by Skip Morris
“SMP” is an acronym for “Skip Morris Pan-Fish” (fly) and is intended as that only, so please don’t look for other acronyms in these letters, especially in reverse order.
I designed the SMP for bluegills lying too deep for surface or near-surface flies, and for that it’s been deadly. It’s also proved effective on crappies, which I nearly always find to be down a few feet. I’ve also caught yellow perch, green perch, and rock bass on it. And I continue to catch the odd largemouth and smallmouth bass on it, though I can’t get used to the idea of its being a bass fly.
The flat waxed nylon makes easy work of building up a body, and it also helps in really securing the eyes – even a big bluegill has a tiny mouth, so working a fly free from deep inside that mouth tends to wrench at the metal eyes.
Depending upon how quickly you want or need the SMP to sink, you can use bead-chain eyes or lead barbell eyes. Colors are open. I’ve used all-black and a variety of lighter colors and combinations. All caught fish. And don’t hesitate to use a silver-tinsel rib or nickel-plated eyes; they work too. A bit of Krystal Flash mixed into the wing and trimmed slightly beyond it is another useful option.
One word of caution: forceps can tear up the body and rib. Use forceps – you’ll need to -but work them carefully. And, in the instructions to come, I’ll show you a couple of tricks for making that body and rib more durable. ~ Skip Morris
Hook: Light wire (but not especially light), 1X long (dry-fly hook) or a 1X long heavy wire hook, sizes 14 to 8. (The hook shown is a Dai-Riki 300.)
Thread: Orange flat waxed nylon (or whatever color you wish).
Rib: Fine gold oval tinsel (optional, or use silver).
Body: The same flat waxed nylon used as thread.
Eyes: Gold bead-chain eyes, or lead-substitute barbell eyes.
Wing: Orange marabou over yellow (or whatever colors you wish).
1. Start the flat waxed nylon, as you would start thread, about three quarters up the shank. Bind the tinsel there using the pinch or a light turn. Add a few more tight turns of nylon. Lift the tinsel slightly above the shank under moderate tension. Wrap the nylon down the shank and tinsel in consecutive turns to partway down the bend.
2. Wrap the nylon in consecutive turns up to its starting point (three quarters up the shank). Wind the tinsel up the body in 6 to 10 open spirals to create the rib. Secure the tinsel with turns of nylon, and then trim both of its ends at the threequarters-up-the-shank point.
3. Build a few tight turns of nylon just behind the eye (but not blocking it) – these turns will help keep the bead-chain eyes (or lead barbell eyes) in placeas you bind them on.
4. Cut a pair of bead-chain eyes from a chain with tin snips, the insides of diagonal cutters, or the like (or use lead bar-bell eyes). Secure the eyes tightly with crisscrossed turns of floss. I like to to take a turn, hold the eyes at their sides between my thumb and first finger, and then pull the nylon tight – but don’t lose that tightness by then letting off on the tension. The eyes should be mounted halfway between the hooks’ eye and the front of the body (which is three quarters up the shank – remember?), in the depression between the front of the body and the nylon buildup at the eye.
5.Invert the hook. Moisten a yellow marabou plume, and then bind it atop the shank, just behind the bead-chain eyes, with a few tight turns of nylon. The marabou’s tips should extend about a gape’s width past the far edge of the bend.
6. Bind an orange marabou plume over the yellow – same technique, same length. Trim the butts of both plumes closely.
7. Cover the butts of the marabou with crisscrossed turns of nylon between the bead-chain eyes. Whip finish the nylon just behind the eyes and trim its end. Add epoxy generously all around the head and bead-chain eyes (or lead bar-bell eyes).
8. The Short-Strike SMP begins with a long-shank hook, 3X or 4X long (the hook shown is a Dia-Riki 700). Wrap the nylon fully halfway down the bend. Bind on the wing exactly as you would for the regular SMP, but the wing must terminate at or slightly before the end of the body. This black Short-Strike SMP has a bit of Krystal Flash in the wing. Two strands of Krystal Flash were doubled over the thread and secured over the first marabou plume, then covered with the second plume.
9. Forceps can cut the tinsel rib when extracting the SMP from a fish. By wetting the wing and stroking it upwards, then coating the body with epoxy glue, you can significantly increase the durability of the body and rib. Epoxy or no, a bit of care when extracting the fly counts for a lot.
10. Another way to toughen the body of the SMP is to make the body of shiny synthetic dubbing and omit the rib. Simply dub onto the flat waxed nylon.
The most effective approach I’ve found is to let this fly sink to whatever depth is appropriate, then draw it slowly and steadily back (though an occasional shiver can’t hurt), with the rod tip only an inch or two above the water. When I feel a thump, I strike instantly (that is, my best attempt at instantly) and hard. I sometimes let the SMP sink for only a few seconds before working it; other times, I let it sink clear to the bottom – it usually comes up without snagging.