Weed Guards

Weed Guards
There are many snags out there just waiting to tangle or steal my flies.

Each time I head out on the water, whether in fresh or salt, I am reminded of how many snags there are out there just waiting to tangle or steal my flies. Be it cord grass, turtle grass, jetty rocks, or oyster reefs, we often throw our flies into cover. Fish like cover. Because of this, I have grown to accept that there is simply no reason not to add weed guards to almost every fly I tie.

A good weed guard should do several things. First, it should offer reliable protection against snags. That's pretty obvious. But, it should also be easy to add to a fly; durable, and unobtrusive. No weed guard is perfect, but if you are going to take the time to add one to your flies make sure it is designed to offer as much protection as possible against snags while not interfering with the action or weight of the fly and the flow of the materials.

There are several different materials used to make weed guards on flies. The two most common are Mason Hard Mono and fine stainless steel wire. Mason Hard Mono is a stiff nylon monofilament line with a lot of inherent spring. Most large tackle shops carry Mason Hard Mono in small spools for leader building. For weed guards; 12 lb and 16 lb are the most versatile sizes and can be used to make weed guards on a variety of shrimp flies, crab flies, and small baitfish patterns.

For large flies or flies tied on long shank hooks, stainless steel wire is often used. Stainless steel wire makes a rigid hook guard, stiff enough to offer resistance to heavy snags, rocks, shell, and solid obstructions. Though not as durable or as easy to work with as nylon monofilament, stainless steel wire has its place. The key to working with stainless steel weed guards is to match the thickness and stiffness of the wire to the fly. That way you don't wind up with a guard that is too limp or too rigid. Here are a few proven weed guard designs, built from both nylon mono and stainless steel wire.

Single Strand Mono
The single strand mono weed guard is probably the most basic and widely used style of weed guard. This is an easy style of weed guard to tie and it offers fair protection against light weeds, rocks, and snags. Single strand mono weed guards are run through the eye of the hook and lashed to the hook shank before materials are tied to the body of the fly. The exposed weed guard is allowed to point forward as materials are added, and when the fly is complete the protruding mono strand is pulled downward and lashed in position. A short flat bend is often placed at the tip of the guard to further protect the hook from drifting debris.

Double Strand Mono
Double Strand Mono weed guards offer considerably more protection against snags than single strand versions. The double strand mono weed guard is one of my favorite styles because it is a good combination of durability, simplicity, and effectiveness. Double strand weed guards are commonly used on shrimp patterns, inverted crab patterns, and EP style baitfish flies. To tie a double strand weed guard, a single strand of Mason Hard Mono is bent in half and lashed to the hook shank using zigzag wraps. The wraps are then liberally coated with cement to hold the two strands in place.

Wire Spring Loop
The wire spring loop is perhaps the most effective of all the weed guard designs. So called because the wire is locked against the point of the hook by spring-like tension, the wire spring loop is a good choice for flies that are expected to encounter large rocks, stumps, oysters, and other substantial obstacles. Although wire spring weed guards are good at protecting the hook, they are moderately difficult to tie and not particularly durable. The thin wire often fails after being bent back and forth a few times. Wire spring loop weed guard are often used on spoonflies, leeches, large baitfish flies, and crawling type patterns.

Mono Spring Loop
An alternative to the wire spring loop is the mono spring loop. This weed guard was shown to me by Corpus Christi guide Capt. Steve Utley. Steve forms this weed guard from a thick (30 lb) section of Mason Hard Mono. He forms a loop of mono and ties it to the belly of the hook shank. The loop is then bent backwards and anchored below the point of the hook. The spring tension of the thick mono holds the loop firmly in position and is far more durable than stainless wire. When not in use, the weed guard is released from the point of the hook and flies are stored with the loop in the relaxed position, pointing forward from the eye of the hook. Steve uses this weed guard on his shrimp and crab flies, but it clearly has many other applications.

Double Strand Wire
The double strand wire weed guard is one of the oldest styles of weed guard. First used on heavy spoons and spinners, this weed guard forms two wire prongs that protect the hook from all sorts of obstacles and snags. The double strand wire weed guard works well, but like the wire spring loop, it suffers from the problem of breakage after the prongs are bent back and forth a few times. Also, the wire tips of this weed guard will tattoo unsuspecting fingers.

If you aren't adding weed guards to your flies, you should be. They are an extra step in the fly tying process, but I believe they are worth the time. Weed guards will cut down the number of flies you lose, and hopefully increase the amount of fish you catch.