Fly of the Month: The Four-Layered Sunray

Jun 21, 2023 | Blog, Equipment, Flies

Introducing the third in this ‘Fly of the Month’ series on the FishPal Journal including: a short film on how to tie the four-layered Sunray; a recipe; and how to fish it. Originally tied by Ray Brooks, the fly is named the Sunray, as it was tied for the “Son of Ray” Brooks on the Laerdal River, Norway.

Watch the step by step tutorial

Material List

  • Tubing: 3mm Plastic Clear Outer Tube
  • Inner Lining: 1.8mm Clear Plastic
  • Wing 1: White Bucktail
  • Wing 2: Finn Racoon Zonker
  • Wing 3: Finn Racoon Pelt
  • Wing 4: Goat
  • Varnish: Black Sally Hanson

How to fish the Four-Layered Sunray

There is no right or wrong way to fish any fly. As with tackle, everyone has their way which has usually stemmed from personal success and there are patterns that fish better one way over another. 

There are two things to think about with any fly when heading to the water. Firstly, what water type is it? Secondly, how do you fish that water type? 

If the water is fast, you need a material to suit fast water. If the water is slow, use a material to suit slow water. A standard thought process perhaps, however, how many of us think about it? If you really want to fish a pool properly you would probably change your line and fly at least three times, fishing the neck, main body, and tail of a pool. 

The Sunray pattern is, or should be, a staple part of any salmon fishers fly box. Many articles have been written about this fly over the years. It’s not only a fish-catcher but a fish-finder. If the water’s quiet during a trip, the Sunray is often used to seek out lies as the response to a large, small, or hitched Sunray can be explosive when other standard patterns don’t work. 

Personal Experience with the Fly

My personal experience with this bigger Sunray has been mixed. I’ve moved fish from a gentle tweak over a lie, a fast strip directly across the current, or simply casting with a flatter line downstream and letting it swing slowly. There is no absolute way, you need to try different methods of retrieve until you get a reaction. 

The reason I came up with the four layers came from the night I mentioned in the video. Years ago, I tied a larger Sunray than the one in the video with a yellow under wing but also with the other three layers. A big fly. Once the layers hit the water, the body of the fly expanded and presented a much larger width with a lot of movement. A far cry from a sleek, thin fly. Quite the opposite however on the night in question it worked. No fish were moving however once I had hooked the small trout and quickly stripped it back, a salmon came charging out of the water at the trout. I immediately changed to a large Sunray and things got interesting. Short strips over where I thought a fish would lie instantly got a very large fish to come up three or four times but without taking. Moving to the next pool in faster water I simply let it swing and bang!

The Sunray may well be to a lot of fishermen the one fly if they could only have one. Fish it on the surface, on the bottom, and everywhere in between at multiple different speeds. A fly for all seasons and all conditions. 

About the Author

Charlie has twenty years in sales and brand management working with some top brands such as Loop, Guideline & Vision in the recreational fishing industry, and also in footwear and lifestyle brands. With generations of fly fishing in the blood and an extreme passion for fly fishing and fly tying, he also lives for a life on the river and in the outdoors. Now, owner of the recognised fly-tying brand ‘CK Flies’, he brings his angling experience to a modern take on salmon fly tying through photography, videography and writing. His mission is to see his children take on the love of fly fishing, the way he and his family have for generations, and share his knowledge with others. 

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