Illawarra Flyfishers Club

Gartside Gurgler - Freshwater Version

Photos and Text by Andrew Susani and Andrew Wheeler

Hook Gamakatsu B10S or Mustad Mega-Bite (#4 Mega-Bite pictured)
Thread 3/0 - colour to match body (6/0 for small flies)
Body Ice, crystal or plain chenille
Tail Fox Tail with some flash material (Comes Alive pictured)
Legs Thin rubber or sili-legs (you will also need a sewing needle)
Back/Lip 2mm foam sheet

The Gartside Gurgler was created by Jack Gartside and was designed to be a simple popper to catch striped bass and tarpon. This is one of the most underused flies in this country, and to this day I have never seen one for sale in a tackle shop, or even mentioned in a fishing article or report. People who have trouble tying dahlbergs (or see them as a vulgar waste of material like I do!) will regard this fly as a godsend. 

If you tie it properly, it will sit in the surface film, with the rubber legs splayed out on the surface. A sharp strip will pull the front down and the foam face will create an unusually loud 'blllooop', just like the dahlberg. This fly has two main advantages over normal surface flies: 1) It is extremely easy to cast, even with light rods, due to the fact that it absorbs a minimal amount of water; 2) they can be tied in about 5-10 minutes and don't require special (or expensive) materials, so losing the odd one isn't going to ruin your day.

Check out Jack Gartside's website for all the original instructions and excellent tips on fishing with surface flies.

Tying Instructions

1. Start the thread at the bend of the hook. Tie in a small bunch of fox tail or similar so it points down slightly. We use fox tail or just a bunch of coily Comes Alive for our bass flies, and polafibre for the larger saltwater flies, where low water absorption (and hence lightweight) is important. Add a few strands of flash material to either side of the tail.
2. Take a piece of sheet foam and cut a piece about 1.5 - 2 times the length of the hook and about 10mm wide (15mm for bigger flies). Take a pair of scissors and taper one end of the piece of foam, then tie this pointed end down so that the foam extends out the back of the fly.
3. Take a piece of chenille about 8cm long and tie it in at the bend of the hook.
4. Wind the chenille forward to form an even body and tie it off so that there is about 3 - 5mm of bare hook shank behind the hook eye.
5. Take the foam and pull it over the back of the fly. Tie this down by using 2 loose wraps over the foam, then slowly pulling them tight while making sure the foam doesn't slip around the body. If you have found that the foam is too wide, unwrap the thread and cut a bit off both sides of the foam, then tie it down.
6. Pull the front face up and make a small "head" underneath the face. This buildup of thread will force the face to stand up and cause the popper to make the "bloop".
7. Trim the foam face to the desired height, whip finish the thread and varnish.
8. Cut a rubber leg so it is equal to the length of the desired leg on each side of the popper plus the width of the foam back. Take a sewing needle and thread the end of the rubber leg through it.
9. Locate where you want the legs to be positioned, then push the needle horizontally through the foam back. 
10. Pull the needle though and remove the leg from the needle. 
11. Repeat this for the other leg or legs.
12. Adjust the leg length by pulling them gently and then add a tiny drop of super glue to the spot where each leg comes out of the foam. The fly is complete!


The original used a palmered saddle hackle for legs, but I reckon rubber legs are more attractive and bug-like. If you want to use a palmered hackle, tie in the feather at step 6 and palmer the hackle over the chenille body. You can trim the top of the hackle if you like, but pulling the foam over to form a back will flatten it out anyway.

This fly is very good on bass, and smaller versions would probably take their fair share of bream when they were in the mood. For bass, the fly needs to be worked nice and slowly though - cast it to the cover, then leave it for 20 seconds or so. Make sure you have a reasonably tight line to the fly, then give it a short, sharp strip - this should make it bloop as it is pulled underwater. Leave it again for at least 20 seconds before repeating the process. If you know that there is a fish in there, but it won't strike, repeat the cast and retrieve, but leave a minute between strips (if possible - obviously this is easy if you are fishing still water with no current). Sometimes you can incite a response by extending this pause between strips.

All surface flies should ideally have black undersides so the fish (saltwater too) can see a clear silhouette against the bright sky. If you have trouble keeping sight on a dark fly, just add a bright strip of foam over the top of the back, or tie down a bright 'indicator' when you tie down the foam to make the popper face.