The Shrunken Minnow

The Shrunken Minnow can be cranked out in less than two minutes...

June 17, 2010

Epoxy-style minnow patterns are indispensable. They are productive whenever predators are feeding on tiny translucent baitfish.

As the basic pattern name implies, epoxy has served as the accepted material on these flies for years. But epoxy has its drawbacks, and tiers who have grown weary of mixing and rotating have been creating similar flies with easier-to-use light-activated glues or vinyl tubing. All three work, with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Epoxy can turn yellow over time and may remain tacky after curing. Light-cured glues, meanwhile, are handy but more expensive than epoxy. Glues may require multiple applications to build up a nicely shaped body, and they dry hard. Vinyl tubing creates a softer, clear body but cannot be easily shaped.


Along comes heat-shrink tubing. It’s cheap, clear and not messy. Plus, it can be mildly shaped, and it produces a natural, soft-feeling fly while remaining quite durable. Heat-shrink tubing does not have to replace the materials listed above; it’s just an alternative for those who like to make quick, simple and effective flies. It can produce a basic taper in an instant. For example, this pattern, the Shrunken Minnow, can be cranked out in less than two minutes.

Originally tied to fool picky false albacore that were keyed in on small baits, the Shrunken Minnow has also become a producer on stripers and small redfish, especially when fished under dock and bridge lights at night.

Heat-shrink tubing comes in a vast assortment of colors and sizes. For the basic fly, clear 2-to-1 PVC tubing works well. It will shrink to about half its original diameter when heated. It shrinks lengthwise as well, but not too much. If you cannot find it locally, it can be purchased online at, where it is typically sold for 50 to 75 cents per foot.


It’s possible to make 18 to 24 size-4 Shrunken Minnows out of a foot of tubing. It can take some practice to apply just enough heat in just the right places to produce a nicely tapered body. But if you mess up, you can simply cut the tubing off and try again!


Hook: Gamakatsu SL11-3H, No. 1 to 4
Thread: Any flat-waxed nylon
Tail: Bucktail, about 2 to 2½ inches long. Try gray, white, olive, and chartreuse over white.
Body: Clear heat-shrink tubing, ¼-inch
Eyes: Molded or 3-D eyes, 18-inch
Glue: Any head cement or super glue
Tools: A heat gun works wonderfully, but if you don’t own one, try a hair dryer.


Next Page: Tying Instructions

Tying Instructions:

Step 1: Place a No. 1 to 4 hook in your vise. If you’ll be targeting powerful fish such as false albacore, a strong hook like Gamakatsu’s SL11-3H is advisable. Start your thread behind the hook eye, and wrap a base on the front third of the shank.

| |Step 2: Tie in bucktail behind the hook eye. Make sure it is evenly distributed around the shank. For a small fly, the bucktail should be around 2 to 2½ inches long. Whip-finish and cut the thread. You do not need to make a nice tapered nose, as the tubing will cover the thread on the finished fly.|


| |Step 3: Stick molded or 3-D eyes over the thread on each side of the fly. Then cut a piece of heat-shrink tubing one-third to half of the length of the shank. Slide it over the shank, and hold it from the rear of the fly, pinching the tubing to the tail with your fingers.|

| |Step 4: Turn on the heat gun or hair dryer (pictured here) and slowly apply heat to the tubing. If at all possible, use a heat gun, as its smaller nozzle is much more precise for shaping the head. If you want to make a tapered body, apply heat to only the nose of the fly. Rotate the fly in the vise as you apply heat so the tubing shrinks consistently around the shank. If you want a uniform Candy-style body, apply heat to the whole tube, and shrink it on!|

| |Step 5: Place a drop of glue onto the fly’s nose and let it dry. You’re ready!|



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