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Fly Patterns
The Gurgler

Originated by Jack Gartside




Hook:       Daiichi X472 (#2/0-#8) or 1750 (#6-#10) for smaller sized Gurlgerís

Thread:    MFC 6/0 or UTC 140, Color to match

Tail:         Bucktail mixed with Flashabou.  Calf tail makes an excellent substitute for smaller versions

Body:       Crystal Chenille, Polar Chenille, Tri-Lobal Hackle, palmered hackle or marabou

Shellback: 2MM or 3MM Sheet Foam, trim the excess so it protrudes forward over the hook eye


Tying Notes:  A wide variety of materials can be used for both the tail and body depending upon the targeted species and personal preference.  A red beard can also be added to suggest gills of a wounded bait fish.


The late Jack Gartside first created his Gurgler in 1988.  Although now incredibly popular for east coast striped bass and bluefish the Gurgler was actually an evolution of a beetle pattern.  during his life, Jack Gartside has developed many successful patterns including the Sparrow Nymph, Floating Minnow and numerous soft hackle streamers.  Interested fly tiers should visit for more information about Jack's legacy and fly patterns, including detailed tying instructions for many of his unique flies. 


The original Gurgler featured an anorexic sliver of bucktail and silver Flashabou, and a body of white sheet foam palmered with white saddle hackle providing a segmented appearance.  The sheet foam body material also served as a shellback that was trimmed to a paddle shape out over the hook eye.  The distinct paddle caused the fly to gurgle when stripped across the surface.  The gurgling action differed from more complex diver and slider designs and often triggered predatory fish into smashing the fly that had ignored both poppers and sliders.  Under certain conditions aggressive surface flies such as poppers scares fish.  The subtle wake of a stripped Gurgler better suggests a wounded or struggling baitfish, attracting predators from the depths.  Word spread, and fly tiers soon adapted Gurglerís for their own needs taking a variety of fish on top including bass, pike, trout and salmon.  Piscivorous cutthroat and rainbows pounce on size 6 and 8 Gurglers suggesting wounded fry, shiners, and stickleback.  Tiger trout for example munch Gurglers with reckless abandon putting a sedge rise to shame.  The excitement of a fish busting a Gurgler is heart stopping.  Along the west coast fly fishers have been chasing Pacific Salmon for years.  Recently, anglers such as Peter Morrison, Jason Tonelli and Kelly Davison to name a few have added Gurglers to their individual repertoires with resounding results.  Top water fly fishing at destinations such as Haa Nee Naa Lodge offers spectacular sport.  Small dark Gurglers can also be used on lakes, dragged beneath the surface using fast sinking lines.  At first glance the buoyant Gurgler appears to represent nothing in particular.  Yet the allure is there.  As the Gurgler pops and hops above the weeds and bottom debris many trout find its taunting dance irresistible. 


Gurglers may be tied on a variety of long shank hooks.  2xl and 4xl are the most popular choices.  Most prefer straight eye hooks as these track true under a strip retrieve.  When tying Gurglers for toothy situations use a 4xl hook but leave the rear half of the shank bare.  Tie in the tail at the mid point. The hook point lies beneath the tail shielding the body and shellback of the Gurgler from repeated maulings.  Original Gurgler tails were fashioned from a sparse application of bucktail and silver Flashabou.  Today numerous materials can be used for the tail, both natural and synthetic.  Beside bucktail popular natural choices include polar bear, yak, marabou, hackle, Icelandic Sheep and calf tail.  In recent years the explosion of synthetic materials has also had a positive effect on Gurgler construction and design.  Tiers can chose from craft fur and the myriad of synthetic hairs on the market today.  Gurgler tails are typically twice the shank length.  Flashabou or Crystal Hair is a common accent regardless of natural or synthetic.  Be careful however, do not over dose on the accent materials.


