Spin & Trim
Like a Pro
Guide to hing
Europea iques and Flies
John Gierach on
(With 13 Favorite Patterns)
CATCH BASS in the Everglades
Make spoon flies using Silly Putty, the mysteries
of collecting antique patterns, the world’s coolest
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Ta b l e o f
A Realistic Terrestrial
Volume 16, Number 4
What Every Fly Tier Should Know
26 A Better Black Gnat
Igor & Nadica Stancev
Don’t overlook all those black flies hovering near
the riverbank. The authors’ Hawthorn fly works
wherever trout feed on land-born insects.
13 Great Patterns
32 The Nuclear Option
for Steelhead
John Gierach
Fly-fishing’s most renowned author shares his
thoughts about tying flies for fish that don’t eat.
Special Report
40 Euro-Nymphing
Aaron Jasper
Anglers practicing Czech nymphing and similar
methods are winning the World Fly Fishing
Championships. Be the first on your
river to use these advanced troutfishing techniques and flies.
48 Hair-Wrangling 101
Dick Talleur
A master tier shares his secrets for spinning
and trimming deer hair.
A Timeless Classic
56 The Carey Special:
A Northwest Original
Mark Halperin
Tie these classic flies to catch modern trout.
Great Florida Fishing
62 Everglades Bass on the Fly
Pat Ford
The ’Glades are known for snook and tarpon, but
bass? You bet! Tie these flies and get ready to go
to hawg heaven.
Page 62
2 | w w w. f l y t y e r. c o m
Page 20
Editor’s Page
David Klausmeyer
Fly Tyer Offers Digital Edition Subscriptions
6 First Wraps
Edited by David Klausmeyer
In Quest of the D7
Plus: Vote for the fly-tying lifetime achievement awards, For the Record, the world’s
most beautiful vise, and more.
18 Creative Tying
Page 23
Jay “Fishy” Fullum
Fishy’s Alderfly
Page 26
Page 56
20 Beginner’s Corner
Mike Hogue
The Cricket Nymph:
A Realistic Panfish Fly
23 Materials Notebook
David Klausmeyer
The Bead Revolution Continues
68 Match the Hatch
Andrew Puls
Mimicking Real Leeches
72 Salt Water
Zach Matthews
Getting Silly with Spoon Flies
80 Fly Tyer Profile
Page 68
Jay Jacobs
Lee Weil: Long Island’s Master Bug Maker
Page 18
Lee Weil is a master at spinning
and clipping deer-hair bass bugs.
Photography by David Klausmeyer
Winter 2010 | 3
by David Klausmeyer
Fly Tyer Offers
Digital Edition
Fly Tyer was the first publication to report
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write to fit. write to fit. write to fit. write to fit. write
to fit. write to fit. write to fit. write to fit. write to fit.
write to fit. write to fit. write to fit. write to fit.
titled “Lost Treasures,” which
appeared in the Spring 2009
issue of Fly Tyer, I’ve learned
quite a bit about the history
of flies in the Monadnock Region of New
Hampshire. By the time my 15 minutes
of fame began to flicker out, I was the acknowledged local fly historian. There was
no end to the number of comments and
suggestions I received, as well as a few actual leads to flies. While all the leads were
interesting, there were only a few that
didn’t fizzle out after the initial contact. Of
course, all the leads were great in terms of
meeting new people, and each lead generated at least three more contacts.
As I spent all my spare time making
phone calls, taking notes, and wondering
what I was going to do with all this data,
a nagging thought crept into the back of
my mind. Somewhere I had seen a framed
set of about three dozen streamers, and I
recalled that they were undocumented.
Surely these needed to be documented
and included in my research.
It took me a few weeks before I could
remember the location of those flies. It
made perfect sense that I had difficulty
remembering: they were at a place known
for classic salmon flies, not trout streamers. In the summer of 2006, as I finished
my classic fly-dressing apprenticeship, my
instructor and I went on a field trip to visit
Phil Castleman in Springfield, Massachusetts. Phil runs Castle Arms, a fly-tying Web
site, but if you ask him nicely, he might
let you visit his “store.” It’s not actually a
store; it’s more like a huge single-room flytying warehouse. Phil caters to salmon fly
dressers, but also serves others looking for
exotic feathers or materials: Native Americans, feather artists, and costume makers.
As an example, if you’re looking for some
olive chenille to tie Woolly Buggers, Phil
may or may not have it. But, if you need
some Indian crow, or if you’re not sure if
you need Pyroderus scutatus scutatus, or if
you want to compare Spanish silk gut to
Here’s the mystery frame opened for inspection. The pattern the author calls “D7” has brown wings
and is second from the bottom corner. (Left) Phil Castleman in the heart of Castle Arms. A frame of
flies from Phil’s shop has generated several mysteries that the author is eager to solve.
vintage British silk—or maybe you want
to take a look at all 75 available colors of
Japanese silk floss—then you’ve come to
the right place.
At any rate, when I recalled that I saw
the framed streamers at Castle Arms, the
usual mild panic overcame me. This is the
same fear that drives all my efforts toward
collecting data on local New England
streamers. It is based on the fact that the
few local tiers I know are all in their 80s,
few youngsters are picking up the hobby,
and fishing itself has dropped off. What is
going to happen when all these older tiers
die off? Who is keeping track of all these
patterns? In the case of Castle Arms, the
situation might be worse: I worried that it
was no longer in business. I hadn’t been
down to Phil’s store in several years, and
it served an obscure niche of an already
dwindling hobby; and, by the way, Phil
Castleman was no spring chicken. I called
as soon as I could on Monday morning.
“Castle Arms!” Hey, he’s still in business!
“Busy as a one-armed paper hanger!”
And business is good!
“Just got back from turkey hunting
up on the Deerfield!” And he’s in good
Breathing a bit easier, I made an appointment to visit later in the week.
Someone took great care in naming all the flies in the frame. Note that one blank is empty. Of such
small things mysteries are born.
Winter 2010 | 7
A Visit to Castle Arms
5 6 > ( = ( 0 3 ( ) 3
That Thursday, I found myself standing
on the fourth floor of an office building
in downtown Springfield. It would be
difficult to fully describe Phil’s store, but
try to imagine a freight train filled with
fly rods, a semi-trailer on its way to a
fishing-tackle convention, and a moving
van coming from a natural history museum—all arriving at a railroad crossing at
the same unfortunate time. In the background, add what might be a good contender for the world’s largest collection
of framed fishing flies, and you’ll have
a pretty good feel for what the Castle
Arms is like. Of course, this business is
basically just a hobby—Phil is currently
a lawyer.
Phil Castleman grew up in Boston
and went to Colby College in Waterville,
Maine. Phil met his wife in Waterville,
and it is also where he became immersed
in the fishing lore of the Rangeley Lakes
Region. Some of Phil’s early recollections
of Maine include trips to Upper Dam to
buy streamers from Carrie Stevens for
35 cents apiece. In 1951, he left school
and began his first career working as a
division manager for a lumber company,
but it was also the year he started selling
guns and fly-tying materials, and Castle
Arms was born. Phil stayed with the
lumber company until his early forties
when he retired. He then started working in various government positions,
and he put himself through law school.
Phil has practiced law throughout the
second half of his life, and Castle Arms
expanded to include fly rods and more
exotic feathers.
We made our introductions once we
were in the storefront. Phil remembered
our original meeting when we discussed
the framed streamers, and he was more
than willing to pull them off the wall
so we could get a better look. And I do
mean pull: the flies were arranged in a
large Riker box that was actually taped to
the wall. He ripped it off—along with a
bit of the Sheetrock—and we took a few
photos. We got to chatting, and started
talking about how the flies were all unnamed, and how he first saw the framing
at an auction in 1951 when he left Wa-
8 | w w w. f l y t y e r. c o m
terville. He wanted the framing then, but
the opening bid was $5, which seemed a
bit steep at the time. Later on he had the
chance to buy it at a Lang’s fishing-tackle
auction in Boston in 1961—or maybe it
was 1963. Phil made an opening bid of
$25, no one countered, and so he took
the flies home.
While I was propping the frame for a
better photo, I noticed some paper on the
back. Looking closer, it turned out to be
a list of fly names, arranged suspiciously
like the flies in the frame. They were arranged in a nice table, four across and
seven down. It was the names of all the
flies. I showed Phil my discovery. At first
he was as dumbfounded as I was, and
then had some faint memory of the flies
being named. He thought that most of
the names were made up, or wild guesses
at best. Of course, once I actually paid
attention to what the flies looked like,
and then referred to the names again,
it was one of those classic “Well, duh!”
moments: some of the flies should have
been familiar. While most of the flies were
pretty obscure, a few of them were so runof-the-mill that I can’t believe I didn’t recognize them. Patterns like the Gray and
Green Ghosts, the Parmachene Beau, and
the Nine-Three. I should have known they
weren’t Lost Treasures the moment I saw
them. I guess because they were tied as
tandems they didn’t look quite the same,
but still, I should have been tipped off. At
any rate, the wind had been let completely out of my sails. Suddenly, since the
names were known, all the adventure of
trying to figure out the origins of the flies
just went up in smoke. We chatted for a
minute, and then Phil, glancing at the listing on the back, said, “I wonder what that
one is?” I then noticed that one of the locations on the table of names was empty.
It was in the fourth column, the seventh
fly down. As I looked for the name of the
fly, I started referring to it as the D7—the
name of the fly’s location as if it was on a
spreadsheet: column D, row 7. It turned
out that one of the flies on the frame had
the potential to be a Lost Treasure after all.
We discussed it a bit more, shook hands,
and I took my notebook and camera back
to New Hampshire.
The Quest Continues
I’ve been pursuing the name of this fly
through my various references, but now
I’m more focused on the story of the
frame. Is this the very same frame that
Phil Castleman saw in 1951? Could it be
something different? Since it looks like
a very professional tying job, who put it
together? What was the purpose? The
flies are all tied in what I would refer to
as a “presentation style,” with a bit more
flourish, and perhaps showing more of the
materials than you would normally see in
a standard fishing fly. Were they tiedFTYMG_100600_Dr.Slick.indd
a fly shop as advertising, or perhaps tied
by a commercial tier as a demonstration
piece? Maybe this isn’t the same frame
that started out in Waterville in the first
place, and it’s something totally different,
and much more recent.
How can I solve this mystery? I’m still
poking around, and still asking questions.
I now have a printout of the frame in my
history folder. Any time I bump into anyS
one who has any knowledge of Rangeley
flies, I pull out that photo. You just never
know who you’re going to run into.
I’ve learned a lot about flies and fly
tiers over the past couple of years, but
this episode taught me quite a bit about
IU $15.75
expectations. In the beginning, I forgot
where I’d seen this set of flies. I then
remembered and set up a meeting. Phil
and I were both convinced that all the
flies were mysteries, and then we discov$16.25
ered they all had names. Within a few
minutes, I was back to having a single
mystery fly, so now I’m looking around
for anything that might lead me to the
history of the D7, and the history of
the frame.
The moral of the story is that I need
to be optimistic, keep an open mind, and
keep collecting data on New England
streamers. Sometimes the Lost Treasures
you stumble upon are more or less of a
treasure than you anticipate, but in the
end they’re all worth the effort.
Larry Antonuk is an extremely talented tier
and fly-fishing historian. Larry lives in New
Hampshire. If you’d like to know more about
Castle Arms, check out the Web site, www.
4/14/10 3:26:54 PM
999T#08+.75#T%1/˜LNNTJKJTFLLK˜[email protected]
Winter 2010 | 9
FTYMG_1012WI_Anvil.indd 1
11/3/10 9:25:57 AM
For theRecord
Chenille Co., Inc.
Peter Harrison
North America’s
Manufacturer & Wholesaler
of Fly-Tying Materials
Known Worldwide for Fine
Quality at Reasonable Prices
Rainbow Trout.
FTYMG_1012WI_White Water Flies.indd 1
10/28/10 3:44:42 PM
by Ted Rogowski
Ask for Danville products
at fly shops everywhere.
P.O. Box 1000 • 1 Hampstead Rd
Danville, NH 03819-1000
Phone (603) 382-5553
Fax (603) 382-2133
FTYMG_100600_Danville.indd 1
EP 1
Hook: Salmon streamer hook, size 2.
Thread: White 3/0 (210 denier).
Tail: Pink rabbit strip and pearl Flashabou.
Body: Pink Crystal Chenille.
Hackle: Pink saddle hackle spiral-wrapped
over the body.
Eyes: Large white dumbbell eyes.
10 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
4/14/10 10:55:54 AM
State’s Hoh River was running heavy with
glacial melt from the Olympic Mountains.
Peter Harrison was making 70- to 90-footlong Spey casts close to where the river
spills into the Pacific Ocean, using a fly
he calls the EP 1.
“This is my number one fly,” Peter
says. “I use this fly in different sizes all
over the world, and I have caught more
fish on it than all the other flies put together. If I am at a loss as to what fly to
use, this is the one I choose.”
The river is perfect for the possible
100-foot Spey casts Peter enjoys making,
and steelheaders fishing shrimp and egg
clusters have landed sizable fresh-run steelhead. But for Peter, “fishing is more of a
Zen thing. I love to walk the rivers where
wild fish live, and on any day, I would rather
be casting well than catching well.”
Peter must have been casting very well
that day because all of a sudden, he felt
“something that I can only describe as a
lightning bolt hitting my whole body.” Peter
didn’t know it, but he was into what would
become the largest rainbow trout ever officially recorded in North America. It took 45
minutes to land the steelhead, and both fish
and angler fought to exhaustion.
Peter’s wife, Shirley, noticed the fish
was bleeding when he brought it into
shallow water. Anglers who gathered
to witness the event observed that this
must be a record steelhead, and with it
bleeding, Peter decided against releasing
the fish. When weighed according to International Game Fish Association standards,
the steelhead was 29 pounds 8 ounces
and became the new 16-pound-test tippet
record for rainbow trout, and is the largest
North American rainbow trout of record.
Steelhead vs. Rainbow Trout?
Why, you might be wondering are there
not separate categories for steelhead
and rainbow trout? According to Jason
Schratwieser, conservation director of the
IGFA, “Although a rainbow might run to
the ocean [or Great Lakes] to feed and
grow, it cannot be distinguished genetically from its rainbow trout heritage. Upon
its return to its spawning site, it is still a
rainbow trout, science-wise.” As a result,
the IGFA does not recognize steelhead as
a separate species, and Peter Harrison’s
fish is classified as a rainbow trout.
Ted Rogowski wishes to thank Adrian Gray
and Jason Schratwieser of the IGFA for their
assistance in preparing this report. Ted is a
regular contributor to Fly Tyer.
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W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 11
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Flymen Fishing
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Now’s the time
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the Nor-Vise
Dealer show is the fly-fishing industry’s annual trade fair. Every
owners, wholesalers, members
10:29:47 AM
of the press, and others gather to test-cast
the latest rods, spin the spools on the newest reels, and examine the waders, vests,
lines, and almost every other new piece of
equipment you’ll see this spring in your local retailer. Each manufacturer works hard
to put his best foot forward, but some
reach a little farther than the others.
This magazine and its sister publications—American Angler and Gray’s Sporting Journal—sponsor the Dealers’ Choice
Award. In this event, retailers and buyers
vote on what new products they think
will most appeal to their customers. This
year, Flymen Fishing Company won the
11:25:03 AM
Dealers’ Choice Award in fly tying for its
new line of Fish Skull weighted heads.
Martin Bawden, the owner of Flymen Fishing
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12 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
10/28/10 4:13:45 PM
Form Follows Function
Faruk Ekich spent hundreds of
hours handcrafting what might
be the world’s most beautiful
and functional fly-tying vise.
by David Klausmeyer
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of Faruk Ekich. He lives in Canada,
and makes only infrequent forays
into the United States to show off his latest fly-tying inventions. But when Faruk
does show up, it’s always a treat to see
what he has created.
A few years ago, Faruk introduced the
Ekich Ultimate Bobbin. I immediately rec3:42:44 PM
ognized the ingenuity and care that went
into the design of this spring-loaded tool.
The Ultimate Bobbin is designed to automatically maintain proper thread tension
while you tie.
While the Ultimate Bobbin is a purely
functional tool, Faruk’s new Dama Seal
Vise is as much a work of art as it is a
high-quality fly-tying tool. We’ll get to the
functional parts of the vise in a moment,
but for now, I want you to understand
that the vise jaws are entirely handmade
out of Damascus steel. We live in an age
when it is claimed that many products
are handmade, but in reality that often
means they are assembled by hand. When
Faruk says “handmade,” however, he really means it.
“I start with a raw bar of Damascus
steel, and cut out all the parts using a
saw,” Faruk explained. “I then shape and
smooth everything using files and finishing stones.”
