Fly Tying Videos
Fly Fishing Podcast
FFOhio Team
Warm Water Rivers
Flatwater Guides
Site Map

Adventures in Fly Tying... April 2007 Special Episode

Joe's 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!



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 bucktail

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   QuickTime




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 hold on!!!

Till next time, tight lines and gentle flows…

© Copyright 2005 - 2010.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this web site may be reproduced in any fashion without the express written consent of Fly Fish Ohio.

Send email to the Webmaster   This page was last updated 08/09/10