The Deadly White Jig – The Most Productive Fly Fishing Pattern Ever!

In some of my past videos and blogs, I mentioned a particular fly that I have found to be the deadliest I have ever fished: the deadly white jig. I’ve fished this fly (or variations of it) all over North America with great success, for a wide variety of fish, from panfish and smallmouth bass, many different species of trout, as well as all five species of Alaskan salmon. I’ve found it especially deadly on rainbow trout, king salmon, pinks, and chum salmon.

Kodiak Island, Alaska, king salmon fly fishing patterns
A big Kodiak king salmon on the small, but deadly white jug!

I developed my deadly white jig many years ago after reading a great book, Ozark Trout Tales, where I learned about the undeniable fish catching power of micro jigs on the White River system of southern Missouri and Arkansas, which I fished regularly. These tiny, white, marabou jigs essentially imitate a wide variety of food sources, such as baitfish, and both fresh and saltwater crustaceans. These little jigs are especially potent on the White River system during the cold months of the year when thousands of dead threadfin shad are sucked through the damns of the big lakes and dispersed into the various rivers below. Trout often gobble up these tasty bits in a feeding frenzy. On Alaskan rivers, again, along with imitating some of the baitfish and crustaceans that trout and salmon feed on, it also acts as a flesh fly, which is a deadly pattern for big rainbows and dolly varden when they’re feasting on the rotting flesh of spawned out salmon.

A huge Dolly Varden on the deadly white jig!
A huge Dolly Varden on the deadly white jig!

I began developing the deadly white jig back in the late ’90s on several different southern Missouri trout and smallmouth streams. I tested it everywhere I went, in lots of different conditions. I fished it on hot days, cold days, at night, in the morning, in the afternoon, in clear water, and in muddy water. I fished it on sunny days, on rainy days, and on overcast days as well. I fished it on wild trout, on hatchery-raised trout and any combination of the two. I tallied up the results and in all cases, they were the same: overwhelming, smashing success!

Now, I’m not trying to toot my own horn or give the impression that the deadly white jig is some magical fly that makes fish bite on every cast. Sometimes it doesn’t produce much at all, but on those days, neither does anything else. Sometimes I’ll only catch a few fish the whole day with it, but those are days when nothing else is catching fish whatsoever. The bottom line is that after fishing and developing hundreds of fly patterns over the years, the deadly white jig has been the most universally successful pattern I have ever fished.

Deadly White Jig - The Most Productive Fly Fishing Pattern of All Time!
The various sizes and versions of the Deadly White Jig.

I primarily dead drift the deadly white jig under a small strike indicator, which I really don’t use for indicating a strike, but rather, I use it to control the exact depth of the fly, which is vitally important, especially on otherwise inactive fish. As an example, I was once fly fishing for kings on Kodiak Island in an area where the fish had been relentlessly pursued by fishermen all day with big spinners, eggs, huge streamer flies, and other popular lures. The fish had simply turned off and would not bite on anything. So, I tied on my salmon fishing version of the deadly white jig, set the depth to where the fish were holding and gently drifted it into the pool. As that small but mighty fly casually floated by the king’s nose in a very non-threatening manner, he simply opened his mouth and sipped it up, like eating a tiny piece of candy. BAMN!!!! The fight was on!

A nice fly rod caught Kodiak Island king salmon...caught on the deadly white jig.
A nice fly rod caught Kodiak Island king salmon…caught on the deadly white jig.

When fished in the same manner on pink salmon, I often get a strike on every cast…no exaggeration! However, I’ve found that adding a sliver of chartreuse marabou to the white, along with a little crystal flash in the tail, makes a big difference on salmon, whereas trout seem to prefer the plain white version.

The Deadly White Jig is very easy to tie. For trout sized fish I tie it on 1/124 to 1/64 oz jig heads, and for pink salmon, I tie it on a slightly larger 1/32 oz head. For larger species of salmon such as sockeyes, chums, silvers, and kings, I tie it on a short shank, 1/0 to 3/0 stainless steel hooks, with a set of heavy dumbbell eyes attached just below the eyelet. The color or the actual jig heads or dumbbell eyes don’t matter so much, as the paint chips off rather quickly anyhow. For the body of the fly or jig, I sometimes use a flash style of dubbing or a synthetic silver wrap of one kind or another. The most important part is simply the white or white and chartreuse tail and how you present it. And again, presenting it at the right depth is key.

To see more photos, check out the video version of this story by clicking here.

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Learn more about the history and development of micro jigs and trout fishing on the White River System. Click on the photo above to order your copy today.


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