As with the tail, Gurgler bodies can be fashioned from a variety of materials.  Original models consisted of a palmered hackle over a segmented foam underbody.  Tightly palmered bodies of single or contrasting hackles also work well.  Palmered marabou is worth considering.  The motion adds a convincing trigger to the fly.  Crystal Chenille, Polar Chenille and a personal favourite Tri-Lobal hackle offer other interesting options.  Long strand body materials add to the waking motion of the fly.  If desired a red beard of hackle fibres, marabou, Crystal Flash or similar synthetic fibre can be added to suggest the gills of a wounded or startled bait fish.  The choice is up to the tyer. 


The key to the Gurgler is the foam shellback and how it is trimmed once the fly is complete.  Depending upon the size and tying style 2MM or 3MM sheet foam can be used.  Fly tiers have a wide spectrum of foam colors to choose from included mottled colors.  Researching the Gurglerís origin Jack Gartside felt that the foam color was not as important to the fish as it was for the angler for visibility.  White seems to be the popular choice in many circumstances.  Keep in mind that fish see the Gurgler in silhouette form from below.  Tiers should use heavier flat thread for foam work such as 6/0 or 3/0 depending upon the manufacturer.  Finer threads can slice the foam. 


There seems to be two Gurgler tying styles.  The original method involved tying a gape wide slip 3 inch foam strip at the hook eye back along the forming an underbody.  Once the body was complete the balance of the foam strip was pulled over, tied down and trimmed so it protruded approximately one-half inch forward of the hook eye.  The foam extension could be trimmed straight across or rounded for improved aerodynamic performance when casting.  Newer versions use a double layer of foam for added durability and floatation.  Prepare a 3 inch foam strip about the same width as the hook gape.  Trim roughly one eighth of an inch of each side equal to the length of the hook shank at one end of the foam strip.  Trim a picket point at the narrow end to ease tie in.  With the body complete tied the prepared strip in by the point at the hook eye.  Use progressively tighter wraps when securing the foam strip to compress the foam in steps avoiding accidental thread breakage.  A tight, tighter, tightest philosophy works best.  Trim any excess foam forward of the tie in point.  Raise the foam strip and pull it forward to expose the body.  Zigzag the thread through the body using open wraps back to the base of the tail.  Pull the narrow foam section down over the body of the Gurgler and secure in place at the tail.  Whip finish and trim the thread.  Do not trim the excess foam strip.  Reattach the tying thread at the hook eye, pull the remaining foam strip over the initial foam strip creating a double back Gurgler.  To avoid the attaching and reattaching of thread use 2 bobbins.  No matter the version, single or double back, apply cement to all thread wraps to ensure durability.

Tying Instructions

1) Cover the hook shank with tying thread.  Tie in a sparse clump of bucktail for the tail just back from the eye along the shank of the hook.  Avoid stacking the fibres.  Stand the clump perpendicular to the hide prior to trimming to even the ends.  Hand stack any errant fibres prior to tying in place.  Secure 5-10 strands of silver Flashabou in for the tail.  The finished tail should be twice the shank length.


2) Tie in the body material and wind forward to the hook eye.  Tie off and trim the excess body material.  Be sure to leave enough room to tie in the foam shellback.  Two hook eye widths is a good base measure.  A red beard can be tied in at this point if desired.



3) Trim a 3 inch hook gape wide slip of sheet foam, 2mm or 3mm is fine.  At one end of the slip trim approximately 1/8 inch off each side equal to the length of the hook shank.  Trim the narrow end to a picket point to ease tie in.



4) Tie in the narrow end of the foam strip by the point at the hook eye and trim any excess material protruding forward of the tie in point.  Lift the foam strip up and forward to expose the body.  Zigzag the thread through the body using open wraps to the base of the tail. 



5) Pull the foam strip back along the top of the body and secure in place at the base of the tail.  Do not trim the excess foam strip.  Whip finish and remove the tying thread.  Apply cement to the tie off area.



6) Reattach the tying thread at the hook eye.  Pull the balance of the foam strip back over the body creating a double shellback.  Tie off the foam strip at the hook eye.  Lift up the remainder of the foam strip and build a neat head, whip finish and apply cement.  This helps stand up the foam strip.  Trim the foam strip approximately Ĺ inch long in front of the eye.  Round the corners if desired.


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