The Gurgler (Step-by-Step Tying series)

Few things in fishing compare to the rush of watching a fish take a fly on the surface. From rainbow trout sipping minute Trico spinners to aerobatic smallmouth exploding on poppers to bull reds rolling to gulp this post’s titular fly, there’s just something about watching the take that is simply beyond compare. For that reason, I’ve decided to start my Step-by-Step Tying series with a simple, but effective pattern that has caught everything from bluegill to bluefish: The Gurgler.

Created by the late Jack Gartside (a man taught to tie flies by baseball great, Ted Williams!), the Gurgler has undergone countless tweaks through the years and it seems every professional fly tyer now has their own variation or knock off. With the potential to mimic everything from injured baitfish to fleeing shrimp to pond hopping frogs, it’s no wonder so many have staked their claim on various iterations of this pattern. It simply works!

On to the tying:

Materials List:

  • Hook: Gamakatsu SL11-3H Size 4 (or equivalent)
  • Thread: Ultra Thread 140 Denier (color to match pattern)
  • Tail: Zonker Strip over Crystal Flash
  • Under Body: Ice Chenille or Estaz
  • Back/Lip: 2-mm Craft Foam

Step 1:

Starting behind the eye of the hook, create a thread base by wrapping the length of the hook shank. (Note: Thread base ensures other materials will not slip).

Step 2:

Tie in half a dozen strands of crystal flash at the base of the shank (extending 1.5-2x hook lengths beyond the bend). Overlay the crystal flash with a similar length of zonker strip (fur side up) and secure to the shank using a pinch wrap.

Step 3:

Cut a 3/4″ wide strip of craft foam approximately 2.5x the length of your hook. Aligning the foam behind the eye, fold the foam evenly over the sides of the hook and bind the length of the hook. Remaining craft foam should extend ~1.5x hook lengths beyond the bend.

Tie in Ice Chenille or Estaz and wrap thread forward.

Step 4

Wrap Ice Chenille forward. Tie off with thread and trim away any excess.

In this example, I tie off about 1/4 of a hook length behind the eye leaving room for a collar of contrasting color.

Step 5: (Optional)

Wrap Ice Chenille collar forward. Tie off with thread behind eye and trim away excess.

Step 6:

Now, fold the remaining craft foam forward being careful to distribute material evenly on both sides of the hook. Cinch behind the eye, and, if necessary, add a few wraps of thread in front of the lip to adjust it’s angle. Trim foam lip to desired length.

Step 7:

An additional small block of craft foam (~1/2″ x ~1/2″) is then laid along the cinch point, extending ~1/4″ in each direction. Cinch the foam along the same line and whip finish. Apply flex cement to finish.

Note: While this additional foam block serves to reinforce the gurgler lip and add additional buoyancy, I also like to select a bright colored foam that will serve as a “hot spot” to help track the fly in the water. On windier days, the fly may be difficult to see on the water and the “hot spot” will aid in tracking the fly in the water.

Proof of Concept:

On a fine Monday morning in early April, I did my part to practice social distancing and ventured into the marshes of south Louisiana to give the above gurgler a trial run. I’m happy to report both speckled trout and redfish approved of this pattern (as did the bass and bluegill that evening closer to home).

Gurgler in Action

Tight lines everyone!


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