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Step-By-Step Fly Tying Instructions

The Mushmouth Series

The Mushmouth Series of flies were all designed to be non-fouling, quick-to-tie baitfish and squid imitations.  The original version was made primarily of Angel Hair or Wing 'N Flash and since then innumerous variations have been created to match different baitfish with different materials.  The common element of all Mushmouth family members is a stiff, yet flexible spine of Super Hair and Softex or Soft Body Glue that extends past the hook bend.  This Super Hair / Softex spine keeps the fly from fouling during the cast and also helps the fly retain its profile when fished in fast current.  Only the Mushy Squid and the Whitebait Mushy deviate from this theme and in both cases another material was substituted for the Super Hair tail solely because those patterns warranted it.

What's In A Name?

Chris Aubut and I first caught skipjack tuna with the Mushmouth.  Offshore fishermen sometimes refer to skipjacks as "mushmouths" or "mushies" as they will often fall off the hook when brought in on heavy tackle at trolling speed.

Why so much glue?

We tied the first few Mushmouths without a spine or any glue in the dorsal area of the fly and they did catch fish, but they also wrapped and tangled like there was no tomorrow.  We brought the remaining flies home and coated them with epoxy to reduce fouling and we ended up with just about the worst looking Surf Candies the world had ever seen!  I figured there had to be an easier, quicker and cleaner way to make this fly worthwhile, so I went home and experimented and found that a spine of a one-part glue like Softex made the tying process a whole lot easier.  Don't worry that the fly may turn out too stiff.  Remember that there are always a zillion short, wispy strands of flash hanging out of the fly that wave in the current and provide the illusion of movement.

Some Tips:

All of the different Mushmouths follow the same basic steps.  Keep in mind that the belly and back components of the fly must be tied in while the Softex is still WET.  The belly and back materials must therefore be prepared ahead of time so that they are tied in just moments after the glue has been applied to the Super Hair tail and the hook shank.  Generally speaking, the quicker you tie it, the nicer the fly looks when finished.

The most difficult portion of tying the Mushmouth is learning how to handle the tying materials prior to tying them in.  The Angel Hair / Lite Brite / Wing 'N Flash in the standard Mushmouth is the most difficult material to deal with.  These materials are simply finely shredded mylar tinsel that seem to have a mind of their own.  The easiest way to deal with this material is to first remove it from the zip tie and then create a layered bundle on a table.  Never CUT any of this material with scissors.  The strands are fine and weak enough that you can PULL out the necessary amount.  Pulling the material out of the bundle stretches the material just enough to create a frizzy texture that will help to build bulk.  Creating a tapered bundle of flash is truly the key to tying this fly well.  A tapered bundle of mylar is made by pulling out the short fibers and tearing any undesirably long fibers and then repositioning them in your bobbin hand.  Repeating this action will build bulk in the tie-in area so that a tapered bundle is created.  Creating tapered bundles of other synthetics like Slinkyfibre or Unique Hair is much easier and can be accomplished by simply pulling out the center strands to longer lengths.  Most people find that Mushmouths made of Slinkyfibre are the easiest version to tie.  This truly is a technique where practice makes perfect.  Don't despair if your first attempts are not as good looking as you had originally hoped, as they will still fish well and every fly looks good when lodged in the corner of a big fish's jaw!

'Tis the Season

Like any good fly, the list of species taken on different Mushys is extensive.  Mushmouths are good all-around searching patterns but there are certain situations where they seem to excel.  The flashier varieties seem to get bites in tough situations where other flies fail.  Crab hatches, dense schools of small bait and normally unaffected migratory fish are all situations where a flashy Mushy seems to have a better success rate than other approaches.  There are times, however, when a flashy fly is the worst possible choice.  I have seen fish streak away from a flashy fly in fear on some days!  Switch to a more subdued Mushy made of Slinkyfibre or yak when flash isn't the ticket.  Bigger striped bass seem to prefer the less flashy versions.  On the other hand, jacks, bluefish and snook rarely pass up the chance to demolish a flashy version.

Here's a link to a YouTube video that Dave Souza of the Fall River Herald News shot this past winter - enjoy!

VIDEO - Tying The Mushmouth with Dave Skok


The Mushmouth (Standard) - PDF @ ASWF

Whitebait Mushy

Peanut Mushy

stinger for MEGA MUSHY tandems
Mushy Squid - at Reel-Time.com
Mushy Eel by Capt. Sandy Noyes - at flyfishinsalt.com

Other Patterns

Blind Crab - at flyfishinsalt.com
Popovics' Hollow Fleye - at flyfisherman.com
Boyle's Bonito Bunny - at flyfishinsalt.com
Nasty Needle
E-Z Zonker - at Saltwaterflies.com
Sand Shrimp
Pheasant Phlounder (dressing & steps only)
The Slobster (Some day!)


Northeast Baitfish Gallery - at Field & Stream magazine

Bob Popovics' Hollow Fleye - at Fly Fisherman magazine
Saddle v. Neck Hackles - at Fly Fishing in Saltwaters magazine
Fly Tier Profile: Dave Skok by Chris Windram