The Grubby Bear

Grubby Bear 6

I posted this odd little fly I had been tinkering with on a couple Facebook tying groups and Instagram and I was quickly inundated with messages asking how I made it.  Honestly, it couldn’t be simpler.  It’s funny how you can post a picture of a really intricate and difficult streamer photo and you’d be lucky if you get a handful of likes, and then you post something like this that requires almost no skill whatsoever and suddenly everyone wants to know how to do it.  Go figure.  Regardless, I’m happy to share.

So first, let me start by giving some credit for its inspiration.  I read an article in Fly Punk Magazine (Issue 3, p. 10) where a guy named Stanislas Freyheit used a similar technique to create caddis and mayfly larvae.  He’s using a beads called Seed Beads and is clearly paying a lot of attention to body taper, using beads that increase in size as you move up from the tail towards the hook eye, ending with a large hump just before the eye.  They were pretty awesome and got me thinking.

First, I immediately noticed how much the translucent quality reminded me of steelhead and sucker eggs.  However, eggs are generally uniform in size (5-6mm for steelhead) so I thought maybe I should try to use the same technique using all the same bead size and making it more of a cross between a grub (which has a mostly uniform body width) and a glob of eggs.  To keep it looking a little grubby, I wanted to use a red bead as the head.  Luckily enough, that red bead ends up looking like a nucleus for the other beads from different angles.

My first attempt was on a size 8 Daiichi curved nymph hook (can’t remember the number) but not only did the 6mm beads have a hard time getting around the bend of the hook but once epoxied in, there simply wasn’t any gap left between the beads and the hook point.  I switched it over to a Gamakatsu Octopus size 6 with the red finish.  [That red finish looks awesome at the interior of the yellow beads.]  The Octopus hook has a much larger gap to accommodate the thick beads and the larger bend makes it much easier to get the beads around the bend.  I also wanted to give it a little more visibility (especially for fishing at night) so I tied in some glo yarn at the tail and ran it over the back of the fly before applying epoxy.  I also put in some sparse Hareline UV Pearl Crystal Flash on the underside of the fly.

Obviously this fly has a lot of different possible color combinations to play with, so have fun.

Gamakatsu Octopus size 6 (red finish)
6mm glass craft beads (yellow and red)
Glo Yarn (chartreuse or hot orange)
Hareline UV Pearl Crystal Flash
Loon UV Thin Clear Fly Finish
Sally Hansen Hard as Nails nail polish hardener (best stuff in the world)

Grubby Bear 1

Start out by threading a red bead followed by four yellow beads onto your hook and then place it in the vise.  Tie in your thread behind the last yellow bead and bring it to about a quarter of the way around the bend of the hook.

Grubby Bear 2

Tie in a reasonably sized strip of glo yarn.  Try to keep your thread wraps to a minimum because you will eventually need to fit the last glass bead over that tie in.  You might want to give it a try before proceeding.  Once that glo yarn is securely in place and the bead still fits over it, do a whip finish and cut your thread.  Apply a generous amount of Hard as Nails onto the thread wraps and slide the yellow bead over the wraps, twisting it as you do to evenly distribute the glue.

Grubby Bear 3

If you’ve place the last yellow bead correctly, you should have about a hook eye length of space between the red bead and the hook eye once you scoot the rest of the beads back.  Tie in your thread at the hook eye and wrap it back to just in front of the red bead.  Take the glo yarn, and beginning at its base, start twisting it until it becomes about the same diameter as the hook shank.  Fold it over the top of the fly toward the eye and tie it in front of the red bead.  Be careful to keep the glo yarn on top of the fly as you tie it in.  Take a few wraps forward tying it in and then bring your thread back to the red bead.  Fold the glo yarn back over and tie that in before trimming off the excess.  I found that if you don’t do this little fold over, the yarn doesn’t stay in place as well and will slip to either side on a whim.  It is laying on top of what is essentially 5 wheels so it can easily happen if not tied in securely at the head.  The last thing you want is for it to shift when you’re in the middle of applying the Loon.

Grubby Bear 4
Sorry for the crummy picture.

Once you’ve tied in and trimmed off the glo yarn, leave the thread uncut, but bring it forward to just behind the hook eye.  Take your fine tipped scissors and carefully trim the glo yarn as there are often little squiggly fibers that will stick out from it.  It helps if you shine your UV light on it because it makes them easier to see.  Unfortunately, it’s tough to take pictures of applying the loon because it kind of requires two hands to keep the shape right.  Generally what you want to do is apply it to the sides and bottom first, making sure to give it time to sink in between the beads before hitting it with the UV light.  It helps to rotate the fly upside down when you’re doing this to keep the gunk from building up too much on the belly of the fly.  Once you’ve got the sides and bottom built up and cured, rotate your fly right side up and put a generous amount of Loon on top to fully encase the yarn and build a thin layer above the yarn and cure it.  Rotate the whole thing side to side to make sure there aren’t any bare spots and give it several slow rotations with the UV light on it to make sure everything is nicely cured.  You can’t really do full rotations because you still have thread attached.

Grubby Bear 5

Now that the Loon is cured and you’ve essentially built your body, apply a thin coat of the Hard as Nails to the entire body, but not the thread wraps at the head.  While the Loon alone makes a gummy looking body, I think it really takes on that translucent gummy look when you apply the Hard as Nails.  This is the crummy part.  You have to wait a little bit while the Hard as Nails dries.  Use this opportunity to grab another beer.

Grubby Bear 6

Once you’ve given it some time to dry, you can now tie in the crystal flash.  If you tie the flash in before your Hard as Nails has had a chance to fully dry, the material can very easily bump into the goop and then it’s all fouled up and clumps together.  Best to wait.  I used one half of a full strand of crystal flash.  It’s then folded over twice before being tied in starting at the hook eye and wrapped backwards towards the red bead.  You’ll notice that the bead will make the flash splay out more and more the further you wrap it back.  Be careful not to wrap it too close to the bead as you want the flash to be angled back towards the hook point a little.  Wrap it too far back and it will end up looking like a tenkara fly.  Whip finish the fly and cut your thread.  Gather the ends of the flash and pull it back towards the point and snip it roughly at the barb of the hook.  Now throw on some Hard as Nails on the head or whatever head cement you prefer.  Being that there is so much glue involved in this, I like to set them out to dry someplace before putting them in my fly box.  Couldn’t hurt if that drying place also happened to be in direct sunlight just to make doubly sure all that Loon is cured.

Happy fishing.

– Gabriel




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