The bizarre Booby - a great import

Joe Riley
Anyone who has picked up an English fly fishing magazine will have read about the virtues of the Booby. This bizarre looking fly has been around the lake fly fishing scene in England for close on twenty years. In this time it has become one of the "must have" patterns in fly boxes for everyone from rank beginners to the top competition anglers. The Booby is a fly that can be fished on every line from a super fast sinker to a floating line, it can be used for very specific purposes as a sacrificial fly, but will catch plenty of brown and rainbow trout in its own right.
You would think that a fly with such abilities would be well recognised here in Tassie, however if you asked ten fly fisherman about the Booby, I reckon about 8 or 9 of them would be thinking lingerie not fishing.

The fly
The Booby is a fly, which is designed to float; it is as simple as that. The Booby is tied with two balls of foam near the eye, across the shank of the hook, and a traditional dressing such as a Woolly Bugger, or Yeti style tie on the rest of the fly.
The fly can be fished on any variation of fly line as an attractor on the top dropper or as a suspender on the point to either hang nymphs on a floating line, or to keep a team of flies off the weed when fishing deep. One of the real beauties of the Booby is that you can fish slow and deep without constantly snagging the bottom.
If you tie flies, Booby cord is a commercially available material, which you can tie to the front of the hook and then trim to shape. Alternatively you can purchase little polystyrene balls, the kind used in bean bags, which can be wrapped in your wife or girlfriend's discarded stockings and tied in. (This works well but is not very durable). Once the eyes are secured, tie your favourite wet fly pattern behind the Booby eyes, all done on a size 8 or 10 hook.
Most of the European patterns for the Booby leave the bright white foam eyes showing, with no attempt to subdue their appearance. I must admit here in Tasmania, I prefer to colour the eyes with black permanent marker. I don't know whether there is anything in it- maybe I'm just used to fishing subdued colours.

Sinking Lines
My first real success using a Booby came in September 2004, when I fished in the Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships on Loch Fitty, in Scotland. In this competition one of the most successful tactics was to fish a type 5 sinking line (medium to fast) with a Booby on the top dropper, Booby on the point and your own choice in the middle. A cast was made to full distance, then let the flies sink to mid water, (About 15 seconds and 6-8ft) then this was followed by a medium paced retrieve. The rainbows in this lake would take the Booby as the line pulled the flies down or as the flies began to move. This technique was deadly and some of the trout actually swallowed the Booby as it slowly moved towards the bottom with a waggling, side to side motion. At the time I put my success with the Booby down to the "stupid stockies', which were regularly put into the loch.
Upon returning to Tassie, I tried this technique at home in Arthurs Lake, I had mixed success fishing in deep water.   I caught the odd brownie, but no more on the Booby than on the other flies I was using on a three fly rig. I must admit that I only tried this technique in hard fishing weather, as I was not a convinced at that stage.
In March 2005, I travelled to New Zealand for the Oceania Fly Fishing Championships. One of the venues was a Lake Aniwhenua, (pronounced Anefanooa), a magnificent piece of water with weed beds growing vertically from 15ft deep to the surface all around the lake. The weather on this trip was bright and calm- for nearly three weeks. The only fishing that was going to be successful for the resident, wild rainbows and browns was going to have to be done slowly.
What proved to be a killer in the calm weather was to fish a DI7 line with a Booby on the point and two damsel nymphs on the top and middle dropper. Fishing a clear deep section of the lake, the flies were allowed to sink to the bottom, followed by a dead slow retrieve, staying in contact with the line, moving the flies at a crawling pace. The fly line was on the bottom and the Booby was about three or four feet up, with the damsel nymphs in between, takes were detected as a tapping sensation or a tightening in the line. The real issue in hooking up was stopping yourself from doing a traditional strike, if you lifted the rod up, you would pull the flies away from the trout sometimes missing the take and spooking the fish. The best way to connect with the trout was to speed up the retrieve and "feel" for the weight of the fish before pulling hard on the line with the line hand. This technique was deadly catching both rainbow and brown trout, on both the Booby and damsel nymphs. This proved to be "the go" for the rest of the competition when weather was calm, catching rainbows and browns at a rate of 2 to 1 over other methods. These fish were all naturally spawned, wild fish, so much for the "stockie" excuse.

A New Season
The new season has is on us now in Tasmania and with it the enthusiasm to fish the Booby here at home. So far I have only had a couple of outings. An olive Booby took my first fish at Arthurs Lake for the season. The Booby was being fished with a pull pause retrieve on the type 5 line in about 8 feet of water.
On Saturday the 27 August, I had a couple of hours on Brushy Lagoon, which has recently received heavy stocking by the IFS with brook trout, Atlantic salmon, as well as some mature browns. I only fished for just over two hours, again with the type 5 line. The set up was originally 3 flies with a Booby on the point and two more traditional wets on the droppers. I soon caught two small brook trout on the Booby, and had no takes on the other flies, so I put a Booby on the top dropper also and proceeded to catch another two brookies, this time on the top Booby. The colours that worked were grey rabbit, light olive and chartreuse with a white marabou tail.
While the fish were only small (around the ¾ to 1lb mark), they were a lot of fun, and a nice change from browns and rainbows.
Not just for "flogging'.

There are plenty of applications for the Booby when you are fishing a floating line. First is the "clothes line" method. When fish are taking nymphs or emergers near the surface, a team of three flies can be fished with a floating line, Booby on the point and two nymphs on the top and middle dropper. The floating line keeps things up at one end and the Booby keeps things afloat at the other with the nymphs hanging deliciously just under the surface between the two. This will also work well in the wind lanes, where you can cast well ahead of a cruising rainbow or brown, setting a trap for him to stumble across without the nymphs sinking before he gets there, and without spooking the fish by casting when it gets close to you.
I've got to say I haven't tried this last technique yet, but I can't wait to get out there this season. A single Booby, just on dark twitched in the surface creating an enticing ripple around the shores of Great Lake or Arthurs or any mudeye waters, will no doubt be received with a mighty smash or audible slurp at the end of the line.
A fly fishing friend recently told me of an end of season trip he had to Lake Leake where due to hard conditions (bright and calm), he tried using a Booby on a floating line, pulling the fly occasionally in the surface. For those who are familiar with saltwater fishing, the fly acts like a popper, making a very visible disturbance in the surface. He caught six trout, both browns and rainbows, while his boat partner caught nothing fishing more traditional wets below the surface.
As you might be able to guess, I'm still only experimenting with the applications that the Booby has here in Tasmania with our wild trout. I've got no doubt that further dedicated efforts will show this fly to be as versatile here in Tasmania as it has been back in pommie land for the last couple of decades.
Rainbow trout seem especially susceptible to taking the Booby, as do the recently stocked brook trout that are appearing in some of our "under utilised waters'. Give the Booby a try, you may well get a very pleasant surprise.
Joe Riley

Go to top
JSN Boot template designed by