This fly is a dumbed-down version of a minnow pattern developed by my good friend Terry Andrews.  There is some history to minnow patterns for the waters of The KZN Midlands, so herewith some introductory background…

“Ghielemientjie’s” are considered to be a favourite food item for many of our predatory freshwater fish, trout included of course.  While there are a number of such “food fish” which would fall under this loose classification, the most widespread, and arguably the most common member of this group across South Africa is the Chubbyhead Barb, Barbus / Enteromius anoplus (see Skelton, 2001 and Wikipedia).


Chubbyhead Barb from Skelton (2001)

 The Chubbyhead Barb is notable for its two breeding seasons : from February to March, and again between November and January, which allows it to flourish despite a short lifespan of approx. 2 years (from Wikipedia), making Chubbys a readily available food source all year round.  As a result, there have been a number of patterns developed to tempt trout in the waters of The Midlands.

The “Chorus Girl” is an early ‘80’s attractor fly by well-known Natal Fly Fishers Club (NFFC) member, Taffy Walters (see Blackman, 1985).  Tied in contrasting yellow and scarlet, with jungle cock eyes, the pattern was noted as an “extremely good cold-water fly for dams” (Hansford-Steel, 2009).



Taffy Walters’ “Chorus Girl”

(image from Blackman, 1985)

The “Golden Monkey”, a pattern by Mel Steyn dating from the late ‘80’s, fished with great success in The Midlands.  Tied with brown thread, an underbody of brown wool, lateral line of a couple strands of fluoro-green flashabou, wing of yellow synthetic “Fish Hair” coloured with a dark koki, and eyes of tippex dotted with a marker pen … the pattern was closely guarded within the “inner circle” of Durban’s Fly Fishing Association (FFA) at the time!


Mel Steyn's “Golden Monkey”

(tied by Dale Hattingh)

(image supplied by Andrew de Villiers Smith)

 More recently, a popular pattern that used to be found in the fly trays of the local purveyors of feather and fluff was the “Yellow-Bodied Minnow”, commonly (but incorrectly) referred to by fly anglers as the “Natal / Midlands Minnow”.  Designed by KZN local fly-tying guru and international guide, James Christmas, it is described as an “attractor lure” and “an excellent cold-water fly for winter use” (Hansford-Steele, 2009).


James Christmas’ Yellow-Bodied Minnow.

(image from Hansford-Steele, 2009)

And so we come back to Terry Andrews, who in 2015, came up with a dedicated Chubbyhead Barb pattern, after a fish that he had caught regurgitated a 2” / 50mm specimen on his stripping tray.


Freshly regurgitated Chubbyhead Barb (image from Terry Andrews)

Terry was fixated by the colours of the natural, and set to work when he came across a tubing material that best imitated the real thing.  Now Terry’s fly is a piece of (art)work, incorporating a number of (complicated) steps to get the shape desired from the tubing … if not perfectly aligned, the pattern doesn’t swim correctly.  Now Terry isn’t a small guy, and his flies aren’t either! His Chubby is tied on a #2 5x longshank streamer hook … so to us, his “friends”, this pattern is affectionately known as “Terry’s Rapala” (tongue firmly in cheek!).              


 To cut to the chase – Terry’s “fly” has been very successful, and as a result, he fields a number of requests to tie them … which he gracefully (and not so gracefully) declined and, as a known supplier of flies, tried to send them my way … which I steadfastly refused due to the materials (Terry had purchased all the stock at the time!), method and time involved.  Many will know that I am a fan of “guide flies”; i.e. flies that are (relatively) quick and easy to tie and won’t cause a coronary when they get caught up in weed or hang up in a bush … but eventually, after an age of badgering to supply the minnow, I succumbed to the requests and sat down over a weekend and plotted an easier way to get to the same / similar result … and the “Cactus Minnow” was born.






Hook : #10 Longshank Streamer (e.g. Mustad R75-79850 or Grip 1131BL for barbless)

Thread : 3/0 (colour of choice to suit minnow)

Wing : Rabbit Zonker (colour and size of choice to suit minnow)

Body : Cactus Chenille (colour and size of choice to suit minnow)

Rib : wire (optional)

Eyes : 3 or 5mm, 3D or flat stick-on (colour and size to suit minnow)



Tying Instructions:

Step 1

- Place hook in vice.

