Get Your Guard Up: Weed Guards for Fly Tying
February 27, 2010
How many times have you looked through your saltwater fly box and wished that your go-to fly had weed guards tied on to it? I have many times, so as I prepare for my two-week trip to Belize this week; I am tying a few favorites with weed guards. These include small merkins for bonefish in skinny, grassy environs and Puglisi style minnows for snook lurking tight to the mangroves.
Fly tiers and anglers have many weed guard options to choose from and ultimately, the decision boils down to where and how the fly will be fished and personal preference. When grass and other impediments are present, but not terribly thick, a single weed guard is a good option. They are easy to tie in, unobtrusive and generally keep the fly weed free. I use 12 or 16# hard mono, but a thin diameter wire also works well.
Loop weed guards are often used for bass bugs and are typically made with a single piece of mono. The mono is tied in at the bend of the hook and follows the contour of the hook past the point before it is secured into the head of the fly. These are probably my least favorite weed guards, because the loop occasionally gets pulled to one side of the hook or the other rendering it useless and causing the fly to swim a bit awkward. This same style weed guard may be tied with two pieces of mono on either side of the hook, which is a bit more bulky, but is a more effective weed deterrent.
My weed blocker of choice is a v-shaped guard, which skips, bounces and crawls the fly out of mangroves and stays rigid when the fly is being stripped along the grassiest of flats. I tie in a single piece of 12 or 16# mono bent in half to form a loop and whip-finish the fly, so the mono is sandwiched between the whip-finish and the hook's eye. This keeps the weed guard from being smashed down along the shank of the hook. I then either cut the loop and trim the mono into a v-shape or keep the loop in tact, which also makes a decent guard. When tying in either the single or double v-shaped weed guards, be sure to trim them so they extend to the hook point, especially if the mono is not very stiff. If they are trimmed too short, the point will catch grass and embed into wood more easily.
Experiment and choose the best weed guard for the locale and type of fishing you will be doing. I carry flies of different weights and some that have weed guards and others that are weed guard free. Tarpon fishing on the ocean side of Islamorada does not require a weed guard, but you'll be happy to have a few flies with them when you move into the backcountry and need to swim your fly through a mass of floating grass. Trust me, you won't want to try to tie a weed guard in when you are surrounded by laid up tarpon. Bring a few flies with weed guards.