12 Classic Saltwater Flies Under Water

What is a Saltwater Flies - Real Swimming Action Video doing on a Tenkara, Kebari and Flies Board? Patterns like Lefty’s Deceiver, the Clouser Minnow, the Blonde, Seaducer, Flatwing, the Whistler, and Popvic’s Jiggy (except for the color changes) will more or less all took the same to the fish as they are retrieved underwater. And I believe this also holds true for Our Kebari Patterns as well in streams and stillwaters. Please take a look and see what you think.

Another thing worth noticing is the Double Images seen in the Mirror on the surface of the water outside of the fish’s and the camera’s window as some of the patterns are being retrieved and floating drbris. Unlike us, fish have a very limited field of binocular vision. The way the fish’s cones (for color vision) and rods (for low light vision) are arranged on their retinas, they can see and feed most efficiently while looking up at the surface of the water. The Mirror allows fish to see what’s below them on the bottom and on the other side of obstacles by looking up into mirror as well, which explains, in part, why unweighted kebari patterns are so highly effective.


Here is some Underwater slow motion video from Jason Klass With an Oki Kebari, demonstrating the difference between fresh and saltwater.


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To my eye those saltwater patters did end up looking about the same. The motion is really all I’m noticing.

@T-stillwater Thank you for posting this Karl. It has given me a lot to think about. As @Tea_and_Tenkara notes they mostly look the same and I wonder if there is some error or lack of consideration in how they are tied and then presented. They are all nose heavy and most sink too fast for the water he is presenting them in. Also this may be a preference thing, but some tiers would consider them to be over tied…with too much material.

The balance of those flies may not matter if the only presentation is heavier current and a swinging presentation. But cross current, strip pause, eddies, calm water presentation, I would not opt for how those forms are tied.

Motion matters. Posture/attitude of the fly matters. As in trout, if the fish are on an aggressive feed, these details may not matter, but when they get picky, I believe that they do matter.

This is my first year fishing in the saltwater and I have not checked my flies in a sink tank, but from now on I will and make sure they are floating level and at a rate I find acceptable.

In general, it is hard to see what is illustrated in this video unless we make a video for ourselves. Stripping in a fly and looking from the top angle down on a fly, it would be hard to see sink rate and posture/attitude .

Thanks again…it was very educational, and I will apply what I have learned to the 2022 season.


I believe there are 2 other things that really stand out on this video: 1, how visible White Fly Tying Materials are (which may be Fluorescent Materials - which you can’t tell just be looking), and 2, how the Jig Hooks and Point-Up Ties allow you to let the fly to drop to and settle on the bottom, be picked up again and retrieved without getting snagged.

I believe your points are all right on and well worth considering. I consider Water Testing the patterns we tie to always be a necessary and informative practice before the said pattern is fished. Patterns like the Clouser and Popvic’s Jiggy can be cast and allowed to settle to the bottom to lay in weight for an approaching fish with out worry of snagging. When a fish enters the fly’s Strike Zone, the fly can be activated and the fish will usually engulf it, especially if it stirs up a little cloud of bottom debris in the water. That’s great fun and a very effective, tactic. Also, the depth at which the fly is being fished affects how much weight is needed and the angle of retrieve, hence the need for heaver to lighter weighted flies.

Generally speaking, fish find Jigging Actions in fly patterns to be attractive. If not, the fly can be tied with out added weight or the weight can be Balanced. Balanced Leach Patterns were designed for fishing under Floating Indicators (bobbins) so the wind generated ripples on the water will give even a stationary fly a jigging action. But it has also been found that Balanced Leach Patterns are also highly effective patterns fished in the cast and retrieve mode. In Fixed-Line Fishing, Retrieve pattern movement is achieved through rod and line movement and Rod Tip Action. Holding the rod parallel to the water, tracing small ovals with the rod tip as the rod is moved forward at the desired retrieve speed will give a similar fly action to the Western Line Strip (an inch or two of movement at a time) Action…Karl.

