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Fly Box Porn  ─ Part 6

Bob Petti's Smallmouth Bass Fly Selection

Photos by Bob Petti

Fly fishers everywhere love smallmouth bass and Bob Petti is no different.  How can anyone resist the temptation of bronze on a fly? 

Although we've never met, I've known Bob for several years.  The Internet is an amazing invention.  You can converse with people all over the world and develop friendships, even though you've neither shaken each other's hand nor heard each other's voice.  Bob Petti is a frequent participant on the Streamers@ email list.  He's also a principle of The Global Fly Fisher, one of my favorite Internet sites.  After participating in a few fly swaps with Bob, and seeing the amazing detail he put into his contribution to my Mary Orvis Marbury article featured on GFF, I just knew I'd have to cajole him into contributing an installment of Fly Box Porn for Fly Fish Ohio.  Bob kindly agreed to give us a peak into his fly boxes. What we got is an installment of Fly Box Porn that was definitely worth waiting for! 

Bob, how long have you been fly fishing and when did you start tying your own flies?

I started fly fishing in 1991. My father was an outdoorsman and a fly fisherman, but he sold most of his equipment except a couple spin rods by the time I was old enough to know better. Most of the fishing we did was bait fishing at road crossings for stocked trout, which honestly was never much fun. I didn't really take to fishing until after I got out of college. My girlfriend's father was an avid outdoorsman and sort of took me under his wing and taught me about trout fishing with lures, reading water, wading creeks, and the whole nine yards. Compared to the "rod in a forked stick" fishing of my youth, this was great fun. Gary and I spent countless hours fishing together, often joined by his brother-in-law Bruce. One day the three were fishing the Black River in the southern Adirondacks when Bruce decided to use his fly rod. I remember sitting on a rock
and watching intently - it was the first time I had ever seen anyone cast a fly. It was amazing to watch. I bought my first rod later that year, an 8' 6wt Diawa.

I started tying flies about a year later. I guess I am an engineer not only by education, because my whole life I have always enjoyed making things and figuring out how things work. I will admit one of the major draws to fly fishing is the chance to make all sorts of "stuff" - flies, leaders, even the rods themselves. There is just so much tinkering involved that a whole winter can be consumed just fiddling with this and that.

I now enjoy tying flies simply for the act of tying flies. I've long since gotten to the point where I don't really need any new flies to fish with, as my fly boxes are bursting and it seems like I get less and less time each year to lose them to streamside trees or sunken logs.

What are the local waters you fish and what's your favorite fish to chase?

I live in the Rondout Valley region of New York, which is situated between the Catskill and Shawangunks mountains. Within an hour drive are most of the famed Catskill trout waters - the Beaverkill, Willowemoc, Neversink, and the Esopus. Between those in the magic circle and the countless little mountain streams, there is more fishing near home than I can ever hope to explore in my lifetime.

While I have spent quite a bit of time chasing other fish with the fly, I am at heart a trout fisherman.

We won't hold that against you, Bob!  What drove you to this selection of smallmouth flies? Tell us a bit about how you fish them.

When I first started fly fishing, I spent a lot of time chasing smallmouth bass. Of the two spots Gary and I spent much of our time fishing, one was a beautiful little smallmouth stream. In fact, that was the place where I caught my first ever bass, fly or no fly. I remember to this day being shocked at how hard a bass pulls - even the little ones.

After IBM moved me to the Hudson Valley in 2002, my smallmouth fly box was neglected as I explored all the trout water around my home. By the time I went back to my old smallie stomping ground, I had nothing left but a couple orange grizzly wooly buggers and maybe a Clouser or two.

This past winter, with my trout flies well stocked, I decided to do something about that situation. Like most fly anglers, I keep a list of flies I'd like to tie and have in my fishing boxes. So I picked up that list, sat down at the vise, and the results are what you see here. This batch of flies does not represent the entire list of flies (some notable exceptions include hellgrammite imitations and some Gerbubble Bugs and sliders), at least I feel prepared should I find myself back home on my favorite little smallie creek.

Describe your favorite outfit - rod, reel, line, leader. What's your  "go to" when you don't know what conditions will be like?

Oh boy!  Well, I'll try to keep this smallmouth oriented, obviously. It's hard to pick a "go to" rod when... 

And oh - before I continue - you can bet your butt that Sage's latest tourney bass fly rod announcement has caught my attention!! Bass fly rods under 8 feet! I'm there. I've been wanting to build an 8' 8wt rod forever, and I'm lamenting never buying one of the old St. Croix Imperial 8 foot 7/8wt blanks when I had the chance.


My current favorite smallmouth setup is a Lamiglass Perigee 8' 5/6wt rod. I don't often fish really large or super heavy flies, so this rod paired with a SA Ultra 4 WF6F suits my smallmouth fishing style perfectly. My 6wt reel is an old Hardy made CFO IV which is pretty beat up along the rim, but is still smooth as butter and sings a good song.

What's your dream fish?  What do you want to catch... what fishing fantasy haunts you?

Yikes!!! That's a tough one!

In 1997 my wife and I took a trip to Nova Scotia for a week, staying at a friend's house in Dartmouth. One day while we were there, my buddy Roddy and I snuck out for a day of fishing on Cape Breton for Atlantic Salmon.  The river we fished was far more rugged than any I had ever seen - you had to be part mountain goat and part triathlete to just navigate the trail and get into fishing position. I had heard so many stories of the river and the fishing that I just couldn't believe I was actually there.

My friend's eye for spotting fish was amazing. As we walked along a ridge above one pool he spotted a salmon and a pair of grilse next to a rock, well out into this deep pool that was formed by two steep rock walls.  The only place to stand and cast was on a rock near the head of the pool, where it was impossible to see the rock or the fish, He stayed on the ledge and called out signals.

At his direction, I was fishing a "Yellow Tailed Natural Bug", which was his favorite dry - a sort of scraggly fly with a spun natural hair body, brown hackle, and tail of yellow calf tail on a Mustad 3906 hook. I would cast out as far as I could and feed line into the drift so the fly would work its way downstream to the fish. Every now and then he'd scream out "She's coming!" as the salmon would react to the fly passing over. He was dying and my hands were shaking!  I had never been that nervous fishing before - or since for that matter.

The boil happened, without warning, after was seemed like a million casts. I had so much slack out that I had difficulty setting the hook, but lucky for me the fish bolted toward the tail of the pool and soon I was tight to my first Atlantic Salmon. And Oh-My-God did this fish make my reel scream! Then it turned and came at me. At first I thought it came off, but Roddy kept yelling and I was reeling like my life was at stake and pretty soon the fish was tight again.

Just as I started to think maybe this was gonna work out, the fish bolted again. Then nothing. With my legs still shaking, I reeled in to find the barbless fly still attached to the leader. To this day I wonder if I didn't set the hook or if it was just one of those things. Downstream hookups can be a crap shoot even when the operator has a clue what they are doing, and I sure didn't that day.

Roddy scrambled down from the ledge, hootin' and hollerin', and we toasted the hookup with a small bottle of Jack Daniels he had stashed away in his backpack. It's a moment I won't ever forget.  We saw more fish that day, but neither of us had a hookup.

Ten years later, that single fish remains the fish of a lifetime. I put that Yellow Tailed Natural Bug in a special box that sits on my tying desk - the box of hero flies that have had their number retired.  Every time I look at it my heart quickens.

I've gone to a few others places to fish, and lost other fish, but that river, that fish, and that day remain to this day the experience of a lifetime. I am far too out of shape to ever attempt sprinting up the trail like we did that day, but if I could teleport myself to any one place to fish - I think that would be the place.  With Roddy back on the ledge spotting for me.

Floating Bugger

This is sort of a no brainer. I saw this fly years ago in some fly fishing magazine, and it just struck me dumb. What a great idea. Lots of moving parts under the water to draw attention, with a little soft popping head up front to keep it high in the water. I love this fly.

Bass Professor

I tied this one, and the next one, on a whim this winter, imagining situations where I want to swing a small weightless fly across a shallow smallmouth pool. Sure a streamer would do the same thing, but these were fun to tie.

