A couple of weeks back, my good buddy Captain Brian Boehm of Quiet Waters Fishing invited me out for a Docklight Session on Longboat Key. He said that he'd noticed big snook keyed in on super tiny shrimp as they swirled around the lights during his last few charters.
I had a box full of the same white baitfish patterns that I always take when hitting lights, but sat down and tied exactly 1 tiny, brown shrimp fly on my way out the door. It ended up being the only fly I used, that night.
Much closer to a bonefish fly than anything I'd ever think was intended for slot snook, this little fly produced double digit fish during our outing and completely changed my thinking about what counts as a "dock light fly."
They're quick to tie, easy to fish, and will ALWAYS be in my fly box from now on.
Crank out a few and see for yourself.
First, pick a small, strong hook with a long enough shank to make a shrimp-y profile. Here, I'm using a Gamakatsu SL113H #6. Lay down a base of your favorite thread - I like Ultra 210 or 280 Denier in Tan for this fly. The ubiquitous Danville Flat Wax 210 is also terrific.
We want the fly to get down into the strike zone, but we don't want it to sink past the fish you're targeting. Small or Medium Bead Chain works perfectly. Tie them in, then wind your thread back to the bend of the hook.
Add 5 turns of Small or Micro Crystal Chenille to the bend of the hook for a hot spot of foul-free flash.
Tie in a strand of Flashabou or Crystal Flash - use whatever color you like. Here, I'm using Black to mimic antennae more than for its ability to catch light. Doubled over and tied in at its midpoint, it becomes 4 separate wiggly face bits after trimming. Keep it long - you can always adjust when you're giving the fly its final trim.
Crustacean eyes. Fish may not care, but I do.
Add a pinch of Arctic Fox Tail right on top of the eyes. Arctic Fox Fur also works, but the tail is a bit stiffer and looks just as lively in the water.
Legs. I really love barred legs on crustacean patterns - they look so realistic. Thinner legs are more active in the water, so try to find the thinnest ones you can for small patterns like this.
Almost done, now. Tie in some 0.5" EP Tarantula or Wooly Critter brush and palmer it tightly back to just in front of the eyes. I use a toothbrush to tease out the fibers on every revolution. This trains everything back and keeps you from tying over the material of your last revolution. Tie the brush in very tightly prior to trimming the tag end. Trimming prior to securing nearly always allows the material to spin a but and makes the profile look a little sloppy.
Build a head, tie in a weed guard if you like, then finish with your favorite fly finisher. I like LOON UV Flow. You can tidy up the profile to create a bit of a taper.
I know there aren't usually weeds floating over dock lights, but having the guard on there will help you skitter the fly across the dock boards on errant casts and avoid sinking the barb into dock ropes. Getting your fly caught on the dock nearly always means that light is finished, so preventative measures pay dividends.
Basic, easy, and fishy. Give it a try on your next outing. Tight Lines, y'all.