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The Pink Thing
An article by Graham White reproduced with the permission of Alex Julius
from the 2000 National Australian Fishing Annual.
Pink Thing was designed to catch barra and it is without a doubt the greatest
barra fly of all. After three years of badgering Darwin's Graham White,
the man who invented The Pink Thing, to tell us all about it, he finally
I think you already know the barra, beer, billabong and baitcasters origin
story but just for the recordů
In the very early 80's we had a swoffers club in Darwin - I think we called
ourselves The Saltwater Flyrodders of the Northern Territory - and we
used to meet regularly at Fishers Lagoon on the Howard River floodplains
for a spot of fishing. On designated Fly Rod Days we met back at Graeme
Forrester's place for a few beers. Anyone who used tackle other than fly
rods was fined one carton of green cans which were consumed by the assembled
this day Lou Murray and Les Bullard turned up late. They'd been fishing
another lagoon without any luck. They were hot and discouraged. Lou made
a few casts without a strike and said "To hell with it, I'll fix them"
- or something similar and unprintable - marched off and returned with
On the business end was a pearlescent white jig with a long
worm tail and a pink collar where the head and tail joined. Lou cast out,
got a barra and repeated this immoral act twice more. OK, so the fish
were released. But it only slightly detracted from the foulness of the
deed which was compounded by Lou leaving early and not paying the fine
on that day! Something had to be done!
That night I retrieved my identical jig from the boot of my car and sat
down at the vice. It had to be a good barra fly and my favourite, the
Given's, was the best starting point. I liked the way a Deceiver swims
so that got added in. The first couple were a bit exotic until I realised
that if it was successful it had to be repeatable and easy to tie from
materials available to the average tropical river rat. At 2 am it was
finished and I was itching for a rematch.
this day I've never tried it on Fisher's Lagoon. It's first outing was
at Shady Camp Rockbar, where the barrage is now. The barra liked it but
the results were no different to those from a Given's Barred and Black.
I gave Alex Julius one to try the next weekend and he had a similar experience.
But Alex used it at Shady a month or so later and the barra climbed all
over it. By that time the Daly had cleared a bit after the wet season
and it came into its own for me at the creek mouths. It fitted neatly
into my fishing system:
- Dirty Water - Given's Barred
- Stained Water - Pink Thing
- Clear Water - Lefty's Deceiver
days the Clouser is included.
It still didn't have a name though. Again Lou Murray enters the story.
We - the same mob - were at the Blue Holes on North West Vernon Island
in November, ostensibly chasing big tarpon, but really after anything
that moved. There is a lagoon in the middle of the island and we'd agreed
to meet there for lunch. Graeme Forrester and I had a great morning. We'd
scored almost every species we'd aimed for and the Pink Thing was the
Oh, revenge was sweet! It had not been a good day for Lou. He asked what
we'd been using. We showed him. He asked if he could have "one of those
pink things", and the name stuck. I think he got some fish too. Then Rod
Harrison and Lefty Kreh got hold of it and the rest is history.
Materials List And Tying Notes
The Pink Thing is basically a pink and white Given's Barred and Black
with a Lefty's Deceiver Tail.
Hook: 2/0-4/0 Stainless O'Shannessy.
Step 1: Saddle Hackles and Pearl Sparkleflash, tied in at hook
bend. Note: Sparkleflash has been substituted Flashabou as it is
available in Darwin. Pearl Flashabou, as used in the original, has
a greenish cast, whereas Sparkleflash is pinkish.
Both bucktail collars spun ahead of tail.
Sparkleflash tied in over bucktail body then two Barred Rock Hackles
added to each side.
Step 4: Pin Hackled
palmered forward to the hook eye.
Bead Chain Eyes added, thread whipped behind eyes and tying cement
Tail: 6 white saddle hackles tied with their natural curves toward
one another; "Deceiver" style. The feathers were about 3 to 4 hook lengths
long in the original. My later flies used much shorter feathers for reasons
of economy and availability. The original Pink Thing was tied with some
magnificent strung hackles given to me by Dave Donald back in 1975.
Glitter: Flashabou, pearl. This was the first fly that I'd tied
with Flashabou. Kay Brodney, a member of the Golden Gate Club, had sent
me some a few weeks earlier and the material did exactly what I wanted
it to do. It imitated a pearlescent finish on a Boone Jig worm tail! The
material is used sparingly, so no more than 6 strands at a time.
Body: Spun with bucktail. The body is made up in 2 parts. The
first is fairly sparse, about one hook length, and is put on immediately
ahead of an overlapping the tail. The second is thicker with longer fibres
and ahead of the first. There are about 6 strands of Flashabou, the same
length as the bucktail, on each side between collars and 3 on each side
over the second collar. Because I was low on bucktail, when it was first
tied this method seemed a good one for producing bulk with length. I'd
been using it on my Barred and Blacks. Out of habit, I still tie my Pink
Things that way. If I'd been flush with good quality material, it might
have been tied differently.
Side Hackles: Barred Rock Saddles, 2 per side. OK, so these days
I use METZ. On the original they were off one of Les Bullards Chooks and
were wider and shorter. There are 2 per side tied together so that, if
one is lost, there is still a herring-bone along the side of the fly.
I'm a boots and braces person! It was probably this feature that confused
Lefty Kreh into grouping it with Dan Blaton's Whistler series in his book.
It is easy to see how someone copying either a well-used or badly-tied
(probably by me) example could assume that those feathers should be tied
in 90 degrees apart, Whistler style.
Collar: Light Flourescent Pink Hackles, heavily webbed. These
are tightly palmered, 2 at a time, from about halfway along the hook shank
to the eye. The first palmering is tied back so that it flows over the
bucktail. Aim to build up a dense collar that will push water. In 1984,
I used some large neck hackle feathers that had been packaged by Joe Gospel
and Wayne Handstedt in the 70s. These days I use the webbiest saddles
that I can get.
The water pushing thing came from an article by Dan Blanton
published in a 1973 issue of Double Haul magazine. He had gone to Costa
Rica for the first time and had taken the usual collection of Florida
tarpon flies. They bombed because of the coffee-coloured water. When he
started using San Franscisco Bay striper flies, he caught fish. The lesson
wasn't lost on me. Up to that time, I'd been using the slimmer Florida
style flies for barra with limited success. When I bulked things up, I
caught fish, but it wasn't until the Keel Bug - a sort of big-headed Muddler
Minnow tied on a keel hook - that the penny really dropped as to why heavily
collared flies work.
Eyes: Bead Chain. The bead chain is tied on with a Figure-8 knot
then tied off behind the eyes. If you get it right, you can't see how
it was done. The extreme forward placement of the eyes is important as
it helps the fly's up and down action. Lead eyes improve this feature
but increase the sink rate.
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