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NiCh Fly Suspended
A small baitfish imitation that swims in the surface and lures sea bass and other predatory fish hunting bait high in the water.
This was another of those posts on Facebook that jumped at me, and made me think: "that would be a great fly to tie and fish!". The first ones I saw were posted by Italian Fabio Federighi calling it Nice Fish. He also named the originators Simone Chesi and Tullio Niccoli.
I tried to track the history further back, but couldn't find more traces of this excellent looking fly. Try traversing the web for the term "nice fish fly pattern". Yup... lots of hits (even our own pattern section in top five), but none anywhere near being a small, floating baitfish. Add "foam" to the list, and GFF takes the first two spots. Even feverishly trying some Italian like "mosca modello schiuma nice fish" didn't do the trick. Nice fish is simply too common a term.
But... then I realized that it was a very simple mistake. Giovanni De Pace had posted a tube version, and called it the NICHE Tube Fly. The fly is called the NiCh Fly – from Nicolli and Chesi. Not that it changed much. Still no traces of its history online.
But it is a nice fish
The pattern is a nice fish, and I decided to tie some and write the article anyway. Fabio lists the simple materials list:
- Trigger Point Int'l Fibers or similar fibers from Enrico Puglisi. The colors are typically white, light gray, light olive and light blue to imitate small, bright baitfish
- UV resin is Deer Creek Diamond Fine or a soft finish like Softex
The rest seems pretty obvious:
- Foam cylinder, red or white.
- Stick on eyes.
- A straight shank saltwater hook.
- White tying thread.
- Optionally a few straws of clear flash for sidelines.
The Trigger Point fibers are from also Italian Enrico Puglisi, developed in cooperation with Australian Mark Hall. It's available in 30 colors, and the pattern that Fabio showed was tied with white and olive. Puglisi has other fibers, which can also be used.
This chapter is based on an article written by Fabio Federighi for an Italian magazine. I thank him for his help in pointing me to it.
This fly has a long history. It took time and many steps for it to develop into its current stage.
The idea was Italian Simone Chesi's and Tullio Niccoli's and came as a result of an ongoing search for a complete fishing system that could break with the "hard fishing" done with heavy equipment, which had characterized the fishing in saltwater from the shore in Italy.
They wanted to use 7 weight rods, or even 5-6 weight rods and long and thin leaders. With the passing of time they had often found themselves in situations that required a small imitative fly, with materials that once immersed in water would be a good combination of mass, shape, transparency, mobility, and even mobility when the fly was static. Material tests have been many, but the basic pattern was still the same. The result was a light fly that would float and work just below the surface. The first tests brought in leerfish, sea bass, mullet and other species.
Giovanni De Pace
Simone noticed that many fish attacked their prey in the front, and when attacking flies, they would sometimes rip the leader. But in stead of using a bite tippet made from wire or strong mono, they simply moved the fly back on the hook, letting the hook shank act as a short bite tippet.
The fly is tied all the way to the rear of a straight shank hook, and will fill as little as 2-3 millimeters or just 1/8th of an inch. Using this principle, the baitfish imitation evolved into the first NiCh Fly. Sure enough, this style of fly wasn't new. Many US patterns for tarpon and other saltwater fish use the same basic construction, but the NiCh Fly was still developed independently and not by copying these patterns.
The first flies would fish in the water column, and were very effective, but in order to get the behavior of many small baitfish, which occasionally touch the surface, they added a small piece of foam to float the fly. The idea was Simone's and was inspired by the British floating fry pattern Minky. He suggested that they added a foam cylinder in the front of the head, and could trim this while fishing to regulate the density of the fly and how willingly it would float. This fly was named the NiCh Fly Suspended, and was used with great success when fishing in water with lots of fish feeding in the surface.
The choice of materials is very important, some would say fundamental. The selection was the result of research and testing. The Antron or poly yarn, which was first used, was chosen after much trial and test fishing. The same was the case for the eyes, and glue used, because the fly have to be as lightweight as possible.
The body material is now Puglisi fibers, and you can choose from the Silky Fiber or Silky 3D Fiber, which is already blended. Another option is the Trigger Point Int'l fibers. They are all very soft fibers that have great transparency and mobility when immersed in water.
The eyes are clear, light, flat. The glue used is a rubbery type like Softex, but diluted for better penetration. When dried it leaves a very light head.
Fabio uses a product from Strong Angling Evolutions while in the original used used ExoFlex from Wapsi.
The foam cylinder can be with open or closed cells. It's about 3-4-5 millimeters in diameter depending on the size of the fly, and the color can be white or red, which you are assured are the colors that will give the best results in terms of catches.
The hook should also be light and a Gamakatsu SC15 or Varivas 2600 ST-V is suitable. Don't use a heavy wire hook. The fly sizes that have done best when tested are in the the 6-7 centimeter range (< 2"), so the hook should be relatively small to suit this fly size.
Tying the fly
Since the fly is so simple, there isn't much art in tying it. Simply tie in the white hair first, then a smaller bunch of darker hair, maybe a couple of sidelines of flash and then the foam, which is cut at an angle. Add glue or LCR to the front part of the hair and add eyes. Shape, let dry or cure and you are done.
When tying the fly, you need to keep all materials sparse and tie them all in basically on the same spot just in front of the hook bend. It's advisable to add a bit of glue under the thread and materials to secure them, because the very narrow band of thread offers very little grip, and the materials will be in risk of coming loose and rotate or slide on the hook shank. The final addition of soft glue or LCR can help reinforcing the fly, but a dab of super glue under the first wraps can do wonders here.
The foam is tied in leaning forward, and again some glue may help keeping it from tipping to the rear. Cut the foam cylinder at an angle and tie it in with the flat side towards the hook shank. When you glue the eyes, lift the foam and add a little glue or LCR under it and press it down again. Once the glue has set or the LCR has been cured with light, the foam will stay in place.
The fly can of course be varied endlessly. The colors are easy to mix and match to your taste and needs. The fibers used are available in almost countless colors. You can use the classic color scheme, using light hues in the bottom and darker ones on top - blue, black and not least olive are the colors of choice for the back.
Add flash to taste - inside the fly, on the sides or as a topping. Another excellent topping for any saltwater fly is peacock herl, which will make an excellent back for this fly.
If you want a distinct, scaly pattern on the fly, like that found on a mackerel, consider tying in a couple of grizzly hackle feathers as sides. These can again be used natural or dyed, adding another variation to the already numerous combinations sketched above.
The fly can also be converted to a tube fly, simply tying the materials in on the rear part of a tube, letting the protruding tube act as a bite protector. Use a wide gape short shank hook and add a little silicone tubing to keep it in place.
Fishing the fly
According to Fabio Federighi the fly works best in fairly calm water when the fish are actively feeding in the surface. The suspended version is often trimmed at the water, cutting off enough foam to get the fly to fish in the desired depth - sometimes just removing enough foam to keep the fly from splashing unnaturally, but just barely touching the surface from below, leaving that telltale V-shaped streak in the film.
The non-suspended version can also be used as a successful search pattern fished deeper on an intermediate line.
The placement of the long wing keeps it from tangling and fouling all the time, freeing the angler from having to inspect the fly for every cast.
All these things make the fly a popular and productive fly for most saltwater predators.