The Tuna Kahuna is the brainchild of Floyd Sparks, a talented fly tier and offshore fisherman from San Diego. Developed in the late 80s, the TK is a derivative of the ALF pattern originated by Bill and Kate Howe. Floyd wanted a tough fly which would cast and sink well, and have good action, but had a fuller profile than the regular ALF or Flashy Profile Fly (FPF). He’s managed to capture these qualities in the Tuna Kahuna, which he has used successfully on all sorts of fish, including dorado, tuna, yellowtail, yellowfin tuna, albacore, bonito, roosterfish and barracuda.
The most noticeable feature of the TK is the unusal head treatment. While using mylar or other braided body material to cover the head is nothing new (see the Sea Habits, for example), most patterns simply slide a piece over the head, bind it behind the eye, and let the back edge fray. Epoxy, Soft-tex or similar glue is typically used to keep the braid together. In the TK, however, the body material is actually folded back over itself to form a full-bodied head, with no exposed tubing edges (see pictures).
Durability was a primary design goal, and Floyd has achieved it. Some of his flies that have survived for 4 years and numerous fish without being destroyed.
Thread: Clear mono, fine
Tail: Superhair or Ultrahair, staggered and tied in as per the ALF; Fluoro-flash or Comes Alive for flash, staggered and tied in as per the ALF pattern
Wing: Superhair or Ultrahair, staggered and tied in as per the ALF pattern (see Tail)
Body: Superhair or Ultrahair, staggered and tied in as per the ALF pattern (see Tail)
Underwing/Throat: Single layer of Superhair or Ultrahair, staggered and tied in as per the ALF; crystal flash staggered and tied in as per ALF
Head: EZ-Body braid – tied forward, pushed back, pulled forward; large 3D eyes; overcoat of E-ZPoxy, 5 minute
- Floyd prefers the Trey Combs hook in 6/0 for longer flies, or 2/0 for smaller flies. He prefers the large gap and the slightly heavier hook wire compared to say, the Mustad 34007 or Tiemco 911s.
- Note the pattern calls for 3D eyes, rather the the flat stick-on eyes. This is to give the head of the fly more of a profile. Floyd prefers chartreuse or red backing, and uses eyes that are a little larger relative to fly size than you might expect, as larger eyes seem to draw more strikes.
- When tying in the the E-Z body braid for the head, Floyd tries to keep a fairly large gap behind eye. This is to allow for the doubling over of the braid to form the head. Note that the head is formed by tying in the braid pointing forward over the eye, trimming it to length, then pushing it back over the eye a short distance to form the head, then pulling it forward (sort of like unrolling a sock).
- Floyd prefers mono thread (fine, clear), as it becomes translucent when head cement is applied.
- Super Hair for larger flies (4”+), and Ultra Hair for smaller flies is preferred. Floyd also uses Angel Hair for smaller flies, but if he does so, he may use Super Hair as base for the Angel Hair, since the Angel Hair tends to tangle.
- Floyd uses Comes Alive and Fluoro Fiber for flash; he likes stuff that is a bit more subtle in flash than the typical Flash-a-Bou. He likes to evenly mix the flash throughout the fly.
- Each hair bundle is about 12 hairs, and the ends are staggered before tying in, rather than trying to trim the hair after being tied in.
- Floyd ties in the bundles assymetrically (not directly in the middle, maybe 1/3 – 2/3), before binding down. The exact tie-in point is varied to adjust the profile of the body/wing.
- Hair bundles are tied around the shank to build a wider profile, but Floyd tries to avoid too bulky a fly. Therefore, he puts less material on the sides than on the top, and even less on the bottom.
- Goop is used to attach the eyes to the head after the head is formed and tied off. Permanent markers are used to color the head to match the wing hair. A light coat of 5-Minute Z-Poxy is brushed over the head to finish it off. Floyd only uses a light coat of epoxy – not enough to drip off the fly, so there is no need to rotate the fly while the epoxy is curing. This is more of a protective coat, as opposed to a finish coat. The epoxy also makes the fly a bit more aerodynamic. If he’s not that concerned with durability, Floyd may even fish the fly without the epoxy coat, as Goop does a good job of keeping the eyes on without epoxy.
The Tuna Kahuna is a beefy fly, but because it’s tied with synthetics, it doesn’t absorb that much water, and is relatively easy to cast.
Floyd told us that the fly gets bit on the sink a lot, so one of the main things people can do to get more strikes with the Tuna Kahuna is to simply be more patient, and let the fly sink deep, even if fish are hitting on top. But be ready for the strike as the fly sinks.
Sparks typically fishes the TK on a 450 – 500 grain Rio Striper shooting head. Once the fly has reached the right depth, a fast, two handed retrieve is usually the ticket.