Examine the photos of the jaws and
swept neck, and you’ll agree that Faruk’s
vise is beautiful to behold. While I thought
14 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
10/29/10 10:31:36 AM
The sweeping neck and jaws of the Dama Seal
Vise are made using simple hand tools out of
Damascus steel. The Dama Seal Vise is surely
a functional work of art.
the curved neck was for artistic effect, Faruk
explained that the shape is purely functional.
(In fact, I think Faruk was a bit puzzled by
my reaction to many of the features on his
vise. Whenever I thought he designed a part
for the shear artistic beauty of the curved
lines, he would reply that each shape had a
practical purpose.)
“That’s where I rest the palm of my left
hand,” he said about the curved neck. “I
can easily apply pressure to the neck to
turn the jaws to see other parts of the fly.”
Faruk also pointed to the cleverly designed jaws. Study the close-up photo of
the jaws. Even with this large salmon fly,
Faruk can conceal the hook point and
barb to prevent fraying the thread or other
materials, yet the tip of the jaws are fine
enough to accommodate the smallest dry
fly hooks. And the low center of gravity of
the jaws’ mass minimizes the tendency of
the jaws to drift while tying. This last design
feature sounds strange, but I, too, have tied
on rotary vises that tended to turn under
mere thread tension. Faruk’s design eliminates this problem.
During our interview, Faruk talked for
a long time about the nuances of thread,
and how to use his bobbin with his vise.
His years of experience as a mechanical
engineer were obvious, and I almost gave
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up thinking that there was anything artistic
about his vise or if he even had an artistic bone in his body. At last I asked about
the screw that opens and closes the vise
jaws. “What’s with all the shapes,” I asked.
“What do I do with these?”
Call (978) 282-7669 or e-mail [email protected]
“Those represent the shapes of the
wings of the three major insects: the mayfly, the stonefly, and the caddisfly. Don’t
you see them?”
Caught you, Mr. Ekich! No one could
create such a beautifully sculpted object
FTYMG_100600_WingaersheekFlies.indd 1
as your vise without having some sense of
artistic flair.
4/15/10 4:30:11 PM
I Could Go On, But . . .
We talked for close to two hours, and I’ve
had Faruk’s vise in my office for close to a
month. (This is one tool that I will have to
return to the owner; it will be back in Faruk’s
hands before you read this article.) There is
still much to tell, but space is short.
I could, for instance, tell you about the
special tempering of the completed jaws.
Or I could tell you about how Faruk makes
the head of the vise using nickel silver. But
I suppose the question you most want anFTYMG_1009FA_RECComponents.indd
swered is, how much does this vise cost?
“I don’t have a clue what to charge for
something like this,” Faruk said. “I haven’t
even thought about that.”
“Well,” I asked, “how long did it take
you to make this vise?”
“There again, I don’t know. I didn’t
keep track of the hours. It might have taken hundreds of hours. It took a very long
time. Most of it was completely made by
hand. You don’t keep track of how long it
takes to make something like this. You do
it because you love the work, and you love
the materials.”
I don’t know if Faruk and I ever came
to terms over what his vise represents: Is it
a work of art, is it a purely utilitarian tool,
or is it something in between? I suppose I
have no choice but to bow to his wishes
and acknowledge that first and foremost,
the Dama Seal Vise is a fly-tying tool, and
that form follows function.
7/27/10 12:18:32 PM
To learn more about the Ekich Ultimate Bobbin, the Dama Seal Vise, and much more, go to
Faruk’s Web site,
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 15
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Cast Your Vote for the Fly Tier
Who Is Making the Biggest
Contributions to the Craft.
7/20/10 10:52:22 AM
Each year, we break new ground by launching new colours and new product lines.
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Fly Tyer
Telephone: 450-889-8054
Toll-free: 1-877-889-8054
Fax: 450-889-5887
E-mail: [email protected]
this magazine, we will announce the
first recipients of the annual Fly Tyer
Lifetime Achievement Awards. Our
editors are selecting three individuals who
they believe have made major and lasting
contributions to the art of fly tying. In addition to their selections, we will include a
category called the “Readers’ Choice” Fly
Tyer Lifetime Achievement Award. This is
your opportunity to cast a vote for the tier
who has made the biggest contributions
in your fly tying. Consider these questions
when selecting your favorite tier.
Who developed the flies you tie and
fish the most? Who do you think is designing the most important new patterns?
Who is developing the newest tying methods that you use to make better flies?
Does a recipient of a Fly Tyer Lifetime
Achievement Award have to be a recognized tier? No! Perhaps you know of someone is creating new tools or materials that
are revolutionizing the way we tie, and you
believe that they deserve recognition for
16 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
7/16/10 2:07:44
9:25:14 PM
Want Better Flies? Get Better Tools! Get the
their contributions to the craft.
The Fly Tyer Lifetime Achievement
Awards are not restricted to living tiers.
• Dial-In Thread Tension
Gary LaFontaine, Fran Betters, Carrie
• Ceramic Thread Tube
Stevens—and let’s not forget the father
• Four models for fresh and saltwater fly tying
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their patterns and tying techniques. PerAvailable at your fly tackle shop or contact Merco Products
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Phone: (406) 328-MERC (6372)
them for this special recognition. • e-mail: [email protected]
You thought that selecting your favorite tier was going to be an easy task, didn’t
you? So did we! But when we opened our
FTYMG_100600_Merco.indd 1
4/14/10 1:06:54 PM
fly boxes to see what patterns we tie and
fish the most, and looked around our
tying benches to see what materials and
Scott Rods
methods we use, we quickly realized that
Echo Rods
choosing the first recipients of the Fly Tyer
Ross Reels
Lifetime Achievement Award would reGalvan Reels
quire serious thought and reflection.
Lamson Reels
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describing why you believe he or she
should receive this prestigious recognition. Whose patterns do you tie? Whose
books do you read? Whose materials or
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tools do you use? Who has had the big-
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Nominate your favorite tier to win the Fly Tyer
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to win a package of great tying materials supplied by Wapsi Fly.
gest impact in determining what and how
you tie?
We can be reached by e-mail at [email protected], or you may write to
Achievement Award, Fly Tyer magazine,
P.O. Box 8, Steuben, ME 04680. After we
tabulate all the nominations, three readers will be selected at random to receive a
package of fly-tying materials provided by
Wapsi Fly. (Each package of materials will
have a retail value of $50.)
So, who do you think should receive the Fly Tyer Lifetime Achievement
“Green Hornet”
tied by
Steve “Doc” Cohen
Name: Wide Gape Dry Fly Hook in
What Works Best: Standard and
Favorite Water: Beaverkill River
Notable Quote: “I look good, tie good
patterns, work good, and thread
tippets good. That's a lotta ‘goods’.”
sizes 12-26. Down Eye and Straight Eye.
in the New York Catskills.
Claim to Fame: This is the best dry
fly hook in the world with perfect
cosmetics and dimensions, plus an
oversized eye for easier threading of
tippets on smaller hooks.
traditional dry flies.
Favorite Hackle: “I love to be wrapped
in Whiting Farms Super Hackle.”
Try me. Contact ASG for
a sample pack. For this
pattern recipe and others,
go to “ASG News”
on our website.
Tel. (585)757-9958
i n tTyer
e r 24.625
0 1 0 |x17
[email protected]
by Jay “Fishy” Fullum
Fishy’s Alderfly
Use recycled packing foam to creative this convincing forgery.
HOOK: 2X-long, fine-wire hook
to match the size of your local
THREAD: Black 6/0 (140 denier).
BODY: A narrow strip of thin
packing foam.
LEGS: A small, dark hackle.
WING: Dark mottled turkey feather.
MORE STUFF: Superglue and black
fingernail polish.
Maine, I successfully fished a single alderfly pattern during most of our
days on that historic waterway. Actually, we started fishing other patterns that bear a resemblance to the alderfly—slender hoppers and small
Muddlers—but we needed a fly that better matched the insects on the water.
We didn’t have anything in our vests that really looked like alderflies. The body
of the alderfly is almost antlike with a good-size head, and the strong wings fold
over the body to resemble a large adult caddis. The body and wings are the two
distinctive features of the alderfly.
I couldn’t wait to sit down at the vise when we returned to camp. I easily found
some usable wing and leg material, but my travel kit didn’t contain the body material I
wanted. As I continued my search, I came across a piece of thin packing foam. Several
seasons back, I learned that narrow strips of packing foam make great tapered bodies.
Recycling is an excellent idea, particularly when an item that is normally thrown
away is used to tie flies. I recently purchased a new camera. The manufacturer
wrapped the camera in several layers of thin packing foam to protect it from damage. I saved a portion of the thin foam for cutting it into narrow strips with a metal
straightedge and sharp hobby knife.
Use a thin strip of packing foam to create the distinctive shape of the alderfly’s
body and head. Wraps of black thread enhance the shape and strengthen the
body. After completing the wraps, tie off the thread, and coat the body with superglue. Black fingernail polish establishes the correct color. After the polish dries, add
several turns of hackle and a tentlike wing clipped from a turkey feather.
Jay “Fishy” Fullum is the high priest of discovering unusual materials for tying fish-catching
flies. He is also one of the most entertaining speakers ever to grace the podium at a fly-fishing
club or show. When not tying flies, fishing, or sharing his great patterns with fellow anglers,
Fishy is busy chasing his grandchildren around his yard in New York State.
18 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Tying the Alderfly
Attach the thread and tie on a narrow strip of packing foam.
Wind the foam strip forward, making a tapered body
as you work. Tie off the strip and clip the excess.
Reattach the thread. Tie on the hackle and make a
couple of wraps. Tie off the hackle and cut the excess. Trim the fibers along the top of the fly. After completing the hackle legs, wrap the thread to the center of
the thorax.
Wrap the thread around the entire body to strengthen it. Increase the tension on the thread in areas you
wish to shape or make narrow. Next, tie off and snip the
thread. Coat the body with superglue.
Paint the body with black fingernail polish.
Cut the wing a bit long. Tie the wing to the center of
the thorax. Tie off the thread with soft thread wraps
so you don’t crush the body. Apply superglue to the
thread wraps and butt end of the wing.
Trim the wing to shape and length to complete the
alderfly pattern.
Here are bottom and top views of Fishy’s Alderfly.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 19
by Mike Hogue
there weren’t all the color step-by-step
tying photographs we now have in the
fly-fishing magazines. There also wasn’t
the large number of fly-tying videos, flyfishing shows, and fly-tying demonstrations we all now enjoy. Many of the flyfishing books at that time contained only
line drawings or simple black-and-white
photos of flies. We had to use plenty of
imagination and creativity to develop new
patterns. Compounding the lack of information, at the time I lived in an area that
had little local trout fishing, so almost all
the patterns I tied were for bass and bluegills. Believe it or not, I tied those flies in
the not-too-distant past.
Naturally, when I found a new fly that
looked like a real fish catcher, I got excited
and quickly sat down to figure out how
to tie or adapt it to my local fishing conditions. I relentlessly pored over the latest fly-fishing catalogs and magazines in
search of the next hot pattern.
I came across the Cricket Nymph in
an article written by Dave Whitlock listThe Cricket Nymph is one of the most realistic
panfish patterns ever created. All those pulsating rubber legs encourage fish into striking.
The Cricket Nymph:
A Realistic
Panfish Fly
Every angler has nearby water containing panfish.
Use this lifelike fly to catch those feisty critters.
ing his favorite panfish flies. I did some
research but wasn’t able to locate a recipe
for the Cricket Nymph in any of my pattern books, so I began experimenting to
get my flies to match Dave’s drawings. After numerous attempts, I was finally able
to construct a reasonable facsimile. After
refining the pattern, the Cricket Nymph
became one of the most effective panfish
flies I’ve ever created.
Tying the Cricket Nymph
I tied the Cricket Nymph in a variety of
sizes and colors. I fished these flies extensively during that summer and was surprised at the outstanding results. I caught
large numbers of fish in ponds and lakes
20 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
in my local waters. I also used this pattern
in some of the large lakes near my father’s
home in northwestern Arkansas. Several
of the fish I caught easily tipped the onepound mark, proving that it was indeed a
great pattern. I showed this fly to several
tying friends, and they all reported similar
good results.
The Cricket Nymph is not an easy pattern to tie. The design may be one of theearliest attempts at realistic tying. As far as
I know, it is still one of the only realistic
panfish flies ever created.
To make the original fly, I used materials from nontraditional sources. I have
since adapted the pattern to use more
common fly-tying materials, and I also
reduced the number of tying steps. If you
aren’t able to locate the specific materials
I mention, feel free to substitute what ingredients you already have.
I originally used strung black pearls for
the eyes. I found these at craft and fabric stores, and my initial supply of these
is nearly gone. Several companies make
molded plastic or melted monofilament
eyes, and these work great. You can melt
monofilament and create the eyes yourself, but I generally find that I would rather spend my time tying flies than making eyes. I specifically avoid using lead
or bead-chain eyes because they are too
heavy to use in this pattern.
For the back, I used a charcoal gray
colored Swiss straw, but this is no longer
made. You can use Hareline Dubbin’s
Starting the Cricket Nymph
Start the thread on the hook. Tie on
the eyes; do not crowd the head
area or you will find it very difficult to
complete the fly.
Wrap the thread to the end of the
hook shank. Fold a two-inch-long
piece of rubber-leg material around
the thread. Tie the rubber legs to the
hook to form the tail.
Tie on a piece of copper wire and
a ¼-inch-wide strip of Medallion
Spin some dubbing on the thread.
Cricket Nymph
HOOK: 3X-long wet-fly hook
such as a Mustad 9672,
sizes 12 to 8.
THREAD: Black 6/0 (70 denier).
EYES: Plastic dumbbell.
TAIL: Fine black rubber legs.
BODY: Natural red fox squirrel
or hare’s-ear dubbing.
RIB: Fine copper wire.
dun Medallion Sheeting.
black rubber legs.
Making the Body of the
Cricket Nymph
Wrap the dubbing up the hook to
form the body of the fly. Pull the
Medallion Sheeting over the top of the
body to form the back.
Spiral-wrap the wire up the fly to
create the rib. Fold the Medallion
Sheeting back and clip the excess wire.
Tie a two-inch-long piece of rubber legs across the top of the fly.
Add a pinch of dubbing to the thread
and wrap on the hook. Tie on another
strip of Medallion Sheeting.
Clip the first strip of Medallion
Sheeting to length to complete the
first wing bud. Fold back the second
strip of Medallion Sheeting. Spin more
dubbing on the thread. Wrap the dubbing to the eyes.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 21
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Tie two 1-inch-long pieces of rubber to the top of the shank to create
more legs.
Fold and tie on a piece of rubber
leg material to form the antennae.
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Medallion Sheeting in dark dun, which
is almost identical to the original Swiss
straw. You can also use other materials
such as Scud Back, Thin Skin, or Duraskin cut into narrow strips. You might
want to experiment with some of the
clear or marbled colors, although I prefer
dark dun.
The legs on the first flies were fine flat
black rubber legs, although again, these
seem almost impossible to locate. Today,
I use fine round black rubber legs. Several
companies offer some fine barred legs,
and some also offer speckled silicone
legs that you may wish to try. Whatever
material you finally select, choose fine
legs rather than medium.
22 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
7/9/10 11:26:27 AM
Pull the Sheeting forward and tie off
behind the hook eye. Make a thread
wrap behind the eyes. Wrap a tiny pinch
of dubbing around the eyes; be sure not
to cover the eyes with dubbing.
Tie off and clip the thread. Clip the
excess Medallion Sheeting.
To improve the durability of the pattern, I originally coated the Swiss straw
back of the fly with fingernail polish, but
you can spray the strips with clear spray
paint before tying them on. You can find
clear spray paint in flat finishes at discount
and home improvement stores.
Don’t be afraid to simplify this pattern
even further, and practice tying it a few
times. Allow the duds to meet Mr. Razor
Blade, and make a few more. Good luck
and happy tying.
Mike Hogue is owner of Badger Creek
Fly Tying, a fly shop located in the Finger
Lakes region of Upstate New York. Be sure
to check out his Web site at
Article & Photography by David Klausmeyer
is populated by small mom-and-pop businesses. I know of a handful of companies
that boast 8 to 10 employees, and there
is one that has a payroll of more than 50
people. The vast majority of fly-tying companies, however, are literally one-, two-,
and three-person operations. Typically, the
owner of the enterprise answers the phone,
fills the orders, takes out the trash, scrubs
the toilet—you get the drill.
Don’t get me wrong: Just because
a business is small doesn’t mean it cannot have a major impact on fly tying and
fishing. The chance a company will play
an important role in fly-fishing increases
when it introduces innovative products
that are of importance to large numbers
of tiers and anglers.
Take beadhead nymphs, for example.
Fishing with bead-heads and similar
flies swept our sport over the past decade. Ask to see the newest trout patterns
in any fly shop, and it’s very likely that
you’ll be handed a fistful of bead-heads.
