How To Tie A Ray Charles Fly? Tie Like A Pro

Do you know there is an interesting fact about Ray Charles fly? Expert anglers said that even a blind man could catch fish with this fly. And that is why this fly was named after the Blind musician Ray Charles. But how do you tie a ray Charles fly?

Tying a Ray Charles fly is a straightforward process. Start by using a size 12 hook and red thread. Attach tan ostrich hurl behind the eye of the hook to create a clean underbody with the thread.

Then add a small copper wire for segmentation. Extend the ostrich hurl wraps just behind the eye and secure it with a half hitch. Pull the ostrich hurl over the top of the fly, fasten it, and add a redhead with copper wire. The Ray Charles fly is ready to entice fish.

Below I have discussed the step-by-step tying process, variation, tips, and more. So stay tuned till the end!

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What Is The Purpose Of The Ray Charles Fly’s Design And Coloration?

The Ray Charles fly, with its unique characteristics, serves a specific purpose in imitating aquatic organisms like sow bugs or scuds. Let’s explore why its design and coloration make it such an effective pattern for fooling fish.

Imitating Sow Bugs or Scuds:

The Ray Charles fly’s design and coloration allow it to imitate two primary food sources for fish: sow bugs and scuds. Depending on the size and color variations, this fly can mimic both these aquatic organisms, which are commonly found in rivers and streams.

Sow bugs are crustaceans resembling tiny shrimp, while scuds are freshwater shrimp-like crustaceans. By imitating these prey items, the Ray Charles fly triggers the predatory instincts of fish, enticing them to strike.

Natural Appearance and Profile:

The design of the Ray Charles fly incorporates features that closely resemble the natural appearance and profile of sow bugs and scuds.

The slender and segmented body, achieved through the use of scud-back material, replicates the segmented exoskeleton of these organisms. This attention to detail makes the fly look convincing and appealing to fish.

What Is The Purpose Of The Ray Charles Fly's Design And Coloration | Honest Fishers

Subtle Coloration:

The coloration of the Ray Charles fly plays a crucial role in its effectiveness. Generally, earthy tones like tan, gray, or olive are preferred for imitating sow bugs or scuds.

These colors blend well with the riverbed and mimic the natural hues of these aquatic organisms. The subtle coloration ensures that the fly appears realistic and doesn’t alarm or deter fish.

Versatility and Adaptability:

One of the key advantages of the Ray Charles fly’s design and coloration is its versatility. By adjusting the size and color variations, anglers can match the prevalent food sources in different fishing locations and seasons.

This adaptability allows the fly to remain effective in various fishing scenarios, increasing the chances of success on the water.

How Does The Ray Charles Fly Behave In The Water?

When the Ray Charles fly is submerged in water, it mimics the behavior of scuds and sowbugs, which are the primary prey it imitates. This fly has a natural sink rate, allowing it to reach the desired depth where these crustaceans are commonly found.

Once in the water, the Ray Charles fly exhibits a subtle and realistic movement, similar to the natural drift and slight twitches of scuds and sowbugs. It maintains a low profile, making it an enticing target for fish.

What Materials Are Needed to Tie a Ray Charles Fly?

You’ll need to gather a few necessary supplies before beginning to tie a Ray Charles fly. Each of these components is essential for producing a convincing pattern that resembles sowbugs or scuds. Below I’ve listed all the materials that will be needed for the tying process:


Choosing the right hook is essential for any fly pattern, and the Ray Charles is no exception. Typically, a number 12 hook, such as the Arex FW561, is used for this pattern.

The hook size can vary depending on the size of the natural scuds or sowbugs in your fishing area. Using the appropriate hook size ensures that your fly closely resembles the real creatures and increases your chances of fooling the fish.


The thread used in fly tying serves multiple purposes. In the case of the Ray Charles fly, a trademark red thread is used. Not only does the red thread create an attractive visual element with a touch of flair, but it also secures the materials to the hook, ensuring the durability of the fly.

