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Adventures in Fly Tying... August 2007

Tying the Puglisi Baitfish
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard

Enrico Puglisi is a transplanted Sicilian chef who found himself overwhelmingly and almost uncontrollably fascinated with fly fishing first the beaches of Long Island and then the entire coastal opportunity.  Clear water and sophisticated fish quickly prove the worth of "matching the hatch" to any serious saltwater angler, and Puglisi is no different.  His sharp eye and focused talent drove him to work with new materials and invent original techniques for creating flies that deliver the translucency, inner glow and the subtle shadings of natural baitfish and shellfish.  Among the patterns he's created, none demonstrates the power of style so much as the Peanut Butter series of baitfish imitations.

Puglisi-style tying is a modern implementation of the "high-tie" style of streamer combined with the sculptive artistic freedom of spun deer hair.  Using hygrophobic synthetic materials and embracing adhesives and molded eyes  makes this style capable of amazing realism coupled with persuasive action.  Because the materials don't absorb (much) water, it's possible to imitate even very large baitfish while maintaining reasonable line weights. 

Experiment with the Puglisi style and remember you can create slim profile flies "in the round" to imitate various stone roller and madtom type baitfish, too.  Shad patterns, alewives, shiners and bluegill are also easy to mimic.  A box of carefully constructed imitations of actual prey species you catch and copy is the best tool to open the door to bigger fish.


Hook: Do It  254 or similar tinned, nickel or stainless hook, size 6 to 3/0
Thread: Mono tying thread or a color of Flymaster + (210 denier) that matches the overall color scheme
Eye: Holographic 3D attached with epoxy

Body: Puglisi fibers or a similar non-tapered synthetic

Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 



Puglisi flies can be tied in any color and size you can imagine.  There is a wealth of established patterns available and a quick search on the Internet will give you specific imitations for many coastal baitfishes.  For general smallmouth, largemouth and hybrid bass fishing I like a "shad" shaped imitation that features a some chartreuse and a prominent eye.  The Puglisi Baitfish fits the bill.
For maximum transparency and inner sparkle, use a nickel-plated hook and a clear mono or color co-coordinated thread.
I like to start with a first line of Angel Hair or Wing 'n Flash material.  This synthetic is very reflective and also is opaque when viewed in silhouette, providing both a denser lateral line and proper flash in just one tying step.
The fly itself is tied using EP Fibers, which come in a myriad of colors.  This is a trilobal type of synthetic that doesn't taper from butt to tip and is very, very fine in diameter.  Experiment with other synthetics using the tying method illustrated below.  Many materials lend themselves to this style of tying and will deliver an almost infinite pallet of color, texture, bulk and transparency.
Start by tying the Wing 'N Flash as a tail. Tie it in at about the midpoint.  If ever there was a fly that defined "more is less," this is it.  Use half of what you think you need and then only tie half of that on!  Try using a minimal amount of thread wraps, too.
Separate a very small amount of the EP material from the hank.  If your fly is less than 1/4 the length of the material you can cut the material in half, otherwise you'll tie on the entire length at the midpoint.  You want as much material forward of the tie-in point as behind.  Fold the material that is pointing forward underneath the hook to build a belly and wide profile.

To stack a color along the back, tie it on using the loop over method and bring both ends straight up.  Use the same technique to stack colors along the belly or breast.

Tie in sparse bunches until you have the hook covered.  Less is more.  I've used about 1/3 too much material on the fly shown to the right, most of which I trim off in the final steps.

Originally a static-free bone comb was recommended to me for this step. It is necessary to comb out the tangles and get the EP Fibers to blend.  I've found a soft toothbrush is even better.  If you find static electricity a problem, wipe the fly with a dryer sheet before combing.
Once you've got the fly blended and flowing it's time to trim to shape.  I like curved scissors for this step.  Work slowly to get a nice profile and proper taper to the fly.  Tapering from thick to thin as you work back towards the tail keeps a more opaque profile towards the head of the fly.  This is a very natural and subtle strike trigger in clear water under bright conditions.
Add a bit of 1 minute epoxy and stick on holographic sculpted eyes to complete the fraud.  At this point you can also put the fly on a piece of paper and use a permanent marker to add spots, stripes or splashes of color.

One Last Look...

Till next time, tight lines and cool flows…

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