The Bead
Beadhead nymphs took fly-fishing by storm a few
years ago. As the Flymen Fishing Company is demonstrating, fly-tying beads should be more than just
pieces of buckshot with holes in the middle.
For the most part, however, tiers have
been limited in their creativity by the
selection of available beads. Do you remember the saying attributed to Henry
Ford about buying one of his cars? “You
can have it in any color just as long as
it’s black.” Well, the color selection in
fly-tying beads hasn’t been much greater:
gold, copper, silver, dark brass, and black,
Beadhead nymphs are among our most popular patterns. No
trout could resist these flies, tied using Nymph Head beads.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 23
as well as painted chartreuse and orange.
And most fly shops don’t even carry all
these colors.
Then along came a little business
called Flymen Fishing Company, spouting an uppity attitude that fly-tying beads
should be more than just pieces of buckshot with holes in the middle. This new
company believes fly-tying beads should
come in a broad selection of colors, including colors that match the insects we
are trying to imitate with our flies. And
it believes beads should even have small
eyes, just like real insects.
Flymen Fishing Company is the just
the sort of small company that might play
a major role in the way we tie some of our
most popular trout flies.
Birth of a Business
I had an opportunity to talk with Flymen
Fishing Company owner Martin Bawden
about the brief history of his company
and its products. With fellows like Martin around, you and I will never be short
of new materials to use or fresh patterns
to tie.
“I launched the Flymen Fishing Company in 2007 because I had the simple
idea that I wanted to improve fly-tying
beads. I’d been tying and fishing a lot of
beadhead nymphs, and it struck me that I
could improve the overall profile and performance of flies by simply adding some
realistic 3-D nymph eyes to the beads.
That’s how I came up with the original
Nymph Head tungsten bead. These beads
actually have about twenty percent more
tungsten, so the flies are also heavier and
sink faster.”
Most tiers are familiar with gold, copper,
and black beads, but Nymph Heads come
in a wide variety of colors, don’t they?
“Yes, they do. We figured out how to
anodize the beads in different colors that
previously were never available to fly tiers.”
A Nymph Head bead features small eyes
on each side. You may leave these plain, but
I know some fastidious tiers will dab drops of
paint or nail polish on these bumps to give
their flies an added sense of realism. Hey,
stoneflies and some mayflies have obvious
eyes, so why shouldn’t your imitations?
Nymph Head beads come in both
brass and heavier tungsten. Marten suggested that if you use only tungsten
Nymph Heads, and add some additional
wire to the hook shanks before tying your
flies, the small eyes indicate that these are
Colorado’s Al Ritt made these streamers using
Fish Skulls. Tying a fly with a Fish Skull is easy.
First, make the streamer in the normal manner, but do not wrap a finished head; instead,
just tie off and clip the thread. Apply a drop of
superglue in the head area of the fly, and slip
the Fish Skull on over the hook eye. Restart the
thread behind the hook eye. Wrap a small dam
of thread between the front of the Fish Skull
and the hook eye. Next, whip-finish and clip.
How simple is that?
24 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
your extra-heavy patterns for fishing really
deep, fast water. That’s an excellent idea
for tiers who make flies to fish different
levels of the water column.
It’s about Innovation
Marten Bawden is constantly thinking
about new ways to tie flies. He’s a very
inventive fellow, and believes that he’ll be
successful if he stays focused and continues seeking out new products.
“As a small but growing company,”
Marten said, “it is important to stay focused
and strive to be the best in your category.
Therefore, looking ahead, our focus is to
design best-of-breed new fly-tying products and flies for the weighted-fly category:
nymphs and streamers.”
Fish Skulls are an obvious example of
your creativity. Why did you develop them?
“I wanted to design a product that
would make it quick and easy to tie a
weighted streamer. It had to be an exciting
alternative to using cones or dumbbells,
and, of course, the finished flies had to
catch fish.
“It took almost two years to design and
bring Fish Skulls to market. We have built
a lot of functionality into the product that
Yes, you can tie small beadhead
nymphs. The largest fly here was
made on about a size 14 hook.
Flymen Fishing Company packaging is easy to
spot in the fly shop. With respect to the beads,
the Heavy Metal beads are tungsten; the Fly
Color beads are brass.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 25
provides a lot of flexibility to create different styles of flies using a wide range of
materials. For example, we built in a keel
that helps balance the fly so you can even
tie a pattern with the hook point on top.
We also put slots on the top and bottom
of each Fish Skull to give the other materials freedom of movement and allow for
a taller profile. And finally, we designed
Fish Skulls to use what we call a ‘frontfitting’ tying technique to make it quick
and easy to make a neat-looking fly.”
You recently won an award for Fish
Skulls, didn’t you?
“Yes, we exhibited at the 2010 International Fly Tackle Dealer Show, and Fish
Skulls were awarded the Dealers’ Choice
Award for the fly-tying products category.
We are very grateful for the support and
validation shown by the retailers and buyers at the show.”
I used to think that fly-tying beads
were hardly more than round pieces
of metal with holes in the middle, but
not anymore. I tie a lot of beadhead
nymphs—you probably do, too—and
Nymph Heads look great on my flies. I
especially like the baetis green, caddis
green, mayfly brown, and shrimp pink
Nymph Heads. And because Nymph
Heads are anodized—not painted—the
finish is very durable.
I am also experimenting with Fish Skulls.
The copper Fish Skulls are ideal for making
the heads on minnow imitations. These flies
are working well for catching trout, salmon,
and smallmouth bass.
Will new fly-tying beads or a way to
weight streamers shake up the world?
Of course not. But, for those of us who
have a passion for tying, Nymph Heads,
Fish Skulls, and the other products from
Flymen Fishing Company will make some
For more information about Flymen Fishing
Company, go to www.flymenfishingcompany
.org. There you will find product information,
tying tutorials, and a whole lot more.
Al Ritt, who lives in Colorado, was nice
enough to send some flies made with Fish
Skulls. Al is currently a fly-fishing guide operating in Rocky Mountain National Park
and several private waters in Northern Colorado. To contact Al, go to
The male hawthorn fly comes out
about a week before the females.
This insect is fairly common in
many parts of the world.
26 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Grasshoppers and crickets are
the glamour terrestrials, but
don’t overlook all those black
flies hovering near the riverbank. The authors’ Hawthorn
Fly works wherever trout feed
on land-born insects.
Article and Photography by
Igor and Nadica Stancev
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 27
is a real insect that comes out in late April
and early May. At that time of year the trout
are exhausted from winter’s lack of food
and easily start feeding on hawthorn flies.
Tying the Hawthorn Fly
Start the thread near the hook bend. Tie on a segment clipped from a
black rooster tail feather.
Wrap the feather fibers around the thread in a clockwise direction.
The thread will reinforce the fibers and the completed body.
Wrap the fibers and thread two-thirds of the way up the hook shank.
Tie off and clip the excess fibers.
Tie the wings splayed over the top of the body.
Tie on a 3- to 4-millimeter-wide strip of black foam at the base of
the wings.
Wrap a small dab of red dubbing on the hook; cover no more than
one-half of the thorax with the dubbing. (If you wish to add the optional long, rear legs, tie them on in front of the red dubbing.) Make a
dubbing loop for use in the next step.
Fill the loop with mink fur. Note that the stiff guard hairs remain longer
than the soft underfur, just as it comes off the skin. This is important
to tying the fly!
Spin the loop closed. The easiest method is to use a dubbing twister. Be
careful not to twist it too tight or you might break the fine thread.
Wrap the dubbing to complete the thorax of the fly. Brush the fibers
toward the rear of the fly between wraps.
Brush the mink fur down the sides of the fly. Pull the foam over
the top of the fly to form the back of the thorax. Tie the final knot
under the foam.
Cut the foam 2 millimeters from the hook eye to create the bulbous head of the fly.
Here’s the finished fly from another angle. The authors could have
added long rear legs, but the fish would not have noticed. This fly will
do a splendid job catching any trout that turns its attention to terrestrials.
Hawthorn Fly
HOOK: Short-shank Tiemco
TMC531, size 14 or 12.
THREAD: Black 8/0 (70 denier).
BODY: Black tail cock feather or
pheasant tail dyed black.
WINGS: Dark dun hackle tips or
medium dun cul de canard.
THORAX: Scarlet-red dry fly
THORAX COVER: Black foam.
LEGS: Black mink fur.
HEAD AND EYES: Black foam.
28 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 29
(Above) Note the small head
of this female hawthorn fly.
Male or female, the fish
don’t care: they eagerly feed
on hawthorn flies—real and
imitations—when they land
on the water. (Right) What
trout could resist smacking
this hapless hawthorn fly
floating on the surface of
the water?
30 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
The hairy, black hawthorn fly is a terrestrial insect. It belongs to the order Diptera, the
family Bibionidae, and the genus Bibio. The
species name is Bibio marci. It is distributed
all over Europe, the British Isles, and Asia. So,
why should North American fly tiers care?
First, our imitation of the hawthorn fly is fun
to make, and second, this pattern works wherever trout feed on terrestrials.
Hawthorn Facts
Hawthorn larvae develop in the ground,
most often at the edges of woodlands and
fields, and also near rivers and lakes—all
places with enough moisture. The larvae
feed on the roots of grasses, as well as on decaying plants and often in compost heaps.
The name “hawthorn” comes from the
fact that the adults usually emerge around
St. Mark’s Day, April 25, the time when hawthorn trees bloom. These flies are thought
to play an important role in pollinating fruit
trees and other plants. The males are more
numerous and appear about one week before the females. Male hawthorn flies are
easily distinguished by their huge, bulbous
eyes. During flight, hawthorn flies orient toward the wind, and their rear pair of long
legs dangle lower than their abdomens.
The heather fly (Bibio pomonae) is another member of the Bibio genus that is important to fly fishermen. The main difference
between the hawthorn and heather fly is
that the latter comes out during August and
has bright red legs.
The term black gnat is used to describe
many species of black terrestrial insects that
appear near the water. The spring and autumn
flies are very similar and treated like one insect
in the fly-fishing sense. They rest in the bushes
near the water. If the day is sunny and windy, it
doesn’t matter whether or not they swarm: the
wind will drive them onto the surface of the
water, and the fish will feed on them.
In some places, the hawthorn fly is
the first terrestrial near the water, and the
flights of this insect can cause a mass rising
of trout. During these times, fishing a black
imitation in the correct size will give you
unforgettable fishing.
A Tested Pattern
We’ve tied our imitation of the hawthorn
fly since the late 1980s. Anglers all over the
world have tested it, and they report excellent results.
We make the abdomen using a section of
fibers clipped from the tail feather of a black
rooster. The material creates a very realistic
appearance when wrapped on the hook, but
you can achieve the same results using a section taken from a black peacock wing feather. Fibers from a pheasant tail feather are also
good for this purpose; the long, individual
strands have tiny fibers on their edges that
imitate the hairy appearance of the real insect, but they must be dyed black. Two dark
dun cock hackle tips represent the wings,
but you may also use hen hackles. Tie the
wings splayed over the body to mimic a terrestrial that has crashed onto the water.
The legs, which are an important part
of the fly, are mink fur dyed black. The stiff
guard hairs are long and stand out straight
from the thorax, while the shorter and softer
underfur creates a convincing thorax silhouette. A dot of scarlet-red dubbing on the bottom of the thorax acts as an attractor.
Cover the thorax using black foam; the
best foam is soft with many air bubbles in its
structure. When fishing, avoid pressing the
foam and compressing the precious air bubbles; these help keep the fly on the surface.
You can tie on a pair of dangling rear
legs using peacock herl, but these are optional. There are two ways to make knees in
the legs. First, tie simple knots in the herl
before mounting the legs. Second, after tying on pieces of straight herl, carefully bend
joints in the legs using tweezers heated over
a flame.
Enjoy making our version of the hawthorn fly. It’s an interesting fly-tying exercise,
and it really catches fish!
Igor and Danica Stancev are two of the leading
fly tiers who specialize in making realistic imitations. They have won numerous awards with
their flies. The Stancevs live in Macedonia.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 31
A Bibio hortulanus female
has a red thorax and abdomen (the male has black).
It’s not a hawthorn fly but
has a similar silhouette and
is one of many streamside
insects that draw the attention of trout.
Fly-fishing’s most renowned author shares his
thoughts about puberty, Tibetan prayer flags,
and what it’s like tying flies for fish that
aren’t eating, and tells us why they all
go together. (Really!) by John Gierach
32 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 33
Hook: Your favorite brand of salmon streamer
hook, size 4.
Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier).
Tail: Black squirrel tail hair.
Body: Hot orange floss and black chenille.
Rib: Round silver tinsel.
Wing: Black squirrel tail hair.
Hackle: Black.
Hook: Your favorite brand of salmon streamer
hook, size 1/0.
Thread: Red 6/0 (140 denier).
Body: Orange, hot pink, and purple marabou
wrapped on the hook shank.
Flash: Copper and fuchsia Flashabou.
Hook: Long-shank salmon streamer or Spey
hook, size 1.5.
Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier).
Body: Red floss and black dubbing.
Rib: Flat silver tinsel.
Hackle: Purple marabou and guinea.
Wing: Turkey or goose shoulder.
34 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
The other day I showed
some steelhead flies I’d tied and that I
was cautiously proud of to a friend from
Washington State. He said, “These are
no good.” Susan, the sometimes sweetly
naïve woman I live with, gave me a knowing look. She now understands that this
kind of gruff irony is what passes as a
compliment among some men, although
she may never understand why.
These were the kind of fancy patterns that some steelheaders swear by and others say are pretty enough to look
at, but aren’t necessary. There were some Spey variations
of Dan Callahan’s original Green Butt Skunk and some
Skagit Mists, a Dec Hogan pattern adapted for steelhead
from a century-old Atlantic salmon fly called a WhiteWinged Akroyd.
Every tier will understand what I mean by “cautiously
proud.” These were complicated patterns complete with
tags, tails, butts, joints, mixed blue-eared pheasant and
gadwall hackle, goose shoulder wings, and jungle cock
sides. I’d worked slowly and carefully, had gotten all the
parts in the right places and proper proportions, and had
managed not to crowd the heads, all of which amounts
to a good start. The flies looked okay and would fish well
enough, but in terms of the sheer elegance that’s achieved
by some tiers, they were still a few degrees off plumb. The
very best of these classic-style steelhead patterns weren’t
just beautiful; they also seemed thoughtlessly organic, as
if the entire flies just unfolded from their small, lacquered
heads the way flowers sprout from buds.
Hook: Curved-shank pupa hook, size 8.
Head: Bronze tungsten bead.
Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier).
Tails: Tan biots.
Abdomen: Brown wet-fly dubbing.
Back: Pearl Mylar.
Rib: Black wire.
Thorax: Peacock herl.
Wing case: Black Thin Skin.
Legs and antennae: Brown Centipede Legs.
Flies for Fish That Don’t Eat
I tied flies for trout for over 30 years before I started fooling
around with steelhead patterns, and the idea of tying flies
for fish that weren’t eating stumped me at first. I began
with what must be the common misconception that steelhead patterns have something to do with the psychology
of fish that aren’t hungry. This struck me as the kind of
unsolvable puzzle that, like religion, causes some to settle
on a comforting homeliness and turns others into flaming
wing nuts, each according to their own nature.
That would explain why one experienced steelheader
carries elegant, feather-winged wet flies dripping with golden pheasant, ostrich, and jungle cock, and the next has a
box full of unadorned marabou powder puffs. The natural
exuberance of fly tiers explains why there are so many patterns to choose from, including those brainstorms a guide
friend calls “three-beer flies.” If the tier happens to have
the TV on in the background at the moment of creation,
one of these things can end up looking like the radioactive
octopus from a late-night horror movie.
In fact, there’s a convincing argument in steelheading
that it’s all about presentation, and that beyond the basic
Hook: Red size 2 bait hook connected to a size 2 salmon streamer hook.
Clip the point from the salmon hook. Connect the bait hook to the
salmon hook using a looped piece of heavy wire leader material.
Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier).
Tail: Black bucktail.
Butt: Black Estaz and a chartreuse bead.
Body: Black Estaz.
Body hackle: Blue.
Hackle: Pieces of black ostrich herl and blue marabou.
Wing: Black hen hackle.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 35
Hook: Your favorite brand of salmon streamer
hook, size 2.
Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier).
Tail: Purple hackle fibers.
Butt: Hot pink yarn.
Body: Purple chenille.
Rib: Round silver tinsel.
Hackle: Purple.
Wing: Red, black, and pearl Krystal Flash, and
purple marabou.
Hook: Your favorite brand of salmon streamer hook, size 1/0.
Thread: Orange 6/0 (140 denier).
Tag: Flat gold tinsel.
Tail: Orange bucktail, pearl Krystal Flash, and a ring-necked
pheasant body feather.
Eyes: Large plastic dumbbell.
Body: Orange SLF dubbing.
Back: Ring-necked pheasant body feathers.
