Meet the Gravel Gertie. You’d think that this was a secret fly but it isn’t; rather it is another one of those great flies that you don’t see much anymore. I remember this fly from the 1960’s; my dad had one in his box and a few of the shops stocked them. I haven’t used one in years but when someone asked me about this fly I realized that it had been out of use for so long that it’s officially a sleeper. One of the few references I can find say the fly is great for gravel bottomed rivers; I can’t confirm that but I thought I’d pass it along. I don’t know who originated it but I hear that the name comes from a Dick Tracy comic strip character.
Normally, this part of the column would tell you what baitfish or insect this fly is trying to mimic. Someday, someone will publish an interview with one of those supposedly super selective trout or salmon. If they do, I hope they ask the fish why they would chomp on something that looks like a black and white barber shop pole with an orange tail and pink throat. Until that day comes along, I have no idea what the fish think this fly is. I know that it is a well-respected fly among “thems that knows” and it’s easy to tie.
Recipe for the Gravel Gertie
Thread – Black
Hook – 6x streamer hook or Mustad 3665A, size 6 or 8
Tail – Red or orange wool
Body – Black and white chenille, alternating
Throat – Pink wool or hair
Wing – White calf tail, under red fox squirrel tail
The hook is a 6x long streamer hook. The Mustad 3665A is the hook you’d use for a Maple Syrup or a Big Trout Only fly and it’s a good hook for this fly as well. The recipe calls for the tail to be orange wool, I substituted red; your fly’s body will look better if you tie in the wool yarn behind the eye a bit, lay the yarn on top of the hook shank and wind over it with thread. This will prevent an ugly hump at the base of the tail. The tail is a bit long and when you brush out the yarn, it has a full appearance. The body is two colors of chenille, black and white. Strip the fuzz off the first quarter inch of the chenille and you’ll see a thread core. Tie in both colors of chenille at the tail by these thread cores. Then wind forward both colors to get the spiral barbershop pole effect. Tie off behind the eye; leave enough room on the hook shank to tie on a wing and throat.
The throat is supposed to be pink wool, rather long. I used calf tail here and you can as well. The wing is white calf tail a bit longer than the body. On top of the white calf tail wing tie on a small bunch of red fox squirrel tail about half as long as the white calf tail wing. Two wings and a throat is a lot of material, don’t use too much. Sparse will get you a lot more hits on this fly. You can substitute for the tail and throat. Red and orange are common color swaps in Maine.
This is one of those flies that not everyone is aware of or taking the time to tie. It has a respected history and if you want to throw out a streamer that the fish haven’t seen before, this is a good one.