The Gonzo is Missoula outfitter Joe Sowerby’s favorite streamer, his go-to bug when the water starts to cloud during spring. But these take fish during winter, too. So, if you have some time this weekend you may want to wind up a few of these. They’ll work on the Clark Fork River, Rock Creek, the Bitterroot River, the Smith River, the Missouri River and the Blackfoot River, among others. Sowerby’s two best color combos are Olive/Black and White/Black. For more info on the western Montana trout fishing, Joe Sowerby and Montana Fly Fishing Connection, check out www.mtff.com
Hook: Daiichi 1710- size 4
Thread: Black or Camel Brown 3-6/0
Eyes: Spirit River “Real-Eyes” 7/32” nickel/yellow
Tail: 4 olive saddle hackles
Tail flash: 6 strands of rusty olive “angel hair”
Body: olive Ice-Dub
Head: 6 marabou feathers (2 yellow, 2 olive, 2 black)
Gill Flash: Red Krystal flash
Start with a 2x long streamer hook like a Dai-Riki 730, Daiichi 1710 or similar. Tie on brass/nickel dumbbell eyes so that the point will ride up (I like the ones with yellow or red eyes already on). For a size 4 I use a 7/32”. Lightly dub the shank with some synthetic dubbing like “Ice-Dub”.
The tail consists of four saddle hackles (two on each side). I tie these in (two at a time) at about ¼ inch behind the eyes. They are tied cupping towards each rather than flaring out. Add a few stands of Angel hair flash (my favorite color is “rusty olive”) down the middle between the saddles. A little goes a long way.
Now just stack and fan out marabou feathers – one on top and then one on bottom. Fan them out as you go and repeat with about six total feathers. Only use the good even tips of the marabou. After you get the first four on add some red Krystal-flash, about 5 strands per side. Trim even with the marabou tips to represent gills. The last two marabou feathers should be black, making the darkest part of the fly right up by the eyes. These last two black marabou feathers should be tied in front of the eyes. You may have to x over the eyes to get it to lay back. The tips of all the marabou should be at the same length.
Done! On a size 4 hook the fly usually ends up being about 3 to 3.25”. This is somewhat dictated by the shape of the saddles. With smaller hook sizes it obviously gets shorter. The marabou should be just long enough to cover up the hook point, or about 1/4 to 1/3 overall length.
I’m currently filling up the boxes with olive and blacks, white and blacks, and some with a little more peach and yellow accents in there. Give them a shot; you might be surprised what comes after them.
Tips: Probably the most important tip on this fly has to do with the selection of the saddle hackles. You must choose 4 quality feathers that match up well. A bag or bundle of olive saddles will usually contain about 1/5 unusable feathers due to bad strength or excessive twist or bend in the quill. Then there will be about one third of the remaining feathers that are nearly %100 webby, or like a “schlappen” feather. Others will have hardly any web to the feather and appear thin and see-through more like a dry-fly hackle. So you are basically left with less than a third of your feathers that are potential candidates for this fly; they have good structure with about 50% webbing, have a good quill with little or no twist or curve, and have as little cupping as possible, and are appropriately sized.