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Boobies for Bass

by Slapout Mike

    Originally called the Booby Nymph and tied for stillwater trout, this is one European fly with tremendous potential for Bass fisherman.  The fly was created in the 1970's by a British angler, Gordon Fraser, for use on Eyebrook Reservoir in Leicestershire, central England. He named them after the fly’s resemblance to a woman's breast.  They were designed to be fished on full sinking line to get the fly near the bottom on deep lakes, yet keep the fly away from moss and other snags.  The fly is cast out, the line allowed to sink to the bottom.  With a short 4-5’ leader, the Booby floats several feet off the bottom.  When the line is retrieved a bit, the Booby dives to the bottom and is allowed to gently float upwards.

    I saw my first Booby [Fly] in the spring of 1994 on the upper Potomac River in Maryland.  Through my work I made the acquaintance of a British RAF officer (Bill) who was also a fly fisherman.  He had been stationed in the U.S. for over a year and not gotten out to fish.  On a whim, I invited him to go with me to the Potomac near Brunswick, Maryland.  This was good smallmouth water and I was doing well regularly with various streamers, woolly buggers and poppers.  At that time, I would launch my canoe at either Brunswick or Point of Rocks and work upstream for most of the day, and then float back.  Most of the time it was wet wading, sometimes up to the neck.  The first time Bill came along, he brought the most beautiful Hardy travel rod—a 4 weight loaded with floating line.  A bit light for the Potomac, but he managed.  His fly box however was another story--nothing but typical size 12 to 18 trout flies and a few Booby nymphs.  I started Bill with a #4 Deer Hair moth.  I was working a white pencil popper.  We both caught fish as we worked up the river.  Bill was a good caster and knew how to handle fish on the line.  On the other hand, Bill was a bit in awe of this wading stuff, let alone wet wading.  He had never done that before in England.  Walking around on the bottom of a big river like the Potomac, sometimes up to his neck, was completely new to him.  By mid morning, Bill was getting the hang of this smallmouth fishing and wanted to try some of his own flies.  But there was nothing in his box that had any chance of working except the Boobies.  All the flies were all too small.  His Booby nymphs were tied on #14 nymph hooks but appeared about the size of a #10 popper.  He had explained to me how they fished them in England on full sink lines for trout in lakes.  He tied one on and fished it like a popper.  They were fuzzy little things with short marabou tails and fuzzy dubbed bodies.  The eyes were little Styrofoam balls wrapped in a bit of netting.  They floated fine and drew a lot of strikes.  Unfortunately, the small hook size precluded many hookups.  Bill stuck with it and managed a few bass on the Booby.  On the float back that afternoon, Bill cast his Booby into a productive riffle and a 3# plus smallmouth struck and stayed hooked.  It was a beautiful fish and one the largest Bill had ever caught on the fly.  It convinced me that this Booby Nymph fly had real potential.

    At home that night, I began to tie some Booby flies using the materials I had at hand.  The first and most important improvement was hook size, which in my mind should be at least #4 or larger.  I also experimented with different methods of creating the Boobies and settled on using Live Body Foam Cylinders that I used for poppers. Over the next few weeks, fishing with Bill on the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, my Bass Booby patterns emerged.  They haven’t fundamentally changed since those days on the river with Bill in 1994.  I’ve been successful with this pattern from Minnesota to Florida for smallmouth, largemouth, spotted and white bass.  It works in any situation where top-water flies are effective.

The Bass Booby

Chartreuse and white Booby with silver tinsel body and white hackle rib

    The Bass Booby is a wounded minnow imitation, or even more precisely a diseased, dying minnow imitation.  I say diseased, because I am personally convinced the “Boobies” resemble the swollen, bloated eyes of a dying baitfish.


·              Hook: Mustad Signature C52SBLN Stinger/Deer Hair #4, 2, 1, 1/0 or equivalent

·         Thread: 3/0 or Kevlar, any color

·         Tail: Marabou, any color -- white, chartreuse and yellow are my favorites, a few stands of krystal flash if desired

·         Body: Chenille (appropriate color), Tinsel Chenille, Leech Chenille, Polar Chenille

·         Boobies: Closed cell foam cylinder ¼” – 3/8” diameter depending on hook size (any color—white, yellow and chartreuse)

Optional Parts:

·         Ribbing: If you use plain chenille for your body, you can palmer hackle around the body just like a Woolly Bugger for a buggier Booby.

