Fly tying Featured Fishing

Tying the Franke Shiner baitfish imitation for migrating browns

Baitfish imitations work great in the fall, particularly where migrating brown trout are found. As these fish move out of lakes or upstream from big water to spawning habitat, they just get more and more aggressive. Giving them something substantial to chase — and something that looks like a dependable source of food, too — is a good approach.

Tying the Franke Shiner

Above, Tim Flagler ties a great baitfish imitation — the Franke Shiner, first created by Floyd Franke, a Catskills fly-tying legend. This is an excellent baitfish pattern that can be tied on larger streamer hooks from size 4 to size 8, and it’s a sleek swimmer in the water, which is often exactly what migrating browns are looking for.

This baitfish patterns is a bit involved, but I find it to be incredibly handsome — the tinsel body and the flash really show up when this fly is fished on the swing. It just picks up light from above the surface and seems to glisten in the water column.

I would likely incorporate several shortcuts to this pattern, just because, as you’ll notice, there’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” when it comes to this recipe (for instance, I might substitute some dyed UV resins for the nail polish that Tim uses, so I can just give the fly a dose of light and hard-cure the head in seconds rather than minutes). But no matter how you tie it, so long as it cruises seductively through riffles or is stripped erratically through deep water, this fly is a winner.