Step-by-Step: The Forage Fly

Articles, Fly Patterns, Step-by-Step Tutorials — By on August 9, 2010 8:07 am

Mike Smith’s Forage Fly™ combines the unique features of the Fish-Skull™ head with natural body materials and a “frantic tail” to create an incredibly authentic baitfish imitation that is as versatile as it is realistic.

It  only uses 5 different materials and once mastered is quick and easy to tie. Particular attention should be paid to the dimensions of the fly and amount of materials used, but we hope the very detailed instructions below will provide everything you need.


Hook: Mustad 3366, Size #1/0
Head: Fish-Skull™ (Medium Size)
Tail: Frantic Tails™
Body: Cross-cut rabbit zonker strips (Hareline Dubbin)
Thread: To match

Color options:

  • For Chartreuse Forage Fly™ use Golden Chartreuse Fish-Skull™, Chartreuse Frantic Tail and Chartreuse Rabbit Zonker.
  • For White Forage Fly™ use Silver Baitfish Fish-Skull™, White Frantic Tail and White Rabbit Zonker.
  • For Tan Forage Fly™ use Tan Baitfish Fish-Skull™, Tan Frantic Tail and Tan Rabbit Zonker.
  • For Black Forage Fly™ use Dark Grey  Fish-Skull™, Black Frantic Tail and Black Rabbit Zonker.

Summary of Steps:

  1. Tie on the Frantic Tail™.
  2. Wrap the body.
  3. Attach the Fish-Skull™
  4. Stick on the 3D Eyes

Step 1: Tie on the Frantic Tail™

Attaching the tail correctly is the most important part of tying the fly. Tied correctly, the tail produces a life-like movement in the water with minimum effort by the angler.

Attach the thread and cover the hook shank.

This is the starting position. This correct positioning is very important. 

  1. The bottom ‘flap” of the tail must be in line with the back of the hook.
  2. The front tip of the tail must be level with the shank of the hook.

Fold the top flap of the tail over the top of the hook to the other side and tie in at the front.

Tie the flap securely in place. Note that the tail is still in the right starting position i.e. the bottom flap is in line with the back of the hook.

Fold the bottom flap up and tie in at the front. Notice that the flap is parallel with the shank of the hook.

Now hold the materials tightly together and wrap back steadily towards the tail. Tie all the material in tightly as shown and form a neat cone shape using multiple wraps.

The thread must end in the position shown i.e. halfway between between the tip and the barb of the hook.

Make sure the flaps on both sides are straight and in line with the hook shank.

Put a small amount of super glue on the “flaps” and stick them down to the sides of the tail. Gently pinch and squeeze them together.

The flaps are now securely glued down on both sides of the tail. The flaps are even and the same on both sides. They are parallel with the hook shank.

Step 2: Wrap the body

Use about a 2 3/4 to 3 inches (7 cm) strip of cross-cut rabbit zonker per fly. Try not to use more than this because too much may inhibit the natural movement of the rabbit fur in the water. In this case, “less is more.”  The strip is about the same length as the fly from tip to tail.

The tips of the fur on the rabbit strip should only go back slightly past the flaps on the tail. First measure and position the tips, then tie in the zonker strip. It is important to do this because the length of the rabbit fur often varies between rabbit hides. Doing it this way ensures that the fly always has the right length and body proportions every time.

Put a little super glue or Zap-A-Gap on the hook shank. This just makes the fly more durable.

Wrap the rabbit strip forward with tight side-by-side wraps to form the body.

VERY IMPORTANT: Do Not overlap the wraps. Only use side-by-side wraps, otherwise the body will be too “fat” and too much material is used. You will only need about 3-4 wraps and about 2 3/4 to 3 inches (7cm) of rabbit strip.

Side-by-side wraps

Tie off the rabbit strip leaving a small gap behind the eye of the hook

Tie a small thread head making sure you leave a small gap behind the eye of the hook for the Fish-Skull to be fitted.

The body is now complete.

Step 3: Attach the Fish-Skull

Put a small amount of super glues on the thread head. (Top, bottom and sides)

Fit the Fish-Skull from the front over the eye of the hook and seat this firmly in position.

Re-attach some red tying thread between the Fish-Skull and the eye of the hook. Tie enough wraps to make a small “thread dam” in front of the Fish-Skull. This locks the fish-skull firmly in place.

Tie off your thread and apply some head cement to the wraps.

Step 4: Stick on the 3D eyes

Turn the fly on its side and put a very small amount of super glue in the middle of the eye socket.

Stick on the 3D eyes.

The fly is now complete. Congratulations!    Now go catch a big fish!

This article has been published with the written consent of the Flymen Fishing Company

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Step-by-Step: The Forage Fly, 8.6 out of 10 based on 7 ratings





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  2. AC says:


    You can purchase Frantic Tails from the Flymen Fishing Company website. I’ve included the link below.

    Alex Cerveniak
    Content Director
    Hatches Magazine

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  3. John Patrick says:

    What is the best way to fish The Forage Fly? And what species do you like to us it for. JJP

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  4. juan pablo says:

    brandmark of the super glue???
    test it in salt water???
    juan pablo cassagne
    buenos aires

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  5. Geordie boy says:

    Hi bro
    Over hear I have not seen the fish out line or the fish head is this something you fishers over the pond have a monopole on so some store names would come in handy
    PP the fly is first class and you talk the the talk
    Mic, S

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