Simple Saltwater Flies: No. 1 - The Bendback

Simple Saltwater Flies: No. 1 - The Bendback
If you have ever considered tying flies, or if you have acquired a few tools and materials and are just getting started, you may be wondering, "What are a few basic fly patterns I can start with?" My gut response to that question is, "Learn to tie a Clouser Minnow. That is all you'll ever need." But that's not particularly inspiring advice and truthfully, one of the coolest things about tying flies is creativity and experimentation, not repetitive canned lure building.

So, I thought it might be helpful (and more fun) to showcase over the coming months a handful of simple but highly effective patterns beginners can tie. The best way I can describe these patterns is to call them, "Simple Saltwater Flies." In spite of their elementary designs, these flies aren't junk. They are bread-and-butter fish catching patterns that are perfect examples of economy, form and function. Tying these flies will teach you some fundamental techniques and boost your confidence at the vise. Hopefully they'll spark your creative side as well.

The first fly in this series is the Bendback. The name "Bendback" refers to the slight bend made on the hook shank at the throat of the fly. This bend allows the wing materials to flow neatly over the point of the hook and causes the hook to invert in the water with the point in the upright (weedless) position. This inverted design is wonderfully simple and can be seen on other classic patterns like Clouser Minnows and Crazy Charlies.

The Bendback is tied on a long shanked saltwater hook. A #4 or #6 Mustad 34011 is a good choice. In their most humble forms, Bendbacks consist of 3 materials- a chenille body, an underwing of several strands of flash, and overwing of bucktail. Some tyers take the Bendback a step farther and add multiple wing/flash colors, a rattle, hackles, or lead wire on the belly, and stick-on or paint-on eyes. Permanent markers are often used to create shading or banding on the wings. There is a lot of room for creative modifications to customize this fly.

The Bendback is a great pattern for redfish or black drum on the flats, or speckled trout over shallow grass beds and potholes. A few of the proven color combinations for the Texas Coast are orange/gold, root beer/brown, pink/white, and chartreuse/white.

Hook- Mustad 34011 or equivalent #4 to #8
Thread- Clear nylon mono or colored to match wing
Belly- Chenille
Flash- Krystal Flash, Flashabou, or equivalent
Wing- Bucktail
Cement- Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails (nail polish)