Grey Ghost Trout Fly
by Allan Burgess
The Grey Ghost trout lure was introduced by Kilwell Sports of Rotorua at least 40 years ago. It is a popular smelting fly for fishing the central North Island lakes of Taupo and Rotorua. It also makes a good sea-run trout pattern for fishing Canterbury River mouths, particularly when the water is clear. The Grey Ghost is most likely taken for a smelt (silvery) or as a whitebait by feeding trout. It is also a surprisingly good fly to use for trout and salmon in the Twizel canals. Excellent for salmon fished on spinning gear with the aid of a small lead on the line.
It is also a surprisingly good fly to use for trout and salmon in the Twizel canals. A grey Ghost is readily taken by the many salmon that have escaped the fish farm nets. It is most often fished in the canals for salmon on spinning gear with the aid of a small lead on the line a couple of feet above the sinker. Use a sinker long-shaped sinker like as a banana or barrel lead to provide casting weight. The idea is to use just enough lead to cast the fly effectively but not so much that the fly drags along the bottom. In swifter the current use a slightly heavier lead.
Pictured above” The Rangitata Ghost was sold in stores in the South Island as a salmon and sea-run brown trout lure. It is, of course, a Grey Ghost by another name. It features the front half of the body tied from ice chenille and a bright orange head. Tied on a size 2 or 4 Kamasan lure hook, it is a most handsome version of this well known and very effective pattern.
Hook size: 2-8. A good strong hook to use is the Black Magic 2x Long Shank. This fly was tied for decades on Mustad 3666 lure hooks. When casting to smelting rainbows around stream mouths in the central North Island the smaller size 6 to 8 is preferred. For sea-run brown trout in Canterbury where the water is likely to be at least a little-discoloured size, 2 hooks would be a better choice.
As a harling fly, it is also fished in a size 2. However, on a slow day, harling lures in clear water going down in fly size is certainly worth a try.
Tail: Red, yellow or grey whisks. A tail is not strictly necessary.
Body: Flat silver tinsel. A lime chenille bodied version is popular in the Taupo area according to Huge McDowell in New Zealand Fly Tying – The Ten-Thumbed Beginner’s Guide. This version is certainly loud and easier for fish to spot. It must work or it wouldn’t sell as well as it does. I’ve also seen Grey Ghosts in the shops with pink bodies; perhaps to suggest a tiny rainbow trout fry. You can make a realistic looking Grey Ghost body by tying in half a dozen strips of Krystal Flash at the tail and wrapping them along the hook before tying off at the head. Another good body material to use is Silver Diamond Braid – available from tackle stores. Diamond Braid is thicker and quicker to apply especially in the larger hook sizes.
I usually add four strips of Krystal Flash to the sides of my Grey Ghosts for that little something extra! Note the Rangitata Ghost version of the Grey Ghost above. This was sold in tackle stores a few years ago. It is I guess aimed at those who would fish the Rangitata River from both salmon and sea-run brown trout. It has been jazzed up with a little ice chenille added to the front of the body, which, I think, makes the lure more appealing, at least to anglers anyway!
Rib: Silver oval tinsel.
Wing: Four grey hackles tied down matuku style. McDowell suggests that the shade of grey used in the wing feathers is quite important and accordingly he carries different colour versions ranging from dark sooty grey to almost white.
Collar: Grey hackle often omitted in the smaller sizes.
Head: Black. Painting on small white eyes really brings this fly to life and makes it look like a more than passable whitebait imitation. A particularly luxurious version can be created by the addition of jungle cock eyes at the head to form what is called a Grey Ghost Imperial.
I witnessed the Grey Ghost used to good effect to take many salmon from the Ohau A canal near Twizel. The Grey Ghost was fished with spinning gear using a small sinker about 1m up the line for casting weight. Two blokes caught many salmon on this rig easily fishing as well as other anglers using soft plastic lures.