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Thanks for posting the 12 Classic… video. It, and @Gressak ‘s response also got me thinking about my observations. Deceivers and Clousers are very popular and highly successful patterns for both saltwater and fresh water, and I do have success with a conehead Rolled Muddler pattern. But the 0.5m/s - 1.5m/s tidal currents I fish in the Puget Sound are frog water compared to swinging flies in a stream. By far my most productive saltwater flies are unweighted and I fish them with an intermediate line and 6’-7’ leader on a slow “swing”, and settle into a stripping pattern with a three 4" strips - pause. The prey they imitate do not porpoise like the 12 Classic… video.


G, Big Scud patterns might work for Shrimp imitations but patterns to imitate the Squid and Lance are really going to be tough because of the erratic ways in which they move in the water. Muddled Minnows can work for Sculpins, but again, the constant stop and go and change of directions will be hard, if not impossible, to duplicate as well. Thank you for putting up the links to those fantastic videos; I really enjoyed watching them. Seeing what you are up against in the Salt, by comparison, fishing streams and ln lakes is pretty tame stuff and a piece of cake. Makes me wish I live closer to the ocean…K.

I believe these two very productive patterns work as a squid imitation

and I assume a shrimp imitation.

This one for a sculpin

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That footage you shared is awesome. I have noticed there is so much more these days. Squid are amazing creatures. My daughter and I have come across solo squid when we snorkel. There color is always amazing.

If you have not bought this book or listened to kenny abrames speak , check it out. My favorite quote of his…if you see fish refuse your fly, remove attributes until there is less to refuse. This may mean sizing down, this may mean making it more difficult for them to see different color or no color, or having flies tied with less material, etc.


G, I have known of That book for years as I have a friend who is an avid stripper angler. In fact, I believe I gave him a copy of it but, I have not read it myself. After reading your remarks, I will get a copy.

After thinking about the problems involved in imitating the swimming actions of the various food forms fish eat, I believe I should backtrack a bit. Predators target the slow, injured and sick as they are easier to catch and an easy meal that stands out in a crowed of healthy schoolmates. So what we want in a pattern is a fly that’s easy to see and draws attention to itself over and above the rest of the school; a fly pattern the hunting fish will prefer to take over and above the natural fare it has before it. But how do we accomplish that?

This is where Contrast and the Stranger Theory come into play. Bait fish are naturally camouflaged to protect them from predators. Imitating the coloring and markings of prey species mimics their protection. Tying flies that stand out in the backgrounds they will be viewed against helps the fish to Lock On to our Pattern and choose it over and above the naturals, especially if your pattern appears to be a crippled individual on the fringes of the school. Since we can not duplicate the swimming actions of the healthy individuals, that problem takes care of itself, for the most part. All that remains is to determine the color of the water being fished and what pattern colors will be most visible in those colored backgrounds. Put that fly on and confidently go to work.

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I haven’t any empirical data to affirm this but back in the day I’d heard one way of making your fly stand out in the crowd was to use a (one hook size) larger fly than the naturals pick up in a sein sample. I never seemed to get good results tying anything smaller than a #16 but I caught fish in my relatively sterile Cascades west slope streams when sample sizes were 18s and 20s. There are many variables why that could occur though. I also notice that using classic Tenkara wet fly sasoi techniques I have managed to catch larger fish than I ever before in the same streams I have used a western fly rod & reel for four decades.

Karl, fish are often in two general modes. Heavy feed and selective. My reference above is when they are selective. When I say see a fish refuse a fly, it could be a follow and not commit. Sometimes we see a fish just turn to a fly then return to its lie.

Bright colors work…so does oversizing…but their are also times when niether work and you want to go in the opposite direction. Trust me as it is not just academic theory. I apply it with success.

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B&G, I agree with. You Both. I always try to Give the Fish what They Want. The problem is in determining just What That Is.