Bass Hare's Ear

This joins the Professor to form a tag team of bass wet flies. This one is a little flashier than a trout hare's ear in that I used a dubbing mixed with some shredded holographic material.

"Sorta" Casual Dress

I can't really call this fly Polly's Casual Dress, because I took some liberties with the ingredients and tying style, but it is essentially the same fly. I tie this fly sorta large, a little over an inch including the tail material. It's a big juicy buggy looking thing that smallies will crave.

Bullet Muddler

This pattern was inspired by an entry in the GFF Flymeister competition a few years ago, with a bit of inspiration from a Bloody Muddler (minus the blood). I like using natural colored materials for this fly, with an interesting patterned hackle for the main wing. Otherwise - a very command and simple pattern.

Footer Special

What in the world is a landlocked salmon trolling pattern doing in a smallmouth fly assortment? Because it's just a good fly, that's why. It's colorful, and sometimes bass like color. And besides, it is just a darn pretty fly. This version is not tied exactly like the trolling fly, as I did not include the yellow bucktail but rather tied with "hackle on top". Normally this fly is tied in a Rangeley fashion, with the wings and cheeks on the side of the fly.

Marabou Deciever

This is a new fly for the arsenal this year, a marabou tailed deceiver pattern. There is nothing special about this fly, it is just a small minnow imitation tied in Lefty's style. The inspiration is clearly the flies by Art Scheck in Fly Tyer a few years ago.

Lefty's Deceiver

A very traditional deceiver style minnow. Again, you can see the Art Scheck influence in the choice of a salmon hook for a smaller sized deceiver.

Lefty's Red & White

Are you kidding me? This is the most unlikely fly in the world, but it is great. I really nailed 'em on the Chemung River with this fly one morning. It's easy to reach out with this fly as it is neither heavy or really wind resistant. It sinks slowly, too, so it's good for slack water situations. Another "must have".

Clouser Deep Minnow

There isn't much to say about this fly that hasn't already been said. It joins the Near 'Nuff Sculpin on my "must have" list as it is just simply a great fly. I mean - really - with this and a surface bug, you'd be set for 90 percent of all your smallmouth fishing needs.

Clouser Darter (Orange)

This is a merger of the Foxee Clouser and an Orange Darter pattern. I've always been intrigued by the Darter flies, and this pattern seemed like a natural since the smallies back home always nailed flies with orange in the mix.

Estaz Tube Jig

I tie this style fly in three colors - the white you see here, all chartreuse, and all charcoal gray. I try to use tailing materials of varying density, so the strands move independently of one another (or that's the theory - could be bunk).

Glass Minnow

This is another new one for this year. I've wanted to try this pattern for smallmouth forever. A converted saltwater pattern, it just looks so fishy. This one was tied with somewhat unconventional materials, but it is still a glass minnow at heart. That craft fur is so bright it hurts the eyes.

Waterman's Silver Outcast

This has always been a good smallie fly for me. I remember one evening in particular on Owego Creek where it empties into the Susquehanna River where smallies were chasing minnows. This fly was amazing that night. As tied here, it is very traditional except for the hook and the body. I tie it with a rib to add a little protection to the mylar.

Matuka Brookie

This is another whim fly. The first fly I ever caught a smallmouth bass on was a red and badger matuka. I tied this fly not because I think juvenile brook trout are bass food, but because I just thought it would look cool. And it might hook a fish.

Parson's Clody

This fly was lifted from "The Complete Guide to New Zealand Trout Lures". A yellow and grizzly matuka with a splash of red at the tail. This oughta be a killer.

'Lectric Leach

Nothing but a kicked up bugger, really, but it is still a pretty cool looking fly. Something about that turn of pearl in the head gets me going. Plus a fly never suffers from the addition of peacock herl. A fish catcher, for sure.

Near Nuff Sculpin

This is on the "Don't go smallie fishing without it" list for me. I've always enjoyed the tying of Dave Whitlock, especially his collection of warmwater flies. This is top of the list and if I'm without a few I truly feel handicapped.

Super Bugger

I saw a Super Bugger for the first time in a National Feathercraft catalog, and thought "Whoa - what an excellent smallmouth fly". This particular version has replaced the orange grizzly bugger I had been using prior. The dusky orange color has been very good for us, which we figure means the smallies are taking it for crawfish. This is really nothing but a Near Nuff Sculpin with a chickabou tail and some rubber legs sprouting from behind the eyes.

