Adventures in Fly Tying... September
The Arkansas Bucktail
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard
Paul Stroud, in Streamer Fly Tying
and Fishing by noted author and angler Joseph D. Bates,
made these observations about a fly he'd designed; "This fly is an
offshoot of Dr. Hoag's Hair Basser which was a great fly in many
ways but which lacked several things I tried to include in the Ozark
Bucktail. It needed to be streamlined and tied more securely
on the hook. I also changed the rudder to make it travel with the
hook point up. In the past twenty years the Ozark
Bucktail has taken all types of gamefish from the noble bluegill to
the leaping tarpon. It is tied in sizes 8 to 8/0 in many
combinations of buck and skunk tail hair. It is not tied to be
weedless, but due to the fact that it travels upside down it is
semi-weedless. It is effectively fished with or without a
I've always fished it with a spinner. As a
young man I knew this fly as the Arkansas Bucktail. It was shown
to me more than twenty-five years ago by one of the salesmen at the now
defunct Tight Lines sporting goods store. Tight Lines, the
quintessential 70's fly shop, was located not far from my boyhood home
on Massachusetts' South Shore. I've long since forgotten the name
of that patient and knowledgeable fellow, but I'll never forget the
hours I spent in that store, nor the lessons I learned from its staff
The Arkansas Bucktail, or Ozark Bucktail if you
prefer, is all-American, warm water classic. It can be described
as Spartan, utilitarian, or even frugal. At its most basic, the
Arkansas Bucktail is a play in one act. All one needs to tie a
great fly is a single, quality bucktail! In the 21st Century we
can be a bit more decadent with its dressing, though. Use of a bit
of Crystal Flash, thread in bright florescent colors and perhaps
some holographic eyes to tailor the fly to your home waters.
Like a Lefty's Deceiver or Clouser Minnow, the
Arkansas Bucktail is more a style of tying than a specific pattern.
And because of the reverse-tied bucktail wing, this fly has a deep body
profile. If you stop to consider that gizzard shad and threadfin
shad are prolific warm water baitfishes, it's no wonder this fly is
effective. Well over 100 years ago bass fishermen had already worked out
a way to "match the hatch"! Try this fly in saltwater, too!
Hook Mustad 3366, sizes 8 to 3/0. Size
Thread .Choice of colors, 140 or 210 denier.
Tail Bucktail, same as used for the wing.
Body Tying thread
Wing Bucktail in choice of colors. Select long, straight,
thin bucktail with a good "bounce" and spring to the individual hairs..
Hairs from the tip of the bucktail are the best.
Head Built tying thread coated with expoxy.
Optional holographic eyes.
Windows Media Video
1. Attach thread
behind the hook eye and wrap the shank of the hook with a smooth
under-wrap, to a point above the barb of the hook. Select a
quality bunch of bucktail about 1/8 inch in diameter for the tail of
a size 2 fly. One of the secrets to making this fly effective
is not to overdress it. Keep its intrinsic translucency by
using multiple ties of small quantities of high quality materials.
2. Tie on the bucktail
so it projects about one and one-half times to two times the hook
length beyond the barb. Trim the butts at a smooth angle and
wrap a neat conical transition. Coating the thread with a bit
of head cement after each body segment will really help to make this
a tough fly. Using a drop of super glue (thin, just a wee
drop) will make this an indestructible fly. Make sure to give
super glue a chance to dry before proceeding to the next step.
3. Invert the hook in
the vise. The remainder of the fly will be tied "upside
4. Select a bunch of
bucktail of the same size as the tail. Spit it to both sides
of the hook point and tie the bucktail in without trimming the
butts. Make several tight wraps to hold the bucktail in place.
Fold the bucktail over the hook shank and pull it straight down with
half on each side of the shank. Make several tight wraps back
up the bucktail to secure the cut butts in a mirror of the tapered
5. This screen capture
shows the second body segment completed. A drop of super glue
before tying on the next bunch will make this fly tough enough for
pike and bluefish - you might get two or three fish before the hair
is all gone but the body will still be there!
6. Attach the third
body segment in the same manner as the previous segments.
7. The stepped shape
of the body begins to show.
8. Continue to add
bunches of deer hair until you're about three hook eye diameters
from the eye. Then add a few strands of crystal flash or
9. To make a two-tone
fly, select a contrasting color for the final bunch of bucktail.
Some great color combinations include brown-over-white,
chartreuse-over-white, red-over-white, red-over-yellow and
10. Tie the final
bunch of bucktail down with several tight wraps. Bring the
thread to a point close to the hook eye without completely crowding
the bucktail over, wrap a neat head and whip finish. Add a
drop of super glue or head cement.
Trim the bucktail butts at an angle from the hook bend to the eye.
You can tailor the shape of the fly by playing with the angle and
amount of hair you leave on the bottom. The bottom shouldn't
be more than 1/4 the length of the top wing at its longest, though.
Leaving the hair longer will prevent the fly from riding with its
hook point up.
Add holographic eyes, stick-on eyes, or even painted eyes as you see
fit. I believe a set of eyes makes a BIG difference when
fishing for white bass, stripers and hybrids and less of a
difference with largemouth.