One of the great joys of salmon angling is the sight of a fly in the scissors of a fresh fish you have just landed. The hours/days/weeks and months of abject failure melt away when you see your fly in the corner of the king of fishes mouth. We all love the scenery, the company of fellow fishers and the hundreds of other facets to our sport, but those fleeting moments when your prize is in your hands and that scrap of fur and feather is lodged in his mouth makes all the effort and expense worthwhile. I am going to discuss a fly with you today which can make that wonderful vista a reality for you – the Goat’s Toe
The Goat’s Toe is very much a fly for the North and West of Scotland and Ireland. It is an excellent pattern for Carrowmore Lake in Erris. I read many years ago that it could be used as an adult damsel imitation on lowland waters but I have serious doubts if that is the case. It might well catch a fish or two in those types of waters but even the most short sighted of us would mistake it for a damsel! No, this is one for wild waters and wild fish.
A very old one I found in my fly box (the red wool rib has been chewed off)
The basic pattern is very easy to tie and the Peacock provides most of the materials. A tail fashioned from red wool, a peacock bronze tail herl body ribbed with a single strand of the red wool and a hackle from the neck of the peacock. As it stands this is still a good pattern but as with all good flies we fishers have played around with it to make it even better.
Basic materials for the Goat’s Toe
The red wool was the first thing to be substituted and Globrite no.4 fl. floss was introduced as a direct replacement for the red wool in both tail and rib. I am aware that other colours of floss have also been tried but to my mind no.4 is the most deadly. One of the most commonly seen variants replaces the red wool with chartreuse and has a further refinement in that the head is formed with red silk.
Note the red head on this Chartreuse version
Next came the addition of a second hackle. A black cock hackle was wound behind the peacock neck feather and this is a feature which gives the fly more life in the water. The Peacock hackle is very soft and went wet it clings to the body. The stiffer cock hackle reduces this tendency and I think it is a valuable addition. Some tiers have gone further and palmered the cock hack the full length of the body. Around the same time some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to stick a couple of Jungle Cock eyes on the fly and I have to admit these do seem to look right.
A JC Goat
By now most of you will be aware of my addiction to deer hair (my name is Colin and I am a dyed deer belly hair addict). A black deer hair head on a Goat’s Toe turns a very good salmon fly into a real killer. Unlike some of my monstrosities, I keep the head reasonably small and retain only a few strands of full length hair so that the all important iridescent blue peacock hackle is not covered up.
My favourite on a number 6 iron
I’m also experimenting with a new version for brighter conditions. i have changed the body from Peacock herl to mirage tinsel and added a body hackle of grizzle cock dyed bright blue. It looks nice but it is untried as yet.
Hook sizes for all of the above range from a whopping great size 6 right down to a size 12 and I use heavy wire hooks at all times for the GT as you never know when a salmon will grab it.
Proof of this fly’s effectiveness can be seen below!