The genius that is Bob Popovics has created some of the most game-changing fly patterns and techniques in modern fly fishing. His laboratory is the coastal striper water of the North-East, but his patterns have shaped the way we tie and the way we fish for species the world over. One of his most brilliant techniques is reverse tying with bucktail as found in his Hollow Fleye, or Hollow Fly. You won’t find this technique in his book, Pop Fleyes,* which is a must-have, by the way. You will, however, find it in his brand new book here, Fleye Design.* This new book is one of the best books to ever be published on fly fishing. You will find detailed instructions on handling bucktail and tying the Hollow Fleye, which should be a part of every predator angler’s arsenal.
WHY FISH HOLLOW FLEYES
Hollow Fleyes, simply put, catch, more or less, all species of fish that feed regularly on other fish. These flies simply work. Many flies work well enough, but these flies have specific attributes that make them very unique and which allow them to fill a need you might have for a fly with certain triggers and a particular fly action. There are a bunch of reasons why you should fish this fly.
VERSATILITY OF THE TECHNIQUE
To begin with, the versatility of the tying technique allows you to create all sorts of similar flies that have these same or slightly different attributes. Once you’ve started with hollow tying, you’ll never forget it, and you’ll find yourself trying to incorporate the Hollow Fleye technique into all sorts of new patterns. The Hollow Fleye is a technique as much as anything.
The Fly is tied in-the-round. That means that it has an amazing profile from every direction, and that the fly rarely if ever looks unnatural. I don’t mean that the fly always looks like a healthy fish. I mean that you have the consistency in profile that flies have when they’re tied in-the-round. Most of the materials are tied in 360 degrees.
Because the fly is tied in-the-round, it has an amazing aquatic profile in the water. This means that you are pushing tons of water with every strip. This factor alone separates this fly pattern from others. We should not underestimate the fish’s lateral line. We don’t have it. Think about it in these terms. We sometimes know the presence of someone or something by the air that we fill on our face or arms. We become aware of this and can turn to see what is going on because we rely on our sight so much. The lateral line is another sense that fish use way more than we know. This fly uses that important lateral line as much as any fly in existence. It pushes a ton of water, and plays on this sense.
The fly’s action is more in the horizontal plain, i.e., the fly moves largely side to side. However, the fly can hover and use internal movement to entice fish. The fly can also be fished erratically or can be burned through the water, pushing a ton of water in the process. Although you can rip the fly through the water, this fly excels on the pause and when you want to entice fish.
FLY TYING DECISIONS THAT AFFECT HOLLOW FLEYE ACTION
There are quite a few things that will change the action of your Hollow Fleye. Hook density, or just plain weight, plays a huge part in how much your fly will dart from side to side. The heavier the hook, the less action you’ll have if you use the same amount of bucktail on each fly. The hook works with the density of the bucktail. If you tie a Hollow Fleye with a huge amount of bucktail and an ultra-light hook, the fly’s going to float unless you use a sinking line. The buoyancy actually provides a lot of potential energy and allows the fly to really resist the water and dart all over the place. If you use a light hook and less bucktail, you can still get great action if the fly is tied correctly, but the fly will sink a bit better. Play around with the bucktail density, hook weight, and sinking line you use when you tie your Hollow Fleyes. Speaking of characteristics, your bucktail characteristics are really important. The natural buoyancy of your bucktail will determine how your fly looks and swims. If the bucktail is stiff and lacks very little buoyancy, then your fly will sink better but have less of that wonderful trigger on the pause when the fly slowly sinks or achieves neutral buoyancy. This leads into choosing your own bucktail if possible. Bucktail varies dramatically in its qualities. You want long and relatively soft/hollow bucktail. I particularly like the bucktail to be thick and softer on the last tie. I don’t want it to be so soft that it flares wildly, but I want it to be soft enough to shape easily enough while still providing enough resistance to the water. That’s where the second to last tie can be so important at providing a nice support for that last tie. These are just my preferences, so experiment with the qualities of bucktail that you like for you Hollow Fleyes. I’d also love to hear what you’ve found to work.
