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Thread: Del's Merkin

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Somerset West

    Default Del's Merkin

    Developed by Del Brown in the 1980’s primarily as a flats permit fly, the Merkin has proven itself as one of the most versatile patterns around with a wide variety of species to its credit, including tarpon, bonefish, redfish, grunter, cobia, and bass. Del is one of the authorities on catching the notoriously difficult permit with more than 300 permit to his credit – I’m sure he hasn’t fished for spotted grunter before.

    It is interesting to note that the Merkin is also a deadly fly pattern for open water species like dorado, cobia, striped bass and tarpon. As an impressionistic pattern I’m sure the fish will take it as some sort of swimming crab or crustacean. Anglers fishing for striped bass will dead drift the Merkin similar to a drag free drift when nymphing, at times in conjunction with a shrimp pattern on the point. There is definitely scope to employ this technique in South African waters where a wide variety of species feed on crabs. In their quest for fish catching shallow water patterns fly tiers need to balance two important factors in fly design, the fly should fall on the water rather quiet – more with a “splat” oppose to a “plonk” – and the fly should sink rapidly to the bottom. Del has incorporated both these qualities in the Merkin, taking note of the fact that permit are very wary fish and look for their food on the bottom. Cast the fly ahead and across the feeding lane of moving fish, retrieve it slowly and let it dive to the bottom when directly ahead in the feeding lane. Some movement can be imparted if the fish don’t show any response which will either result in a strike or the fish spooking – fish don’t always play the game.

    In open water the fly can be retrieved with a slow steady strip retrieve with the occasional pause, dead drifting a Merkin with the occasional twitch is another tactic proved to be successful. My experience with the Merkin is limited to bass only, where it is in the same league as Clousers and Dahlberg Divers. Around the Western Cape I know of grunter and white steenbras taken on this fly. Sean Mills hooked and lost a big leerfish in Sandvlei on a Merkin. I’m sure with more anglers fishing this fly the list of species will increase rapidly. Maybe during winter a Merkin is the fly to fish in gullies for species like blacktail and galjoen. It is definitely worth giving the Merkin a try next time your out on the water –this fly deserves to be fished with confidence! I’ve tied the one below according to the original recipe developed by Del Brown. Del’s Merkin only had hackle tips and flash in the tail. My experience with this is the flash and hackles (if the hackle stem is not stiff enough) tends to wrap easily and the fly should be checked after every cast, for this reason I’ve added calf tail to reduce this from happening.

    Hook: size 3/0 – size 8 depending on the target species
    Thread: 6/0, 140 denier – same colour as general fly colour
    Tail: 4 hackle tips, 2 strands of crystal flash, calf tail. The original pattern only use hackle tips and crystal flash
    Legs: Rubber Legs
    Body: Stiff Rug Yarn in a range of colours – olive, black, tan, brown is popular
    Eyes: Dumbell eyes

    Step 1

    Secure the dumbbell eyes directly behind the eye of the hook on top of the hook shank with a series of figure 8 wraps. Apply super glue or Sally Hansen Hard as Nails to the thread wraps. The fly can be whip finished and removed from the vice at this point, if you would like to paint the eyes – first tie dumbbells on all the hooks you will be using during a tying session.

    Step 2

    Although probably not necessary with this fly I like to add pupils to the “eyes”, I guess more for my own joy. Use the filter of an old ink pen or a similar hollow tube, and dip it into paint, the tube will suck up a small quantity of the paint, I use black enamel paint. With care touch the dumbbell eyes with the paint at a right angle – you will paint a perfectly round pupil. After the paint has dried apply a coat of Sally Hansen or Heritage Glass stain, the glass stain is white but dries clear for a durable finish.

    Step 3

    Start the thread behind the dumbbells and proceed to a point above the barb of the hook. Select a small bunch of calf tail or the top (opposite the skin) of a buck tail and tie it in above the barb of the hook. For an even body let the butt ends of the hairs extend to the dumbbell eyes. Tie in 2 strands of crystal flash on top of the calf tail and add another small bunch of calf tail on top. The flash will lie between the hairs which will prevent it from wrapping around the hook bend. Tie 2 hackle tips on each side of the calf tail curving outwards. Tie the calf tail down to a point directly behind the dumbbells and take the thread back to the tie in point of the tail.

    Step 4

    Turn the hook in the vice. Tie in a piece of yarn with a series of figure 8 wraps.

    Step 5

    Tie in a length of rubber leg material directly in front of the yarn, also with a series of figure 8 wraps. Alternatively the legs can be added afterwards with an overhand knot and super glued between the yarn.

    Step 6

    Repeat steps 4 and 5 till the hook shank is covered. You should have at least 3 pairs of legs. Whip Finish the fly and apply head cement along the body on all the tie in points as well as on the back of the fly.

    Step 7

    Grip the legs with bull dog clips. Make general reference cuts at first and then trim the body in the desired shape. It can be oval or round.

    Step 8

    Trim the legs so they extend a short length past the yarn. The tips of the legs can be marked with a permanent marker.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Western Province


    Nice SBS! You forgot to mention that this pattern is also deadly on bones.

    Here is an interresting version I tied. Called a Crabbit (crab + rabbit), it's a variation between a bonefish Scampi and the merkin.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Bloemfontein,Free State


    Nice SBS!!
    That colour combo should work well for yellowfish on #8-12 hooks.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Claremont, Cape Town


    I love this fly!! - have used it with great success fished deep in Lakensvlei as well
    I always wanted to be somebody,but now I realize I should have been more specific.
    Alcohol is the anaesthesia by which we endure the operation of life. GBS

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2009

    Default .

    Quote Originally Posted by Jasper View Post
    I love this fly!! - have used it with great success fished deep in Lakensvlei as well
    where is lakensvlei? what were you using the fly for?
    sorry, just curious about the fly and its uses

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2008


    Thank you - great demo! Out of interest, where did you source your rug yarn? Some while back I was dead keen to give this pattern a go at the vice and after scouring craft & sewing shops to no avail gave up the efforts. Would appreciate your advice!


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