Tinsel Baitfish Fly


Mackerel in shore flies tinsel cotton ball simple pei maritimes

I typically spin cast for mackerel, but there are actually many wharves around here where the mackerel come in range of a fly rod. Unfortunately there are only a few locations with room enough to cast a fly comfortably. When fishing these spots, it’s a blast to target mackerel on a fly, and this is my go to fly for mackerel.

The fly is quite heavy, so it will get down in the water column if needed. It’s also shiny, which is the most important quality of a mackerel fly. While it’s extremely successful in targeting mackerel, I have also taken some sea run brook trout on these flies as well.

bobbin tinsel green cotton ball fly streamer mackerel

Material List:

  • Tinsel colour(s) of choice. Green, silver, and gold work very well.
  • Cotton ball
  • Thread. Colour does not matter, you will not see any thread in the final fly.
  • Hard as nails or head cement. Epoxy would also work.

I tied my first fly like this with just two materials, a hook and some tinsel on a bobbin. That took forever though so I’ve since added a few more to make the process quicker and easier. All you need for tools is a bobbin or two

How to Tie the Fly:

Step 1: Select a size 6 streamer hook and mash barb in the vice.

Step 2: Take a length of tinsel and fold it over itself six or seven times and it it onto the hook shank. Fold the tinsel more times if you want a fuller tail and less if you want a slimmer tail.

tinsel mackerel fly tying

Step 3: Trim the tail to desired length, any loops should be trimmed off.

tinsel mackerel fly tying tail

Step 4: Create a dubbing noodle of cotton and wrap around hook shank. Repeat until you have a tapered body like in the picture below. The cotton creates a base for the tinsel to lay over, and can be substituted for any cheap dubbing material as it won’t be seen. The taper need not be perfect, we will smooth it out in later steps.

Step 5: Half hitch or whip finish your thread and cut or snip the tag end. We will not need thread from this point onwards.

Mackerel fly tying fly body

Step 6: Tie on your tinsel that is loaded in the bobbin.

Step 7. Make wraps with the tinsel around the body, the goal is to cover the entirety of the cotton in tinsel. The image below shows the start of the process. Continue to make wraps until the cotton is fully covered.

fly tying salt water flies

Step 8: Even after the cotton is covered, continue to make wraps with the tinsel to achieve the thickness and taper you desire. I like to create a deeper bodied fly for mimicking sticklebacks or mummichogs, and create a thinner profile for mimicking other baitfish such as silversides.

Step 9: Whip finish or do a few half hitches with the tinsel and trim the tag end.

Step 10: apply a layer of hard as nails over the entire body of the fly. I usually put a few layers on. This will make the fly near indestructible and give it a little extra sheen.

tinsel cotton ball streamer fly mackerel green sea run brooktrout

Deep bodied version

red head silver body mackerel fly tying

Thin profile version.


The flies design makes it rugged enough that it won’t get chewed up, and you are unlikely to loose a fly fishing for mackerel so it’s not a big deal if these take a little longer to tie. They work well in open clear water on sunny days with highly visual fish species such as mackerel or white perch, and as mentioned earlier will take sea run brookies as well.

These flies are heavy enough that you can let them sink a little before the retrieve if you need to get deeper in the water column. If you really wanted to it would be easy to add a few wraps of wire to the underbody.


  1. John

    That’s some imaginative tying Ben!

    1. bensmckinley@gmail.com (Post author)

      Thank’s John, it’s a bit different than a typical fly, but it works so I’m happy with it.

  2. Howard Levett

    It always peaks my curiosity when I see an unusual fly whether a trout would grab it. I’m betting yes.

    1. bensmckinley@gmail.com (Post author)

      It have actually caught a few sea run brookies this fly. Caught them when targeting mackerel, they were just hanging out in the same water.

  3. Jaxon91

    I see your blog is similar to my site. Do you allow
    guest posts? I can write hi quality and unique content for you.

    Let me know if you are interested.

    1. bensmckinley@gmail.com (Post author)

      Yes absolutely. Fishing season is just ending here in a few days so I’m going to be writing on this blog again and would love some extra content to get the ball rolling.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *