How to Tie the Golden Retrieverish

Producer: Tim Flagler

The Golden Retrieverish is based on a pattern called the Golden Retriever developed by Jim Finn for fishing on Mossy Creek in Virginia. Over the years, it’s become a go-to pattern in many areas. I first became aware of it in Maine, where it’s exceptionally popular, particularly for land-locked salmon.

This variation begins with a Fulling Mill FM 5130 long-shank jig hook in size 10. I think the jig hook gives the fly a little more motion and makes it less likely to get snagged on the bottom.

I’ll pair the hook with a 5/32” slotted tungsten bead in, of course, gold. Begin by inserting the point of the hook into the small hole of the bead then working the bead around the bend, up the shank and to behind the hook eye – making sure the rounded end of the slot is on top of the hook shank. Then, get the assembly firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise.

For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of red UTC 140 Denier. Chartreuse would be another good color choice. Get the thread started on the hook shank at the back edge of the bead and, after taking a few wraps rearward, position your thread, once again, in back of the bead. You can then snip the excess tag off close.

.02 lead-free wire is used to add weight, help stabilize the bead and add a little taper to the underbody of the fly. With the wire still on the spool, feed the bitter end into the slot on top of the bead and take tight thread wraps to secure it. Take rearward wraps with the wire behind your tying thread, 8-10 usually works well. Then, helicopter the wire to break it off close. Take wraps of tying thread, first behind then over top of the wire to further secure it and the bead on the hook shank. End with your thread a little ways behind the wire.

Tan marabou was used for the tail on the original pattern, but I really like the look of tan Arctic fox. I suppose if you owned a real Golden Retriever, a little haircut might be in order. Anyway, snip a small clump free from the hide and clean out the underfur from the butt ends. Oddly enough, a flea comb really helps to do this. If there are any overly long guard hairs, pull them out of the clump. Measure to form a tail about two hook shanks in length then transfer that measurement rearward to the start of the bend. Reach in with your tying scissors and snip the excess butt ends off, even with the back edge of the wire wraps.

Give your bobbin a healthy, counterclockwise spin, as if you’re looking down on it, so the first wrap of thread jumps rearward to catch the very butt ends of the Arctic fox. Continue taking thread wraps rearward, down the hook shank, pulling up and toward you on the Arctic fox as you go. Make sure these wraps are nice and tight, and go all the way back to the start of the hook bend. Take thread wraps back up to the bead then back down in order to begin creating a tapered, red underbody on the fly. End with your thread right at the base of the tail. The tail should be nice and fluffy, with just a few longer guard hairs, something like this.

Traditionally, tan Estaz is used for the body on a Golden Retriever but I like medium-sized, tan rayon chenille for the job. A 10” length will make numerous flies. With the fibers canted back toward the rear of the fly, strip some of them away from the end to expose the string core. Lay the string core against the near side of the hook, at the base of the tail. Once again, give your bobbin a counterclockwise spin and begin taking thread wraps to secure the string core to the hook shank. Continue taking wraps with the red thread to cover up most everything beneath. Giving your bobbin a counterclockwise spin every so often will help to flatten the thread and make coverage more even. End with your tying thread at the back edge of the bead.

Get hold of the chenille and begin making slightly open, definitely not touching, wraps with it up the shank, allowing just a little bit of the red underbody to peek through between wraps. At the back of the bead, take a few tight wraps of tying thread to firmly anchor the chenille then snip the excess off close. Preen the chenille fibers back and take wraps of tying thread to begin building up a small, yet definitive thread collar behind the bead.

Reach for your whip finish tool and use it to do a 5 or 6 turn, back to front, whip finish, seat the knot well and snip or cut your tying thread free. These wraps have a tendency to come unraveled so it’s a really good idea to pick up your head cement and give them an ample coat.

When submerged, the red thread wraps should really shine through the somewhat translucent chenille. The movement of the fly’s tail and it’s jiggy motion makes the pattern all that more appealing.