Friday, February 21, 2014

Gar Fly Wannabe

If you've tried flyfishing for gar, you already know the obstacles which must be overcome.
In my area, there are primarily Shortnose Gar.  Within a couple hour's drive, I can get to a few Longnose Gar as well, but haven't made that trip yet.

Gar have tough bony, toothy jaws, with very little "meat" to sink a hook into.  There is some "meat" towards the inside of the back of the mouth between the lower jawbones.

This is why flies that entangle the teeth, such as rope flies, are a reasonably good option for catching gar.  It isn't fool-proof and you may typically only land 1 out of 3 good strikes.  I have landed gar on such flies.  One issue is that a 4"-6" rope fly casts like a wet sock on 5wt-6wt flyfishing gear.

This past summer, I tried a few smaller patterns (which had hooks) for gar, some floating, some sinking.  I hooked 5 or 6 gar.  Each one threw the hook when it jumped and violently shook its head.

A friend, Mark (his website: ), has offered invaluable insight and tips.  He's a much more experienced and successful gar flyfisherman than I am!

Based on some of his patterns, I came up with the flies below.  I am very hopeful that THESE will be THE FLY for my future gar flyfishing needs.  Please note...I HAVE NOT YET TRIED THESE OUT.  Well, I have tested them in a sink of water to see how they behaved/sank/floated.  I think these will be really good!
Cross your fingers, please.

Here's the promising features:
1.  Dressed #10 treble hook.  Hopefully at least ONE of the points of the treble hook will find something to grab onto in the gar's mouth.  The dressing provides some lift and appearance of lifelike movement...maybe some fish-attracting flash.

2.  Articulating hook connection to the rest of the fly.  Hopefully the gar will not be able to use the body of the fly to leverage the hook out!

3.  3/16" foam cylinder covering the hook shank.   This seems to improve the action of the fly and help it float (the wire underbody IS kind of heavy after is the treble hook itself). The treble hook acts as a guard to help protect this exposed foam....but if it does get shredded, it can be replaced back at the tying bench.

4.  Wire underbody.  This way, there's no worries that the gar will sever the connection between the fly and hook, and it provides a fairly stiff underbody to tie the rest of the fly on.

5.  Foam body.  Sightfishing for gar is a visual game, so many fish/strikes will be near the surface.  Therefore, the fly needs to be there too.  Foam is the most reliable flotation method, IMO.  The top two flies in the picture above used a narrow strip of foam wrapped up the wire underbody.  The bottom one used size Large Rainy's Float Foam (slit down the side and then slid over the wire shank and CA gel-glued back together).  The top two don't provide QUITE enough flotation.  The middle one will ride on the surface as long as the fly is kept moving, but will sink when stopped.  This can be key to fishing pockets in weedbeds or flooded grass.  The bottom one floats even when stopped.  The action is really good.

6.  Foam protection.  Gar teeth will tear up a fly.  I covered the foam with mylar tubing to give it shine/flash and a fish scale appearance.  Next, I added stick-on eyes.  Then I coated all (even on the treble hook) thread wraps and entire body with Clear Cure Goo (a UV-cured epoxy alternative).  This covering is hard, smooth and slick.  A gar's teeth should NOT get hung up in it to prevent the hook from finding purchase in the fish's mouth.

All in all...this fly appears to incorporate MOST of the desireable features of an effective gar fly.  The last item one could try is some sort of soft but stiff material that could be used ahead of the hook so that it doesn't snag on sticks and flooded vegetation.

I can't wait to try these out!


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  2. Look pretty good to me... and I guess you could call me a semi-successful gar fly fisherman. I've caught most of the ones I've caught over the years on poppers. I've always wanted to try the rope/entanglement flies, but never have. I would say I had about a 1 to 3 ratio of success on cork and deer hair poppers/divers back when I was younger- wading and sight fishing for them in a river slough. I imagine these patterns will improve that ratio significantly.

    1. Maybe if I could keep them from jumping it would help prevent them from throwing my hook....but EVERY one I hooked this past years jumped! It is pretty exciting when they do that, though. I don't mind losing all the time, but I do want to WIN some of the time! :)
      Jay, if you have the necessary materials on hand, tie some of these up and give 'em a try. I'd love to hear if you're successful with them!

    2. Jumping was never really an issue for me. Most of the gar I have caught have been Longnose, but I have caught Spotted (built similar to Shortnose) a few times as well. The Longnose tend to dive and pull like a catfish in my experience. There was one that frequented the slough that was pushing the 72" record. I only ever got her to take a fly once and it lasted about 2 seconds... that fish was over 5 feet long... seriously. I've only seen one other close to that size in a stream where I fish for Smallmouths. She was being courted by several smaller males and since they were spawning they had zero interest in feeding. If you can get to that Longnose water, you may have more luck and they do tend to get a little bigger. I don't have all of the exact materials, but I think I could come pretty close in approximating with what I have on hand. I'll have to give them a try.

  3. I have gotten one and tried for MANY. Like you they have shook the hook or gotten out of the rope fly. Would love to try these. Let us know how you do and I may have to tie a few up. Best, Bryan

  4. Nice ties Dave but I believe the secret to better hook up success is to add a stinger hook to your fly.
    Check out these guys

    1. The trailing treble hook really sort of IS the stinger hook. :)
      Those guy at the Bay of Quinte have some excellent Longnose Gar fishing there!! Cool video.

  5. Very nice flies. I love the treble hooks. Thanks.

    1. Thanks! I have high hopes that these will work! :)

  6. Hey Dave, love these ties. I just moved out to Iowa from Montana and am itching to hook some fish in streams out here. I'd been running a 3wt in MT and am wondering what wt you recommend for moving waters here - mainly for those white bass?

  7. Hello Grant, welcome to Iowa! You can do nearly all your flyfishing in Iowa with a Medium Fast 5wt, on up to a Fast 6wt. White Bass in the 13"+ range will give a great fight on either set-up. We have carp in many of our warmwater rivers here, as well as some of the lakes. If you want to target them (you should!), I'd go with the 6wt. For other warmwater species, like Largemouth or Smallmouth Bass, Crappies, and Bluegills, a 5wt will work just fine. I hope that hleps, let me know if you have more questions.