When I called Bob Shufelt of Greenville, Maine to ask him about his famous creation, he was friendly and willing to tell me that he designed the fly almost 40 years ago and kept it a secret for over a decade. Gradually the word got out and knowledgeable guides and fly fishers began to add this remarkable streamer to their boxes.
During the fall, togue move out of deep water and into shallow water to spawn. They will attack anything that they perceive to be a threat to the nest. This is the time to use large, colorful flies. But it is more than just a fall togue fly; it is a great streamer all season long. A friend of mine, Bob Ganem of Bangor, uses it to pull more salmon out of Grand Lake Stream than anyone I know and I’ve watched him break one off on a striped bass at the Eddington boat landing on the Penobscot River. My friend winters in Florida and he has caught snapper, tarpon and a 47 inch barracuda with the Shufelt Special. This streamer does it all and it’s easy to tie, so let’s get started.
Recipe for the Shufelt Special
Thread – Black
Hook – Size 2-8 streamer hook, 8X long
Tail – Golden Pheasant crest tippets
Body – Silver Mylar
Wing –White marabou over red bucktail, over yellow bucktail
Eyes – White with black center
There are some things to know about this fly. Most of the time I like a sparse streamer but not so here; I tie this fly bushy and it works better that way. And big! I currently tie them on size 2 or 4 hooks that are 8x long. Don’t skip the eyes; they’re more important than you think. Bob Ganem has tested both and claims that a Shufelt Special with eyes works better by a factor of 2 to 1. Bob Shufelt heartily agreed with me; he didn’t put eyes on his early versions but added them later and feels that the fly works better with eyes. Paint eyes on this fly.
Start with a good bunch of golden pheasant crest tippets. Be sure to use your thread to smooth the tie and put a good thread base for the Mylar body that is coming up. A good trick here is to start the fly with white thread. If there is a gap in your Mylar body, black thread can be seen through the gap but white thread seems to hide the gap better. Tie the Mylar on at the head and wind it back to the tail and then wind it forward to where you tied it on. Two layers make a big difference in Mylar bodies.
The first part of the wing is yellow bucktail. Use the long hairs from the top third of the bucktail and they will flare less. The wing should be longer than the hook shank but not as long as the end of the tail. I touch some super glue to the base of the bunch of bucktail before I tie it on the hook. This allows me to tie it on more gently and not pull on the thread so hard that I flare the wing. The fly survives striped bass and togue better as well. Tie a similar bunch of red bucktail over the yellow; each wing should be the same size. My yellow bucktail wings lay close to the hook shank and I like that, the red stays on top and forms a nice silhouette. Finally, tie on a good bunch of white marabou. Getting marabou long enough for a hook with an 8x shank is difficult, but you can find it in the fly shops if you look. Ask the owner for help.
I paint the eyes on with lacquer. Use a bodkin to put a drop of white on the side of the head. Wait a minute for the surface of the white drop to harden a bit and touch it with a small drop of black lacquer. Hang the fly allowing the eye to dry and then use head cement to finish it. The chemicals of lacquer are different than most head cements and if you put head cement over a still wet lacquer eye, the eye may never dry.
The Shufelt Special is a great streamer with a lot of uses. I’m sure that this fly would work well in Canada and I know it works well here. I’m not surprised to hear it works well in salt water as far south as Florida. It is an easy streamer to tie. You should tie it and you should fish it.