Because of the aggressive strikes it provokes, the Sneaky Pete ranks as one of my favorite flies. I can’t start a day on a warm body of largemouth water without it, and many smallmouth bass fly anglers swear by it. I do not know what courageous visionary first turned a popper head around and fastened it to a hook, but he gets just as much gratitude from me as that guy who first ate an oyster!
Sneaky Pete is a nom d’ fishin to identify what is often called a slider. Made of balsa or foam, this top water fly, generally used on bass, slips along the surface rather than shoving water like a traditional popper. The effect of its lopsided bullet shaped head is that one fly adopts the identity of another.
While foam bodies are available, if you want to create your own Sneaky Pete, shaping this head from balsa is as simple as any popper.
Use a craft knife and sand paper to form the leading edge, then saw a slot in the bottom and attach it to the hook. Eyes is an area open to creativity. While they are never an absolute necessity, you can simply paint them on with two taps from a shaped dowel. Or, for a more realistic look, stick on one of the multicolor eyes available or even glue doll eyes on for the attractive sound. Extras like a tail, flash, “kicker legs,” a hackle collar, even rubber legs are all your choice.
Like a standard popper, letting the sneaky Pete sit is a good thing. As long as the movable parts are doing their seductive jiggles, the fly is working. So, after casting, draw the fly line and leader straight; be prepared to set the hook. Then wait. When the desire for action becomes too strong begin with a smooth popper strip. The Sneaky Pete will skim on the surface of the water much more quietly than a cupped face fly. Or, make one particularly sharp strip and jab your thumb toward the rear to get the Sneaky Pete to shove water and blurp much like its cupped face coworkers. Pete will even swim beneath the surface if you hold the rod tip low and strip quickly, several times. He will dive like a baby duck, swim submerged a few inches then pop to the top when you stop stripping.
Something about these actions brings on powerful attacks, so be ready. You’ll become a Sneaky Pete fan too.
Hook: #4 bass popper hook
Thread: Wapsi Uni-Thread 140d, color to match
Optional Tail: Marabou and/or Hackle
Optional collar: Hackle
Body: Hard foam popper head turned backward
Color: Craft paint or finger nail polish (A coat of primer is not wasted)
Optional Eyes: Fish Skull Living Eyes