Every fall, here on the Gulf Coast, a number of major happenings occur. When the days get shorter and the water begins to cool, the bull reds move into the passes to spawn and the large white shrimp begin their migration to the Gulf. These two happenings spawned the creation of the ”Jetty Critter”. I wanted a large shrimp-like fly that would get down deep and wouldn’t hang-up on the rocks when I went after the bull reds at the jetties in the fall.
When I designed the critter, I had one thing in mind- match the hatch. Size, shape, and color would all be taken into consideration. I went down to the shrimp house and picked me up a six inch long shrimp, took a couple of photos, and ran to the vise. I had tried several ideas, all of which had the shape and colors down, but I couldn’t seem to find a way to achieve the near five to six inches long that I wanted. That’s when I started playing with the idea of extending the body and putting a free-swinging tail. The key was to make it big, but light enough to cast with 8-10 wt gear.
I added a little here and trimmed a lot there trying to meet all of the goals and still keep it simple enough that it wouldn’t take two hours to tie. The results, a five inch long fly that looked quite shrimpy and could be cast easily with 8-10wt gear (depending on hook and eye size). It had everything that I wanted and the best part is, it worked like a charm on just about everything that swims the jetty rocks and eats shrimp. Success.
A new pattern was born, now all it needed was a name. I had originally considered calling it the ”Texas Tickler” because of the free-swinging tail but a friend suggested that it had too much sexual undertone and could be considered ‘vaguely’ unwholesome. While I wasn’t completely convinced that this would be the case, I had to test it, and I new exactly where to go. I knew that if I could get a chuckle out of Marcos Enriquez, a local Orvis manager, the name was in fact, unwholesome.
I showed him the pattern and he gave it the ”Cool Bug” approval that he’s famous for and asked what I called it. Upon hearing it, he smirked, rolled his eyes, and stated, ”You’re bad.” Yep, definitely unwholesome.
Somewhere in the middle of our conversation about the bug the word ‘critter’ showed up and ever since then it’s been called the ‘Jetty Critter’.
How to Fish the Jetty Critter
Often, when fishing the jetties in strong currents, the fish will sink into underwater holes and eddies created by the rock structure below and rise out of the slack water to intercept any creature that happens to appear on their menu for that particular day. With this in mind, anglers should try to dead-drift the fly past these areas using whatever method gets the fly into the strike zone.
When dead-drifting the fly, the important thing is to make sure the fly is drifting naturally with as little resistance as possible. This can be achieved by either casting up current and maintaining the slack or cross current and mending line, watching the fly line for strikes. When the take occurs, strip all of the slack out of the line until it comes tight, making sure to point the rod at the fish, then swing the rod to one side to set the hook.
When fishing circle hooks, as I often do when dead-drifting flies, just strip down until you feel the resistance of the fish and then begin to fight it. The hook should take purchase as it rolls into the corner of the fishes mouth. Usually, the resistance of the fly line in the water is enough to set the hook if a fish moves any distance after taking the fly. Also, fishing sink-tip lines can help a great deal when trying to get the fly down to deeper water when stronger currents are present.
While the fly was intentionally designed to be dead-drift along the rocks on a sink-tip line, we’ve had some great success on intermediate lines when the fish are feeding in close to the rocks near the surface. The key is to cast the fly as tight to the rocks as possible and then begin hoping it back with a strip of about a foot, pausing briefly between each strip. Fish the fly away from the rocks until you believe you’re out of the active zone and then recast. When fishing this way, maintain good contact with the fly, always keeping the rod tip pointed at the bait and when the take comes, strip set the hook and fight the fish.