         Weed Guard: Add a monofilament weed guard for fishing in heavy cover.

Tying the Booby is a simple five step process.

1.       With the hook securely in the vise, create a good thread base on the hook shank.

2.      Select an appropriate clump of marabou and tie in at the hook bend.  The Marabou tail should be about the same length as the hook.  Make your marabou clump long enough so that the ends can be bound along at least 3/4’s of the shank.  This reduces marabou loss with use and provides for a bit bulkier body. Add krystal or other flash material if desired at this time.  When I add flash, I generally tie half the marabou in first, then the flash, then the remaining marabou.

3.      Wind the thread back to the hook bend.  Select your body material and tie in.  Wind the body material up to within ¼” of the hook eye. Essentially leave enough room to tie in the Boobies.  Secure these wraps near the eye with cement.

4.      Make the Boobies from a foam cylinder.  Cut an approximately ½” inch length of cylinder of foam.  Use sandpaper or some grinding tool to round the ends of the cylinder.  I use a Dremel tool with a coarse sanding wheel.  Round the cylinder BEFORE you tie it in.  My experience has been that rounding is essential.  If the cylinder ends are left flat, the fly is much less aerodynamic and tends to twist badly when casting.

Attach the Boobies. With your tying thread approximately ¼” from the hook eye, lay the foam cylinder across and perpendicular to the hook shank.  You want the hook eye to be in line with or slightly in front of the front edge of the foam cylinder.  Bring the tying thread across the BACK of the cylinder and lay it halfway between the two ends.  Pull down firmly, but not too strong.  The Boobies will begin to form.  Repeat this at three times, each time putting more pressure on the downward pull. Do not bring the thread around the shank until the Boobies are fully formed as you want to compress the foam cylinder with at least three wraps of thread. Once the Boobies are formed, make at least three more wraps but this time wrap the thread around the shank just behind the eye on each alternate wrap.  Secure the thread with your favorite method.  Cement securely on the bottom of the hook as well as behind the Boobies.


Fishing the Bass Booby

Coosa River Spot taken on the Booby

    Fishing the Bass Booby is not much different than fishing any big top-water fly for bass.  It can be fished slow or fast.  The Booby rides low in the water with the body and tail slightly submerged.  Just sitting there, the marabou tail is very enticing, resembling a twitching, dying minnow.  When fished with jerks and pulls, the Booby eyes create a subtle and slightly noisy disturbance, not unlike a fleeing baitfish.  In moving water, I find that swimming the fly along and around weed beds, snags and current seams is the most productive.  Let the current bring the fly alive while keeping it close to the cover and most productive hides.  In still or moving open water, the Booby is best fished with steady jerk and strip retrieves. White and chartreuse Boobies are very effective spotted bass and white bass top-water flies in open water.  Around tight cover, boobies are fished just like any other top-water bug—with patience.  Cast the Booby up next to a log or behind a rock and wait. Let the marabou do its thing and the bass will come.

Boobies for Bluegill and other Panfish

Large male Bluegill taken on the Bass Booby

    For some reason, smaller top-water Boobies draw a lot of strikes from pan fish, but hookups are fewer.  Even when tied on #10 hooks, the boobies are generally at least 3/8” wide and this is a mouthful for typical size pan fish.  However, occasionally a heavyweight Bluegill will attack the Bass Booby aggressively and hook up. When fished in the traditional full sink line method the Booby is effective with pan fish, but so are Woolly Buggers.  I don’t use Boobies much for pan fish.

    You are not going to find Bass Boobies in Orvis or any other fly catalog, especially the way I tie them. You have to make your own, and it is well worth the effort. The Bass Booby is a very productive and easy fly to fish with. I learned that from an old RAF trout fisherman on the Potomac River in 1994.

Some links to Booby Fly background information and sources for foam cylinders



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