Additionally, the thread color can imitate the natural coloration of certain insects, making it more enticing to fish.

Ostrich Hurl:

Ostrich hurl is a versatile material that adds movement and lifelike texture to the fly. In the Ray Charles pattern, a tan-colored ostrich hurl is used, which closely matches the appearance of many scuds and sowbugs found in various fishing locations.

What Materials Are Needed to Tie a Ray Charles Fly | Honest Fishers

By wrapping the ostrich hurl neatly and evenly around the hook, you create a realistic body that mimics the natural movement of these aquatic creatures, increasing the fly’s effectiveness.

Ultra Wire:

Small ultra wire, specifically in a copper color, is employed to provide durability and segmentation to the fly. The wire is wrapped around the body of the fly, securing the materials and ensuring the pattern holds up against the fish’s teeth.

Moreover, the segmented appearance created by the wire adds a lifelike element, imitating the natural segments found on scuds and sowbugs. This segmentation enhances the fly’s realism, making it more enticing to hungry fish.


A trusty pair of scissors is a vital tool for any fly tyer. They are used for trimming and cutting various materials during the tying process. When tying the Ray Charles fly, scissors are essential for snipping the tips of the ostrich hurl to prevent brittleness and ensuring a clean finish.

Furthermore, scissors are handy for tidying up any loose threads and achieving a neat and professional-looking fly.

By utilizing these materials, you can create an effective Ray Charles fly that closely imitates aquatic bugs. So gather your materials, get your tools ready, and let’s tie some Ray Charles flies that will surely attract the attention of fish on your next fishing adventure!

Step-By-Step Instruction for Tying a Ray Charles Fly

Tying your own Ray Charles fly is a rewarding experience that allows you to create a pattern tailored to your fishing needs. Follow this detailed step-by-step guide to master the art of tying a Ray Charles fly, from securing the hook to adding the final touches.

Step 1: Prepare the Hook

Begin by securing the number 12 hook in your vice. Ensure that it is held firmly but not too tightly to allow for easy manipulation. The hook should be positioned with the eye facing you, ready for the thread to be attached.

Step 2: Start with Red Thread

Take your red thread and attach it to the hook just behind the eye. Wrap the thread around the hook shank in close, tight turns, working your way towards the bend. This initial layer of thread provides a solid foundation for the rest of the fly and will serve as the base for the body and other materials.

Step 3: Snip the Ostrich Hurl Tips

Prepare your tan ostrich hurl by snipping off the brittle tips. Ostrich hurl adds movement and texture to the fly, making it more realistic. By removing the brittle tips, you prevent any potential breakage and ensure the durability of the fly.

Step 4: Attach the Ostrich Hurl

Take the prepared ostrich hurl and tie it in just behind the eye of the hook, on top of the thread base. Make sure to align it neatly and securely on the top of the hook. The length of the hurl should be sufficient to cover the entire shank of the hook, allowing you to create a consistent and lifelike body.

Step 5: Secure the Ultra Wire

Grab the small copper ultra wire and attach it just behind the eye of the hook, following the same path as the ostrich hurl. The ultra wire serves two important purposes: durability and segmentation.

It adds strength to the fly, ensuring it can withstand the challenges of fishing. Additionally, the segmented appearance provided by the wire imitates the natural body structure of scuds and sowbugs, making your fly more enticing to fish.

Step-By-Step Instruction for Tying a Ray Charles Fly | Honest Fishers

Step 6: Wrap the Ostrich Hurl

Begin wrapping the ostrich hurl around the hook shank in nice, neat wraps. Start just behind the eye and work your way toward the bend of the hook. The wraps should be side by side without overlapping or leaving any gaps.

As you progress, maintain even tension on the hurl to create a smooth and realistic body. Continue wrapping until you reach just behind the eye, leaving a small space for the head of the fly.

