As my writings on this blog are beginning to show, I am a big fan of old forgotten patterns. Today’s post will discuss a fly that falls into that category. The Gerbubble Bug is a topwater bass bug that was developed by a gentleman by the name of Tom Loving in the early twentieth century (the 1920's). Tom invented this bass bug for fishing for largemouth bass in the tidal waters of the Chesapeake. The fly is unique in that it had slits cut into the sides of its carved cork or balsa wood body. Inserted into those slits were hackle fibers that stuck out perpendicular to the hook shank, This created a fascinating profile in the water. The body was similar to a modern-day popper with a steep face. This shape produces a pronounced gurgle or pop when retrieved through the water. The hackles protruding from the sides of the fly undulated enticingly with every movement of the fly.
In the past, I have attempted to tie this fly as it was initially described and found it to be very labor intensive. The carving of the body, cutting of slits all had to be done with precision. Then there is the gluing of the body to the hook, the mounting and gluing of the side hackles and finally the tying of the saddle hackle tail. The original version may have also been made from two pieces of wood or cork that were assembled and glued together like a sandwich. I found this method just as tedious. In a brief moment of insanity, I even attempted Dave Whitlock’s spun deer hair version. I like Whitlock's version the best because it performed the well on the end of a fly line and it was not horribly difficult to tie, just time-consuming. The deer hair version cast much better than the cork or wood body bugs. It created a slightly different presentation on the water as well. It did not pop or gurgle as loud, and many times I believe the fish preferred the more subtle disturbance on the water.
To find a Gerbubble Bug produced commercially is even harder than tying one yourself. The best I have come across are the flies of Matt Zudweg from Zflyfishing. At one time Matt offered exquisitely tied, hand carved balsa bodied Gerbubble Bugs. They were a real work of art. Unfortunately, they reflected that in the price. At $40.00 a pop, I don’t know how many were ever tied to the end of a fly line. That being said, I cannot say they were indeed over priced because of the amount of work it goes into tying one of these flies. Fortunately, Matt developed a more viable alternative, the Zudbubbler. This foam bodied bass bug keeps the traditional shape (though not as graceful as an artfully carved balsa body) and replaces the traditional side hackles with rubber legs. This fly is a highly effective pattern, and I have used them often enough to say that they work as well as a Gerbubble Bug. But a Gerbubble Bug it was not. My search continued to find a solution that allowed me to create a version of this fly that could be easily tied and still retain some of the features of the original, specifically the enticing side hackles.
The solution ended up being right under my nose all along. For years I have been tying a panfish fly that my friends have dubbed the Triangle Bug. This foam topwater fly was the perfect platform for developing an easily tied version of the Gerbubble Bug. It retains the side hackles of the original pattern and casts and behaves in the water very much like Dave Whitlock’s version which had become my favorite over the years. Instead of a saddle hackle tail (though I sometimes tie them that way) I kept the hair tail of the Triangle Bug and added a saddle hackle collar. The best of both worlds! The result was a fly that kept the alluring side feathers, casts like a dream and has a more subtle presentation like Whitlock’s spun deer hair version. When I am looking for a loud, in your face version of this pattern I tie the pattern with thicker foam. I can even create one using the sandwich method without too much difficulty since foam is much easier to work with than cork or wood.