Every year, Michigan DNR fish trucks stock thousands of steelhead fingerlings into Michigan rivers. These stockings bolster steelhead populations, or at least, increase the numbers of fish that return to spawn in two or three years. Stocker season is like ringing a dinner bell to the trophy-sized trout in these areas. They know that the next month or two will be a perfect time to seek easy prey.
The Fin Clip (FC) is a large streamer, tied to imitate the naïve hatchery rainbow trout frequently stocked. Dumped into wild waters, these raceway-raised fish are easy prey for large, hungry natives looking to gorge themselves on state-stocked “hot dogs”. Originally tied as a small baitfish pattern, the FC soon became “super-sized” after watching large brown trout inhale stockers that were over 10 inches inches long. Most reasonably sized flies should be somewhere between 4 and 8 inches in length, to conserve materials and flybox space. A few larger specimens could be tied “just in case” the mere mortal flies cannot catch the attention of that leviathan you’ve seen prowling that favorite stretch of river.
The FC should be tied in a few sizes that replicate the sizes of fish stocked. Hatcheries have various size classes, and since fish are stocked by estimated numbers, there are always a few outliers from the average size stocked. As anglers, we constantly try to bracket the common food source, or use a believable imitation of the naturals present.
This pattern is successful in other color schemes, imitating chubs, brown trout, suckers and bass, and not only trout but other predatory species. While not an imitator of anything in particular, the chartreuse and white color combo makes a great attractor, triggering fish to crush it. This is probably the most popular color combo for searching patterns regardless of what it resembles.
The primary material used in the FC is Icelandic Sheep Hair. Its inherent qualities of motion without movement allow it to breathe, slink and wiggle during and in between strips. Any current moves the fibers at will, and its neutral buoyancy allows the fly to suspend in the water column on the pause. Icelandic sheep hair comes in a wide variety of colors, so that you’ll never have an issue finding new color combinations . When wet, this hair fills out and maintains a realistic profile. Finally, it sheds water with a good false cast, making it easier to cast despite the tall profile of the fly.
How To Fish the Fin Clip
Unlike many streamers used for trophy trout, this fly doesn’t need to be in the “zone” for a fish to eat it. Fish see this large profile pattern as it gives the appearance of a disoriented stocked fish that isn’t swimming all that well. This defines the ideal predator-prey relationship, the result being that some trophy fish would move a long distance to eat. Cast with a 6 and 7 wt. rod and heavy sink-tip (250 grains and up, based on rod weight and caster experience), such a rig will keep the fly in an optimum section of the water column throughout the retrieve.
Leaders should be short (5-6 ft) and stout (10-12# tippet) so that the fly stays at the level of the sink tip, and your line can withstand the beating that a large, toothy trout will give it when hooked.
While effective, the Fin-Clip is not perfect and has some drawbacks to it. The sheep hair sheds water with ease while casting and these fishing with you may get an occasional shower during casting.
A slow cast with a long casting stroke (much like how you adjust your casting stroke to accomodate an indicator and two flies) will keep the fly from fouling. Don’t try to force or punch a cast out – this could cause the materials to foul in the hook bend, and the fly will lose it’s profile and action. Much like long skinny pike flies with tails that underwrap the hook and get fouled, this fly will need to be unfouled before you can fish it properly.
The Fin Clip is a fly for big aggressive fish which target the eyes and attack the head. This can create broken hearts with fish that “nip” at the tail or attack the head and miss the hook. I’ve tried to incorporate a stinger hook for some of those short takes, but haven’t found a method that doesn’t compromise the pattern’s action.
This pattern does time to tie, but since it doesn’t sink like a rock, it hangs up less than heavily weighted streamers. If and when it snags, it’s easy to see and retrieve with a little luck.
The Fin Clip is used for trophy-sized fish that eat big. Much like the Magnum Murdich minnow, it’s a pattern meant for the alpha-fish that have given up on snacking and prefer to eat large meals with one bite.
Fin Clip Recipe
Hook: Gamakatsu B10S, SZ 1/0 or 2
Thread: Uni 6/0 – Olive Dun
Tail: White Bucktail
Body: Icelandic Sheep Hair/Streamer Hair – White, Shad Gray, Silver Gray & Olive Brown, Pink Bucktail
Throat: Calf Tail
Flash: Shrimp Pink Krystal Flash and a subtle flash like Wing ‘N Flash or Angel Hair and Shrimp
Eyes: 1/4″ or 3/8”, 3-D Molded, prismatic pupils
Other: Flex Seal, Black Indelible Marker, Super Fabric Textile Adhesive, Sally Hansen Clear Nail Polish
For the tying instructions, click on the slideshow above.