Lefty Kreh Deceiver Saltwater Fly – Tying your own Variations

Lefty Kreh Deceiver saltwater fly - Lefty's Deceiver green version size 2/0 well dressed to swim near the surface.
Lefty Kreh Deceiver saltwater fly - Lefty's Deceiver green version size 2/0 well dressed to swim near the surface.

Lefty Kreh Deceiver Saltwater Fly

Tying the Lefty Kreh Deceiver Saltwater Fly Pattern

Best known as Lefty’s Deceiver

The Lefty Kreh Deceiver saltwater fly is perhaps the best known and most popular of all the saltwater fly patterns. It can be used to catch a huge range of fish species. Tied on small size 6 and 8 hooks it will readily be taken by mullet and juvenile kahawai, all the way up to yellowtail kingfish, mako shark, and even bill fish when tied on hooks up to size 7/0 or even larger. The Lefty Kreh Deceiver saltwater fly is a must have in your fly box if you wish to give this exciting style of fishing a crack this summer.

Lefty Kreh Deceiver saltwater fly - Lefty's Deceiver red and black shark fly version size 4/0 well dressed to swim near the surface after sharks have followed the berley trail to the boat..
Lefty Kreh Deceiver saltwater fly – Lefty’s Deceiver red and black shark fly version size 4/0 well dressed to swim near the surface after sharks have followed the berley trail to the boat.

Bernard “Lefty” Kreh is a well known American fly angler, photographer and instructor living in Maryland, in the United States. Left Kreh is regarded by many as one of the leading pioneers of saltwater fly fishing (often abbreviated to swf) starting back in the 1950s.

Kahawai with readily take a Lefty’s Deceiver Saltwater Fly; especially blue and white deceivers in size 1, 1/0, and 2/0 sizes. I know kahawai will take a lot of different lures when there is a big school present but I have found this colour Deceiver pattern to be particularly effective.

Lefty Kreh Deceiver saltwater fly.
Lefty Kreh’s hugely successful book Fly Fishing in Saltwater.

Fly fishing to a school of kahawai is tremendous fun. You don’t need anything more than your standard trout fly rod and line. When this species is close in to the beach you can have a ball. Kahawai will also take standard trout lures such as a Yellow Rabbit and Grey Ghost; but it just isn’t the same as fishing a proper saltwater fly. When the kahawai are inside the river mouth, and can easily be taken on the fly-rod from the bank, they do seem to hit flies more readily then lures. The biggest problem the would-be saltwater fly angler faces when targeting kahawai is getting yourself within casting range of fish!

You can get this fly in New Zealand at FlyShop NZ.

Deceivers for saltwater fishing should be tied on stainless steel hooks so they don’t rust. A readily available saltwater fly hook sold in New Zealand is the Mustad 34007 O’Shaughnessy. There are also excellent chemically sharpened fly hooks available from makers like Gamakatsu. Although very good they are quite expensive. Expect to pay a dollar per hook in stores. There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of saltwater fly hooks available on TradeMe.co.nz. Probably because saltwater fly-fishing, although growing in popularity all the time, is a branch of angling practiced by relatively few.

Saltwater Fly Patterns - Fully Revised and Augmented Edition by Lefty Kreh.
Saltwater Fly Patterns by Lefty Kreh

Hackle Wing
After placing your hook in the vice, and under-binding towards the bend, the first step is to select and tie in two white saddle hackles for the wing/tail. The hackles can be tied just forward of the bend only, or you can tie a second set at the front just behind the hook-eye. The best method depends to some extent on hook size. On the smaller hooks from size 1 to size 2/0 we are using for kahawai the second set of white hackles is unnecessary – its up to you. That said, begin by tying in four or five white hackles at the rear of the hook. The hackles should extend back two or three times the length of the hook shank.

In Lefty Kreh’s book Saltwater Fly Patterns 1995, the author states that, “What is not generally understood is that this fly can be tied with a very light, medium, or heavy collar.” If you want the fly to sink quickly then it should be sparsely dressed. If you want your Deceiver to float just under the surface then a more heavily dressed collar of buck-tail should be used. Still on the subject of the white saddle hackles that form the tail, you can either tie in a batched pair each facing inward, as was the case with the original pattern, or if you want to give the lure more swimming action tie them on facing outward. Again either is correct.

Then tie on four strands of silver, and four strands of pearl Mylar, to both sides.

Lefty's Deceiver small size 1 saltwater fly for kahawai fishing.
Lefty’s Deceiver small size 1 saltwater fly for kahawai fishing.

The original tie doesn’t appear to use any body material and the hook is left bare. Nowadays most anglers prefer to add a body which can be made from a many materials. You can wrap Accent Flash, or pearl Mylar around the hook to form a body. Diamond braid in gold or silver also works well, as does Flashabou tubing.

After tying in your body material select a clump of white buck-tail and tie in loosely on the side of the hook so that the ends of the hair extend back to about half the length of the hackle wing. Then tie in a clump the same of the opposite side. Then use your thumbnail to roll the buck-tail around the hook.

Tie in a small clump of red Accent Flash under the hook to suggest gills. Better yet blood as predatory fish will quickly target any wounded bait-fish.

We are nearly finished. Select a clump of blue buck-tail and tie it in on the top of the hook so that it extends back slightly beyond the white buck-tail collar. Tie a few strands of blue Accent Flash on the top, together with a few strands of blue Tinsel Flash. If you like add a few strands of pearl Flashabou for good measure.

Finish the fly by binding the head and coating with cement.

You can purchase little adhesive eyes from tackle stores. You can create your own using several methods. Firstly you can paint on a white or yellow eye ball by dipping the end of a thin round stick in a paint and then stamping it on. Wait for the paint to dry before repeating the process with a smaller stick dipped in black paint to for the pupil. Another method which produces a more realistic result is to first punch out rounds from a sheet of chartreuse prism tape with a paper punch (of the type used for making holes in paper to insert in a ring binder). Peel the backing off and stick them in place. Then finish them with a black pupil in the same way as the first method. The Lefty Kreh Deceiver saltwater fly really comes alive with the addition of eyes.

After applying eyes many tiers coat the head with epoxy. Five minute Araldite adhesive is a good choice. This makes the head and eyes more resilient when chomped in fishes mouth’s and also gives the finished fly a professional look that will not only impress the kahawai, but your fishing mates too! The Lefty Kreh Deceiver saltwater fly is a very satisfying fly to tie. These are generally large flies that use plenty of expensive materials so tying your own will lead to big savings. Tying your own also makes it possible to experiment with different colours and combinations.

Blue deceiver saltwater flies.
Blue deceiver saltwater flies.