While sitting in my pontoon boat last Spring at Rocky Ridge, I was smugly thinking I had cracked the code there. I had already released a number of nice fish caught on a variety of patterns and was therefore feeling pretty good about myself. That is until I started paying attention to how Dave Kilhefner was doing. It quickly became apparent that Dave was out-fishing me, and everyone else, by a big margin. Every time I looked over he was either playing a fish, or netting a fish, or releasing a fish. When I finally kicked over close enough to talk, I had to ask… “OK, Dave, whatcha usin’ “. A “Green Devil” was all I was able to make out from across the water. That didn’t do me any good because I didn’t have any “Devils”. In all truth I didn’t even know what a “Devil” was. So all I could do was give him a nod, as if to indicate that I knew exactly what he was talking about. It wasn’t until lunchtime when Dave got out his vise to tie up a few more “Devils” (the others were shredded) that I was able to see that he was talking about a marabou jig pattern. He thought that just calling it a “marabou jig” was simply too generic of a name. Dave wanted a name with a little more pizazz, hence “The Devil”. And then after reading the article about last month’s smallmouth bass fishing on The John Day River where he had good success with a “White Devil”, I thought OK, that is enough; it is time to look more closely into this Devil jig fly. I know Dave would not take credit for being the originator of marabou jig flies because they have been around forever, but for the purpose of this article I am going to give the Devil even some more pizazz and call it “Dave’s Devil”. I think it is appropriate to at least give Dave some credit for bringing jig flies to our attention.
Like most things involved with flyfishing it is possible to get started with jig flies at different degrees of immersion. Where you fit in would be based on your level of interest and the amount of time you have available:
1. “Get It And Go” Level— You can just go down and purchase already-made jig flies and off you go fishing.
2. “One Step Further” Level— You can purchase plain jig hooks that come with weighted heads and then use your fly tying skills and materials to create your own jig flies.
3. “All In” Level—At the far end of the spectrum are those folks that are fishing junkies (Dave would be included here). These are the people who take things one big step further and purchase equipment to melt lead down and then pour it into jig head molds containing bare jig hooks, thus creating their own weighted jig hooks. This is followed up with the final steps of tying the fly.
TIPS FROM DAVE
I asked Dave a number of questions regarding jig flies, so…
Why use jig hooks?
They give a lot of motion to the fly. They sink better than bead heads. And they are weighted so that the hook point rides up, helping to avoid snagging the bottom and/or dulling the hook on rocks.
What kinds of fish have caught on your jig flies?
Trout and steelhead mostly. But they also work well for bass and salmon.
I see that jig hooks come with the eyes at different angles. Which do you prefer?
The 90 degree eyes work better when pouring lead into the molds.
The 60 degree hooks work well with slotted tungsten beads for Czech style nymphing. It’s the hottest new thing.
What size lead heads do you prefer on your jigs?
1/32 oz. or 1/64 oz. for Devils for trout; 1/16 oz. for steelhead if using a rod that can handle it (8 wt.). Jig heads also come in 1/80 & 1/100 oz sizes and these are great for tying fur nymph jigs like Hares Ears and Red Fox Squirrels.
What color of Devils do you prefer?
olive-green or white
(On the internet people also seem to like black and brown for trout. Brighter, more garish colors can be useful for bass/crappie/panfish.)
What colors do you use on the head of your Devils?
Coloring the head is really not necessary. But I use orange or pink for “fly box appeal”.
I use an orange head for the green Devils and a pink head for the white ones. There is really no logic at all to this.
(People on the internet are all over the place on this subject. Everything from “Painting is a waste of time; an unpainted lead jig head is just fine”, to “It is essential to color the jig head”. Sounds like a good topic for experimentation.)
Are there other ways to create weighted jig heads than buying them or pouring your own?
You can tie lead eyes above the “elbow” of a bare jig hook. Or you can tie lead eyes onto the top of a standard woolly bugger type hook.
(Also…On the internet I saw one guy crimping and super gluing a lead split shot onto the elbow of a bare jig hook. Might be worth a try.)
How do you like to color the heads of your Devils?
Because you only need one coat to get the perfect color, and for its superior durability, powder-coating is the way to go. (There is lots of info on the internet on how to do this.)
Are there alternative ways to color the heads?
Cheap…Base coat with white nail polish then paint colored nail polish over it; then add a final coat of clear like Sally Hansen’s Hard As Nails.
(I went with fingernail polish in preparing for our next Fly Tying Night. I found out that the white undercoat was essential in order to get the final colors to come out bright. Also a downside of using fingernail polish is the vapors/fumes. Some of us don’t have a lot of spare brain cells so make sure you have plenty of ventilation. Also there is a lot of internet chatter about the pros and cons of enamel, lacquer, and vinyl spray paints for jig heads.)
I see that some people heat-treat the heads after coloring them? Do you bother with the heat treatment step? If so, how do you do it?
Powder coating is the most durable finish but you have to bake it in the oven to take advantage of the durability, but powder coating doesn’t give off fumes like nail polish. It’s easy, just hang the jigs on the oven rack and bake at 275 for 30-40 mins.
Baking is good for nail polish, too, but it creates some fumes so you have to air the place out and you don’t want your wife home while it’s going on 😉 .
The Devil you gave me had a body made of chenille. Do you ever use other materials for the body?
Sometimes I make them like hares ear nymphs.
Do you ever add flash to your Devils? (in the body? in the tail?)
I started to experiment but didn’t follow-up on it much. I think some rubber legs would be good to try.
How do you like to fish “The Devil”?
In lakes I like to fish them like a woolly bugger, but give them more time to sink/drop before stripping and retrieving. Fish in lakes seem to like to take them when they are falling. In streams or rivers I dead drift them under an indicator.
Anything else of interest or importance?
Use a short leader, 4-6’. That makes them easier to cast.
Don’t go too heavy with the weighting of the jig head; heavier heads are hard to cast and you run the risk of breaking your rod.
So there you have it. After watching Dave wear himself out pulling in fish I think the jig flies are worth a try. Join us at the Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, October 25 to tie up some “Dave’s Devils”. I will have some weighted jig hooks, chenille, and marabou for some basic patterns. Bring other materials if you want to dress them up a bit. We will start at 6 pm. Hope to see you there!