There are three camps when it comes to using tandem-hook flies for bluewater – wahoo and billfish, in particular: Camp one loves them; camp two hates them and camp three agrees that there is a place for both tandem- and single-hook patterns offshore. I’m in camp three. It depends upon the circumstances and the target species. Camp one, which has some pretty big names in it, like Trey Combs, are strong on flies with large, single-hooks, which are head-heavy, promoting a dipping and diving action – monikers that dive head first on the drop. They believe, and I agree, that single hook-hook flies have better action, promoting more strikes when a boat such as the Royal Star has finally come to a stop after a long slide. It’s the “stop and drop”, almost no retrieve, that gets the marlin and wahoo biting best at this time and the single hook fly gets the nod then. Problem with a tandem hook at this stage, is that the rear hook adding weight to the rear of the fly, negates any dipping and diving action the head and front hook might promote. I agree here, too.
However, when it comes to enticing billfish like bruiser marlin or linebacker wahoo, the best bite is often while the boat is on the “slide” and you are taking advantage of what I call “troll aid”. Wahoo are meat slicers with fins and their tact is to swarm into the wash (particularly when live-bait chumming) to chomp and maim, parting heads from bodies and coming back to pick up the pieces. Accordingly, short strikes are common, both with flies and hardware – even bait! Tandem hooks shine under these circumstances! No one knows this better than bluewater vet, Ray Beadle of Los Gatos, California – holder of many fly rod billfish world records, who began his angling career mating on commercial boats and later sport angling on the long range charters, with bait, iron and fly. “I can’t tell you how many times fishing live bait, I felt the hit and only reeled in the mackerel’s head.”, say’s Beadle. “This is what swayed me to tie my bluewater flies on tandem hooks!”
I knew Ray was in camp two and a strong proponent of tandem hooks for bluewater flies. I also knew that he had designed one of the best tandem hook designs in use today. Based on this, I gave Ray a call an asked if he would be willing to share his tandem hook design with my readers. We’ll he went well beyond the typical interview and agreed to meet me for lunch at the “Super Taqueria”, not far from my home.
When I got to the taco joint, Ray was set up at the table with fly tying vise, hooks, wire and other required tools. He even brought his camera gear so I could shoot some photos, and it was a good thing since I didn’t bring mine, not having a clue…
ASSEMBLING TANDEM HOOKS – RAY BEADLE STYLE
There are several methods for making a tandem-hooked fly, some good, others not. I thought I used a pretty good technique until I saw how Ray does it and I immediately canned the way I did it in favor of Beadle’s. If you have a favorite tandem hook rig and would rather fight than switch, great! Stick with it. Here’s how Ray does it:
Ray always pre-sharpens his hooks before building a tandem rig and he generally uses the same size hook for the rear or “Stinger” or “Trap” hook as it is sometimes called. Some folks like to drop down a size and that’s OK.
Start by looping a doubled length of 90-pound, braided Seven Strand or equal wire through the eye of the rear hook, leaving the length of one wire leg long enough to be pushed down through the eye of the front hook and then folded back to the bend. The other leg is cut just short of the eye of the front hook. Ray uses an ice pick or an awl, pushing it firmly down through the eye of the front hook to hold the wire firmly in place for wrapping . The rear hook is positioned point up. Ray likes to keep the aft hook close to the bend of the fore hook, leaving only an eighth- to a quarter-inch separation. To be legal for a world record, the second hook in any tandem fly must not extend beyond the wing material. The eyes of the hooks shall be no farther than 6 inches (15.24 cm) apart. Treble hooks are prohibited.
Using a fly tying bobbin, loaded with 12-pound Micron, Ray positions the leg of wire going through the hook-eye on top of the shank along with the short leg. The tag end of the long length goes under the shank. He then tightly wraps a couple of layers of Micron around both legs of wire and the hook shank, covering the entire shank. He secures the thread with a basic fly tier’s “Whip Finish” or a series of half hitches.
Beadle likes to produce about 20 sets of tandem hooks, depending upon his offshore expectations, and then over-coats the wraps of Micron with 5-Minute epoxy. When dry, the hook shank is left completely smooth for easy, neat tying and the wire is impossible to pull out.
One other thing Ray feels is important when you tie your favorite bluewater streamer on the any tandem rig, is to be sure to tie a small bunch of bucktail, flowing over the stinger hook to act as a fouling guard, keeping the materials tied on the front hook from fouling around the rear hook, which can cause the fly to spin.
Ray Beadle’s Tandem hook system works equally well for both billfish and wahoo, plus a hoard of other species. Give this tandem rig a try on your next bluewater fly-rod outing and I’m sure you’ll be as pleased about learning about it as I was.