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Tongue Depressor Fly

Bill Sherer of We Tie It Fly Fishing Specialists in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin created the Tongue Depressor which he describes on their website:

The Tongue Depressor may be the best Bass/Walleye fly you have ever used! A bold statement for sure, but tens of thousands of customers keep coming back for them and they all say they work extremely well. Give them a try, you'll be surprised how effective they are. Our most common size is #4 and our most popular colors are Olive, Pearl, Black, Brown, and Chartreuse.
Tongue Depressors bought from We Tie It
Bill Sherer's We Tie It Tongue Depressors - link below to buy your own.

Tongue Depressors from Bill Sherer's We Tie It Fly Fishing Specialists.

Bill uses Sparkle Chenille in large for the fly and the standard size is a #4 on a 4xl hook that you will bend to get the correct hook shape (see image below). I'll be honest, it is not a fly that I have fished a lot which is why for our first Zoom tying and drinking session with a few friends, I had asked Mike Kuhr (Wisconsin Trout Unlimited State Chair) to demonstrate the fly for us. It is basically a fly anglers' spoon that will ride hook point up in the rather ingenious design of the fly. (Mike Kuhr photo, below)

Chartreuse tongue depressor materials
Materials for a chartreuse Tongue Depressor fly from Mike Kuhr. The bent hook causes the fly ride point up.

The Pattern - at least as we tied them:

Hook: 4xl streamer hook, bent to shape (original pattern uses a Dai-Riki 700b "crayfish" hook - it appears that Dai-Riki is out of business)

Thread: whatever you like (Bill's recipe calls for flourescent red Guidebrod G)

Underbody: Monofilament or wire (lead or lead free) about the diameter or the hook shank or just a bit larger, tied along the shank

Tail: marabou to match the body (or not)

Body: Sparkle Chenille or Estaz Grande

Bill's pattern from 2001 is below, at the end of the page.

My tongue depressors
I went a little hardcore - and learned some lessons about how to better tie the fly.

In my rather limited experience, there seem to be a few keys to tie the fly:

  1. Bend the hook about a quarter (25%) or one-third (33%) point of the hook shank. This will help turn the fly so the hook point rides up.

  2. To achieve the spoon effect of the fly, tie monofilament or wire (lead or lead-free) to the sided of the hook shank to widen the body. Mike was using 40 pound Maxima (0.024 inch diameter) but I had either 20 pound Mason Hard Nylon (0.022 inch diameter) and 0.035 inch lead free wire which added a little weight.

  3. Using the Sparkle Chenille in large or Estaz Grande, the best way to tie a really solid fly is to double up the chenille spin it into a rope. Read Bill's description in the article at the bottom of this post. Then be sure to put the wraps as tightly together as you can get them. My first few attempts were tied with a single strand of chenille and were not tied as tight and it was evident in the finished product. Like most patterns using chenilles, make two or three wraps, check them and pull them tightly to cinch the chenille down to lock it in place. If the wraps are not as tight as you would like, back off and re-wrap them. You NEED to get them tight together for the fly to turn out correctly.

  4. Mike provided a nice tip from the late Royce Dam for tying off the sparkle chenille; wrap it counter-clockwise around the thread once and then put the thread over the hook shank. Do this two or three more times to lock it in place.

  5. Trim the sparkle chenille on the top and bottom of the fly. I found this easiest to do by pushing the fibers to the sides of the fly and taking my scissors along the top and bottom of the hook shank, making small cuts first. If the fly needs more trimming, then I pushed the fibers to the edges and then cut them perpendicular to the hook shank. This makes a mess - do it over a garbage can or whatever you use to catch tying materials.

  6. Leave some room for the head - this was a rookie mistake I had made, in part because tying off a double strand of chenille takes a bit of room.

The images in the slideshow above are from Mike Kuhr and are the flies he tied during out Saturday night "gathering". Thanks, Mike!

The fly pattern is pretty simple, the hook is a #4 4xl 4 extra long; I used Mustad R74-9672 in a #2. As mentioned above, monofilament, lead wire, or lead free wire is tied parallel to the hook shank to increase the width of the fly. The tail is marabou which I tied in two different ways. In my first efforts, before Mike lead the tying group, I cut the marabou to line up with the underbody. Mike suggested using the marabou as an underbody which seemed to increase the bulk of the fly which I think helped tie a better fly. Lastly, the body is tightly wrapped Sparkle Chenille, Estaz Grande, or similar material - preferably doubled over and twisted into a "double rope". Trust me, this makes a difference in the final product.

Why the Fly Works

It is a fisherman's fly, it is not the prettiest or fanciest thing in your fly box. I happen to appreciate that. Mike had used the fly on a 2019 Black Earth Angling Company Crash Camp trip we did for his birthday. He had discovered the fly years ago when he had stopped at Bill's Boulder Junction shop. Our good friend Ben Lubchansky (608 Community Supported Kitchen and Two Wick Flies) - and drinking and tying participant - was our guide for the trip. He now uses the fly as a "change-up" fly for when the crashing fish are not hitting your topwater offerings. The spoon-like wobble of the fly provides an action that mimics an injured or dying minnow and works when more aggressive presentations do not.

The fly is similar to any number of other flies with marabou tails and flashy chenille bodies. That concept is not terribly new but the spoon-like creation of the fly is what sets it apart. I'd posted an image to my Instagram and a few commented on the similarity to Norm Ziegler's popular snook fly, the Crystal Schminnow. Or Bill Murdich's Wiggler. I know I have had tied and had a lot of luck on a bead head fly that was nothing but marabou for the tail and pearl Estaz for the body on a 2 to 4xl streamer hook. YouTube has a number of videos with different versions of the Schminnow.

A properly tied Tongue Depressor
First one I've tied using the doubled-over strand of sparkle chenille - so much more body to it.

Like any pattern - at least in my mind - experiment and have fun with it. There are no fly tying police that will jail you if you make stuff up and do a little experimentation. Mike stumbled upon a bi-colored pattern when he ran out of pearl chenille and finished the head with chartreuse because, "why not"? I played around with not matching the tails and the body. Again, because why not let the fish decide? Play around with ways to make the fly wider to give it more wobble. Have some fun with it.

It is not a fly that I have fished or tied a lot but now that I have about a dozen of them, they'll get fished. It is a rather simple, yet ingenious fly. You probably have the materials on hand if you tie any bass flies or trout streamers. Give it a try.

Anyone else been doing online happy hour or evening tying sessions?

Resources and Links:

Bill Sherer's We Tie It Fly Fishing Specialsts

Redfish Wiggler Video - Gink and Gasoline

WisTrout article from 2001 (image is below)

Have any experiences with this fly or variations of it? Share them below.

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