Adventures in Fly Tying...
April 2007 Special
Rootbeer Roundhead Jig
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard
In the true spirit of Fly Fish Ohio, we've
brought you something a bit different this time around. Not
everyone fishes with a fly rod. More importantly, even the most
ardent fly fisher has the occasion to put down the long rod and pick
up a baitcaster or spinning rod. If you love fishing then you're
willing to adapt to the conditions at hand. After all, what
would you do if you were fishing with a friend from a canoe and the
wind made fly casting an exercise in ersatz body piercing?
Sometimes the wind is just too much, and sometimes the conditions call
for casts beyond the fly rod's range. And, God forbid, sometimes
the fly rod is just the wrong choice. What do you do then?
You pick up your spinning rod and go fishing, of course!
When I started tying flies some thirty-eight years
ago a big part of what I learned was tying shad darts. For a New
Englander, especially a 10 year old kid, to fish in April or May
without spinning rod loaded with Stren 6lb test line and a shad
dart was almost unheard of in my neighborhood. The shad run was
the real beginning to the fishing season for the South Shore crowd.
My grandfather didn't fly fish, but he sure loved
to cast a lima-bean shaped white bucktail jig for schoolie stripers,
fluke and bluefish. Once I took up fly tying it wasn't long
before he saw the possibility for his sport. Many was the night
when gramps would come to my room with an idea for a new color or
material combination that was certain to fill the boat. Being an
industrious and inventive fellow, gramps often designed and poured his
own unique jigs using casting sand to make an initial mold. For
a while his favorite jig design was the dog from the Monopoly set!
I still love to tie jigs and I tie quite a few for
myself and my spinfishing friends. There are times when I want
to revisit my roots, so I grab my Falcon spinning rod (thanks Cliff,
it really is a dandy) and Mitchell 308 reel loaded with 6lb test Stren
and head to the creek. When I am in smallmouth country this jig has
become a favorite pattern. I gave a couple of these jigs to Dave
Golowenski of the Columbus Dispatch a few years ago. A couple
months later he related a tale in his newspaper column about a trip to
Lake Erie. Evidently the fishing was off and, in a last ditch
effort, he tied on the Roundhead Rootbeer. In four casts he
landed two large drum and two chunky smallmouth. The boat
captain, recognizing a good thing when he saw it, cut the jig off
Dave's line and pocketed it. "This is too good to lose, I need
to figure out how its made and make some more!" is what he was
reported to have said. Well, here it is - simple, clean and
effective. Try this pattern this summer and you'll find out that
smallmouth love a hair jig!
Joe's Rootbeer Roundhead Jig
Hook – 1/8 to 1/2 ounce roundhead jig
Finish - Brown powder paint
Thread – .140 denier brown or black
Tail – .Orange bucktail surrounded by rootbeer
Flash - Copper saltwater size Flashabou
Collar – 1 to 3 pheasant rump feathers folded back in the manner
of a soft hackled wet fly
Windows Media click
QuickTime click here
The easiest thing to do if you don't want to pour
your own leadheads is to buy the same kind of jig heads that are
used for fishing soft plastic twister tails and the like. These are
available for just a couple of dollars at almost any fishing
hardware emporium. Here I'm using and Eagle Claw 1/8 ounce jig
head. I seldom tie these over 1/2 ounce as the hook size
throws the pattern out of proportion, but I seldom fish anything
over 1/2 ounce in fresh water anyway. You will need to use small
file to eliminate the lead "barb" on the collar and make the collar
slightly squared so the tying thread doesn't slip.
You can purchase your leadheads already finished
for just a couple dollars. Or you can leave them unfinished,
the fish probably don't care. I like a nice gloss finish on my
jigs and I've found the perfect solution. Heat activated
powder paint is inexpensive, readily available and is made in dozens
of colors. It's far easier to use and gives much tougher and
more consistent results than paint.
Once the jig is prepared you need to start your
thread on the collar. The whole jig is tied on the collar. The
toughest part about tying this jig is keeping the thread from
slipping off the back of the lead. You can't really "boat
tail" the back because that makes the hair flare unnaturally.
Start with a sparse amount of orange bucktail.
You don't want florescent orange, try to find a slightly more
subdued color. Cut a bunch about half the thickness of a
pencil and remove the short fuzz from the ends. The bucktail
should be about twice as long as the jig hook, or maybe a little
more Tie the bucktail on with three loose wraps and use your
thumb to distribute the bucktail evenly around the collar. It
will take on a tubular appearance when it is evenly distributed.
Select some bucktail from a tail dyed "Rootbeer".
Try to use the hair from the part where the white underside blends
into the darker, mottled back of the bucktail. This gives the jig a
slight pattern that makes it look a bit more alive in the water.
You want the darker bucktail to be about one third shorter than the
brighter orange. Spread the bucktail around the collar like
you did for the orange. Then add one strip of saltwater size
Flashabou down each side. Don't use too much flash!
Now select one or two nicely marked feathers from
a rooster ringneck pheasant pelt. I like the greenish feathers
from just below the classic "church window" feathers used on so many
flies. Tie the feathers in by the tip and wrap them
collar-style one at a time. You want nice bulk at the front of
the jig so it tapers when wet.
Finish with several tight thread wraps to make a
neat collar and add a bit of Flexcement to secure everything.
Be careful not to get glue onto the painted jig head as it may
dissolve some of the powder paint. Put the jig aside to dry
and the powderpaint will harden again if you get cement on it.
The finished jig is a lovely little thing.
The fish seem to love it. It's a great imitation of a round
goby, making this a killer pattern for the Great Lakes and,
especially Lake Erie. It's also a great imitation of a
sculpin, darter or crayfish. Try this for big brown trout and