Thursday, December 2, 2010

Goby Goby Goby...

Hook:  TMC 8089 size 6
Thread:  Olive GSP
Weight: Medium dumbbell eyes
Head: Arctic fox tail fur in a dubbing loop
Pectoral fins: Medium to large mallard flank feathers
Belly: Palmered white schlappan
Tail: 4 schlappan - 2 feathers on either side of hook
Minimal flash optional.

The Story

The great lakes region suffers from numerous invasive species.  Of late, two species of Asian carp have grabbed the headlines.  Before them was the  round goby and zebra mussel just to name a few.  And before those species entered the great lakes the notable invasive species were the smelt and alewife.  On a side note, invasive species are not always a bad thing.  For instance, smelt, though technically an invasive species, have become a staple for many of the great lakes trout and salmon species.  And now scientists are trying to protect the smelt from more modern invasive species.  To be fair, in the long run, I don't know if the goby and zebra mussel can exist without horribly disrupting the ecosystem.  I speculate that gobies may be more susceptible to contaminants.  Accordingly, they could damage predator populations by poisoning the fish that eat the gobies.  However, as this post suggests, for now, from a fisherman's perspective, they seem to have helped some predator fish populations by providing a consistent food source when other prey populations are in decline.

Goby Galore 

Take a walk down Chicago's lake front and peer into the water.  If you look closely you will see a one inch to four inch tan, brown, or olive fish  sitting on the bottom.  Upon further examination you will quickly realize that the one fish is not alone.  In fact there are hundreds, even thousands of gobies scattered along the lake bed.  As the picture above indicates, gobies look a lot like a sculpin.  They have a prominent head and dart along the bottom.  Gobies have mottled skin of olive, brown or tan.  They typically congregate around rocks, jetties and similar underwater structure.   They dart around the bottom quickly in short hops from spot to spot.  Any fly imitating a goby should be able to imitate their movements.  To help the cause, I suggest using a sinking or sink tip line.  I have a Beulah Guide Series eight weight that throws a 300 grain DC-24 reasonably well.

Goby and the Giant Brown Trout

Gobies appear to be thriving in lake Michigan and the fish species that have adapted to feed on them are thriving  as well.  I believe its no coincidence that after the goby invasion of the great lakes the brown trout and smallmouth bass fisheries started to produce monsters specimen and are now considered some of the best fisheries of their kind in the world.  For example, roughly in the last twelve months two brown trout in excess of 40 pounds were caught out of lake Michigan.  One fish was caught on lake Michigan's east coast, the other was caught on lake Michigan's west coast.  Both were world records one being the new all tackle world record.  Why is this happening?  Because brown trout have adapted to feed on the gobies.   Gobies have filled great lakes harbors and when water temperatures drop into the low 60s and 50s the brown trout fill the harbors to gorge on the buffet.  Click on this link to read an interesting article detailing the relationship between the goby and brown trout and what it means for fisherman.

The Fly

In an effort to take advantage of this feeding pattern I devised a fly to imitate a goby.  This fly was inspired by a fly called a chubby muffin tied by Nick Granato.  The two patterns only differ in the materials used.  My fly uses a four feather schlappan tail tied with the feathers concave side facing in.  Next, I palmer a white schlappan feather over the tail's tie in point. Then, I take some arctic fox and cut off a clump of the fur's tips.  I tie the tips sloping back thereby covering the top of the white schlappan and creating a solid dark back when wet.  Following that, I tie in a mallard flank feather on each side of the fly.  Tie the feathers in with the concave side facing forward.  The mallard flank feather serves as a nice imitation of the prominent pectoral fins of a goby (see picture) as well as a way to increase the fly's auditory foot print.  At that point, I create a dubbing loop, fill the loop with a generous amount of arctic fox and wrap forward.  Make sure to pack the head after each wrap to build up bulk.  The head will look pretty wild.  Just clean up the edges and you're done.  Remember, do not trim the head too much.  A large head on this fly serves as a proper anatomical imitation but also pushes water, which is an important part of any streamer fly.   You can add weight if necessary.  I like dumbbell eyes to cause the hook point to ride facing up.

By the way, I focused on brown trout and smallmouth bass but steelhead eat them as well.  Check out the belly of the steelhead pictured below.  She was caught within a foot from a jetty wall on the goby pattern shown above.

Tight lines.


  1. Illinois is sure developing a solid population of fishing bloggers. Welcome.

  2. Thanks Clif. That's right Blake. I don't know what the goby means to the great lakes in the long run but it works for me for now.

    I enjoy both of your blogs. Each is very informative. Thanks for checking mine out.