The Squirrely is a great small garfish fly but I don’t typically fish specifically for garfish nor do I catch them blind casting. When I cast a Squirrely to a gar it is because I’m looking for a change of pace in the carp or bream fishing. Those that have known me through fly fishing/tying can tell you that the Squirrely is my go to pattern for bream; it used to be the only fly I fished sub-surface for bream, lately I’ve been switching things up more but that’s another story.
Well, one hot summer day when the bream were nowhere, the only activity was eighteen to twenty four inch garfish breaking the surface gulping for the hot humid air; I decided to practice my sight casting. Throwing the small, gold eyed brown fly in front of and past a cruising gar, I held my rod up to keep the Squirrely from sinking and at the same time maneuvering the fly across the cruising garfish’s sight path. As soon as the fly reached the snout area, the gar slashed it toothy snout sideways capturing my little offering. I set the hook and was entertained by some feisty runs interspersed with airborne acrobatics that made me feel like I was playing a bass.
Anyway, after releasing that fish, I thought it must have been a fluke and tried at the next one I saw; no fluke, that one jumped on it just as fast but this time I got popped off. It was the only Squirrely I had, so I just called it a day.
That Squirrely is something I came up with back in the early 1980’s to provide me with a flyrod version to my favorite crappie jig, a grey squirrel tail jig with a black head. The flyrod version didn’t catch as many crappie as the jig did but what I discovered was that bluegill and bass alike both loved the little fly. Also, it has accounted for a number of catfish as well as carp and garfish. Grey squirrel tail hair is just a good mottled color that I think mimics a variety of food items from bottom crawling crawfish to dragon fly nymphs to little minnows.
I think if I targeted gar I would use a heavier tippet, I usually, as I said earlier, I haven’t caught a garfish blind casting but when I’m bored with the bream fishing; consequentially, I have less than 10lb tippet. I’m thinking 12 – 15lb flouro would help with the pop offs. While I’ve rarely had a gar pass up an opportunity to eat a Squirrely that has passed near its snout, other small flies work as well.
I’ve tried the larger rope flies specifically for garfish but haven’t had much luck with the smaller garfish, they seemed to spook from them. Now, maybe a smaller one would work fine but I don’t know how short you could go and still have the fibers long enough to get tangled and hold the fish.
They’ll hit small floating bream bugs but they’ll miss it often because I think the wake from their moving snout pushes the bug away. They don’t open their mouth much when they eat seeming to want to nip and slash at their food/your fly. That is why a small hook is so effective in hooking them. Size #10 and #8 are my favorite size but a #6 will usually work as well.
Hook: Mustad 3906b or equiv. size 10
Thread: 3/0 black
Eyes: Standard brass bead chain or lead eyes if needing to fish deeper or smaller bead chain if you want a slower sink rate.
Wing: Grey Squirrel tail, younger squirrel with distinct barring is preferred.
It’s several years old, but Kirk made a video of how to tie the fly. It has some helpful tips in it, especially for beginners, so it’s worth a look.