Blobs & FABs
Peter Gathercole ties a pattern you can’t do without on stillwaters
How to tie a deadly winter pattern
LIKE it or loathe it, the Blob is one of few trout patterns to instigate an almost emotional response. When it first became popular, there were many disparaging comments made, not only about the pattern itself, but also toward those who would stoop so low as to use it. ‘Yobs with Blobs’ was the most memorable insult and one which you still hear occasionally. So why such anger? After all, it’s just a pattern – a very simple one, it’s true, but that’s it and one I wouldn’t like to be without even if I don’t use it that often. I think it’s this simplicity that’s part of the problem. After all, how can something that comprises little more than a few turns of Fritz be a proper fly? And what’s almost worse, why will even wily grown-on fish take it, often in preference to a delicately tied nymph? Interestingly, many of the Blobs used today are quite different from the originals. The first time I encountered one of the dreaded Blobs I’d heard so much about it looked like a small, bright orange golf ball. One thing that has happened over the pattern’s evolution is that versions have been created that are smaller and less brightly coloured. What’s also quite remarkable is how trout will happily take a Blob when it’s being fished virtually static. Instinctively I tend to equate fishing a brightly-coloured lure with a fast retrieve. So, it’s taken a bit of getting used to the fact that a Blob can be absolutely deadly when fished more like a nymph. In fact, using a Blob as part of a team is just what makes it so effective. It means that it can be combined with more natural-looking patterns and all can be fished at the correct speed. The advantage is that every fly on the leader – whether it be two, three or even four – has a great chance of being taken. But it’s even better than that because the brightly-coloured fly will draw fish in to investigate, only for them to take the more natural-looking pattern. Trout mostly locate their prey by sight and by using one or more brightly-coloured flies to attract their attention the odds of getting a take are significantly increased.
“Blob – it’s not the most inspiring of names. Surely someone could do better!”
The slow-sinking effect of the Fritz also helps hold a team of nymphs close to the surface much like the washing line technique when using a Booby. In fact, by using a FAB, which is in essence a Blob with a buoyant foam tail, you have perfect control – when fish are feeding in the top few inches – something that is very difficult to achieve when using nymphs alone even if they’re tied on light hooks.
Blob – it’s not the most inspiring of names. Surely someone could have come up with a better label. In the US, there’s a pattern created with just the same Fritzy material. It’s called the Ersatz Egg and is tied as an artificial salmon egg – ‘ersatz’ meaning fake or imitation. See, that’s a clever name, isn’t it? Took a bit of thought, yet we just have Blob. One thing that is important when tying any type of Blob is to use the right hook. Fritz is quite a thick, dense material so even if you don’t intend to pack it tightly along the shank there’s still enough of it to fill the gap of a standard wet fly hook and in so doing reduce its hooking capability. The best choice is a wide gape or short shank hook – they may have a different name depending on the brand but they are the same thing, having a much wider gape than a standard wet fly hook of the same size. Although Blobs can be tied with normal Fritz or Cactus Chenille there are a number of translucent products, such as Plush Chenille and Turbo Chenille, specifically suited to tying this style of fly. These types of chenille have fibres that lie in one direction in the same way as a cat’s fur. While this is a distinct advantage when it comes to getting the Blob’s profile right, it means that the chenille must be caught in by the correct end if it’s to be wound properly. For a normal sized Blob 15mm diameter Fritz works best. As the fibres fold back a little the completed fly has an overall diameter of about 15mm, which creates the right proportions for a size 8 or 10 hook. In smaller versions of the Blob the finer 8mm example of the same material is perfect. Although it’s fine to use only Fritz, it can be embellished by adding a tinsel tail, rubber legs or indeed a metal bead at the head. In contrast to the weight of a bead, a tail of foam cord may be added, transforming the pattern from a Blob to a FAB. The first step is to lay a solid base of thread along the shank. Although black thread works perfectly well I prefer either a white thread or one of a colour matching the body material. So, having created a double layer, park the thread at the bend then catch in the tail material. It’s not vital to add a tail but it can add a bit of extra sparkle, especially if the material chosen is something like Krystal Flash or Mirror Flash. Or, the tail can be formed from a length of 5-7mm diameter Booby Foam, making it a buoyant FAB rather than a Blob. To secure the tail, catch in a length of Mirror Flash half the thickness of the intended tail, and then simply fold it over to achieve the required density. This technique ensures that the tail fibres can never come loose. The Fritz body can be formed in one or more sections. Blobs often have a bi-coloured body, maybe with a short section of chartreuse Fritz at the bend. The rest of the body comprises a length of orange or pink Fritz or a variety of other colours. To secure Fritz to the hook, prepare in the same way as other types of chenille. Because it’s so bulky a short section of the thin core must be exposed and then caught in to stop a lump forming at the rear of the body. So, using a thumbnail or tying scissor blades, gently tease away a short section of the fibres. Catch in the Fritz by this bare core at the tail base. Add further tight thread turns, carrying it a short distance towards the eye. Now take hold of the Fritz and wind on two turns, stroking the fibres back with each turn. This process is important as the relatively long Fritz fibres are easily trapped. What’s also vital is that the Fritz isn’t twisted but is allowed to sit flat so that the fibres sweep back towards the hook bend, rather like the body hackle on a palmered fly. Once the two turns have been added, the loose end of the Fritz is secured and the waste trimmed off. The second section of the body comprises a length of Hot Coral Plush Fritz, again the standard 15mm width. This is prepared in the same way as the one used for the chartreuse section and caught in right in front of it. Now a decision has to be made. Do you pack the turns very closely together or keep them slightly apart? The former makes for a very compact texture while the latter creates a softer effect. I prefer the latter where the Fritz fibres sweep back towards the tail, rather like a very dense palmered hackle. This style works particularly well when tying Blobs in smaller sizes, giving the appearance of bulk while still being soft enough to offer little resistance when a fish takes and improving the chance of a more secure hook-up. So, take hold of the Coral Fritz and without twisting it begin to wind it towards the eyes. Stroke the fibres back at each turn, keeping going until the eye. Secure the loose end with tight thread turns before applying two thread turns directly on to the shank behind the eye. This helps prevent thread being cut when the waste end of the Fritz is removed. Finally, draw Fritz fibres away from the eye before building a neat head with thread. Cast off with a whip finish.