Article by Jack Gartside: FishHead flies are extremely effective fish-takers, combining an attractive shape and motion, seductive materials, and a realistic baitfish-shaped head.

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Hot Orange Rabbit Strip FishHead

FishHead flies are extremely effective fish-takers in both fresh and salt water, combining as they do a very attractive shape and motion, with soft and seductive materials flowing temptingly out of a realistic baitfish-shaped head with painted eyes. The Hot Orange Rabbit-Strip FishHead is one of my favorite early season flies for stripers, trout, and largemouth bass. Its vibrant color can be seen over great distances, even when the water is discolored, as it so often is early in the season, and the undulating motion of the rabbit strip make this fly hard to resist.

Note: FishHeads with a white or chartreuse rabbit strip and skirt are also very effective at times, so while you’re tying up some FishHeads, you might also want to tie some up in these colors as well. For more FishHead patterns and ideas, see my book Fly Patterns for the Adventurous Tyer, Vol. II (Salt Water). Patterns in this book may also be used successfully in fresh water as well. Also, check out other FishHead patterns here on the web site.

Tying the Hot Orange Rabbit-Strip FishHead


About Corsair tubing: Corsair tubing can be found in many fly shops. You can also order it directly from me. If you've not used Corsair tubing before, the most important thing to notice is the thread line running along each side of the tubing. This thread line controls the density, flexibility, and the degree to which the material can be stretched and tapered, as well as shaped (e.g. flattened or made oval). In addition, these thread lines may also serve to suggest the lateral lines of the natural bait fish. To create and maintain the best shapes and tapers, these thread lines MUST be tied down at BOTH ends of the tubing when forming the head.


Daiichi 2546 or Mustad 34007 (SW), Daiichi 2451 (FW), #4-1/0


Danville's 6/0, white


.20 or .30 lead wire single or double-wrapped over front third of hook

Tail Wing:

Hot Orange Rabbit Strip (length may be between 3”-9” depending on effect desired)

Side Flash:

Pearl GSS or Flashabou.


Hot Orange rabbit or fox


Corsair tubing (1/2" for large flies (#2 and up), 1/3" for smaller flies, color to vary1/2” Pearlescent corsair tubing for flies size #2 and higher (For smaller flies use 1/3” or 1/4”)


Black on orange (fabric paint)

step 1

Step 1Wrap lead around front third of thank and coat with fabric paint (If you plan to tie more than one weighted FishHead, it’s wise to prepare a number of hooks in various sizes).

Note: Weighting the FishHead like this in front causes it to sink quickly and deeply. Coating the lead with fabric paint--I use red or orange on the bottom and greenish-blue on top--provides some “internal” coloration. FishHeads can also be tied without weight or with very little for a shallower-running fly.

step 2

Step 2Tie in a strip of rabbit fur about a third of the shank forward of the bend of hook. Trim excess. Tie in sideflash if desired.

step 3

Step 3Just in front of the wing, tie in a skirt of Hot Orange rabbit or fox so that it completely encircles the hook and the tailwing. Trim excess.

step 4

Step 4Cut approximately 1 1/2” of Corsair tubing and slip over eye and shank to a point just in front of the skirt and tie down. Be sure to line up the thread lines so that each one runs parallel and alongside the hook shank and be sure also to tie down the thread lines along with the tubing just in front of the skirt (see Tying Tips below). Trim excess material if any, whip finish thread, and cement thread wrap.

Note: Before pushing the tubing over the shank, squeeze the tubing slightly at the end you intend to tie down--this loosens up the material a bit--then cut the tubing at a point slightly behind the points of thread--this will cause the thread lines to pop out of the material, sort of like a snail’s horns (this makes it much easier to tie down the thread lines).

step 5

Step 5Push tubing back over shank to the base of the skirt (Corsair tubing is semi-collapsible and acts a bit like an accordion.).Wind your thread (at least six or seven times) around the tubing at a point just behind the eye so that tubing is secured to the hook, with approximately 1/2” extending beyond the hook eye.

step 6

Step 6Trim excess and form a neat thread head. Paint eyes if desired and color top of FishHead and “lateral line” with water-resistant art markers such as Pantone or Chartpak.

Note: Stick-on eyes are not recommended for use with Corsair tubing. For one thing they never “stick.”


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