Hackle: Ring-necked pheasant body feather.
considerations of large versus small, or bright versus dark,
the exact pattern hardly matters. This leads some tiers to
say that since pattern doesn’t matter, you might as well just
lash some rabbit fur to a hook and be done with it. Others
conclude, with equal conviction, that since pattern doesn’t
matter, you might as well get a pile of exotic feathers and
knock yourself out. It comes down to personality.
To a certain kind of tier, letting go of any amount of beauty in the interest of practicality is agonizing, while to another,
practicality is beauty. I’ve learned to decisively keep a foot in
each camp based on a comment by novelist and steelhead
fisherman Thomas McGuane. He agreed that it probably is
all about presentation, but added, “The trouble is, you can’t
properly present something you don’t believe in.”
So maybe the right fly is the one that not only fools a
fish every now and then, but also fools the fisherman into
keeping it in the water long enough for that to happen—
if not actually believing in every cast and swing, then at
least not becoming despondent. Think of it as the angling
equivalent of the placebo effect. My friend Scott Sadil said,
“If you’re changing flies while steelheading, you’re in a
slump.” Someone else once said, “The most important
thing in steelhead fishing is confidence—I think.”
This business of presentation versus pattern is the longest running argument in fly tying. It will never be settled, because for every day when it seems to be all about
presentation, there’s another day when it seems to be all
about presentation of the right fly. Of course, trout fishing
has the advantage of being somewhat empirical. All things
being equal, a trout fly that’s drifted properly through the
right water for an hour without a strike begins to look like
the wrong fly for that time and place. Steelheading is more
faith-based. A steelhead fly that you’ve fished for three days
without a pull could still turn out to be the right one.
And then there’s the idea of the comeback fly: one of the
most arcane concepts in steelheading. This is the term of art
for the fly you change to when a fish has swirled at or halfheartedly bumped the fly you’re fishing, indicating that he
might be willing to play, but not with that pattern. For most,
the comeback fly is something smaller, darker and sparser
than whatever they were fishing—sometimes so sparse, it’s
just a little wisp of a thing that looks like it was left unfinished.
For some fishermen, the comeback fly is always different, determined by whatever they were fishing that brought up the
player in the first place; for others it’s a specific pattern, maybe
tied in a couple of sizes to reflect conditions.
I once asked a steelheader in Oregon, “If your comeback fly is so effective, why not just fish it all the time?”
He explained that the bigger, flashier fly would attract
the attention of more fish and even hook some of them,
while the comeback fly was reserved for the tough customers.
“The steak and potatoes gets him in the door,” he said, “but
it’s the little piece of cheesecake that closes the deal.”
Only Amateurs Carry a Lot of Flies
Since I started steelheading, I’ve managed to fill three boxes
36 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
with flies: an odd assortment of this and that pattern as I became aware of them through guides and friends. I’ve fished
some of them and have actually caught steelhead on a precious few. (Among the ones that worked are some patterns
I didn’t especially like at first, but then, nothing makes a
goofy fly start to look beautiful like catching a fish on it.) I’ve
also picked up a little knowledge of the sport along the way,
including the inescapable fact that three boxes crammed
with steelhead flies is the mark of an amateur.
Most of the experienced steelheaders I’ve met carry a
single, small box containing what seems like a meager selection of flies. There was a young guide on the Deschutes
who had a few neat rows of flawlessly tied classic wets, any
one of which could have been framed and hung convincingly on the wall. When I complimented him on his tying,
he shrugged and said he didn’t know if it made a difference
or not, but, “There’s just something about showing the
fish your best effort.” There was also a well-known steelheader on the North Umpqua who, on that particular day,
had exactly seven flies in his box, all wildly mismatched
and all looking like they’d been retrieved from bankside
branches or submerged rocks, as I suspect they had.
Granted, these guys’ boxes might have looked different in another season with changes in water temperature,
depth, and clarity (steelhead flies tend to get bigger and
darker as the rivers do the same) but the message was still
clear: Get some flies you like, stay faithful to them, and
work on your casting.
One of the things that drew me to the elaborate, fulldress steelhead patterns is their contrast with the drab,
practical trout flies I usually tie. Even some of the simplest
steelhead hair-wings have a few fussy little architectural
touches because anadromous fish are thought to be suckers
for visual complexity. And if a little bit of gingerbread works,
why not go the full distance with flying buttresses and blind
arches? This is sometimes referred to as the Fallacy of Wishful Thinking, but knowing what it’s called doesn’t mean you
can’t fall victim to it. I’ve always liked flies that are plain and
workmanlike, but it seems encoded in the human condition that as soon as you achieve simplicity in one area of life,
you’re likely to go all Victorian in another.
This is the impulse that causes some tiers to build those
lovely and possibly pointless full-dress Atlantic salmon flies:
the ones that will see the light of day only from a shadowbox frame and that will never, ever get wet. I tried my hand
at some of these once as an exercise in something or other,
but didn’t get very far. I tended to overdress the flies—forgetting back at the tag, tail, and butt that there were seven
more operations to go before I started on the wing. And
then my married wings themselves—not unlike some of my
friends—wouldn’t stay married for reasons that were never
It’s possible that I just wasn’t a good enough tier, but I
think the real reason was a lack of immediacy. I only manage to freeload myself into decent Atlantic salmon fishing
once a decade on average, and when I do go, I use the
Hook: Your favorite brand of salmon streamer
hook, size 2.
Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier).
Tail: Red hackle fibers.
Butt: Red wool yarn.
Body: Black wool yarn.
Rib: Round silver tinsel.
Hackle: Black.
Wing: Pearl Krystal Flash and white calftail.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 37
Hook: Heavy-wire wet-fly hook, size 6.
Thread: Orange 6/0 (140 denier).
Body: Orange Crystal Braid or Crystal Chenille.
Tail, back, sides, and wing: Elk hair.
Tube: 1-inch-long plastic tube.
Thread: Orange 6/0 (140 denier).
Body: Salmon pink marabou.
Flash: Pearl Flashabou.
simpler, hair-winged flies that are now standard. In other
words, when there isn’t a fish somewhere in the deal, I
lose interest.
I overdressed my steelhead flies at first, too, even
though I knew they were supposed to be sparse. (A friend
said of my first batch, “They’re nice enough, but don’t quit
your day job.”) Even the simplest hair-wing, like a Purple
Peril, can get clunky in the wrong hands and the potential
gets greater as patterns get more complex. When you sit
down to tie something like a Skagit Mist, the question becomes, how do you tie a fly with 11 separate materials and
14 distinct anatomical parts that still has the requisite air
and light that a painter would call “negative space”? Turns
out you do it with a sharp eye toward proportion and a
sense that everything needs room to breathe.
Aside from the aesthetic prescription, there are also
some engineering considerations. For instance, the long,
dangly heron substitute hackle on a Spey pattern should
be tied sparely because steelhead are said to like it that
way, but also because too much hackle underneath counterbalanced only by that skinny, low-set wing on top can
cause the fly to roll on its side in the current, ruining the
silhouette. Which begs the question: Do steelhead really
prefer sparsely tied Spey flies, or are the sparsely tied flies
the only ones they get a decent look at?
And don’t even get me started on hooks. Even if you
stick with the traditional japanned black, up-eye salmon
hooks, there are too many choices. I lean toward the Alec
Jackson Spey hook because it holds well, makes a graceful
fly, and its medium wire nicely splits the difference. But
then there are days when you want a fly to wake or skate
and others days when you want it to all but plow gravel
on the swing. Naturally, there’s a selection of specialized
hooks for each purpose, and they can cost in the neighborhood of a dollar each.
On Puberty, Going Nuclear,
and Tibetan Prayer Flags
It took me the better part of three decades to pare my
core trout fly selection down to a generous handful of
mostly simple, straightforward patterns. I’m thinking that
having learned that lesson once, it won’t take me nearly
so long with steelhead flies. On the other hand, there are
Hook: Regular wet-fly or tube hook, size 2.
Tail: Purple marabou.
Wing: Black rabbit Zonker strip.
Throat: Purple marabou.
Flash: Purple Krystal Flash.
Weight: Medium dumbbell.
Note: The hook eye is a regular salmon hook cut very short;
leave just enough shank to tie on the dumbbell, wing, and
throat. Connect the hook to the eye using a piece of heavy
braided fishing line. To keep the Zonker strip from fouling,
thread the line through a small hole punched in the strip.
A Baker’s Dozen of the
Best from Umpqua Feather
Umpqua Feather Merchants is the world’s largest
commercial fly-tying company; you’ll find its patterns
in hundreds of fly shops and catalogs. The folks at
Umpqua were nice enough to supply us with 13 of
their best-selling steelhead patterns. These flies include a couple of classics, several new patterns, a
tube fly, and a waking dry fly. You will find many of
these patterns in the fly boxes of the most knowledgeable steelhead anglers.
38 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
certain phases you have to go through—like puberty—so
you might as well get on with it.
Once you tumble for the fancy steelhead flies in the
picture books, you’re kind of sunk. Even as you tell yourself you can just admire them from afar like works of art,
you know in your heart that you’ll eventually have to tie
some and fish them as part of your ongoing education. If
you’re like me, you’ll envy those who can tie on a steelhead fly with the offhanded confidence of a DEA agent
slapping a fresh clip into his 9 millimeter while you dither
over the black one, the purple one, or that pretty little orange one. You’ll develop your own preferences eventually,
but you also have your pride as a tier and don’t want to
limit yourself to flies you’re not afraid to tie.
There’s also the single drawback to being a fly tier,
which is that you like to tie flies and can find it hard to
stop. I fish enough to burn through my favorite trout patterns at a pretty good clip, but unless you’re a complete
klutz—and we all have our moments—you just don’t lose
a lot of steelhead flies, so they can begin to pile up. Eventually you may have to reconcile the flies you want to tie
with the ones you actually need to catch fish.
In an attempt to imitate those who know what they’re
doing (not a bad fishing strategy, by the way), I now limit
myself to a single fly box on the river. It’s a big old Wheatley salmon box with a swing leaf and 110 clips, but it’s still
just the one box—and no one has to know how many flies
I have stashed in my luggage.
It’s become my secret ambition to someday design a
steelhead fly that’s so effective, I can call it the Nuclear Option, but so far I’ve mostly stuck with established patterns.
There’s no science that I can see behind steelhead flies—
or if there is, it’s the kind of science that would have felt
at home in the Dark Ages—but I’m hoping there’s a kind
of alchemy in operation that you don’t have to understand
in order to copy. It’s also easier this way. When you start
trying to invent patterns, it’s possible to spend a pleasant
evening tying steelhead flies, only to wake up screaming
in the middle of the night at the thought that you should
have veiled your blue-eared pheasant hackle with orange
dyed mallard instead of natural.
Confidence in your fly pattern really is important in
steelheading, and you take confidence where you find it. If
a guide or local hotshot points at a fly in your box and says,
“Try that,” or, better yet, gives you a fly of his own, you’d
be a fool not to fish it. Failing that, you glance at the river,
open your fly box, and wait for inspiration. The right fly is
like a Tibetan prayer flag to those of us who are not exactly
practicing Buddhists: It may or may not bring good fortune
as promised, but it can’t hurt and it looks real pretty.
Hook: Two salmon streamer hooks, size 2.
Thread: Black 3/0 (210 denier).
Tail: Black marabou.
Wing: Black marabou and black Krystal Flash.
Eyes: Silver bead-chain.
Note: Connect the hooks using a loop of
heavy monofilament or your favorite
method for creating an articulated
streamer. Cut the bend and point off
the front hook.
John Gierach is our sport’s best-selling author. It seems almost
trivial to mention his widely cherished books—Trout Bum; Sex,
Death, and Fly Fishing; Good Flies; Fishing Bamboo; and
the rest—so I won’t. John also was one of this magazine’s first
contributors way back in the 1970s. It’s great having him back.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 39
Hook: 4X- or 6X-long streamer hook, size 2.
Thread: Purple 6/0 (140 denier).
Tail: Purple marabou and pearl Krystal Flash.
Body: Crystal Chenille.
Hackle: Purple saddle hackle.
Head: Pink chenille.
You’ve heard the names: French nymphing,
Spanish nymphing, Polish nymphing, and Czech nymphing. These
fishing techniques swept Europe, and knowledgeable North American anglers embraced them and started catching more fish. When
hearing the term European nymphing, some American fly fishermen
still reply: “Oh, that’s just high-sticking.” Wrong! European nymphfishing methods require more than just holding the rod tip high in
the air. In fact, during some points of the presentation, you do not
hold the “stick” high at all.
Don’t get caught up in the names associated with European nymphing techniques. Although many of these
methods have their origins in specific countries, it is important to recognize that many of the techniques overlap.
It is more accurate and easy to understand Euro-nymphing if you group the wide variety of methods into two larger categories: short-line and long-line nymphing. France,
Spain, Poland, and Czechoslovakia are simply the countries of origin for these methods. The strengths of these
techniques really have nothing to do with their names or
their countries of origin, but in something they all have in
common: vastly improved strike detection.
Czech Nymphs and
Short-Line Fishing Techniques
I have been long-line nymphing with strike indicators for
more than a decade with much success. I was hesitant
to believe the hype surrounding many of the European
nymphing techniques, but I decided to give them a try.
My first experience with Czech-style nymphing was on
my home stream, the South Branch of the Raritan River. I
know the Raritan well, which is an advantage when trying
any new fishing technique. After many conversations with
angling authority Davy Wotton regarding this method, I
was ready to try my hand at Czech nymphing. Armed with
an array of weighted flies, I headed to the stream.
It was a crisp March morning, and the South Branch had
fished well all winter. There were many holdover fish, plus
2,000 recently stocked brook trout: all good signs. I started
fishing with three flies: a large cased-caddis pattern as an anchor fly, and a pink and an olive caddis larva as droppers.
I started fishing behind a gentleman who caught a few
trout out of a popular spot. I stepped into the water and cast
my flies, and to my surprise, I was into fish before he could
leave the pool. I released my first trout, and on the next cast,
I was quickly into another. This same scenario played out
throughout the day. I caught many trout: some came out of
places that I had never fished before because the spots were
not conducive to long-line indicator fishing.
Although the Czech-nymphing technique took time to
learn, it is one of the most productive means of fishing I
know. Along with fishing water that I used to pass up, I catch
twice as many trout from my old favorite pools and runs.
Short-line Euro-nymphing was invented primarily for
fishing the high-gradient freestone streams of Eastern Europe. The technique requires using a short leader with very
little line. This approach allows you to detect more strikes
and increase your catch rate. As soon as a fish hits a fly, you
can feel and see the energy travel through the short line.
Czech nymphing requires using weighted flies with no
split shot added to the leader. The built-in weight enables the
flies to get to the bottom quickly and efficiently. A Czechnymph leader, unlike a conventional nymphing leader, is
very simple and often contains three sections or fewer.
The presentation is also quite simple. Cast the flies
anywhere from 20 to 40 degrees up and slightly across
stream. Keep the rod tip high, and make sure that the rod
stays slightly ahead of the flies. The leader should have a
slight arc or bow; it should not be absolutely tight to the
flies. If the line is too taut, then the flies are too heavy for
the run you are fishing and you should substitute lighter
patterns. The flies may drift slightly below your position in
the stream, but not more than 5 or 10 feet; this method is
intended for fishing short drifts. Short drifts actually allow
for better coverage of a stream. Divide the water into grids,
and fish your flies through each grid. It’s okay if some
casts overlap because this presents the flies to the same
fish at different angles.
Don’t neglect the end of the presentation: you’ll catch
many fish at the very last moment. Lower the rod tip as
the flies drift past, and at the end of the drift, give the rod
a slight hook-set or flick of the wrist. This motion does
two things. First, the gentle lift might represent an insect
swimming to the surface and excite a trout into striking. At
other times, a trout might be drifting backwards with the
flies and sip in a fly undetected; this sudden hook-set will
40 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Tie the flies and learn
the techniques that are
revolutionizing the way we
use nymphs to catch trout.
by Aaron Jasper
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 41
Learn More about
nymph-fishing techniques? Would you like to see someone actually use
these methods to catch fish? And would you like to see how to tie the
secret flies the master anglers are using to win fishing competitions
around the globe? These DVDs will tell you everything you need to know
to make and fish the new generation of European nymphs.
Essential Skills with Oliver Edwards:
Czech Nymphing/Upstream Nymphing
and North Country Spiders
This DVD is part of the Essential Skills series
featuring Fly Tyer contributor Oliver Edwards.
This installment includes two of Oliver’s VHS
videos on one disc. In addition to learning how
to tie and fish English North Country spiders, a
subject Oliver has written about in the pages
of this magazine, he also explains the flies and
fishing techniques that make Czech nymphing
so deadly. Watch this DVD, and you will catch
more fish.
