Beginner’s Fly Tying: The Curly Tailed Jig Pattern

By Don Fine

Over the past several months our Beginner’s Fly Tying class has focused on a series of relatively simple fly patterns representing several types of aquatic and terrestrial insects. In contrast, the pattern chosen for our August fly tying represents another category of fish-food, while also introducing new tying skills and materials used in fly construction.

I refer to the August fly pattern as a “curly tailed jig” because I do not know who first developed this pattern. Nevertheless, I will give attribution to our club-member Tommy Marks, who first shared the pattern with me and other PVFF club members.

The curly tailed jig

The curly tailed jig, much like the classic (Bob) Clouser deep minnow, is tied in an inverted manner with either bead chain or dumbbell eyes, which makes the fly virtually weedless while providing an up-and-down (i.e. jigging) motion to the fly using a strip-retrieval. The pattern is tied also with a rubber tail which further imparts a life-like action such as that of an aquatic worm, leech, or minnow.

The curly tailed jig fly, when tied in various sizes and colors, provides the fly fisher with a small arsenal of flies for panfish through larger species, e.g. smallmouth and largemouth bass. It is an awesome pattern on ponds, rivers, and lakes during these hot summer months.

View our instructional video for tying the curly tailed jig and rabbit strip jig. This video includes several chapters. Visit our YouTube channel to easily jump to the chapter of your choice.

Instructions for Tying the “Curly Tailed Jig” and “Rabbit Strip Jig” Flies


            Hook – Stinger style or alternate i.e. wet fly – sizes 2-8

            Thread – 3/0, color to match the abdomen of the fly

            Tail – Hyper Flex Curly Tails (or alternate material e.g. rabbit zonker strip)

            Abdomen – cactus chenille – 6mm

            Eyes – bead chain – 3/16”

            Legs – dynafloss or sili legs

            Collar – Fire orange or red floss

Tying Steps for the (rubber) curly tailed jig:

  1. Pinch down hook barb and place in vise in the standard direction.
  2. Start thread wraps immediately behind the hook eye and wrap toward the bend approximately ¼”. At this location make another 10 wraps of thread on top of one another to create a small shoulder (bump) of thread.
  3. Grasp a section of bead chain (i.e. 2 beads connected) or dumbbell eyes and hold this section of bead chain (or dumbbell eyes) on top of the hook immediately in front of the thread bump. Begin to make X wraps of thread from front to back and return back to front of the chain beads. After making 6 X wraps in each direction, switch to doing circular wraps under the beads while staying above the hook shank. This tightens the X wraps in place. Repeat this process (i.e. X wraps and circular wraps) one more time.
  4. Advance the thread behind the bead chain or dumbbell eyes and apply a drop of head cement or UV cement on the thread wraps which are holding the bead chain to the hook.
  5. Next advance the thread wraps to the bend of the hook.
  6.  Hold a section of rubber tail (curl facing down i.e. like the bend of the hook) with the blunt end the tail along the near side of the hook. Make multiple wraps with tying thread over the blunt end wrapping forward toward the bead chain. Then reverse direction of thread wraps back to the hook bend. A light layer of head cement or alternative adhesive can be applied to the thread wraps to secure the curly tail in place.
  7. Select a section of crystal chenille approximately 4” long. Bare one end of the chenille and secure it with several thread wraps (similar to tying in chenille on a woolly bugger). Wrap tying thread forward stopping approximately 1/8” behind the bead chain eyes.
  8. Begin wrapping the chenille forward two wraps (at a time) around the shank of the hook (while stroking back the chenille fibers (stroking the chenille fibers prevents clumping of the chenille and results in a more robust body to the fly). Continue to wrap the chenille forward stopping at the location where the thread is hanging. Make 2-3 wraps of thread behind and in front of the chenille and clip off the excess chenille.
  9. Take 3-4 strands (approximately 4” in length) of Dynafloss or other thin synthetic rubber leg material and make one wrap of this material around the tying thread. Hold the two ends of the leg material with one hand while sliding it down the tying thread to the underside of the fly. Then make 2-3 additional thread wraps around the hook shank. This should firmly hold the rubber legs in place just forward of where the chenille was secured.
  10. Whip finish the thread at this location.
  11. A fluorescent collar of bright red/orange thread can be then made immediately behind the bead chain or dumbbell eyes to create a “hot spot” on the fly representing the gills of a small bait fish.

Tying steps for a Rabbit Strip Jig  

  1. Steps 1-5 are the same for the Rabbit Strip Jig as for the Curly Tailed Jig.

6. Select a piece of rabbit (aka zonker) strip ~ 1 ½” long and ~1/4” wide. While holding the rabbit strip with the hair fibers slanted to the left, cut the opposite end of the strip into a dull point. Then gently strip off ~1/4” of hair (from the dull end) leaving the hide exposed. Lay the rabbit strip (hair down) on a flat surface (preferably cardboard, foam or wood) and using a bodkin needle pierce the hide-surface of the strip creating a small hole ~1/4” from the dull-point end of the strip.

7. (Before removing the hook from the vise, remember to secure the thread wraps which were made to attach the bead chain eyes). Then remove the hook from the vise and invert the hook such that the hook bend is facing up and insert the hook point through the small hole in the rabbit strip created above. (Note*- the hair side of the long end of the rabbit strip should then be facing up with respect to the bend of the hook).

8. Reinsert the hook in the vise in an inverted (rather than in the conventional) position. (Note*-if you have done this accordingly, the bead chain eyes will now be facing down toward the tying bench rather than facing up). Then create a small thread bump at the beginning of the bend of the hook, which will serve as a thread block to keep the rabbit strip from sliding forward on the hook shank. Gently pull the blunt end of the rabbit strip forward toward the hook eye, such that the long end will stop against the thread bump. Make several thread wraps around the rabbit strip to secure it at the thread bump and then more thread wraps forward covering the blunt end of the rabbit strip.

9. To complete the Rabbit Strip Jig return the thread back toward the rear of the fly and follow steps 7-11 above as used in tying the Curly Tailed Jig.