The sun had just come up over the mangroves when we saw the tell-tale push of a fish moving up the shore a short distance ahead of us. We were sight fishing for snook and redfish in the 10,000 Islands of southwest Florida on a beautiful clear October morning. The tide was outgoing and the light still low but the skinny water gave his position away as the redfish worked his way up the shore looking for breakfast. The red was moving steadily away from us but my hope was that he would spend some time looking for food on an oyster bar that lay just ahead. “The bar up ahead should slow him down enough for us to catch up and get a shot” I said. Sure enough, we could see he found something on the edge of the bar as he swirled around and ate. One more push of the pole and we were within casting range. My angler put the fly about two feet ahead of the fish, let it sink a few inches, one strip, two strips; the red turned, slammed it and was on.
We landed the fish, took some pictures and after releasing it my angler said “cool looking fly, what does it imitate?” Before I answered that I replied, “Let’s stop a second and look at this oyster bar, up close.” As we leaned over the edge of the skiff, I picked up a small clump of coon oysters and held it in the water. You could see a couple small crabs and little dark colored baitfish scurry about in the nooks and crannies created by the oysters. He was amazed at the amount of life we saw but observed there is nothing here that looks exactly like that fly. I said, “You are exactly right, just like a woolly bugger in freshwater, this pattern is not specific but rather combines key traits that instinctively trigger strikes.” It is the perfect fly for walking across these oyster bars and is representative in color and movement of many of the creatures found here. The Alien has some key features I consider important in design; easy to tie, good for more than one species of fish, minimal number of materials and key characteristics of baitfish, shrimp and crabs. The realistic eyes and profile are features of the small baitfish bigger fish key in on. The rubber legs, representative of the appendages on both crabs and shrimp, are a key ingredient in the action with this fly. When tying this pattern leave them long for more action and balance. The other requirement was that the hook had to ride point up to help prevent snagging in the oysters. What I did not anticipate was the great side-to-side action that this design imparts on the retrieve. When you combine all of these qualities into a pattern, fish eat it. The Alien is a style of fly rather than a specific pattern. I tie them in a variety of color variations. I tied the first Alien for snook using glow-in-the-dark materials for the wing, legs and body. The next variation, called the Redfish Alien is tied with root beer colored materials. One of my go-to patterns here in the Everglades is the Illegal Alien tied with a black wing, brown body and legs. The newest fly to come off my vise is the Bonefish Alien. Tied on a size 4 Gamakatsu SC15 with light tan and shrimp colored SF Flash Blend. The Alien style offers lots of possibilities for color combinations.
As with most of the patterns I use for my fishing here in the Everglades, I tie them with no weight for very shallow water situations. I add a few wraps of lead to create flies that suspend in the water column or add a few more wraps for ones that sink on the spot.
Hook: Gamakatsu SC15, 4 through 2/0
Thread: 3/0 Uni Mono
Weight: Lead wire
Body: EP Dubbing Brush or dubbing spinning loop
Legs: Super Floss or silicone rubber
Wing: SF Flash Blend
Topping: Krystal Flash to accent body/wing color.
Eyes: 3-D Pelagic Asymmetric Mirage Eyes or colors to match the body/head.
Step 1: With the hook inverted in the vise, point up, attach the thread at the rear of the hook at the bend and tie in two legs leaving them long. At this point you can add some lead wire wraps or strips parallel to the shank to provide the desired amount of weight to sink the fly.
Step 2: Attach either an EP dubbing brush or spinning loop. Wrap forward toward the head leaving room for legs and wing. Tie off and add another set of legs.
Step 3: Cut a medium size bunch of SF Flash Blend for the wing and place on top and secure.
Step 4: Add the final set of legs right at the head and set a small bunch of Krystal Flash over the wing for topping. Trim the Krystal Flash, whip finish and apply head cement.
Step 5: Add a set of Pelagic 3-D eyes with either Zap-a-Gap or Liquid Fusion. Trim the legs to balance the fly.