Gartside Gurgler

Another "do not leave home without" fly. I wonder how many people slapped their foreheads when they saw this fly. It seems so obvious, but of course that is what makes Jack so special. He creates flies that seem obvious, but nobody thought of beforehand. The mark of a true innovator. Of course, this fly has been bastardized and imitated up the yazoo. I tie these smaller than a salty version.

Float Sliders

These are nothing more than floating walleye jigs with a bunch of marabou tied in at the tail. You can find these in any bass fishing supply house or catalog. I think I got these at Gander Mountain. The small size make great bass flies - the sort of thing you can wiggle on the surface without making too much fuss. I won't list the fly recipe - there really isn't anything to say.


This is where form and function sort of part ways. Making poppers is just plain fun, and we usually leave practically in the dust shortly into the popper making project. These were all tied using the class white hard foam popper bodies. I used a cheap air brush with dilluted acrylic paint for the bodies. The tails and legs were just whatever looked good.

One last look at the quintessential smallmouth bass fly box, all packed up and ready for adventure....

Fly Pattern Recipes

Floating Bugger
Hook: Mustad 80400BLN (out of production, sadly)
Tail: Black Marabou (optionally w/ pearl Krystal flash)
Body: Olive Chenille
Hackle: Natural grizzle, tied by the butt up front and wound
backward to the tail
Rib: Gold wire, wound forward through hackle


Bass Professor
Hook: Mustad 3399A, size 4
Tail: Red hackle
Body: Yellow Floss, somewhat heavy
Rib: Gold Mylar tinsel
Wing: Gray Mallard
Hackle: Speckled brown hen back, tied as collar


Bass Hare's Ear
Hook: Mustad 3399A, size 4
Tail: Bronze Mallard
Body: Sparkly spiky hare's ear dubbing
Rib: Gold Mylar tinsel
Hackle: Speckled brown heck back, tied as collar


Sorta Casual Dress
Hook: Whatever 1xl nymph hook you like
Tail: A small bunch of muskrat fur, including the under-fur. Keep
this relatively sparse.
Body: Gray squirrel dubbing brush (home made). The traditional recipe calls for a hand rolled noodle of muskrat.
Collar: Muskrat fur, including long guard hairs, twisted in dubbing loops and wrapped as a hair hackle.
Head: Black hare's ear dubbing, twisted in dubbing loop and
wrapped like hair hackle. Traditional calls for back ostrich


Bullet Head Muddler
Hook: Mustad R74, Size 4
Tail: Raccoon tail, light
Body: Gold Mylar Tinsel
Rib: Oval Gold Tinsel
Wing: Raccoon tail, light, topped with natural variant hackle
Head: Deer hair, muddle style, w/ gold code


Footer Special
Hook: Mustad 9575, #2
Body: Silver Mylar Tinsel
Rib: Oval Silver Tinsel (omit on traditional fly)
Belly: Peacock herl underneath blue bucktail
Wing: Red Bucktail topped with yellow hackle
Cheek: Spotted guinea hen

Marabou Deceiver
Hook: Whatever you want. I think this is Mustad 3399A
Tail: White marabou and a few strands of pearl Krystal flash

Wing: Gray squirrel tail on top, white calf tail below.
Throat: A small bunch of webby red hackle or schlappen
Head: Black with painted eyes


Hook: TMC 7999, size 4 or 6
Tail: White saddle hackle, tied concave side in (no flare)
and a few stands of pearl Flashabou
Wing: Brown over white bucktail, sparse (use a crinkly bucktail to give the appearance of density without a lot a material)
Throat: Red webby hackle or schlappen
Head: Black w/ painted eyes


Lefty's Red and White
Hook: Whatever. I like a short shank hook, like a 3366
Tail: White saddle hackle, tied flared, with a few strands of pearl Flashabou on the sides
Body: Alternating bands of white, then red, then white saddle hackle, filling the entire body space.
Eyes: Silver bead chain


Clouser Minnow
Hook: Mustad 3399A, size 6 or 4
Wing: chartreuse over white bucktail, tied Clouser style, with a few strands of pearl or chartreuse Krystal flash mixed in.
Eyes: Lead (or sub) dumbbell eyes, red w/ black pupil.