European Nymphing with
Jack Dennis and Vladi
Discover European nymphs and fishing techniques directly from the master, Vladi Trzebunia. Vladi is a world fly-fishing champion
and the innovator of the Polish nymph-fishing
method. In addition to seeing Vladi in action
on the water, he also teaches how to tie and
fish his revolutionary fly, the Vladi Condom
Worm. (Spend a day on the river with a fistful
of these flies, and you might come to the conclusion that a latex condom was never put to
a better use!) This DVD is hosted by angling
great, Jack Dennis.
European Nymphing Techniques
and Fly Tying
In European Nymphing Techniques and Fly
Tying, author Aaron Jasper gives you all the
information you need to successfully catch
fish using the methods he describes in this
great article. He shares leader formulas,
demonstrates various methods of fly presentation, and shows how to tie four of his
favorite nymph patterns. The DVD is approximately one hour and twenty minutes, and will
be released by early December 2010. Check
out Aaron’s Web site, www.euronymphing.
com, for more information.
catch this fish. Hooking fish at the end of the drift is like
finding a $10 bill in the pocket of your jeans before doing
the wash: it’s a very welcome bonus!
Czech nymphing is very methodical and requires no
casting in the traditional sense. At the very end of the presentation, quietly step into the next position, lob the flies
forward into the next lie, and continue fishing.
Czech-Nymphing Equipment and Rigging
A 9- to 11-foot-long, medium-action rod works best for
this fishing technique. A full-flex rather than a tip-flex rod is
preferable because a full-flex rod is more sensitive for feeling
strikes. And due to the tight-line style of Euro-nymphing,
the rod must be flexible enough to absorb the shock of a
sudden take. Because strike detection is almost immediate,
the natural response to quickly set the hook might snap the
tippet; a fuller flex rod is more forgiving and protects a fine
tippet. (See the sidebar for a list of manufacturers offering rods
specifically designed for this type of fishing.)
The line weight of the rod is not critical. The cast is
a tuck-style cast rather than the traditional cast used to
deliver the flies in other methods; after making the automatic hook-set motion at the end of the drift, simply
lob the flies back upstream to begin another presentation.
A rod designed to handle a 3- to 5-weight line is more
than adequate for Czech nymphing. My preference is for a
10-foot-long, 3- or 4-weight rod, but there are times when
I will use an 11-foot rod. The size of the river dictates the
exact equipment I choose. The longer rod offers more
reach and aids in fishing tricky currents around the pocket
water where these techniques work best.
The leader for the short-line method is relatively simple;
the entire system utilizes only three sections. I use a 3-footlong length of 20-pound-test Golden Stren for the butt section, and a 2-foot-long section of 14-pound-test Golden Stren
for the midsection; this accounts for 5 feet of the leader. The
tippet is from 5 to 7 feet long. I generally use 5X fluorocarbon
because the thin diameter creates less drag in the water so the
flies sink quickly.
Water clarity and fly selection dictate the exact diameter of the tippet I use. For fishing larger flies in fast water,
I might use size 4X; the rest of the time I prefer 5X. While
the tippet is small in diameter, it is surprisingly strong; all
the major premium brands of fluorocarbon are usually
labeled well below their actual breaking strength. Other
than the anchor fly, which is tied to the end of the tippet, add the remainder of the flies as droppers spaced 20
inches apart.
Recommended Czech-Nymphing Flies
Traditional Czech nymphs are usually designed to imitate
the caddis larvae found in the freestone streams of Eastern
Europe, but they are not essential for using these fishing
techniques. Our streams offer trout a wider variety of food,
making caddisfly imitations less essential; in additional to
42 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Pineapple Express
Hook: Tiemco TMC100 SPBL, sizes
20 to 14.
Bead: Copper tungsten bead to match
the size of the hook.
Thread: Olive 8/0 (70 denier).
Tail: Wood duck fibers.
Abdomen: Pheasant tail fibers.
Rib: Small copper wire.
Thorax: Orange Ice Dub.
Hot spot: Datum Glo-Brite #5.
265 Nymph
Hook: Tiemco TMC100 SPBL, sizes
20 to 12.
Bead: Silver tungsten bead to match the
size of the hook.
Thread: Brown 8/0 (70 denier).
Tail: Brown hen saddle hackle.
Body: A blend of dubbing—Davy Wotton
SLF caddis brown (75 percent), Davy
Wotton SLF orange silver midge
(20 percent), and brown UV Ice Dub
(5 percent).
Rib: Small black wire.
Wing case: Black Thin Skin.
Legs: Brown hen saddle hackle.
Hook: Tiemco TMC100 SPBL, sizes
20 to 14.
Bead: Copper tungsten bead to match
the size of the hook.
Thread: Olive 8/0 (70 denier).
Body: Pheasant tail fibers.
Rib: Small copper wire.
Hot spot: Datum Glo Brite #5.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 43
New Rods for
European Nymph Fishing
fishing methods described in this article, but several manufacturers have
developed extra-long—and in some cases extra-light—rods specifically
designed for Euro-style nymphing. These rods measure from 9 feet 9 inches
(the Sage 99) to 11 feet long. Here is a list of the manufacturers who responded to requests for information about their tackle.
ECHO Pete Erickson used European nymphing methods to achieve strong
individual finishes at several World Fly Fishing Championships. Using his experience, he worked with Tim Rajeff to develop three rods for nymph fishing:
a 10-footer designed for a 3-weight line; a 10-foot-6-inch-long rod rated for
a 3-weight; and, an 11-foot, 4-weight rod. To learn more about the Echo PE
Shadow Series of rods, log on to
GREYS English fly-fishing competition champion Howard Croston teamed
with Greys to create five rods with European-style nymph fishing in mind. Take
your pick: a 10-foot-long rod for either a 2-, 3-, or 4-weight line, or an 11-footer
for either a 3- or 4-weight. These rods are part of the Greys XF2 Streamflex
series. For more information, go to, and look for the link to
Greys. (The broad selection and affordability of these rods—none cost more
than $400—make them a “best buy.”)
G.LOOMIS Several years ago, fly-casting champion and Loomis rod
designer Steve Rajeff developed a complete family of revolutionary twohanded casting rods, and other companies raced to catch up. Always on the
cutting edge, Steve then turned his attention to creating rods for Euro-style
nymph fishing. Loomis’s two 10-foot-long Czech Nymph rods, which were
introduced last season, are part of the Max GLX series. One rod is rated for
a 3-weight line; the other is rated for a 4-weight. For more information, go
ORVIS In its top-end Helios series, Orvis offers a 10-foot-long, 4-weight
rod. Although some anglers use this rod for fishing out of float tubes and
canoes, this is also a fine rod when employing European nymph-fishing
methods. Check out all the Helios rods at
SAGE The Sage 99 is 9 feet 9 inches long, and is rated for a 4-weight line.
According to Sage, the 99 features “slightly oversized guides specifically
placed to make stack mending, shake-out and line feeding easier. Put it
all together and you have a light, perfectly balanced rod that casts like a
9-footer but fishes like a 10.” See all the details about the Sage 99 at www.
GREAT BAY ROD COMPANY Great Bay’s EMG Nymphing rods
were designed in cooperation with Ian Colin James, and were used by
the Canadian Youth Fly Fishing Team in 2009. All are 11 feet long, and you
can select from a 4-, 5-, or 6-weight rod. Also check out Great Bay’s MSR
Nymphing rods. Each measures 10 feet 4 inches long, and are rated for
either a 3-, 4-, or 5-weight line. These rods are affordably priced, so you can
try this new style of fishing without breaking the bank. For more information, go to
caddis larvae, our fish feed on mayfly and stonefly nymphs,
scuds and sow bugs, and other microinvertebrates.
Weighted patterns are the key to Czech nymphing. Add
lead wire (or a nontoxic substitute) and tungsten beads to
your favorite patterns. I carry a wide variety of nymph and
larva imitations, but even generic patterns—the Hare’s-Ear,
Prince, and Pheasant-Tail Nymphs—are all great weighted
flies that even novices can tie.
The heavier “anchor” fly sinks quickly and draws the
dropper flies with it. I commonly use the anchor fly on the
point, and add the lighter flies as droppers. I sometimes
fish a soft-hackle pattern that closely imitates an emerging
insect in place of a dropper. This technique is especially
deadly when fishing during a hatch.
French and Spanish Nymphing
French and Spanish anglers invented nymph-fishing techniques that have caught trout all over Europe and North
America. I’ll never forget the day I learned these methods.
As I said earlier, I often use the South Branch of the
Raritan as a testing ground for new techniques. I fish this
water using strike indicators, and more recently with shortline Czech-nymphing techniques, but on this trip, I had
my rod rigged French style: with a very long leader and
two weighted flies.
I started with a stretch of water that often produces
about a dozen fish. I positioned myself midstream and began fishing my nymphs to every holding area, and even
cast to some spots that I did not think could hold trout.
My friend Davy Wotton said that the French just count
to three and set the hook, so I did as he instructed: cast
the flies, count to three, and lift the rod. I couldn’t believe
it, but there was a trout attached to my line almost every
time! It took me five hours to cover a section of stream that
usually takes only about an hour, but I caught more fish
using this method than I normally catch “cherry picking”
all the good water.
French nymphing works because you’re not relying on
matching a hatch or even a certain insect; you rely on the
“reaction strikes” of the fish. This means the trout react
Use Ross’s Balance Adjustable Reel Arm to fine-tune a rod and reduce muscle
fatigue. Although Ross initially thought this device would be used to position a reel
in the other direction—opposite the handle—Ross sales manager Brad Befus said
tournament trout anglers immediately started using Balance arms to mount reels
beyond the reel seats as counterweights on extra-long nymph rods, such as this G.
Loomis Czech Nymph 3-weight.
According to editor David Klausmeyer, “I was sort of skeptical when I requested
a sample Balance arm to test. I see a lot of gimmicks—as well as items that are
of only marginal value—but this thing really works. I dialed in the balance of my
favorite nymph-fishing rod, and as a result, it actually felt lighter when fishing. It
might not be for everyone—you have to be pretty finicky about your tackle to go to
these extremes—but I was pleasantly surprised.”
For more information about the Balance Adjustable Reel Arm, go to www.ross
44 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Polish Woven Express
Hook: Skalka G, sizes 12 to 8.
Bead: Black tungsten bead to match
the size of the hook.
Thread: Size 6/0 (140 denier), color
to match the top of fly, usually brown
or olive.
Abdomen: Contrasting colors of fourstrand embroidery floss.
Rib: Brassie copper wire
Thorax: SLF Spiky Squirrel Dubbing.
Rocked Out
Hook: Skalka G, sizes 14 to 8.
Bead: Black tungsten bead to match the
size of the hook.
Thread: Olive 8/0 (70 denier).
Abdomen: Nature’s Spirit insect green
Rib: Size 6X monofilament.
Thorax: Black hare’s-ear dubbing.
Back: Jan Siman Magic Shrimp Foil, olive.
Straight Up
Hook: Tiemco TMC100 SPBL, sizes
20 to 16.
Bead: Copper tungsten bead to match
the size of the hook.
Thread: Olive 8/0 (70 denier).
Tails: Wood duck fibers.
Abdomen: Tying thread.
Rib: Small copper wire.
Thorax: SLF Spiky Squirrel Dubbing.
Wing case: Medium peacock Mylar.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 45
and strike as the flies descend to the streambed. I have
observed that the majority of takes actually occur before
the flies reach the bottom. This supports my hypothesis
that the trout strike out of curiosity, anger, or some other
instinct. After all, what nymph descends through the water
column as apposed to ascending?
More Thoughts on Tackle Selection
The long rod you use for short-line Czech nymphing will
work for French-style fishing. Because of the longer rod
length, you might wish to use a reel that is one size larger
than the rod to better balance the outfit. A properly balanced rod and reel will cause less fatigue and make for a
more enjoyable day on the water; this is even more critical
because these methods frequently require extending your
arm for long periods of time.
French nymphing requires using a 15- to 25-foot-long
leader. The entire leader, except for the last 5 to 10 feet, is the
heavier butt section. I start the butt section with a 40-inchlong piece of stiff .021-inch clear monofilament. I then add
20-inch-long sections of .019-, .017-, .015-inch-diameter
leader material, and finally a 10-inch-long section of .013inch leader material. This heavy butt section will allow you
to turn over the flies with ease. After the butt section comes
the “sighter,” which is an in-line strike indicator, and then a
4- to 10-foot-long tippet; adjust the length of the tippet to
match the depth and velocity of the water.
The sighter aids visual strike detection. It is not a strike
indicator in the sense that it floats on the water: it is the complete opposite. You may raise the sighter off the water or allow
it to lie on the surface as a floating indicator. There is no slack
or any dead spot in your rigging, which often occurs when
using a regular strike indicator, which is one of the reasons this
fishing method is so deadly. Any strike is transmitted directly
to the sighter, which is easily visible on the water.
There are two options when using monofilament for
the sighter: a straight piece of brightly colored monofilament, such as Golden Stren High-vis Ande or red Amnesia, or a “curly whirly” (also known as a coiled sighter),
which was shown to me by competition angler and Team
USA member Loren Williams. A curly whirly is a piece of
brightly colored and coiled monofilament. When tied into
your leader, all you need to do is watch the curls straighten
or hesitate while drifting downstream to detect strikes.
Smaller flies require a lighter tippet. I often use size 6X
fluorocarbon, but when using heavier patterns in situations
where getting the flies down quickly is not an issue, I generally use 5X fluorocarbon; I switch to size 4X if I think the flies
might snag the bottom or I might encounter bigger fish.
French versus Spanish Presentations
There are two ways to present your flies when executing
long-leader presentations: directly upstream (the classic
French style), or across and slightly upstream (the Spanish
No matter which presentation you choose, the rod angle at the end of the cast is critical: the rod must stop dead
and cannot drop below 10 o’clock. This allows the long
leader to unfurl and straighten, and it allows for immediate
contact with your flies the moment they hit the water.
You will not make long drifts when fishing upstream.
This presentation is better suited for shallow pocket water
where the lies are much smaller and the water is shallow
enough that you can approach from directly downstream.
Position yourself behind or slightly to the side of the lie. After you cast, keep the rod tip up and track the flies toward
you. Once your rod reaches the 12 o’clock position, snap
your wrist to pull the flies out of the water and make another cast. This is known as rapid-fire casting because many
presentations are made in a short period of time. Don’t
wade through the water until you have fished it, and never
step into water that you have not fished. Wade upstream
methodically. Make a mental grid out the water in front of
you and fish it, making sure that no lie goes untouched.
Feather your casts out from left to right, and then move a
few steps upriver and repeat the sequence.
Leading the Flies
Anglers used to fishing with indicators may have to get
used to leading their flies through the water. Unlike when
fishing with a strike indicator and controlling slack line
to achieve a proper dead drift, French nymph-fishing anglers use constant tension to control the drift and detect
strikes. Leading refers to keeping some degree of tension
on the leader and flies while moving the rod tip ahead and
downstream of where the leader meets the water’s surface.
Doing this keeps you in touch with the flies and will allow you to detect the lightest strikes. Only experience will
teach you how much tension to keep on your leader and
what speed to sweep the rod tip downstream. The trout
will let you know when you have it right.
French and Spanish nymph-fishing techniques will
enable you to tackle water that you might pass up; I have
watched many anglers walk past very good lies simply because they did not have the correct tackle or know the proper fishing methods. While these techniques do not work in
every nymph-fishing situation, they are quite versatile and
will give you something new to try. With practice, you will
discover that these methods are very productive.
Aaron Jasper is a third grade teacher, owner of Fly Fishing Evolution guide service, and the co-founder of www.troutpredator.
com. He fishes more than 200 days a year. For more information about Aaron and to follow along on his adventures, check
If you’d like to learn more about Euro-nymph-fishing techniques and flies, go to the Bonus Content section at to watch videos demonstrating these fishing and tying
methods. European-style nymphing has revolutionized nymphfishing techniques, and they can work for you, too.
46 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Triple Threat
Hook: Tiemco TMC100 SPBL, size
18 to 14.
Thread: Brown 8/0 (70 denier).
Bead: Gold or copper tungsten bead to
match the size of the hook.
Tails: Wood duck fibers.
Abdomen: Striped peacock herl and Fly
DK Quill Body #3 (UV).
Rib: Small copper wire.
Thorax: Jan Siman dubbing, peacock
Hot spot: Datum Glow-Brite #5.
365 Nymph
Hook: Tiemco TMC100 SPBL, sizes
20 to 14.
Bead: Silver tungsten bead to match the
size of the hook.
Thread: Brown 8/0 (70 denier).
Tail: Dark coq de Leon.
Abdomen: Tying thread.
Rib: Small black wire.
Thorax: SLF Spiky Squirrel Dubbing.
Wing case: Black Thin Skin.
Iced Cases Caddis
Hook: Tiemco TMC100 SPBL, sizes
18 to 12.
Bead: Black tungsten bead to match
the size of the hook.
Thread: Olive 8/0 (70 denier).
