FLY OF THE MONTH- March – 2020


The Zulu Tag

I had always regarded the Zulu as a small wet fly, and never bothered with it much anyway. But I had a discussion recently with Dick Clark, a VFFA member who spends a lot of time fishing Tassie’s highland lakes - and very successfully too. Dick is quite an authority on Lake Botsford in particular and wrote an article on fishing this popular lake for our September 2015 newsletter.

Dick told me in our recent discussion that one of his favourite and most effective flies on Botsford and other highland lakes is a dry Zulu. I then discovered that Craig Coltman, who prepares the fly tying material for Philip Weigall’s FlyStream digital magazine, wrote about this particular pattern in the FlyStream Summer 17/18 issue. Craig also demonstrated the tying of this fly on a YouTube Video – which is well- worth a look:

In describing the fly Craig says this: “Christopher Bassano first showed me this fly about eight years ago. Even though it is a very simple and seemingly unremarkable fly, the Zulu Tag has become one of my favourites. I use it extensively from spring, right through to the end of the season. The Zulu Tag exhibits all the qualities I am looking for in a fly; that is, it’s easy to tie, is robust, it requires minimal maintenance when fishing, and it has that impressionistic aura of life about it.”

Chris Bassano tells us that this fly floats so well that it works superbly with a nymph hanging under it. The colour combination of black and red has stood the test of time. It is another great fly when used on its own in smaller sizes when sight fishing. In a team, it can be fished anywhere on the leader and although it floats well when “pulled”, it fishes best static. “I am usually using this fly when I catch my first trout on the dry fly each season. It is just as effective when used on lakes and rivers although the smaller size is recommended for the river. I like black seals fur for the body because it floats very well and the fly requires a body material that floats well. Baby seals fur ties in very well and is neat but adult seals fur seems to float better so I prefer to use it and am happy with a scruffy body. This fly accounts for a ridiculous number of fish in all circumstances.”

So let’s tie a Zulu Tag:

Materials for the Zulu Tag:

Hook: Kamasan B160, size 12 or 14.

Thread: Black 8/0

Tag: Glo Brite Multi-yarn – magenta colour. (The tag needs to be strong red or scarlet material.)

Body: Black seals fur. (This is the best material to use, but if you don’t have seals fur then black possum or black hare’s ear fur or some coarse black synthetic dubbing could be used.)

Hackle: Black cock.

Tying Procedure

  1. With the hook in the vice run turns of thread from just behind the eye down to the bend then back again to just behind the eye again.
  2. Select a short length of the Multi-yarn and lay it along the shank with one end just behind the eye. Then tie it in with turns of thread running back along the shank to the bend. Run a few more turns of thread backwards and forwards a couple of times to lash the tag down strongly. Then trim the tag so that it sticks out about 3 – 4 mm from the back of the hook, as shown in the photo.
  3. Leave the thread hanging down at the bend of the hook. Prepare the seals fur dubbing and spin a thinnish amount tightly along the thread. Seals fur can be difficult to make stick to the thread for dubbing, so Craig recommends adding some very tacky wax to the thread beforehand to help the seals fur adhere to the thread. Craig uses Loon High Tack Swax for this.
  4. Wind two or three turns of the dubbed seals fur back and forth along the hook shank to build up a tightly wound plump round body. Be careful to leave a small gap behind the eye for the hackle.
  5. Choose a smallish black cock hackle feather and tie it in behind the eye so that the natural camber of the hackle is towards the back of the fly. Lots of turns are needed to create a plump fly, so take about five turns of hackle around the shank.
  6. Then wet your fingers and hold the hackle turns back over the body so that you can make three or four turns of thread behind the eye to construct the head of the fly
  7. Whip finish the thread to complete the fly, then cut the thread.
  8. Craig’s final step is to cut and remove the hackle fibres under the fly so that when it is fished the fly sits flush on the water surface. This is the best way to fish this fly.