The Spartina Turner was a fly that I designed after one of my first fishing trips with Flip Pallot. Flip and I had spent a day chasing large Gator Seatrout, with very minimal success. We had two main problems that day, due to clear, low water conditions: 1)The large flies we tried to use were spooking the fish and 2) Smaller flies were not getting the attention of the fish or causing them to react. The one fish that did react, ate a Seaducer, but the majority of the fish just ignored the offering. I went home that day determined to come up with a new fly design.
I need the design to accomplish the following:
- Be large enough to attract the attention of the fish
- Be light enough to cast with a 5 or 6-weight fly rod, while using a minimum of a 12' leader
- "Breath" enough to entice wary fish to eat
- Have a jig-like drop to get reaction strikes from laid up fish
- Imitate a variety of bait
Yes, I was asking a lot from a single fly. However, I knew that if I combined the right materials, I could get the results I wanted. I opened drawers of tying materials and started going through them, selecting the items that would attain my goals. In the end, the Spartina Turner was designed.
My selection of materials was based on their specific properties and what I needed the fly to do. I started by using premium saddle hackles for the tail. You need premium feathers for this fly so they are long, slender and relatively stiff; this gives the profile I wanted and helps prevent fouling. Next, the collar was tied using Arctic Fox (originally it was cross-cut rabbit, but I wanted something longer). The Arctic Fox provided me with added fouling prevention and a beautiful breathing action in the water. The head material I chose was EP Fibers. I wanted a material that would shed water, to maintain a consistent sink rate, and would still allow the fly to sink like I wanted. Finally, I chose either x-small lead or beadchain eyes. I selected these eyes because they allow the fly to dive like fleeing prey, without destroying the action of the fly.
The fly was an immediate success. The fly got it's name from the first cast. I was poling Flip through a cut when I spotted a couple of redfish cruising off the starboard side. They were close enough that I couldn't spin the boat, so Flip made one of his trademark weak-side casts and dropped the fly just past the fish and in between them. Before the second fish could rush forward and eat the fly, the first fish did a 180 over its own back and smashed the fly. We landed the fish and knew we had a winner. As we revived the fish, snapped a couple of pictures, and then released it, I told Flip the fly needed a name. He looked at it, laying in the water, and said "Spartina Turner". The rest is history. This fly has taken redfish, gator seatrout, snook and tarpon. It is a staple in my fly box and is one of go-to flies when hunting large seatrout and snook.
Here's how to tie it:
Step 1: Attach saddle hackles to each side of the hook shank, just before the bend. One or two saddle hackles per side. Flare them out for more movement in the water; flare them in for a slimmer profile
Step 2: Tie in a collar of Arctic Fox around the hook shank. I try to make the collar extend back about 1/2 the length of the feathers, to help prevent fouling.
Step 3: Move the thread forward and tie in the eyes, on top of the hook shank. I leave enough room between the eyes and the hook eye to tie in a weedguard.
Step 4: Attach EP Fibers to the top of the hook shank, filling in the area between the Arctic Fox and the eyes. Use x-wraps to secure the fibers on top. I use clumps about 1/2 the thickness of a #2 pencil. It usually requires 4-5 clumps to fill in the area. Once they are tied in, use head cement or a UV epoxy on top and bottom of the hook, to help prevent the fibers from spinning after a fish eats it.
Step 5: Trim the fibers to final shape. I use a wedge shape, tapering out from front to back. This allows the fly to drop at an angle, giving a better representation of fleeing prey.
This fly can be stripped at various rates and lengths, to imitate everything from a baitfish to a swimming crab. Practice the various retrieves, so you can see the difference and utilize the various methods when appropriate.
Give this fly a try and I am sure you'll be placing a few in your box.
Tight Lines and Screaming Drags
- Captain John Tarr