Abdomen: Peacock Ice Dub.
Rib: Small copper wire.
Thorax: Insect green Superfine Dubbing.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 47
48 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Muddler Minnow
HOOK: Daiichi 1750 or your choice of
streamer hook, size 4.
THREAD: Regular tying thread for making the
first part of the fly, then switch to gel-spun
thread for spinning the head.
BODY: Gold braid.
UNDERWING: Gray squirrel tail hair.
TAIL & WING: Mottled turkey.
COLLAR & HEAD: Medium- or fine-fibered
deer hair.
50 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Making the
Use the Right Tools
Muddler Minnow
Tie the tail, body, and wing of the fly using standard tying
Place a drop of superglue on the thread at the base of the
wing to weld everything to the hook. Rub the glue dry using
a toothpick; keep the toothpick moving so it doesn’t get stuck to
the fly. Start the gel-spun thread at the base of the wing.
The overall length of the completed fly will be about two
Grasp the tips of the hairs. Comb out and discard the underfur and short fibers.
Okay, it’s time to tie the head of the fly. First, you need to
clip a bunch of medium- or fine-fibered hair about equal
to the diameter of a pencil. The hairs for this fly are about 11/4
inches long.
Place the bunch of hair in a stacker with the tips facing the
base of the tool. Tap the stacker on your bench top; all the
hairs will slide to the bottom of the tool. Here I have removed the
barrel of the stacker to reveal the evened ends.
Remove the hair from the stacker. Place the bunch on the fly.
Note that the tips extend about halfway down the body. As
you can see, a fairly generous amount is required to create a full
head and collar in one operation.
Slightly push or “shroud” the hair around the hook. Sharpen
the thread (twist it tight) and make one gentle wrap around
the entire bunch. I colored the thread red so that you can see it
Make two or three more thread wraps precisely on top of
the first wrap; sharpen the thread and increase the tension
as you work.
Apply maximum tension while simultaneously releasing
the hair. The hair will spin around the hook and flare on
all sides. Grasp the hair again, and sharpen the thread. Make several more very firm wraps; don’t allow the thread to spin the hair
further unless you want it to rotate a little more around the hook.
Slip the thread forward through the butt ends of the
hair. Carefully wrap forward and back through the hairs
to lock down the spinning wraps. Slip the packing tool onto the
hook. Continue grasping the hair tips in your left hand, and press
the butt ends back to pack the hair tight.
It’s very important to use the correct tools: hair stackers,
cleaning combs, packing tools, and straight and curved
scissors with serrated blades. I’ll give you a brief description of the tools I use and show you how to use them in
the tying exercises.
Use a stacker to even the ends of a bunch of hair. We
typically even the tips of the hairs, but as you’ll see, there are
times when you’ll want to even the butt ends. The main attribute of a good stacker is that the inside diameter must be
large enough to allow a bunch of hair to move freely inside
when you tap the tool on the top of your tying bench.
Use a hair packer to press a bunch of spun hair toward
the back of the fly. You can press the hair against the body
of the fly (refer to the photos of tying the Muddler Minnow),
or press bunches of spun hair together (see the photos of tying Turck’s Tarantula). Packing the hair compresses the spun
fibers together, yielding a compact, fairly solid head. Fly shops
carry a wide selection of hair stackers and packing tools.
A small comb is handy to remove the underfur from a
bunch of hair. This is very important so the hair fibers spin
neatly around the hook. You can find smaller combs in
the drugstore cosmetics department. Fly shops carry larger
combs, such as the mustache comb in the accompanying
photo. You’ll need a larger comb for cleaning the underfur
from heavier bunches of hair.
The scissors shown here are from Uni Products. I’ve
been using them for many years, and I love them. Note
that a screw rather than a rivet joins the blades. This screw
enables you to keep the blades tight together and maintain
good shearing action.
Using the right thread is a must. Not surprisingly, Uni
offers a couple of very good threads. Uni-Cord is a member of the gel-spun family of threads. I don’t know what
this stuff is, but its strength-to-diameter ratio is off the
charts. Uni-Cord also has a couple of additional attributes
that are essential for hair work. It lies flat and smooth on
Examine all the patches of deer hair hanging on the pegboard in
your local fly shop. Some have thicker, firmer hair (on the left); this
material is more suitable for tying floating flies. Thin hair (on the
right) is best for making flies that sink.
Brush all the hair back, and tie off and clip the thread
head. Use more wraps than usual to compensate for the
slipperiness of the thread.
Clip the head to shape. Work slowly and remember:
Once you cut the hair off, you can’t put it back.
Here’s our completed Muddler Minnow.
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Rabbit Matuka
HOOK: Daiichi 2220 or your choice of
streamer hook, size 2.
THREAD: Uni-Nylon 210.
BODY: Pearl or silver braid.
RIB: 2X or 3X clear monofilament.
WING: White rabbit Zonker strip.
COLLAR & HEAD: White medium- or finefibered deer hair.
52 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Tying the
Rabbit Matuka
Tie the body and wing of the fly. Rub a drop of superglue on
the thread wraps at the base of the wing. Be sure it’s absolutely dry before proceeding.
Stack a bunch of hair, hold it on top of the hook, and make
several thread wraps. Continue holding the tip ends on top
of the hook and gradually increase the thread tension. I’ve darkened the wraps for clarity.
Apply maximum thread tension, keeping the hair on top of
the hook. Press the hair back, using a hair packer.
Slide the thread forward through the hair butt ends. As you
can see, there’s still some hook to cover.
Clip a second bunch of hair, trim off the tips, and stack the
butt ends.
Tie the hair to the top of the hook using maximum tension.
Once again, push the hair back using your hair packer.
Clip the head to shape. The Hair-Head Rabbit Matuka is an
excellent streamer for catching lunker bass and trophy trout.
the hook, and it is quite slippery so that hair readily spins
over it. Before gel-spun thread, we spun hair on the bare
hook shank, but now we can actually spin hair over the
thread and tie extremely durable flies.
Uni-Nylon 210 denier also works great. The diameter
is somewhat thicker than Uni-Cord, which is rated at 110
denier. Other than this difference in diameter, the characteristics of these threads are about the same. I use UniNylon on big flies such as the Hair-Head Rabbit Matuka
in this article.
As much as I like Uni Products, there are other very
good brands of gel-spun thread and scissors available.
With respect to thread, just remember to use gel spun.
Select the Correct Hair
Choosing the right hair is equally important to selecting
the correct tools and thread. The deer hair you use depends upon whether you are making a floating or sinking
fly. Check out the photo of two bunches of deer hair; as
you can see, one patch has thicker hairs than the other. The
thinner hair is also softer. We’ll use both types of hair in the
tying exercises, and explain their different purposes.
Let me debunk a common misunderstanding: Deer
hair is not hollow, as it has been often described, but it
is cellular in varying degrees. Thicker, better-floating hair
is often described as being “pulpy,” which is a very apt
description. And the closer you get to the butt ends of the
hairs, the pulpier it feels.
(TOP) A hair stacker is essential for
spinning deer hair. Use a stacker
with an inside diameter large
enough to allow a bunch of hair to
move freely inside the barrel of the
tool. (RIGHT) Here are the author’s
preferred scissors for trimming
spun deer hair. Note that one of the
blades is serrated. The serrations
grasp the hair, and the smoothedged blade makes the actual cut.
(LEFT) Combs and a hair packer (far
left) will improve your hair spinning.
Be sure to add these inexpensive
tools to your fly-tying kit.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 53
Turck’s Tarantula
HOOK: Daiichi 1750 or your choice of
streamer hook, size 4.
THREAD: Regular tying thread for making the
first part of the fly, then switch to gel-spun
thread for spinning the head.
TAIL: Amherst pheasant tippet fibers.
BODY: Hare’s-ear dubbing.
WING: White calf tail.
WING TOPPING: Pearl Krystal Flash or similar.
COLLAR & HEAD: Coarse-fibered deer or
antelope body hair.
LEGS: Rubber legs.
54 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Making the
Notes for the Tying Exercises
Turck’s Tarantula
Tie the tail, body, and wing of the fly using regular tying
thread; then switch to gel spun. The body and wing take up
the first two-thirds of the hook shank.
Stack the tip ends of a bunch of hair; these hairs look different because I’m using antelope.
Pack the second bunch of hair tight against the first bunch.
Tie the hair to the hook. Increase the tension while wrapping
the thread.
Apply maximum thread tension to spin and flare the hair.
Press the hair back using a hair packer.
Note that lots of hook shank remains up front. We’ll fill this
as the next step.
Stack the butt ends of another bunch of hair. Tie on the hair
with the butt ends pointing toward the rear of the fly. Spin
the hair around the hook.
Tie off and clip the thread. Start clipping the head to shape.
I am using straight scissors because I want to make a cylindrical head.
There, the head is done. I am leaving the head slightly larger
than normal for illustrative purposes.
I use this unique maneuver to add legs to the fly. Sharpen the thread, and tie on again by sliding the thread
into the notch between the collar and the rear of the head (arrow
A). Make several firm wraps, allowing the thread to slide slightly
forward (arrow B).
Tie a strand of rubber legs to each side of the fly.
Make a three-turn whip-finish, working the thread between the rubber legs. A Matarelli long-reach whip finisher is a big help here.
Use a toothpick to apply a drop of superglue in the
notch. Allow the glue to sink in and lock the legs to the
fly and seal the knot.
Here’s our completed Turck’s Tarantula. This is a great
pattern for matching the salmon-fly hatch, and it’s also
a hot attractor.
We’ll make the ever-popular Muddler Minnow in the first
tying exercise. The dressing is essentially the original, except that I have replaced the flat gold tinsel with gold braid.
I like to think of the Muddler and other flies of this type
as tying two patterns on the same hook. In other words,
while the parts complement each other, they don’t interact
during the tying process.
For the Muddler Minnow, we’ll start where the hair
work begins; the steps up to that point are no different
from tying a common wet fly, so I won’t show them here.
I do recommend going easy with the squirrel tail hair in
the wing; this material is slippery, doesn’t compress, and
creates unwanted bulk if you use too much of it.
You’ll notice that I use the term sharpen the thread
throughout the exercise. This simply means spinning the
bobbin so that the thread is tight and narrow. Right-handed tiers spin clockwise (to the left), but lefties spin counterclockwise (to the right).
For tying with hair that has good flotation properties,
I’ve chosen a novel and very effective big fly: Turck’s Tarantula. This dressing is supposed to be the original; I got it
from the book, Flies for Trout, by Dick Stewart and Farrow
Allen. They note that this pattern won the 1990 Jackson
Hole One-Fly Contest. I did well with it on my fishing trip
to Chile.
I’ll leave you with this bit of advice: Above all else, learn
to judge and select hairs with an eye toward what pattern
you are making. Even with the proper tools and good tying
skills, you’ll find yourself struggling when using hair that’s
poorly suited to the task at hand.
Have fun, work slowly, and don’t be afraid. With a little
effort, you’ll master the finer points of stacking, spinning,
and trimming deer hair.
Dick Talleur has been a member of the Fly Tyer family for many
years; he has contributed great articles to our magazine since
the 1970s. Dick is the author of the award-winning book, Trout
Flies for the 21st Century, which is part of the Fly Tyer library
of fine tying books. The Fly Tyer library is being published by
The Lyons Press.
Get Inspired
Want to learn even more about tying with
deer hair? Then turn to page 80 of this magazine and read the article titled “Lee Weil: Long
Island’s Master Bug Maker.” Her beautiful
flies also grace the cover of this issue of Fly
Tyer. Lee creates brilliant deer-hair bugs that
inspire us to want to rush to the vise and tie.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 55
56 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Article & Photography by
The Carey Special and Six
Pack are classically inspired
wet flies that suggest many
varieties of nymphs.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 57
hese days, if you fish
one of the lakes in the Northwest or try
your luck in British Columbia’s Kamloops, you’re apt to find most anglers
fishing chironomid imitations below strike indicators;
shoulders hunched and brows furrowed, they’re waiting for a bob or jiggle, some telltale sign of striking fish.
They’ll switch to Callibaetis dry flies if a hatch begins, or
tie on damselfly nymphs if Odonata pays a visit. There
may be a few individualists working bunny or marabou
leech imitations, or even Woolly Buggers, but the chironomid fishing technique was worked out on these
lakes and is one of the most preferred methods.
But this wasn’t always so.
When things get slow and practiced anglers scratch
their heads and rummage through old fly boxes, looking for something that might save the day, they are likely
to turn to a Carey Special.
History and Lore of the Carey Special
In 1946, when Roy Patrick opened what may have been
the West’s first fly shop in Seattle, and began self-publishing—in mimeograph format—Pacific Northwest Fly
Patterns, the Carey Special was something of a novelty. As
Don Chinn notes in his book, Northwest Fly Patterns, the
Carey Special was used “to imitate an emerging sedge,
but is now considered an excellent dragonfly pattern.”
Chinn believed in the pattern, and he claimed that the
Carey Special also “imitates the Dobson, dragon or damsel fly nymphs,” and describes it as “an excellent imitation of leeches.” It would be difficult to find another fly
that suggests such a diverse range of trout foods.
Over its long history, the Carey Special has hooked
rainbows, browns, and cross-bred trout and steelhead,
and has attracted a great deal of lore. According to one
tradition, the pattern was devised in 1925 when Dr.
Lloyd A. Day, of Quesnel, British Columbia, found a
groundhog in a trap while on a fishing trip, and asked
Col. Thomas Carey to construct a fly using hair from
the pelt. The resulting fly was named the Monkey Faced
Louise, but in short order was christened the Carey Special in honor of Colonel Carey.
Pattern recipes always call for hair for the tail and
most bodies, but what kind of animal has a way of
changing. In addition to groundhog, there are recipes
that specify badger and muskrat. There’s rarely mention
of hackle, which lead some fly tiers to conclude there
was none in the early versions.
Another tradition dispenses with Dr. Day’s contributions altogether, and instead tells of Colonel Carey’s difficulties in enticing British Columbia’s trout to his flies.
According to this story, Carey solved the problem by devising a pattern to imitate an emerging sedge using hair, and
because the flies of the day required hackle, he finished off
his new pattern with two wound pheasant rump feathers.
By the 1940s, the single constant ingredient in the
recipe was pheasant rump hackle. As Raymond puts it,
“In the decades since its creation, the Carey Special has
evolved from a specific dressing into a generic style of tying. Now there exist countless versions, though all still
bear the name Carey Special. The use of pheasant rump
for the hackle is just about the only feature of the original
pattern that remains in all the modern variations, though
even that has changed; while Colonel Carey used a pair of
feathers and tied them very full in the original, the fly now
is most often tied sparsely with a single feather.”
These stories date the creation of the fly to the mid1930s. As late as 1970, Roy Patrick still listed badger
hair as the standard tail material for the Carey Special,
with “Chinese or English cock pheasant saddle or rump
fibers or ring neck [sic] tail fibers” as alternatives. By this
time, however, the preferred body material was peacock
herl. “Silver tinsel, moose mane, peacock quill, pheasant saddle hackle, badger hair or a dubbed body. Floss,
chenille or wool in any color” are all listed as alternative
materials for tying the Carey Special.
Without realizing it, Colonel Carey had devised one of
North America’s first soft-hackle wet flies. Word of its success spread throughout British Columbia, then drifted south
into the Pacific Northwest. In a matter of 20 or 30 years, the
Carey Special had become one of the most popular lake patterns, almost becoming a Northwest all-purpose go-to fly.
Use of the Carey Special has narrowed over time. It
is now recognized as one of the region’s better dragonfly imitations, and with appropriate adjustment in color
and size, it becomes a good damselfly nymph. More recently, the Carey Special has re-emerged as a credible
caddisfly imitation, and not long ago, I came across a
reference to it as a baitfish fly.
Even if it’s no longer the first fly an angler ties on, the
Carey Special remains a formidable resource offering many
fishing options. Like many other patterns, I troll it using
a full sinking line, and cast it around the tops and edges
of weed beds with a floating line and a slow, stuttering
retrieve. In the shallows, where a strike indicator would
spook trout, I use the Carey Special for sight-fishing with
an intermediate-sinking line; I cast to a pod of cruising fish,
trying to land the fly with minimal splash a few feet ahead
of them. When the trout near the fly, I start my retrieve with
a few short, pulsed pulls, causing the pattern to dart erratically. That motion attracts the attention of one or more fish,
and I’m often rewarded with a solid strike.
The Modern Carey Special
A good pattern often suggests—rather than closely
imitates—a living insect, and the Carey Special can sug-
58 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Start the thread on the hook and tie on the tail fibers. Tie on the ribbing wire.
Next, tie on a piece of reinforcing thread and the peacock herl at the hook bend.
Wrap the tying thread up the hook. Spin together the reinforcing thread and herl.
Wrap the herl and reinforcing thread up the hook to create the body of the
fly. Tie off and clip any extra herl and thread. Counterwrap the wire rib over
the body. Tie off and clip or break the wire.