Step 7: Secure and Trim the Ostrich Hurl

Once you reach the desired point near the eye, secure the ostrich hurl with several tight wraps of thread. Make sure the wraps are firm but not so tight that they cut through the material. After securing, trim off any excess ostrich hurl, leaving a clean and tidy body.

Step 8: Pull the Ultra Wire

Now, carefully pull the ultra wire over the body of the fly, ensuring that it aligns with the segmentation created by the ostrich hurl. The wire should be taut but not overly tight, as you don’t want to distort the body shape. The wire adds strength and durability to the fly while enhancing its realism.

Step 9: Wrap the Ultra Wire

Using the ultra wire, create evenly spaced wraps along the body of the fly. The wire should overlap slightly with each wrap to create clear segmentation. This segmented appearance is a crucial element in imitating the natural body structure of scuds and sowbugs.

Once you reach the desired point near the eye, secure the wire with several tight wraps of thread and trim off the excess.

Step 10: Add a Red Head

To finish off the Ray Charles fly, create a small red head at the front. Use your red thread and make several wraps around the base of the fly, building up a slightly thicker area to mimic the head of a scud or sowbug.

This red head adds an attractive visual element and can act as a trigger for fish to strike.

Step 11: Final Touches

Inspect your fly for any loose threads or uneven wraps. Use scissors to trim stray fibers or excess materials, ensuring a clean and professional-looking fly. Give it a final check to ensure everything is secure and well-tied.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully tied a Ray Charles fly. Practice these steps and experiment with different color variations to match the scuds and sowbugs in your fishing area.

With time and experience, you’ll be able to tie a variety of sizes and variations of the Ray Charles fly, increasing your chances of success on the water.

Are There Any Variations Or Modifications To The Ray Charles Fly Pattern?

The Ray Charles fly pattern serves as an excellent foundation for imitating sowbugs and scuds in various fishing situations. However, you can make several variations and modifications to adapt the pattern to different conditions and target different fish species.

Let’s explore some of these variations and how they can be effective in specific fishing scenarios.

Color Variations:

While the tan-colored Ray Charles fly is popular, you can experiment with different colors to match the natural scuds and sowbugs in your area. Gray, white, light pink and peach are all viable options.

By observing the coloration of these aquatic insects in your fishing location, you can select a color variation that closely mimics their appearance. Adapting the color of the fly can increase its effectiveness and attract more fish in specific environments.

Size Variations:

The size of your Ray Charles fly can play a significant role in enticing fish to strike. While the tutorial mentioned tying the fly on a size 12 hook, you can modify the pattern to different sizes depending on your target species and the prevailing conditions.

Sizes ranging from 10 to 22 can be effective. Smaller sizes work well for selective or pressured fish, while larger sizes can attract the attention of aggressive or predatory species. Consider matching the size of the natural scuds and sowbugs in your fishing area to optimize your chances of success.

Are There Any Variations Or Modifications To The Ray Charles Fly Pattern | Honest Fishers

Additional Materials:

While the core materials of the Ray Charles fly pattern are essential, you can introduce additional materials to enhance its effectiveness.

For example, adding a beadhead or a tungsten cone to the front of the fly can provide weight and help it sink quickly, making it suitable for fishing in deeper water or fast currents.

Additionally, incorporating flash materials, such as flashabou or Krystal Flash, can add extra attraction and mimic the natural iridescence of scuds and sowbugs.

Fishing Situations:

The variations and modifications of the Ray Charles fly pattern can be particularly effective in specific fishing situations. For instance, in limestone creeks or tailwaters with robust scud and sowbug populations, a tan or gray Ray Charles fly can closely imitate the prevalent prey and yield great results.

On the other hand, in clear and selective spring creeks, downsizing the fly to smaller sizes and using natural color variations can fool wary fish.

When targeting aggressive fish in faster currents or deeper water, a larger-sized Ray Charles fly with added weight can help it stand out and trigger strikes.