- Start thread behind the eye of the hook and advance down the bend.

- Advance thread back to eye of hook.

- Tie in wire rib (optional)

- Advance thread to rear of hook making a solid thread bed for the cactus chenille.


Step 2

- Split fur with bodkin (to prevent trapping any hair) and tie in rabbit zonker at rear of hook.

- The overhang of the zonker strip at the rear of the hook should be ~5mm, anymore and you may need to add a mono loop to prevent wrapping.


Step 3

- Tie in Cactus Chenille, and advance thread to a couple millimetres from hook eye (4 or 6mm depending on eye size)


Step 4

- Wrap Cactus Chenille forward with touching turns, making sure to brush chenille back with each turn to make full belly.

- Secure, and cut off excess chenille.        


Step 5

- Pull zonker strip forward.

- Split fur with bodkin (to prevent trapping any hair) and tie in zonker behind the hook eye.

- Secure and snip off excess zonker.          


Step 6

- Using bodkin to part fur to ensure that the rabbit fur isn’t trapped, wind wire rib forward to secure zonker strip to top of fly.

- This is an optional step – for sake of speed / production tying I don’t usually, and haven’t had any problems…          



Step 7

- Tie wire off behind hook eye, and helicopter off excess.

- Make a good size thread head, length to suit eye being used.     


Step 8

- Using a pair of pliers, squash the thread head so that it has flat sides – this helps when placing the eyes, otherwise the eyes are balancing on a rounded head.

- Tip : if production tying, I tie a number of flies to this step, and then do all the eyes / heads to finish.


Step 9

- Using a bodkin, apply the stick-on eyes to both sides of the flattened thread head.          


Step 10

- Apply a drop of thin UV resin (e.g. Solarez Bone Dry or Loon Flow) between the eyes (I used to use SuperGlue but UV resin is a much better solution).



Step 11

- and set with a UV light to ensure that the eyes stay in place when applying the (sticky) thick resin.



Step 12

- Apply a good dollop of thick UV resin (e.g. Solarez / Loon Thick), and using a bodkin, spread evenly over the eyes ensuring that you have full coverage of the eyes from back to front, being careful not to flood the hook eye. 

- If using a rotary vice, spin the vice rapidly a few times to smooth out the thick resin.

- Set the UV resin with a UV light to form a neat “glass” head.      





Regarding the size of Terry’s fly, Skelton (2001) notes that male Chubbyhead Barb are usually less than 100mm / 10cm in length, while females may attain 120mm / 12cm … so a #2 longshank is not far off! … but many fly anglers are put off by the size of the fly.  Also, in instances of regurgitated fish, the sample is around 50mm / 5cm, so I have taken to downsizing the fly to a #10, which yields a fly of around 5cm. 


Chubbyhead Barb, approx.50mm

(Image by Chris Buitendag)


Comparing Chubbyhead Barb: #2 vs #10



With the correct materials, the pattern does scale up well, so can be tied to any preferred size:

- For #2 / #4 / #6 - use Magnum (6mm) zonker, 15mm Cactus Chenille and 5mm eyes.

- For #8 – use standard (3mm) zonker, 10mm cactus chenille and 3mm eyes.

- For #10 – standard (3mm) zonker, 5mm cactus chenille and 3mm eyes. 


Natural colour minnows are the most obvious choice, but the pattern can also be tied in a range of attractor colours, useful in eliciting a reaction strike from fish in the cold winter waters of The Midlands.


Cactus Minnows in Olive and Rootbeer.


Olive and Rootbeer with natural.

(Image by Andrew Fowler)


Cactus Minnows in a range colours.


Happy Tying – Go Fish!



References : (in order of appearance)

(2001)    “Freshwater Fishes of Southern Africa” (new edition) by Paul Skelton.

()             “Chubbyhead Barb” (accessed May 2023).


(1985)    “Flies and Flyfishing in South Africa” by Jack Blackman.

(2009)    “Fishing Flies for Africa” by Bill Hansford-Steele.

 (2023)   Dale Hattingh, telecomm May 2023.

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