Tie on the tip of the hackle. Leave the thread hanging behind the feather.
Wrap the hackle forward in the opposite direction of the thread. Wrap the
thread through the hackle, carefully avoiding the feather fibers. Tie off and
clip the excess hackle. Whip-finish and clip the thread.
gest many forms of food. Variations in the numbers
and kinds of materials used to construct the fly slant
its appeal in various directions. Without a tail, the
Carey Special looks more like a caddisfly or dragonfly
nymph. Tie the body using peacock herl, various colors of chenille or floss, or one of the numerous dubbing blends to create a fly that suggests the appearance of local prey. Just as an insect takes on the color
of a lake’s vegetation and bottom, the chameleon-like
Carey Special is also adaptable. Adding weight speeds
Carey Special
HOOK: 2X-long wet-fly hook, sizes
12 to 6.
THREAD: Black 6/0 (140 denier).
TAIL: Six to 12 pheasant rump fibers.
RIB: Copper or gold wire.
BODY: Two to four peacock herls.
HACKLE: Pheasant rump feather.
the fly’s descent, or tie it without additional weight to
fish just under the surface.
The Carey Special was dressed on many sizes of
hooks, but today it is most often tied on 2X-long wet-fly
hooks in sizes 12 to 6. Constructing the fly is straightforward. Wrap the hook with thread, and tie the tail. Make
the body slender to mimic a damselfly, or thicker and
more tapered to suggest a dragonfly or leech. Counterwrap the body with a wire rib.
Use a pheasant rump feather for hackle. Select a
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 59
60 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
feather with fibers that extend to at least the hook bend;
most tiers prefer longer fibers, sometimes stretching
well beyond the end of the tail. Strip off the bottom,
fuzzier fibers, and clip and discard the top one-quarter
inch of the feather.
Start the thread on the hook. Tie on 8 to 12 pheasant
rump fibers to form the tail.
Tie on a pheasant rump feather or bunch of fibers by
the tips.
Twist the feather or fibers together. Wrap the twisted
material up the hook to form the first half of the body.
Tie off and clip the excess. Tie on a second feather or
bunch of fibers.
Twist the second feather or bunch of fibers together.
Wrap the material up the hook to complete the body.
Tie off and clip the excess.
Tie on the wire rib behind the head of the fly.
Spiral-wrap the wire down the hook to the base of the
Spiral-wrap the wire back up the body to the head of
the fly.
Tie off and clip the remaining wire. This completes the
body of the Six Pack. It’s okay if it looks a little shaggy;
that probably lends to the fly’s realistic appeal.
Tie on the pheasant rump feather by the tip. Leave the
thread hanging so that it will be behind the wrapped
Wrap the rump feather in the opposite direction
of the thread to form the hackle. Wrap the thread
through the hackle, carefully avoiding the fibers. Whipfinish and clip the thread.
Six Pack
HOOK: 2X-long wet-fly hook, sizes
12 to 6.
THREAD: Black 6/0 (140 denier).
TAIL: Pheasant rump fibers.
BODY: Pheasant rump feathers
or fibers.
RIB: Copper or gold wire.
HACKLE: Pheasant rump feather.
Carey Special Variations
There are many variations of the standard Carey Special; a few have become so widespread that they have
acquired their own names. The Jolly Green Giant has
body of gray mohair or green seal dubbing. The Carey
Bugger substitutes marabou for the tail. The most popular variation by far, once called the Carey Self, is now
known as the Six Pack.
The creation of the Six Pack is credited to Carl Haufner, with help from angler Everett Caryl. Roy Patrick also
played a role. According to Roy, “I had dyed some pheasant saddle purely as an experiment to see how much
color would be left on the feathers after dyeing.” Haufner
dropped in the shop, and Patrick gave him some samples.
Haufner “in turn made some Carey flies with the material
and had tremendous success. Everyone was curious what
he was using, he told them, and they agreed on a barter
system. That is where the name bloomed.” Patrick dates
the invention of the Six Pack to 1963.
I tie a Six Pack based on Will Atlas’s recipe, which
uses only natural pheasant rump fibers and wire. Construction is a little challenging because long pheasant
rump feathers are difficult to find and hard to use. Some
tiers tie on a pheasant rump feather at the hook bend,
then twist and wrap the feather to create the body of
the fly. I prefer tying on separate fibers for the tail, and
then use a separate feather for the body; a second and
sometimes a third feather are required to make the body
for a fly larger than size 12. In another departure from
the standard practice, I tie in the hackle tip facing the
hook eye, and then reverse the direction of the fibers to
produce a shaggier fly.
Fish the Six Pack just like the Carey Special. The differences in appearance are subtle: the Six Pack always
has a tail, is usually thinner and lighter in color, and often more sparsely hackled. Fish can find one pattern attractive one day and then change their opinion the next,
so I always carry both patterns in my fly box. If I had to
restrict myself to only one of these flies, I would opt for
the Six Pack, but I would feel impoverished.
Though less popular today, it’s unlikely that these quintessential Northwest searching patterns will soon be forgotten; they have seduced too many fish—to say nothing of
anglers—for that to happen. The Carey Special and Six
Pack are aces up the sleeve of any angler who has them.
Mark Halperin is a talented fly tier and skilled angler who
lives in Washington State.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 61
pat ford
62 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Break the mid-winter
doldrums with a visit
to Florida’s Everglades.
Go prepared to enjoy
fast bass-fishing action.
by Pat Ford
n the months following last winter’s South Florida
“freeze,” there were very few saltwater fish left on the
flats to chase around. In addition, every single peacock bass in the 100-acre lake behind my house
died, and the local canals were also hit pretty hard,
although fortunately not to the same degree. All
this left me with a lot of time on my hands, and
friends Alan Zaremba and Thadeus Ragan, both professional bass-fishing guides, decided that it was time for me
to pay attention to what they did for a living.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 63
HOOK: 3X-long, straight-eye streamer bent into the Bend Back style.
THREAD: 3/0 Monocord.
EYES: Large lead eyes.
TAIL: Small round rubber and Midge Krystal Flash.
BODY: Medium Crystal Chenille.
WING: Medium round rubber.
NOTE: The J-Pig is another jig-and-pig style pattern. This fly provides lots of
action and low frequency noise to attract bass. The hook is bent into a Bend
Back shape to make it quite snag proof.
grim reaper
HOOK: Daiichi or Gamakatsu 60-degree jig hook, size 3/0.
THREAD: 6/0 (140 denier).
EYES: Large lead eyes.
TAIL: Hareline Dubbin’s Reaper Tails.
RATTLE: 4-millimeter glass rattle.
BODY: UV Polar Chenille Palmered.
LEGS: Silicone Crazy Legs
NOTE: Pat Ehlers’s Grim Reaper is the fly angler’s version of a jig and pig. The
60-degree jig hook with lead eyes attached gives this fly a great swimming action. The combination of rattle and Crazy Legs makes noise that allows bass to find
the fly with their lateral lines in low-visibility conditions.
Deer-hair Frog
HOOK: Stinger hook, size 2/0.
THREAD: 3/0 (210 denier) or gel spun.
LEGS: Feather tied splayed to imitate the back legs, and rubber legs.
BODY: Deer hair clipped as either a popper or slider.
EYES: Plastic eyes.
WEED GUARD: 20-pound-test hard monofilament.
NOTE: Every bass fly-fishing kit should have at least a few deer-hair bugs. Tie
these flies in your choice of colors.
laSer minnow
HOOK: Gamakatsu B10S, size 2.
THREAD: 6/0 (140 denier).
TAIL: Four round-tipped saddle hackles.
FLASH: Krinkle Mirror Flash.
HEAD: Hareline Dubbin’s Laser Dubbing.
EYES: 3-D Epoxy Eyes.
NOTE: Pat Ehlers’s Laser Minnow has a great baitfish profile and does a
good job imitating a shad. The Laser Dubbing, from Hareline Dubbin’, is ap
plied like ram’s wool, but instead of trimming to shape with scissors, you only
need to comb out the loose ends to shape the head.
Foamtail Superworm
HOOK: Gamakatsu G-Lock Worm Hook or Daiichi X15 X-Point Wide Gape J Hook,
size 3/0.
THREAD: 6/0 (140 denier).
EYES: Large red painted lead eyes.
TAIL: Magnum rabbit strip.
BODY: Crosscut rabbit strip and UV Polar Chenille wrapped together.
FOAM TAB: 1/8-inch-thick Evasote Foam.
WEED GUARD: 20-pound-test hard monofilament.
NOTE: The unique hook shape keeps the fly from snagging, helps on hookups,
and with the foam tab on the tail, gives the fly a vertical motion so that it can be
fished along the bottom or retrieved like a streamer.
64 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Both Alan and Thadeus can flip a lure into a teacup
placed 50 feet away, and have so many bass rods that they
seem to have one rigged for every lure they might need to
use; deep down in the pile, they also have a couple of fly
rods. Over the past year, I’ve fished the amazing Everglades
with Alan and Thadeus on a number of occasions. While I
still don’t know much about bass fishing, and I still won’t
try to find my way around the middle of the ’Glades on
my own, I have picked up a few things about fly-fishing for
bass in the magnificent Everglades National Park.
The bass live in basically two areas: along shorelines,
usually in or under weeds and lily pads, and along rocks,
ledges, and drop-offs. Both areas offer cover where the fish
lie waiting for something to enter their feeding zone. In
the ’Glades, most strikes come within a few feet of shore,
and the rest will be along a drop-off just outside the edge
of the vegetation; if you fish the middle of the channels,
you will probably catch mudfish, which are big, ugly, and
actually pretty cool. A perfect cast will put the fly literally
on the shore so you can creep it back into the water like
a frog, mouse, bug, or snake, and then work it through
the lily pads and along the drop-off. It appears that bass
eat anything they think they can fit into their mouths, but
they won’t travel very far to get it, nor will they follow a fly
for a great distance. Bass attack on impulse just as soon
as they spot something in their “zone.” I don’t think that
they care what it is; to them, almost everything in the water is potential food.
Thadeus likes fishing with a bass jig that has a pair of
rubber claws and resembles a crayfish creeping along the
bottom; Alan prefers pulling an unweighted worm across
the surface. These two fishing methods also work for fly
fishermen. To fish effectively, it pays to work every inch of
water either on top or subsurface. This requires a lot of casting, but you don’t have to cast very far, just accurately. Since
most of the flies are either weighted or big and bushy, I use
a stiff 9-weight rod overloaded with a 10-weight line. I use a
bass-taper floating line for fishing surface bugs, and a clear
intermediate-sinking tarpon-taper or Teeny 300-grain line
for fishing weighted patterns. Floating leaders are usually 9
or 10 feet long, and taper down to anywhere from 12- to
20-pound-test, depending upon the amount of debris in
the water. Leaders for the sinking lines are only three to four
feet long to keep the flies deep.
Trophy bass patrol the edges and readily
strike flies that come into view.
Frogs and Other Floating Flies
You can spend hours in a well-stocked bass-fishing shop
looking at lures, and you’ll never see the same one twice;
the same applies to bass flies. There are a fair number of
commercial bass flies, but they can be broken down to
several categories. First, there are frog imitations. They can
have hard-plastic, foam, or deer-hair heads, and are made
as either poppers or sliders. Most frog patterns have numerous rubber legs and hair or feather tails that are split to
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 65
BaBY Bream
HOOK: Your favorite regular saltwater hook, size 1/0.
THREAD: Chartreuse 6/0 (140 denier).
BODY: Any color combination of EP Fibers.
EYES: 3-D eyes.
WEED GUARD: 20-pound-test monofilament.
NOTE: Even though this fly is designed to imitate a bream, you can tie it in an
almost unlimited number of colors.
long-Strip CraYFiSh
HOOK: Gamakatsu B10S, size 2.
THREAD: 6/0 (140 denier).
TAIL: Hot-tipped Crazy Legs.
EYES: Red medium lead eyes.
BODY: Medium Crystal Chenille.
RIB: Medium copper wire.
WING: Rabbit strip tied on Matuka style.
FLASH: Krystal Flash.
NOTE: Pat Ehlers’s Long-Strip Crayfish is a freshwater version of his Long-Strip
Bonefish fly. When stripped, its claws and
legs mimic the folded claws and legs of a fleeing crayfish. Crayfishorange and olive are two favorite versions.
Dean glug
HOOK: Long-shank saltwater hook, size 2 or 1/0.
THREAD: Size 6/0 (140 denier).
TAIL: Marabou or soft fur.
LEGS: Rubber legs.
BODY: Fly Foam.
EYES: Plastic dumbbell.
NOTE: This is another pattern that you may tie in any colors that meet your
fancy. The foam body makes this fly unsinkable.
artiCulateD DiVer
BACK HOOK: 6X-long, straight-eye streamer hook, size 4. Wrap the hook with
marabou. Cut off the hook, and glue a ¼-inch-diameter foam cylinder onto
the end of the shank.
FRONT HOOK: Gamakatsu B10S, size 2.
JOINT: #10 Tyger Wire with a 4-millimeter bead.
THREAD: Size 6/0 (140 denier) for the rear hook; GSP 200 for the front hook.
FLASH: Your choice of Krystal Flash or Flashabou.
THROAT: Red deer body hair.
HEAD: Deer body hair.
NOTE: Pat Ehlers’s Articulated Diver is a new version of the classic Deer Hair
Diver. Fish the fly like a topwater diver, or when fished with a sinking-tip or
full-sinking line, it works like a crankbait. The foam tab on the rear end
keeps the articulated fly moving up and down.
Dean Bug
HOOK: Saltwater stinger hook, size 1/0.
THREAD: Chartreuse 3/0 (210 denier).
BODY: Fly Foam.
LEGS: Rubber legs.
WING AND HEAD: Deer body hair.
WEED GUARD: 20-pound-test monofilament.
NOTE: This fly, which you may tie in almost any color you choose, slides lightly
across the surface of the water. The action might be gentle, but the reaction
of the bass is explosive!
66 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
look like hind legs. These flies come in an almost unlimited number of colors, and on some days, some colors seem
to work better than others; I don’t know why this makes
a difference—since all the fish are looking up into the sun
and see only the silhouette of the fly—but it does.
The size of the frog is another consideration. The largest
poppers and sliders catch the biggest bass and reduce the
number of strikes from the smaller fish, but all sizes of bass
will all eat the smaller patters that are easier to cast. Deerhair flies work really well, but they tend to absorb water,
so be sure to carry fly floatant with you. The “hard head”
patterns—those crafted using foam or cork—float higher
and longer, but they are sometimes more difficult to cast.
More Floating Flies
There are also standard deer-hair mouse patterns. These are
also very effective, and obviously any giant bug or small critter that falls into the water is going to be on the menu; dragonflies, grasshoppers, crickets, lizards, and even baby ducks
(don’t laugh, I’ve seen it happen) all become fair game to a
hungry bass. Alan Zaremba has seen bass take snakes right
off the surface, and his surface-worm rig actually resembles
a snake swimming through the water. Accordingly, he developed a snake fly that is basically a long worm pattern with a
reversed popper head to keep it on the surface.
If you’re concentrating on surface-fishing action, you
must figure out whether the bass prefer a fast or slow retrieve. It’s best to cast the fly onto shore, pull it into the
water, work it slowly through the weeds, and then burn it
back along the deep edge of the vegetation. Repeat this a
few feet farther down the bank. You’ll be surprised how
many strikes occur just as the fly hits the water. I think that
using surface flies is the most fun method, but sometimes
the fish are simply deep and not looking up.
Fishing Deep
Thadeus likes to work the rocks, holes, ledges, and dropoffs with jigs and weighted worms. His secret is to creep
the jig along the bottom with the ultra-slow speed of a
crayfish. Capt. Pat Ehlers has designed a number of neat
bass flies for fishing deep. One resembles a Gucci worm,
others crayfish, and some just look like mini aliens, but
they all work very well with an intermediate sinking line.
Try working them very slowly, then change retrieves and
burn them back along the edge of the weeds or along a
drop-off. It pays to experiment until you find a combination that works. However, I’ve found that the jig flies do
not work well on a floating line.
Alan also has a weighted worm fly that he ties with bead
eyes and works in an erratic fashion. Make your worm flies
from 4 to 10 inches long and in any color combination
that suits your fancy; black, purple, and bronze seem to
work the best for me. Finally, be sure to have a collection
of Clouser Minnows in your fly box; some days they are
Better known for his saltwater fishing
adventures, author Pat Ford never looks
down his nose at a hard-fighting bass.
magic, especially if the bass are on their spawning beds.
I always carry several grasshopper imitations and panfish-size poppers for all the bream, Oscars, and cichlids
that inhabit the Everglades. Minnow imitations work
when the fish are in open water, and you’d be surprised
how many times you’ll find bass busting bait in the middle
of one of the area’s zillion ponds.