TYING BETTER HOLLOW FLEYES
The most important two factors when tying a Hollow Fleye are the head and proportions. The general approach is to tie the fly denser towards the front. This gives you the amazing action you want by putting more resistance to the water at the front and creates various currents. At the same time, the head needs to be nice and round. That’s why you never smash the head of a hollow fly. Otherwise, you’re tying a different, and in most cases inferior, fly pattern. Never smash the head, and make sure that you have your proportions and head density right. The magic of the Hollow Fleye is allowing the resistance of the natural materials to push against your thread dam. This gives you both the action and the profile. Don’t mess with this. With smaller patterns (below six inches), you want to use thread dams to lay the fibers back, but in extremely large and bulky patterns, some people will use tubing. Blane Chocklett uses his tubing to create the dam on his musky flies.
Another really important part of creating Hollow Fleyes with bucktail is the size range of the flies and creating a nice shape with the fly. You are limited with bucktail to the length of the fibers. You want the full length of the fiber because the tips and base vary in their qualities and size. Find small bucktail if you want small flies. Then, repeat the steps that you see in the video below. I actually use craft fur for my smaller Hollow Fleyes for a few reasons. Shaping the fly is critical. When you finish tying your fly, you might think that it looks bad. The fly will be very poofy and not have a natural taper. This is how I like my patterns to look because I know that the fly will keep its profile in the water. You have to gain a little bit of feel for the bucktail and the amount of poof you leave in your fly, but you’ll be surprised at how these flies become nice and slender after a good bit of water and drying. That leads us to the next factor. Always run water over your pattern so that the fibers are sticking together as much as possible. Then, hang the fly up. I like an area that isn’t as dry as a desert, so that the fly can stay in that wet position for a bit longer. Once the fly is completely dry, you can run your hand over the pattern and shape it a bit more. At this point, your fly will look very nice and have that slender fusiform look. As pathetic as it sounds, I get excited to see my flies. I will sometimes set them out overnight to dry and then wake up in the morning thinking about those flies. I then get to see how they turned out. That’s why these flies are so addicting to me. They are just a lot of fun to make. Above all these flies are amazing fish catchers. Good luck with them, and let me know how they work for you in the comments below. Also, feel free to sign up on the right side of the page to get all of our freebies and info. We’d love to have you.
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- Hook: Your favorite predator hook, but lighter hooks give you more action (Partridge Predator Hook CS86 1/0 in video)
- Thread: UTC 140 etc. and your color choice (white in video)
- Eyes (optional): Tab eyes or jungle cock (3/16” tabs in video)
- Tail: Bucktail, hackle, or Icelandic sheep hair (white bucktail in video)
- Flash: Thin lateral scale (pearl in video)
- Internal Flash: Wing-N-Flash (pearl in video)
- Body: Bucktail (three clumps of white and one clump of light olive in video)
- Lacquer: Zap-a-gap (brushable) etc.
Tye them here for stripers, bluefish and weakfish (when they are around)a great fly and super video! That fly will hunt Justin!
Thanks so much, Jack! Mr. Popovics knows a thing or two about stripers, I would think. I’ve done well on stripers too with these guys, but I really love them for smallmouth and northern pike-Both Hollowfleyes and Bulkheads. Thanks again!
Now that I have read the article I wonder why you don’t use superglue gel when tying the head and setting the eyes since you have sixty seconds before it sets?
Just wondering. I am no authority on any fly, but the superglue gel I use is Loctite and it gives you 60 seconds to tie the head and set the eyes before the glue itself sets.
Hey Sean! Great question. I’m not sure if you mean the tab eyes or some other type of eyes where you can actually glue them to the bucktail. If you mean on the thread with the tab eyes, my experience with gels is that they are too goopy for my liking on the thread. It’s normally not that big of a problem if you have the eyes ready, and it should only be a very small amount anyway. I also want that thread to partially set quickly so that the thread doesn’t slip off, which happens with these flies sometimes. If you’re talking about adding the eyes to the bucktail, I imagine that would be pretty difficult even with gels, but you might to it with acrylics. I have thought in the past about tying hollow flies with Icelanding sheep hair and then gently coating the fibers with a flexible acrylic or silicone. At that point, you could add different eyes and then give the fly another coating of the acrylic. This is again a Popovics technique more or less. Thanks for the question, and let me know if I answered it or not and/or if you come up with any cool variants on the pattern.