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What Is Two/Aught?

The Why & The How Behind Two/Aught & Our Fly Designs
Author: Josh Idol | Featured Fly: The Worm | June 2020
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-Rolling-Tarpon
Rollers on the lookout for The Worm.

About Two/Aught

Two/Aught is a custom fly shop for dedicated sight fishermen. We’re all about good fly design, plain and simple. I’ve been tying flies for more than twenty-five years and it wasn’t until I started sight fishing regularly that I truly appreciated how much good fly design matters and how often fly tiers get it wrong. Sight fishing magnifies the importance of the fly because the eat or the refusal is visual. Watching a tarpon nose underneath your fly is one of our sport’s greatest moments. Watching that same fish flare off of your fly is one of its most frustrating.
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-The-Worm-Tarpon-Fly
The Worm hatch.
Good fly design is foundational to successful sight fishing. A well-designed fly will cast accurately, track straight, sink predictably, etc. How many times have you fished a tarpon fly that sinks like a stone? Or a permit fly that spins on every strip? How about a fly that lays on it’s side every time you stop stripping? Or one that refuses to sink unless you keep it sopping wet? I bet every one of us has fished flies like that and more often than not that fly was probably tied by someone with little or no experience sight fishing in clear, shallow water.

The Two/Aught concept was borne out of frustration with the current availability of productive flies designed for sight fishing by experienced, local sight fishermen. Many fly shops in even the most fabled destinations across the East and Gulf Coasts are filled with out-dated patterns tied overseas and sold at a huge markup (#4/0 Cockroaches for Keys tarpon?!?). And most of the custom patterns available online are designed by tiers with an immense amount of talent, but little real-world sight fishing experience on the challenging flats of our home waters.

Two-Aught-Fly-Co-Feeding-Tarpon
Feeding high, happy fish in the lower Keys.
We believe in function over form. If you take a close look at one of our patterns you’ll find an attention to detail missing from many mass-produced and custom flies. Our patterns are designed to fish consistently in today’s real world sight-fishing scenarios on our home waters here in South Florida, and they are tested for fish-ability and durability by local guides and dedicated anglers. We’re constantly working to improve the performance of our patterns and we incorporate the feedback we receive from local guides and anglers as well as our customers to make sure we’re providing the absolute best quality sight fishing tools on the market.

Our Process

To illustrate our process I thought it would be helpful to walk you through the inspiration, design, and testing of one of our most effective patterns: The Worm.

If you fish migratory Tarpon in the Keys these days you already know how effective a worm fly can be when fished correctly. Most popular worm flies are built around a craft foam tail with a narrow dubbing body. While the foam worm is a very effective palolo worm imitation in certain situations, it’s not a very versatile pattern when conditions change.

After a frustrating day of constant fly changes on the ocean a few seasons back I started to look around for a palolo worm fly pattern that could be fished to tarpon at the surface or allowed to suspend below the surface when conditions or pressure pushed the fish down.

I tied and fished various worm flies that I found in my reference books and online but I never found a pattern that landed softly, had the right movement, and the versatility to fish high or low depending on conditions.

Worm in Natural
The Worm: one of our most effective oceanside tarpon patterns.
Once I decided to work out my own worm pattern I outlined my end goals (light weight, soft landing, accurate profile and movement, easy to cast) and got to work experimenting with different materials and techniques. I played around with stiffened chenille (too fragile), bunny strips (gets waterlogged and sinks), and even marabou (too many refusals) before I settled on a married tail using long, thin saddle hackles in the style of Jack Gartside’s Soft Hackle Eel.
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-The-Worm-Tarpon-Fly-Recipe
Synthetic base using Squimpish Hair and Loon UV adhesive.
The married hackle (slightly tented) had the right profile, but a palolo worm doesn’t swim like a sand eel so I added a base of stiff synthetic fibers under the hackle. The synthetic base keeps the hackle tail nice and straight with just a little wiggle while also reducing fouling. I use UV adhesive to set the first 1/4″ of both the synthetic base and the hackles to reinforce the profile and hopefully prevent fouling even on windy days.
The married hackle are slightly tented over the synthetic base to provide the correct palolo worm profile when seen from below. I tie the hackles in on a small bunch of dubbing to prevent them from spinning on the hook, wrap the stems forward towards the eye to start building the body bulk, and finish the first 1/4″ or so with UV adhesive to ensure that the tail remains straight and swims with just a little bit of wiggle.
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-The-Worm-Tarpon-Fly-Recipe
Married saddle hackle (slightly tented) and Loon UV adhesive.
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-The-Worm-Tarpon-Fly-Recipe
Married saddle hackle (slightly tented) and Loon UV adhesive.
The married hackle are slightly tented over the synthetic base to provide the correct palolo worm profile when seen from below. I tie the hackles in on a small bunch of dubbing to prevent them from spinning on the hook, wrap the stems forward towards the eye to start building the body bulk, and finish the first 1/4″ or so with UV adhesive to ensure that the tail remains straight and swims with just a little bit of wiggle.
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-The-Worm-Tarpon-Fly-Recipe
Laser dubbing body with monofilament thread counterwrap.
The first Worm prototypes utilized a chenille body but they sank too quickly so I switched to a synthetic dubbing. Senyo’s Laser Dubbing combines the correct sink rate with just a hint of flash that seems to increase the Worm’s effectiveness when fish are swimming low. I counter-wrap the dubbing body with monofilament thread to increase durability without increasing weight.
Early Worm prototypes had a dubbing body and a small thread head without any hackle but despite my best efforts I could not get those early flies to suspend and they tended to land with a thump. The sparsely palmered saddle hackle head softens the landing and slows the decent of the fly without adding too much bulk to the profile when using a two-hand strip while still pushing enough water to kick the tail when using a single hand strip (which allows the Worm to be fished slower as a small baitfish or shrimp imitation when conditions dictate a change).
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-The-Worm-Tarpon-Fly-Recipe
Sparsely palmered narrow saddle hackle.
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-The-Worm-Tarpon-Fly-Recipe
Sparsely palmered narrow saddle hackle.
Early Worm prototypes had a dubbing body and a small thread head without any hackle but despite my best efforts I could not get those early flies to suspend and they tended to land with a thump. The sparsely palmered saddle hackle head softens the landing and slows the decent of the fly without adding too much bulk to the profile when using a two-hand strip while still pushing enough water to kick the tail when using a single hand strip (which allows the Worm to be fished slower as a small baitfish or shrimp imitation when conditions dictate a change).
Two-Aught-Fly-Fishing-Co-The-Worm-Tarpon-Fly-Recipe
Palmered Scaup flank, thread head, and UV adhesive.
The last component of the Worm is a very sparse Scaup flank feather palmered over the saddle hackle collar. The Scaup flank has two purposes. First, the variegated markings suggest the coloring and segmentation of a palalo worm’s head. Second, the thick stem of the Scaup flank helps reduce the bulk of the saddle hackle collar by pinning the fibers back against the hook shank. I finish the fly with a fairly bulky thread head (to preserve the proper profile) and a nice, smooth UV finish.
So there you have it, our process from start to finish. I hope the thought and attention to detail that goes into our patterns is evident if you’ve read this far. If you have any questions or just want to chat, head on over to our contact page, we love to talk fly design and sight fishing. Thanks!

See the Worm in our Tarpon Collection