Understanding the characteristics of the aquatic insects in your fishing area and tailoring your fly pattern according to these aquatic insects will greatly enhance your chances of success on the water.

So, don’t hesitate to experiment and find the variations that work best for you in different fishing situations.

How Should You Present The Ray Charles Fly To The Fish?

Presenting the Ray Charles fly in an enticing and natural manner is crucial for success. Here are some key tips on how to effectively present the fly to fish:

Match the Behavior of Prey:

Scuds and sowbugs, the primary imitations of the Ray Charles fly, are typically found near the bottom of the water column. To mimic their behavior, it’s important to present the fly close to the bottom. This can be achieved through techniques such as dead-drifting or nymphing.

Consider Water Currents:

Understanding the flow of water is essential. Present the fly in a way that mimics the natural drift of scuds and sowbugs. Start by casting slightly upstream and allow the fly to drift naturally downstream.

Adjust the speed and depth of the presentation according to the current to ensure a realistic presentation.

Vary the Retrieve:

While scuds and sowbugs are generally slow-moving creatures, it’s beneficial to experiment with different retrieval techniques. This can include subtle twitches, short pauses, or slow retrieves.

Varying the retrieve can help trigger a response from fish, especially if they are exhibiting a more aggressive feeding behavior.

Pay Attention to Strikes:

Keep a keen eye on the indicator or the end of the fly line for any subtle movements or hesitation. Strikes from fish can often be delicate and easily missed. Train yourself to detect even the slightest indications of a take, and be prepared to set the hook quickly and firmly.

Adapt to Changing Conditions:

Fishing conditions can vary throughout the day. Be observant and adaptable. If fish are not responding to your presentation, try adjusting the depth, changing the speed of the retrieve, or switching to a different size or color variation of the Ray Charles fly.

Experimentation and flexibility are key to finding what works best on any given day. Presenting the Ray Charles fly effectively requires practice, patience, and keen observation.

By closely imitating the natural behavior of scuds and sowbugs and adapting to the specific fishing conditions, you can increase your chances of enticing fish to strike and enjoy a successful day on the water.

Do The Ray Charles Fly Works Well In Both Stillwater And Moving Water Environments?

Yes, the Ray Charles fly can be effective in both stillwater and moving water environments. While it is commonly associated with fishing in rivers and streams, it can also produce results in lakes, ponds, and other stillwater settings.

Here are the techniques you can follow for both water conditions:

In Moving Water:

When fishing with the Ray Charles fly in rivers and streams, it excels in imitating the drifting behavior of scuds and sowbugs. The fly can be presented using techniques such as nymphing, dead-drifting, or tight-line techniques.

By accurately matching the natural drift of the fly with the current, you can entice fish holding in riffles, seams, and pockets.

In Stillwater:

In stillwater environments like lakes and ponds, scuds and sowbugs are also present and form part of the diet of trout and other fish species. The Ray Charles fly can be fished using different techniques such as slow retrieves, static presentations, or suspending it under an indicator.

Paying attention to water depth and adjusting the fly’s presentation accordingly is important in stillwater settings. It’s worth noting that the specific tactics and presentations may vary depending on the unique characteristics of each water body.

Factors such as water temperature, depth, clarity, and aquatic vegetation should be considered when fishing the Ray Charles fly in stillwater and moving water environments.

Overall, the Ray Charles fly’s versatility allows it to be effective in many fishing situations, including stillwater and moving water environments.

By understanding the behavior of scuds and sowbugs and adapting your presentation techniques to the specific water conditions, you can increase your chances of success when using the Ray Charles fly in various aquatic habitats.


The Ray Charles fly proves to be a versatile and effective pattern for imitating scuds and sowbugs, making it a valuable addition to any angler’s fly box.

By following the simple tying instructions and understanding its behavior in the water, you can increase your chances of success on the water.

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