Marabou Bugger in the Salt

My Marabou bugger looking a little worse for wear. This fly has caught a 4kg bass and numerous bass around the Kg mark. It has caught 10’s of Bluegill in the dam in our garden, 5 Garrick, 3 Black tipped Kingfish, and a stone bream. Either this is great new versatile fly pattern or it just shows how little fish care about what’s in front of them. I think the latter. 

I have to admit that it’s not about the fly. As pretty as I think some of my fly tying creations are, it all means very little through the eyes of a fish. My wife would say that I waste a lot of time behind the vice, however I would say that I have fun creating something cosmetically pleasing to offer a fish. When it comes to catching fish, be it a Trout or a Trevalli it’s the presentation that’s the most important factor in catching them.

 Last week’s experience was a classic example of presentation over pattern, or maybe I have hit on a new pattern of salt water fly (however I have my doubts).
Last week I got back from a trip to Manteku on the Wild Coast. It was a short 3 night getaway for Jenny’s birthday. I took my fly rod and I thought that Jenny had kindly packed my fly tying kit. I fly fish so seldom in the sea that I don’t even have any sea flies, but I thought I could tie a few flies while down there. To my horror the plastic box that I thought had my fly tying kit in it, only had linen and towels! I suppose that’s what you get for letting your better half do all the packing while you do some last minute farming. 

Fortunately I found a large #4 Olive Bead- Headed Marabou Bugger hooked into the cork handle of my fly rod. Why on earth I left it there, I don’t know but I was relieved to have at least something to tie to the end of my line. I tied the fly for Bass and I actually caught my biggest ever bass one that very fly a few months ago, but it doesn’t resemble any salt water fly that I’ve seen or used. 

Manteku is as pristine a place as any along the wild coast. I’ve visited or hiked along most of its length, and I think it has to be my favourite of all the places. We stayed in the Drifters camp which has everything you need in a self catering destination. There is a beautiful estuary lined with natural forest and mangrove swamps, a beach, and importantly a large shallow area for Olli to splash around in. 

On the second afternoon the neap tide was starting to push into the estuary mouth and the conditions looked good to throw a fly. I must admit that while standing waist deep in the waves, my #8 in my hand and and and something that resembled a bass fly tied on, I had this feeling that I was wasting my time. Not having thrown a fly of any sorts for a good 3 months, this was more about wetting line (and getting dunked I might add) than catching a fish. Jenny was going to mock me and my fish catching skills, again! 

It must have been on my 10th cast and I was into a fish. I burst out laughing as I reeled and landed in my first ever Garrick on fly. Not more than a 1.5 lbs but it gave a fantastic account of itself. After half an hour I had a other 2 similar sized Garrick landed. This was already better than I had ever done on the Wild Coast before. Feeling pretty chuffed with myself, I headed back up to camp, but via the estuary. After a few throws in the estuary, much to my surprise I landed 2 Black tipped Kingfish (trevalli). Also a first for me. They were also small, probably about a pound or so. Although I am a small stream trout nut, I have to confess that while fishing the in the sea, it’s incredibly exciting finding out what’s on the end of your line. 

After lunch I headed down to the estuary mouth for another short session. Within a few casts I was into another Garrick and another 2 followed shortly after before it went dead. I decided that I needed to try catch something edible like a black tail as Jen was wanting a fish for dinner, so headed for the rocky galleys to the north. I have caught blacktail on fly before and I remember them being quite easy on a fly.  Again I was sceptical that a any gulley dwelling fish would like my marabou bugger. Again I was wrong, but it wasn’t a black tail that I caught, it was a Stone bream (another 1st on fly), and a definitely big enough for me to keep for dinner. 

Now I know these catches are pretty insignificant in garnered terms, but to catch them on an olive bead-headed marabou bugger certainly was a surprise. It’s made me think a bit about the materials used in salt water. Aside from the colour of my fly, which seemed completely wrong to me, marabou seemed exactly the right material for tying up a bait fish imitation. As that fly is stripped through the water the marabou pulsates beautifully to give the fly a lot more life than a conventional salt water streamer type fly. I’m sure that the fish also won’t mind the standard fresh water bead-head rather than the dumbell eyes as salt flies. A advantage I saw with the marabou fly was that when it is out the water the body is sleek and aerodynamic compared to a standard salt fly but it opens up in the water into  big profile. A standard salt fly like a Clouser has a lot of wind resistance while casting compared to the marabou fly.

When I eventually get back behind the vice I will be trying out some new salty marabou flies to try out on my next visit to the Wild Coast. Watch this space.

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