How to Tie Tap’s Bug

Producer: Tim Flagler

Tap’s Bug is named for H.G. Tappley, a columnist for Field & Stream magazine. Mr. Tappley loved bass fishing and was well known for his simple, yet tremendously effective, deer hair bass bugs. It was his many followers, not Mr. Tappley, that came up with the name “Tap’s Bug” for this pattern. It’s a great fly for learning how to spin deer hair then to trim it to shape.

For this Tap’s Bug, I’m going to use a Gamakatsu B10S hook in size 4. After getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of my tying vise, I load a bobbin with a spool of white gel spun 130 Denier. Begin by getting the thread started on the hook shank at about the hook point and, after taking a few wraps rearward, snip off the excess tag. End with your tying thread just back from the hook point.

Yellow bucktail is used to create the tail of the fly. The hair 1/3 of the way down the tail from the tip is generally the best for this, as it’s nice and long, yet not so hollow that it flares too much when tied in. Snip an ample clump free from the hide and, while holding the clump at it’s midpoint, strip out the shorter hairs from the butt ends. You can stack the clump if you’d like, but I think it looks better au natural.

Measure to form a tail a full hook-and-a-half in length and transfer that measurement rearward to above your tying thread. Reach in with your tying scissors and snip the butt ends off at that point. Begin securing the hair to the hook shank with nice tight wraps of tying thread. Try to spread the hair around the shank as you pull tight with your thread. You really don’t want this clump of hair to spin, or move back and forth on the hook shank. A drop of superglue applied to the thread wraps and allowed to sink in will further help to stop movement. Take tight thread wraps through the adhesive to set it and lock everything in place.

Yellow deer belly or body hair is used to create the rest of the fly. Ideally, you want the straightest, longest, hollowest hair you can find. This particular clump fits none of those criteria, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment so I’m going to go with it. Snip about a half-a-pencil-diameter’s worth free from the skin and pull out the lower, shorter hairs. A flea comb works really well for cleaning out the fine, wispy underfur which can inhibit spinning.

Flip the clump around in your hands and snip the tips off square, then get hold of the clump at it’s midpoint. Place the midpoint against the near side of the hook with the clump at an angle. Take a loose thread wrap, followed by another, before tightening everything down and spinning the hair around the hook shank. This can be a little tough as you’re trying to spin it around the butt ends of the bucktail, but don’t worry, the next clump will help to cover things up. Sweep the hair rearward and take thread wraps to in front of it to hold it back.

Now for some real deer hair spinning. Snip a pencil-diameter clump free from the hide and clean it out in the same manner as you did the last clump. Here, however, don’t flip the clump around or snip off it’s tips. Hold onto the tips and lay the clump against the near side of the hook. Take two loose wraps before tightening down and really spinning the deer hair around the hook shank. Use your fingers to pack the hair rearward as you advance your tying thread to in front of it.

Continue to clean clumps of deer hair and spin them, making your way up the hook shank in the process. To help with spinning and packing deer hair, I use a tube from a plunger-style hackle plier that I’ve pulled the guts out of. The tube that’s left has a tapered end and a hole that can be opened up to fit over whatever hook eye you’re using. The other end works remarkably well at pushing deer hair back so you can grip it with your fingers. Just push that end back over the hook eye and squeeze with your fingertips. It’s not a perfect solution but it allows you to get a few wraps of thread in front of the majority of the deer hair. The thinner tapered end works really well for packing the hair back, plus the taper helps to seat wraps of tying thread up close against the hair.

Up toward the hook eye, I like to use multiple smaller clumps of hair, packed tightly together as opposed to one large clump. The cleaning and tie-in procedure remains the same. When you reach the hook eye, pick up your whip finish tool and use it to do a 5 or 6 turn whip finish, doing your best to not trap deer hair in the process. After seating the knot well, snip your tying thread free.

Prior to trimming the bug, I like to bring my tying vise into a horizontal orientation and adjust the fly accordingly. You can then preen out the hair out so it’s at it’s fullest. I’ll start trimming with large, straight-bladed scissors and make flat cuts along the underside of the bug. Next I move to roughly shape the rest of the bug. Don’t go nuts here, you’re just looking to establish a starting point for later refinement. Once you have the rough shape looking good, switch over to large curved-blade scissors. With these, begin cleaning up the bug’s shape and adding some natural curves as opposed to straight lines.

A double edge razor blade works really well for fine-tuning the underside of the fly. Just make sure to go slow and easy, so as not to take off too much hair. If you see or feel tying thread, stop trimming immediately.

Now, pick up your normal fine-tipped tying scissors and use them to finalize the shape of the bug. When you’re done, apply a drop or two of head cement to the thread wraps behind the hook eye so they won’t come unraveled. Although not absolutely essential, a flexible adhesive such as Wapsi’s Exo-Flex, will further help to enhance the durability and floatability of the fly. Squeeze a small amount onto a scrap piece of paper and, using either a small brush or your bodkin, pick up some of the adhesive and apply a thin coat to both the face of the fly and then the underside as well. It needn’t look pretty.

Yes, you can definitely make fancier deer hair poppers but in terms of fishability, there really isn’t any reason to tie anything a whole lot more complicated than a Tap’s Bug.