Tying the Whitlock Sheep Minnow

Tying the Whitlock Sheep Minnow
Swimmer Sheep Minnows. Photo: Dave Whitlock

Before sitting down to tie Sheep Minnows, get a live minnow or a photo of the minnow you want to imitate. This will help you create a minnow of the correct color, length, width, and proportions. It pays also to learn about the habits of the minnows you plan to imitate.

I use a hook with a shank that is at least 4X-long because it provides consistent hooking efficiency on up-hook swimming streamers. With smaller (shorter shank) hooks, the fly's head and back material can create a dodger-like effect that prevents the hook and point from penetrating the fish's mouth. The farther back the point is from the head and the more up-angle the hook point are, the more effectively this fly hooks fish.

For the best possible hooking when a fish takes your fly, begin your strike with a deliberate, smooth line strip until you feel the fish, then make two or three fast hook sets with the rod.

I tip each body material's butt end with a micro amount of Zap-A-Gap before I tie it to the hook, and I use only three or four wraps of 8/0 tying thread to secure the material. This keeps the nose small and neat.

The tying steps that follow are for the Swimming Sheep Minnow, but you can use them as a starting point for tying the Waker Sheep Minnow and the Deep Sheep Minnow.

The Waker Sheep Minnow has the same design as the Swimming Sheep Minnow except it is tied on a TMC 8089 nickel-plated, wide-gape, down-swimming hook. Up-swimming hooks for surface flies are poor hookers. Tie the floating head on the front 1/3 of the hook using deer hair and hollow plastic doll eyes. Trim the head to the size and shape needed to imitate the surface swimming action of the minnow of choice.

The Deep Sheep Minnow is tied almost identically to the Swimming Sheep except that instead of having a few turns of lead wire, it has a pair of metal barbell eyes on the lower side of the hook shank where you create the bend in Step1. Attach the eyes with figure-eight wraps and coat wraps with Zap-A-Gap. I paint the eyes and proceed with tying the minnow as described for the Swimmer. Choose the size and density of eyes to give you the sink rate you desire. Overcoat the eyes with five-minute Epoxy or Clear Wapsi Epoxy paint.

Dave Whitlock is a Fly Fisherman Editor-at-Large.

Continued - click on page link below.

Recipe: Swimming Sheep

HOOK: TMC 9394 nickel-plated #2-#8 or TMC 911S stainless-steel, 4X-long, ringed eye, #4 to #4/0.

THREAD: Nylon 8/0-3/0, the color of minnow's body.

BODY WEIGHT: Lead wire or non-corrosion resistant zinc wire.

CEMENTS: Dave's Flexament, Zap-A-Gap, and Goop.

GILLS: Dave Whitlock-plus-SLF Dubbing: color #24 Whitlock's minnow gills.

BODY FLASH: Krystal Flash (color of body).

BODY HAIR: Icelandic Sheep Hair (colors of minnow body).

LATERAL LINE: Two strips of pearl Saltwater Flashabou and two hackles (color of minnow's upper side).

CHEEK: Pair of feathers to form shape and color of right and left sides of minnow's head.

EYES: Pair of Waspi solid plastic doll eyes or Holographic eyes.

[Note: Whitlock Sheep Minnows tied according to Dave's specifications are available from most fly shops that carry Umpqua Feather Merchants flies. For the name of your nearest Umpqua dealer, call (800) 322-3218.

Sheep Swimming Minnow tying instructions are available on video tape from Umpqua or Dave Whitlock Fly Fishing Galleries. Fly tying kits are also available. For an autographed copy or more information about Whitlock's products or Dave & Emily's Fly Fishing Schools (conducted in spring and fall in the Arkansas Ozarks), contact Dave Whitlock, P.O. Box 319, Midway, AR 72651, (888) 962-4576, fax (870) 481-6121, www.davewhitlock.com. The Editor.]

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Fly Tying

Fly Tying Chip's Monster Magic Fly

Dwayne 'Chip' Cromarty - January 15, 2016

Chip's Monster Magic. Designed in Saskatchewan's pike paradise - works anywhere.


Fly Fishing Community Stunned by Twin Slayings on Belize Saltwater Flat

Fly Fisherman Online Staff - June 27, 2019

The fly fishing communities in the U.S. and Belize are mourning after twin slayings that...

United States

Saving the Chattahoochee River

Ross Purnell - April 23, 2019

How an Atlanta craft brewery is helping to save Georgia's most important trout stream.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Black Beauty

Master fly tier Charlie Craven discuss the tools and materials needed to tie the Black Beauty.

Bahamas - Bonefish

Conway casts for his personal best bonefish while fishing the Grand Bahama islands.

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Finding giant Mongolia taimen and a state of enlightenment.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

United States

Wind River Range Wyoming

Greg Thomas - July 27, 2015

Golden riches in Wyoming's high-country heaven of the Wind River Range.


Alpine Lakes for Remote Monsters

Landon Mayer - April 18, 2018

You don't always catch large trout in these alpine lakes and streams, but even the small ones...


The 15 Best Carp Flies

Jay Zimmerman - September 27, 2016

As you explore your home water, keep in mind what they are are eating to select the best carp...

See More Stories

More Fly Tying

Fly Tying

Best Bighorn Fly

Gordon Rose - June 09, 2016

This little pink fly can work wonders on fish. Learn all about it in Pretty in Pink, the Best...

Fly Tying

The Home Invader

Doug Mcknight - January 30, 2016

I developed the Home Invader about 15 years ago for fishing smallmouth on the Delaware River,...

Fly Tying

Neat Vertical Dry-Fly Hackle every time

Charlie Craven - June 29, 2017

If you are careful with these details, you'll have perfect dry-fly hackle you can be proud of.

See More Fly Tying

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.