying SBS: The Tarpon Dancer

The fifth fly in our series of step-by-step fly tying posts and one I have tied in a range of colours and hook styles in the guiding box. This fly is the first Tarpon fly we have shown, and it's on our favourites!

'The Tarpon Dancer' is an original fly of mine and one that takes its inspiration from the popular 'Dancer' style trout streamer. The main difference being that the Tarpon version is tied on a larger hook and tied shorter on the hook shank.

I am a firm believer in the 'less is more' approach in fly fishing, which is especially true with Tarpon flies. The Tarpon is an aminal that can, at times, be aggressive, but on many occasions, requires a degree of coaxing and interaction with the angler to get the eat. They rarely throw themselves onto the hook, but in fact, will track a fly and study it before opening their mouths.

The above fly is a good example of giving the Tarpon a fly that you can 'feed' the fish with and draw out the eat. I always have a few of these in my Tarpon box, preferring the 'Yello/Chartreuse', 'White/Pearl' and 'Black/Purple' colour schemes. The only part I vary is the hook style, changing it out depending on the size of the fish or situation I will be fishing for them.

For normal use, the Gamakatsu SC-15 1/0 is my go-to option for fish under 50lbs and fishing around mangroves, where the lighter hook keeps the fly suspended higher in the water column. If I am chasing fish on the flats that exceed 50lbs, I will switch out my hook style for an Owner Aki 1/0 or Gamakatsu SL12s 1/0. These situations require a more technical approach, with longer leads and a different retrieve style, so the heavier wire hook can be more beneficial in keeping the fly in 'the zone' when retrieving.

The Tarpon Dancer was initially designed to be a quick tie, with plenty of movement and versatility. I have tweaked this version over the years to have less material but still do what I want it to do. It's a proven catcher and can be fished in almost any situation. Typically, we tie these in smaller sizes, around a size 1 or 1/0, but they can be tied bigger or smaller to suit the situational needs.

Check out the SBS below and let us know what you think!

Step 1).

Stupidly simple and a very straightforward fly, let's jump in. The materials are:

-Gamakatsu SC 15 Saltwater Hook #1/0

-Chartreuse Thread

-Light Yellow Marabou

-Chartreuse Marabou

-Chartreuse EP Minnow Head Brush

-Yellow Schlappen

Step 2).

- Begin by placing the hook in the vice. Add a base of thread on the rear 3rd of the hook shank and wrap down towards the bend of the hook.

Step 3).

- Select two marabou feathers and match up the tips. Offer them up to the hook and tie them in at the end of the shank.

- When measuring the marabou, make sure the feathers are a little longer than the length of the hook shank. This will help with the proportions of the fly when adding the anti foul guard.

Step 4).

- Pinch the marabou feathers together at the tie in point and wrap your thread around the base of the feathers.

- Build up a firm base, then continue the thread wraps up the marabou base. Make sure your wraps are tight.

- Once you have wrapped up around 1/4 of the marabou stem, wrap back down the feather and jump the thread back onto the hook shank.

- Add a dab of glue/UV resin and allow to cure. This step is essential as it helps avoid the marabou fouling around the hook shank during the cast.

Step 5).

- Select a chartreuse marabou feather and tie it in at the tip. Measure up the fibre lengths and tear away the marabou tips (if required) to make sure there is an evident colour change visible between the yellow and chartreuse.

- Palmer the chartreuse feather down the hook shank, making 4-5 turns or enough to add some colour and bulk to the fly. Once complete, capture the feather and tie it in. Remove the waste and wrap back on the fibres to tidy.

- Run your comb through the fibres to blend the feathers together and prepare for the next step.

Step 6).

- Take your EP Minnow head brush and strip away some fibres from the wire. Doing this gives a clean tie in point and gives an overall cleaner look to the fly.

- Tie in the brush and repeat the same process as above. Make sure to add no more than 4-5 turns of the brush before trimming away and wrapping back on the fibres.

Step 7).

- Choose your Schlappen feather and measure up to the body of the fly. The ideal feather has its fibres draping over the EP brush but not totally covering it.

- The feathers job is to give natural movement and bulk, but also reduce the amount of flash coming from the EP brush.

- This fly is one that has very little flash as for me, the aim with most all my tarpon flies is to have plenty of movement, allowing you to feed the fish. Flash can often be a bigger negative than a positive in many situations.

Step 8).

- Once the feather has been selected, strip the quill of the fluffy fibres and tie the feather in at the tip.

- Palmer the hackle forward in close touching turns, creating bulk and a pronounced head.

- Make enough turns so that the EP brush is covered but that there are gaps for a little bit of brush to shine through. Doing this gives the fly the right amount of flash and movement to fool a Tarpon.

- Once complete, catch in the feather and trim away. Wrap back over the feather's tie in point and build the head of the fly.

- Whip finish the head and add your glue/UV epoxy and leave to cure

Step 9).

- Lastly, and this is the most important step, take your comb and brush through the fly, combining all the material together. You are looking for a good blend of Schlappen, synthetic and marabou. Doing this will give your fly the correct look, and it will fish much better.

To Close:

Having completed this last step, the fly is ready to be thrown in front of a Tarpon in any situation you are likely to find them in. Just remember to lead the Tarpon and fish the fly on a steady retrieve, keeping it moving just fast enough to have the fly swimming away, no more than a few feet from his nose.

So, what are you waiting for, go tie a few up and let them loose on your local Tarpon population. I am sure they will bring you great success.

Tight lines,


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