Illawarra Flyfishers Club

Gartside Gurgler - Saltwater Version

Photos and Text by Andrew Susani

Hook Mustad 34044 or Gamakatsu Siwash
Thread 3/0 - colour to match body (6/0 for small flies)
Tail Polafibre or Bucktail
Body Ice, crystal or plain chenille
Flash Comes Alive, Flashabou or Glimmer etc
Back/Front Lip 2 or 3mm foam sheet

The Gartside Gurgler was created by Jack Gartside and was designed to be a simple, easy to tie popper that rode through the surface film and was aimed at the local 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. 

When tied properly, it will sit in the surface film and skitter through the surface on a medium to fast retrieve. This is a very 'subtle' popper, and won't crash or bang around like a cupped face popper, but is much more realistic. It is designed to imitate a slender, fleeing baitfish, and due to it's low riding position in the water, is very stable, so it can be worked at quite high speeds.

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 long, thin bunch of bucktail or polafibre - polafibre is one of the best tail materials as it absorbs almost no water and has a nice balance between being limp in the water, but reasonably rigid out of the water, so tail wrapping is minimised. 
  2. Tie in a second layer or colour of polafibre and some flash material. 
  3. 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). Lay the foam along the shank and tie it down so that it extends back over the tail.
  4. Take the thread back to the start of the foam and tie in some ice or crystal chenille.
  5. Take a saddle feather with nice long fibres and tie it in by the tip. 
  6. Wind the ice chenille forward to form an even body but leave a few millimetres of bare shank behind the eye of the hook.
  7. Palmer the saddle feather over the ice chenille in evenly spaced turns. 
  8. 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. Build up some thread behind the eye of the hook to force the front lip up at an angle of about 45 degrees. Whip finish and varnish the thread.
  9. Trim the front lip to the desired length and the fly is complete. 


All surface flies should ideally have dark or 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, you can add a bright strip of foam over the top of the back, or tie down a small, bright 'indicator' (piece of wool or poly yarn) when you tie down the foam to make the popper face.

In small, thin sizes this fly is a good representative of a skittering baitfish when presented with a fast retrieve with a floating line - good for situations where feeding fish may be breaking the surface, or for blind fishing around areas where predatory fish are known to be lurking. Another presentation which is rarely used is the inert, or 'do nothing' retrieve, where the fly is cast into a school of feeding fish and left to sit there, simulating a dead or wounded baitfish. This presentation can be effective in situations where normal retrieves are proving fruitless, and being a floating fly, it is easy to keep track of it's whereabouts on the water.