Recently we took a look at tying sand eel flies. While digging through my fly tying material mess for that post, and believe me it’s a tangled mess, I came across a young-of-year (YOY) sand eel pattern I used nearly three decades ago. Fun to see the old soldier. It was made from a QTip. Yes frcm a common cotton swab. Cheap, and easy to tie, it fooled many striped bass so I thought I might share it with you. (More on sand eel flies)
As you see in the photo above, YOY sand eels are very small and thin. The photo is helpful as far as size goes, but since these guys are deceased they have lost their color and sheen. In the living flesh their backs have a touch of green and their flanks are more iridescent pearl.
The fly above has seen its share of battles and was retired long ago. But it gives you the idea. To tie this fly I simply cutting the cotton ball ends off the swab. That left me with a clear plastic shaft of roughly 1/8″ diameter. Perfect. Next I cut one end of the shaft at a 45 degree angle. This end got lashed on top of the hook shank directly behind the eye. But not before sliding small hollow mylar tubing over the shaft. The tubing was left a little long so it dangled loosely over the tail end of the fly for added action. Put a bead of super glue along the top of the shaft and along bottom, where it contacted the hook shank, and presto, done!
This fly is essentially a “stick” bait design. In that fashion it resembles Gartside’s well known Corsair sand eel, although the QT eel predates it by many years. I often added an eye or additional color with laundry markers. And if you sealed the tail end of the shaft, the fly became buoyant. Hell bass would pick this fly up just lying near the surface. But anyway you made it the fly remained simple. And talk about cheap! In any pharmacy, you could buy a huge box of cotton swabs for a song. Amazing, that box might last you a lifetime. Unfortunately, at least from my point of view, clear plastic shafts got phased out and so I eventually switched to a different fly design. Time moves on.