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Pattern Index

Fingernail Flies
by Ray Gattus

The "Spoon Fly" has been around for about ten years. Originally, it was created out of a length of flattened Mylar tubing that was epoxied to a hook. A variety of other methods sprang out of that idea. The "Nail Fly" is one that belongs to Marty Edgar of Naples, Florida. For more information on Marty's pattern, check out the Summer 1998 issue of Fly Tyer Magazine.

Before & After Step 1: Go into any pharmacy and take a look along the nail aisle. You'll find a lot of false fingernails to choose. It's almost as confusing as selecting a new fly line, but the difference in the shape will end up being the difference in the amount of action the finished pattern will have in the water. I picked up Kiss nails because of price and selection (100 different nails for about $3.50).

Step 2: The next step is the hook. You have to use a long-shank hook, such as a Mustad 34011, in a size comparable to the nail that you're using. For most large fingernails, I use a 1/0 hook, but no larger than a 2/0. The shank has to be bent to match the curve of the fingernail. After it's bent, bend the eye up so that it's in line with the barb.

Step 3: Most nails come in a squared shape, and have to be shaped. I've found that the easiest way is to take a sheet of 100 grit sandpaper, lay it flat on your table, and rub the nail back and forth while holding it firmly. Keep sanding until you get a uniform shape in the size you want. I've found this is the best way to get all four corners rounded to a small spoon shape.

Step 4: Now decide on the body and tailing materials Marabou makes a great tail. So does bucktail, saddle hackles, SuperHair, and other synthetics. Whatever your choice, tie it in at the bend of the hook, then wrap on a body material. The body material in this pattern is more of a base to hold the epoxy than a dressing. You may use chenille, cactus chenille, Mylar tubing, yarn, etc. I've used a pearl braid in the example. Keep in mind that the thicker materials will absorb more of the epoxy in the next step.

Step 6: You'll need a way to hold the nail and hook steady while the epoxy sets. I use "plumbers putty." This is only to hold the nail level and in place while you epoxy the hook inside. Anything similar will work, just make sure that it doesn't do damage to the nail.
It's best to use a fast-setting epoxy or you'll be spending a lot of time on each pattern, waiting for the epoxy to hold. I try to set up about six flies at a time in "plumber's putty" on my drying rack. Coat the body material with the epoxy mixture, and set it inside of the nail, and make any necessary adjustments. The epoxy should begin to set within a couple of minutes.

Step 7: (Optional) After the epoxy is set, you may fill the nail with a rod building finish for a smoother look. Rod finish epoxy takes about 24 hours to dry thoroughly. The result will be some extra weight and less action, but it's an experiment that may work to catch more fish.

Step 8: Now we're down to adding color and design. There are a lot of different ways to add color -- permanent markers, jig paints, etc. -- but the most obvious -- nail polish -- is the best. These days, it comes in any and every color you can think of, with and without glitter, and there are some that even glow in the dark. After painting your nail, give it a coat of Hard As Nails. It's made not to lift and smear nail polish colors, and creates a durable shell.
In fact, I've been using it as a head cement for years, and using nail polish to paint the eyes on my freshwater and saltwater patterns without a problem, except for when my wife and daughter steal my supplies.


Ray Gattus is a professional Long Island tyer who runs Greyghost Flies & Bucktails. You can contact him at 516-795-3785 or on the Internet at

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