How to Tie a Mini Dart
“I call this fly the Mini Dart, as it’s really just an abbreviated version, both in terms of size and materials, of one of my favorite subsurface patterns, Lance Egan’s Red Dart. It’s been working especially well for me as of late and has proved itself equally effective on New Jersey’s state-stocked rainbows and stream-bred trout.
The Mini Dart starts with a Fulling Mill 5125, short shank jig hook. I pair this with a black 7/64” slotted tungsten bead. After getting the assembly firmly secured in the jaws of my tying vise, I check to make sure the squared-off, larger portion of the slot points down and the bead rests comfortably behind the hook eye.
For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of UTC 70 Denier in red. Get the thread started on the hook shank immediately behind the bead and end at the bead as well. Snip the excess tag off close.
.035 lead-free round wire is a material you’re not likely to have so feel free to substitute the more common .02. I like the .035 because of it’s larger diameter which really fills up the slot in the bead on top of the hook shank. In order not to waste any of the wire, I’ll pick up the whole spool and insert the bitter end into the slot on the bead and push the wire forward. Take wraps of tying thread to secure the wire and further stabilize the bead. Continue taking touching wraps rearward with your tying thread. Start rocking the wire up and down as you wrap. The wire should break off, leaving a nice little ramp down to the hook shank. End with your tying thread at about the hook point.
To tie this fly faster, I’ve switched out the Red Dart’s red hackle fiber tail for a shorter one of Chinese red UNI-floss. A 4” length of the floss will make numerous Mini Darts. Lay one end against the near side of the hook and take thread wraps to secure it. Pull the floss up and toward you to keep it centered on top of the hook shank, as you continue to take thread wraps rearward to the start of the hook bend. Then wrap back up to about the hook point. Put a little tension on the floss and snip it off so it extends just proud of the hook bend.
For the body of the fly, I’m going to use black Peacock Ice Dub. Pluck a fairly large clump free from the packet. Establish a 3” long slender noodle on your tying thread. Start taking wraps with the noodle to anchor the dubbing right at the base of the tail. Just one or two turns of dubbing around the shank should do it. Bring your tying thread up to the bead and take thread wraps rearward to secure it. Then, use your tying scissors to snip that thread free.
Pick up ringed plunger-style hackle pliers, or a similar tool, and secure the thread as well as some dubbing to the tool. Snip off any excess tying thread so it doesn’t get tangled up in the dubbing noodle. Now, place a dubbing whirl into the ring of the pliers and give it a good clockwise spin, as if you’re looking down on it. This will cord up the dubbing noodle significantly so it almost looks like fuzzy thread. Start taking wraps with the noodle up the hook shank to create the abdomen of the fly. The good news here is this corded-up noodle is exceptionally durable, thus requiring no rib over top to protect it. At the back edge of the bead, secure the dubbing noodle with tight wraps of tying thread then snip the excess off close. I do like to trim off any wayward Ice Dub fibers at this point, so they don’t slow the fly’s sink rate.
Pink UV Ice Dub is used for the collar of the fly, a small wisp is all you need. Use the dubbing to create a slim, 1” long noodle on your tying thread then take wraps with the noodle to build up a thin collar, right at the back edge of the bead. Keep taking thread wraps at the back of the bead to create a short, red accent collar in front of the pink collar. Reach for your whip finish tool and use it to do a 5 or 6 turn whip finish, then seat the knot really well and snip or cut your tying thread free.
A drop of head cement, here Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, applied to the exposed thread wraps will greatly increase the fly’s durability once it sinks in and dries.
And that’s the Mini Dart. I’ve found it to be most effective in fairly fast-moving, yet not especially deep, water but have caught trout with it over a variety of conditions as well.”