Clouser Darter - Orange
Hook: Mustad 3399A, size 6 or 4
Tail: Orange Polar Bear or Skunk, with a couple strands of gold Krystal flash and bronze Flashabou.
Wing: Raccoon tail, dark over light, tied Clouser style.
Eyes: Lead (or sub) dumbbell eyes, red w/ black pupil.

Pearl Estaz Jig
Hook: Mustad 3399A, size 6 or 4
Tail: Mixed strands of round rubber and silicone leg material, with a few strands of flash material mixed in.
Body: Estaz, color to match tail
Eyes: Lead (or sub) dumbbell eyes, red w/ black pupil.

Glass Minnow
Hook: TMC 9394
Body: Clear V-Rib over holographic silver tinsel
Wing: White craft fur under chartreuse (electric!) craft fur.
Topping: A few strands of baitfish colored angel hair
Throat: A small bunch of webby red hackle or schlappen
Head: Silver with painted eyes

Waterman's Silver Outcast
Hook: TMC 9394
Body: Flat mylar silver tinsel
Rob: Oval silver tinsel
Wing: White under yellow under blue bucktail, sparse
Topping: Peacock herl
Head: Black w/ painted eyes (original does not have eyes)

Matuka Brookie
Hook: TMC 7666, #2
Tail: Layered white, orange, and black hackle (brookie fin style)
Wing: Olive grizzly, Matuka style
Body: Cream Aunt Lydia's rug yarn, wrapped full (give the fly a belly)
Rib: Fine Oval Gold Tinsel
Throat: Layered white, orange, and black hackle (brookie fin style)
Collar: Very soft olive grizzly

Parson's Glody
Hook: TMC 7666, #2
Tail: A small bunch of red hackle
Wing: Natural Cree or "honey grizzle", Matuka style
Body: Yellow wool yarn or chenille
Rib: Fine Oval Gold Tinsel
Collar: Same as wing

Whitlock's 'Lectric Leech

Hook: TMC 7999, #2
Tail: Black Marabou (this is arctic fox instead), a few strands of peacock herl, and a few strands of pearl flashabou
Body: Black dubbing or chenille, with a topping of peacock.  The peacock is pulled over the body prior to wrapping hackle
and ribbing, the tips adding to the tail
Hackle: Black saddle hackle
Rib: Gold wire or heavy black thread
Head: Black with a turn of pearl Flashabou


Near Nuff Sculpin
Hook: Mustad 3399A, Size 6 or 4
Tail: Two webby olive grizzly hen or rooster body feathers, tied with the concave sides facing (no flare). A couple strands of pearl
or olive Krystal flash should be on each side.
Body: Olive dubbing. I use Dave's blend, but any spiky olive fur that matches the hackle color would work. I make up a bunch of dubbing brushes before I start tying these flies, to make the work of wrapping that large body an easier task.
Hackle: An olive grizzly hen saddle or rooster body feather, tied in by the butt near the eyes and wrapped backwards toward the tail. Make the first couple turns together with a bit of the hackle fluff, to create a collar effect up front.
Rib: Copper or Gold Wire, wrapped forward through the hackle.
Eyes: Lead (or sub) dumbbell eyes, yellow/ black pupils

Super Bugger (Crawdad)
Hook: Mustad 3399A, size 4
Tail: Orange grizzle "chickabou"
Body: Dirty orange dubbing (whatever you want)
Hackle: Orange grizzly hen or rooster body, tied by the butt up front and wound back toward the tail, with a few turns up front
including the fluff to make a full collar.
Rib: Heavy thread or gold wire
Legs: Rubber or silicone legs behind the eyes, color to suit
Eyes: Lead (or sub) dumbbell w/ yellow eyes


Gartside's Gurgler
Hook: Mustad 3366, size 4 or 6
Tail: White bucktail and a couple strands of pearl Krystal flash
Body: Pearl estaz
Back: White foam, gurgle style

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