Jack Gartside’s Gurgler may very well be one of the most famous topwater patterns ever developed. The Gurgler is a simple foam pattern that can be tied in a broad range of sizes to target a wide variety of fish. The fly has been successfully used for everything from bluegill to large saltwater species and everything in between!
As with many other patterns, fly tiers often make adaptations to the original design to suit their individual needs. The Gurgler is no exception to this phenomena, and there are countless variations of this pattern in fly boxes around the globe. This is one of those patterns that seem to invite fly tiers to tinker with it. You can change the tail and body material to suit your needs and the particular species you are looking to target. Tie it slim like the original to imitate a panfish struggling on the surface or beef it up and add legs to emulate to a creepy crawling thing that found its way into the water.
This version of Jack Gartside’s topwater classic has a few variations that set it apart from the original. The original version used a single layer of foam for the top covering of the body. I have doubled the layers of foam to increase floatation, which allows you to hang a dropper off of the back without difficulty. The double layer of foam also keeps the leading edge of the fly straight instead of it being cupped like the original. This gives the fly a slightly different action on the surface of the water when retrieved. The traditional bucktail/synthetic fiber tail has been replaced with marabou and significantly shortened. A palmered feather is added to give the fly a little more bulk and rubber legs are added for extra movement. The body on this particular fly was made with a flashy synthetic yarn for no other reason than it was within reach on the tying desk. Feel free to substitute the yarn for whatever you have on hand such as dubbing, chenille, estaz, hackle or keep it simple and use your tying thread to build up a thin body. When it comes to colors, the sky is the limit. The use of two layers of foam allows you to present one color to the fish and one color to the angler. For example, by tying a fly with a black bottom and a yellow top, you can give the fish a dark fly that is easy for the angler to see on the surface of the water. Eyes are added but are certainly not necessary. I like the finishing touch it gives the fly, but the jury is still out if it adds any fish appeal to the pattern.
I tie this pattern as small as a size 12 for panfish and as large as 2/0 for larger predators. You only need to vary the width and thickness of the foam to match the size of the hook your tying on. I like tying the pattern on a size six hook which gives me the best of both worlds. It is small enough for most panfish and still large enough to attract the attention of bass or pickerel, and I can cast it on a 4wt rod with ease.
No matter how you tie it, the Gurgler is a pattern that must be in every warm water fly fishers box!