Your bass flies should be weedless; you can’t cast them
onto the shore and drag them though yards of lily pads
if they don’t have effective weed guards. I’ve found that
16- or 20-pound-test hard monofilament works best for
constructing weed guards; just make sure that the weed
guards do not prevent the flies from hooking fish.
The best time to fish the Everglades is from mid-October through May. This is Florida’s dry season, and low
water and cooler temperatures concentrate all the bass and
bait into the channels. If you want to try bass fishing in
the Everglades, contact Alan Zaremba or Thadeus Ragan.
These guys really know how to find the fish, but it’s up to
you to bring a fly or two that they’ve never seen—just to
keep them humble.
Pat Ford is a regular contributor to our magazine. He is also one
of our sport’s foremost photographers. Pat lives in Miami.
If you’d like more information about fishing in the Everglades, contact guides Alan Zaremba at [email protected],
or Thadeus Ragan at [email protected]
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 67
by Andrew Puls
brown for an hour, I couldn’t make him
eat. The fish had been stalking the back
recess of an incredibly clear spring pond,
complete with numerous upwellings of
groundwater that made the sandy bottom
bubble like a witch’s cauldron. Clearly, he
was feeding; I could see the white flashes
of his mouth. But it was getting late and
I needed to get on the road, and on the
previous cast, my fly, a Pregnant Scud,
caught high in a willow. Trying to free it, I
snapped the 4X tippet.
I rifled through my boxes and settled on
an unproven leech pattern, tied it on, and
flipped it into the water a few feet in front
of me. As the squirrel hair became waterlogged, I searched for the fish through the
glare of the afternoon sun. Even sopping
wet, the fly sank slowly, so I pinched on a
small split shot about 18 inches above the
fly. I figured I had only one honest shot at
the fish, and then I really did have to leave.
Real Leeches
According to the author, the best leech imitation
is lightweight and requires few materials.
After a few minutes, the trout completed another slow lap around the pool.
I made one false cast and watched the
leech land 10 feet in front of it. Miraculously, the trout stayed on track and saw
my offering, which sank deliberately
toward to the bottom. The big brown
increased speed and charged. When a
mere two inches from the leech, the trout
stopped and inspected it. He watched
the fly settle slowly just off the tip of his
Yuck, a leech! We might recoil at the sight of
these creepy creatures, but trout treat them as
a valuable source of food.
68 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
nose until sufficiently convinced. I struck
at the flash of white, and the 22-inch,
kype-jawed male leapt from the water. The
Suspending Leech had earned its name, as
well as a permanent place in my arsenal.
Leech Biology
Leeches are important components of
most pond and lake ecosystems, as well as
slower flowing sections of streams and rivers. They are segmented worms, classified
in the same phylum (Annelida) as earthworms and marine worms (polychaetes).
Members of the class Hirudinea, leeches
Tying the Suspending Leech
Wrap a thread base along the entire shank of the hook.
Leave the thread hanging at the end of the base.
Part the hair on a pine squirrel Zonker strip about two
hook lengths from the end of the strip. Place the strip upside down on top of the hook shank with the part in the hair at
the end of the thread base. Tie on the strip using about six tight
thread wraps. Move the thread immediately in front of the strip
and make another two wraps to further secure the squirrel in
place. Wrap the thread to the very front of the hook.
Tightly wrap the squirrel strip away from you around the entire length of the hook shank. Overlap the wraps slightly in
order to make the hair lie backwards. Tie off the squirrel strip with
three tight wraps of thread just behind the eye.
Trim the excess squirrel Zonker strip. Wrap the thread over
the front of the wound strip to make the hair lie back.
Pull a folded piece of Flashabou under the hook in front
of the thread. Partially secure the Flashabou using about
three wraps of thread.
Pull the Flashabou into position so that the strands are
centered on each side of the fly and run the entire length
of the body. Finish securing the Flashabou and wrap the
remainder of the thread head. Whip-finish, clip the thread, and
add head cement.
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 69
Suspending Leech
Hook: Gamakatsu SC15, size 6.
Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier).
Body: Olive pine squirrel strip.
Flash: Red Flashabou.
Start the thread on the hook.
Wrap a thread base on the entire
hook shank.
Lash a short piece of lead wire
to each side of the hook shank.
Make sure that the front ends of the
wire are even and begin slightly behind the eye. Leave the rear ends of
the wire strips unsecured.
Tying the Magnum Leech
Clip the excess pieces of wire
even with the end of the thread
base and finish securing them to the
shank. Whip-finish and cut the thread.
Remove the hook from the vise.
Push the hook point through a
2-inch-long magnum rabbit strip.
When pushed snug against the underbody, the front of the strip should
be even with the front of the hook
eye. Place the hook back in the vise
and restart the thread.
Push the magnum strip out of
the way. Tie a standard-sized
rabbit Zonker strip to the top of the
hook shank at the beginning of the
lashed wire. This shorter strip of rabbit should be equal in length to the
total length of the hook.
Rotate the vise 180 degrees. Reposition the magnum rabbit strip,
and begin securing it to the bottom of
the hook shank with about four tight
wraps of thread. These wraps should
be directly over the wraps securing
the standard strip. Trim the strip even
with the rear of the hook eye and clip
off the edges on both sides. Continue
wrapping the thread to hide the front
end of the strip.
Fold a strip of purple Flashabou.
Place the Flashabou under the
head in front of the thread. Partially
tie on the Flashabou with about three
wraps of thread.
Magnum Leech
Hook: Gamakatsu SC15, size 1.
Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier).
Underbody: 0.035-inch-diameter lead or
lead-substitute wire lashed to the sides of
the hook shank.
Back: Black magnum rabbit strip.
Belly: Black standard-size rabbit strip.
Flash: Purple Flashabou.
70 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Gently pull the Flashabou into
position so that it is centered on
each side of the body and runs the entire length of the fly. Finish securing the
Flashabou and build up the remainder
of the thread head. Whip-finish and
clip the thread, and coat the head with
cement. Finish the fly by securing the
standard-sized bunny strip to the underbody using a small amount of epoxy or Zap-A-Gap.
comprise more than 70 species in North
America, all of which are all hermaphroditic
carnivores and range in length from less
than one inch to more than four inches.
While some leech species hunt and eat
small invertebrates, we are more familiar
with parasitic bloodsuckers. These loathed
creatures attach to rocks, woody debris,
and vegetation, waiting to ambush vertebrate hosts. Three sets of jaws, each with a
semicircular sawlike structure, slice through
the skin of their unfortunate victims.
Most leeches are capable of two types
of locomotion: crawling and swimming.
Leeches crawl along the substrate by
lengthening and shortening their bodies,
alternately using their front and rear suckers as anchor points in an inchwormlike
motion. The swimming action is of more
interest to fly tiers and fishermen than
the crawling, because a swimming leech
is very visible and susceptible to predation. Flattening and extending their bodies, leeches glide through the water using
wavelike undulations for propulsion. The
majority of leech patterns attempt to imitate vulnerable swimming individuals.
There really isn’t a whole lot to a leech.
If not for the disparity in sucker size and
body width from head to tail, it would be
difficult to tell which end is the front and
which is the back. From a tier’s perspective,
this is great because effective patterns can be
simple and made with only a couple of materials. The trouble at the vise comes from
trying to mimic the undulations and near
neutral buoyancy of a swimming leech.
A Better Leech Imitation
Most leeches aren’t particularly fast swimmers—they seem to almost hang in the
water. Flies tied with stout hooks, beads,
cones, heavy eyes, and excessive weight
sink unnaturally fast, especially in the placid
water you’ll most commonly use these patterns. Therefore, a fly designed to imitate
a swimming leech should be tied either
without or just enough weight to sink very
slowly. Using semi-buoyant materials, like
a Zonker strip, aids in creating a fly that
swims properly. If it becomes necessary
to get an unweighted leech down quickly,
you can use split shot or a sinking line. In
contrast, it is much more difficult to make
a heavily weighted pattern sink slowly or
suspend. Leech patterns weighted with
lead, dumbbell eyes, and bead heads have
a time and place, but not in an article dedicated to matching the real appearance and
swimming behavior of leeches.
The long length and flattened body of
a swimming leech factor into fly design.
Many leech recipes call for long-shank
hooks, which can be effective but often
render sticklike flies that don’t undulate.
Long articulated leeches swim wonderfully, but tying them takes too long for
my taste. After experimenting with many
different patterns and materials, I’ve whittled my leech offerings down to two very
simple patterns that use rabbit and pine
squirrel Zonker strips.
I’d like to say that my small Suspending
Leech was the result of many hours at the
vise and testing on the water. The truth is
that I had a bunch of hooks that I originally bought to tie Clouser Minnows, several
pine squirrel skins, and a long cold winter
with nothing better to do than tie flies.
The result was nothing short of a dynamite
leech pattern that is quick to tie and swims
and suspends like the real thing.
The hook is what really makes the
Suspending Leech effective and sets it
apart from other patterns. I use a Gamakatsu SC15 saltwater hook because
it is very lightweight and makes this unweighted fly almost hover in the water;
in fact, the biggest problem with this
pattern is getting it to sink at all. The
short-hook shank is beneficial because
it doesn’t require many wraps of squirrel to cover it, creating a more realistically
streamlined profile. The wide hook gap is
also advantageous because it accommodates the wound squirrel and provides a
strong, solid connection to the fish.
Begin the fly by tying the squirrel strip
on upside down, leaving the front of the
strip in the proper orientation to wrap
around the hook shank. The inverted position of the strip seems inconsequential,
and besides, there is really no top or bottom to the pattern anyway. A folded strand
of Flashabou adds ample of flash to the
pattern, especially considering it is usually
fished in fairly clear water conditions.
ally saw in lakes, ponds, and slow tailwaters. I figured I could get away with tying
a bigger version of the Suspending Leech
using a rabbit strip, but the thicker wider
strip didn’t create the same profile when
wound on the hook, and the fly looked
more like a tadpole than like a leech. A
Double Bunny style of fly tied using a
magnum rabbit strip for the back and a
shorter standard strip as the belly showed
immediate promise, but keeping the strips
positioned was difficult. A piece of lead
wire, the same diameter as the hook and
lashed to each side of the shank, solved
the problem. This not only kept the rabbit
strips from spinning but also created the
flattened profile of what I have dubbed
the Magnum Leech.
The small amount of extra weight
doesn’t seem to overly affect the action of
the fly and is almost necessary to get the
two buoyant bunny strips to sink at all. I
chose to go with a very small amount of
bling—just a strip of purple Flashabou on
each side of the fly.
To speed up tying Magnum Leeches, I
step-tie them by first attaching the pieces
of lead wire to several hooks. I then cut the
Zonker strips to length, and poke a hook
through each magnum strip before tying
them. Be picky when selecting rabbit and
squirrel strips for both patterns. Zonkers
for the Magnum and Suspending Leeches
should have hair that lies fairly flat; hair
that is bent or sticks up will not produce
the flattened profile of a swimming leech.
These two patterns cover nearly every
situation that requires a leech imitation.
The Suspending Leech is great for sightfishing and blind-casting in shallow water
or to street-smart fish. A black or brown
Magnum Leech works when I need to go
deeper, encounter turbid conditions, or
see large swimming leeches. In fact, these
two leeches have almost entirely replaced
all the other bloodsucker patterns in my
fly boxes. For your next adventure into
leech country, give the old Woolly Buggers
a break and tie up a handful of Suspending and Magnum Leeches. I guarantee you
won’t be disappointed.
A Big Bloodsucker
Andrew is a trained fisheries biologist, and his
education gives him a unique perspective into
how trout live, what they eat—and how to
catch them. Andrew lives in Montana.
In addition to the small Suspending
Leech, I wanted to have a beefier pattern
to imitate the big bloodsuckers I occasionW i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 71
Column & Photography by Zach Matthews
THE FIRST TIME I EVER WENT FISHing for redfish, I was lucky enough to be
in the canoe with a local master. Glen
“Catch” Courmier had volunteered to be
my boatman, Cajun cultural liaison, and
guide. I tied on a pattern that was recommended years ago as a general-purpose
saltwater catchall (I think it was some
kind of shrimp imitation), and proceeded
to strike out on the first half-dozen reds
we slipped up on.
After a while, Catch decided to sacrifice polite deference on the fly selection in
favor of actually catching fish. He snagged
my line, snipped off the whatchamacallit,
and tied on a spoon of his own creation.
Living as I do in a major city, I know how
to spot a crack addict when I see one:
throwing a fly-size spoon, all those redfish
suddenly became junkies, and we started
wearing them out.
Afterwards, I was a bit bummed to discover that spoon flies are among the most
expensive patterns you can buy in a fly
shop (usually six to eight dollars apiece,
but sometimes even more). There’s really
no excuse for this; it’s just how things
are. One of the advantages of operating a
Web site, as I do, is that if you whine loud
enough about a problem, every now and
then someone will come through with a
solution. That’s exactly what happened
this time, and how I got turned on to Silly
Putty Spoons.
Getting Silly with
Spoon Flies
Silly Putty allows you to make just about anything
out of epoxy—including expensive spoon flies!
A Silly Solution
Silly Putty, available at discount retailers everywhere for less than two dollars a package, doesn’t like to stick to epoxy. Some
wise soul put two and two together and
realized that this makes Silly Putty the
perfect molding material for epoxy. In
fact, with a little Silly Putty and epoxy, you
can make darn near anything—including
spoon flies.
The process is more akin to lure
making than to tying flies, but as a good
friend says, when it comes to the ques-
Are spoons real flies? Like the author says,
when it comes to that question, we’re agnostic. What we do know is that spoons are a lot
of fun to make, and they catch lots of fish.
72 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
tion of whether a spoon is a “fly” or
not, I’m agnostic. Silly Putty Spoons are
light enough to throw with any fly rod
(even a 5-weight), and they sink nicely.
The concave undersurface is the key to
a spoon fly’s action. Coupled with a
convex or bubble-shaped top surface, the
“fly” wiggles and wobbles (or if you’re
using a barrel swivel, even spins) like a
wounded and very agitated baitfish. For
this reason, redfish (and big trout!) absolutely love spoons.
To tie the Silly Putty Spoon, start with
a normal saltwater hook, size 2 through
2/0, made using heavy-gauge wire. I like
a reasonably long shank, no shorter than
an inch from the eye to the bend. Using
pliers and your vise, bend the shank into
a nice even curve, just about like a nymph
or scud hook used in trout fishing. Cover
the shank with a layer of thread, and set
the hook aside.
I also take a moment to prepare the
Silly Putty. Roll the Silly Putty tightly into
a ball to pop any air bubbles; then place
it on your tying desk. Lightly press a concave shape into the surface using a dinner
spoon. This is not the final mold for the
fly, but merely a staging area. Pressing an
infant’s spoon or even a manufactured
fishing spoon into the surface of the putty
completes the mold.
I suspect you can see where we’re
headed. First, mix a small batch of epoxy.
Place a dab of epoxy in the mold. The
trick here is to paint the epoxy up the sides
of the mold; this way, surface tension will
give you a nice concave shape that will
help your fly wiggle. (This is also why
it’s okay to make a slightly deeper mold.)
Don’t overkill it with the epoxy; you’re
going to add more later, anyway, and
you don’t want this to be too thick. Place
just enough epoxy in the mold to make
the spoon shape and be thick enough
to cover the hook shank. And it doesn’t
matter if it’s not perfectly even; you can
eventually touch it up with a file. Once
the epoxy is formed into the shape of a
spoon, place your hook in the epoxy
(point up, obviously).
After the fly dries, gently peel the
spoon away from the Silly Putty. Don’t
worry if the epoxy stretches; just prod it
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W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 73
74 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Making the
Silly Spoon Fly
Hook: Long-shank saltwater hook.
Thread: 3/0 (210 denier).
Body: Epoxy.
More stuff: Fingernail polish,
glitter, paint, and Krystal Flash.
The Silly Spoon Fly is a form of
fly rather than a specific pattern.
Let your imagination run wild,
and adapt materials to create
your own custom spoon flies.
Bend the hook shank to shape. Wrap a layer of thread on the shank. Tie on and wrap
some Krystal Flash up the shank. Tie off and
clip the excess Krystal Flash. Tie off and clip
the thread. Remove your hook from the vise.
Roll the putty into a ball; then press it
into the table using a serving spoon.
Next, use an old spoon fly or an infant’s
spoon to make the final form in the mold.
Here’s our completed mold. It’s okay if
the impression is a little deeper than
the ultimate thickness of the fly. By brushing epoxy up the sides, you’ll help it make
a concave face.
Mix a small batch of five- or the new
seven-minute epoxy. (You can also
use Clear Cure Goo or a similar UV-curing
product.) Dab a small amount of glue into
the mold. Paint the epoxy up the sides; then
place your hook in the mold, point on top.
back into shape and let it cure. It’s difficult to make epoxy dry in a curve because
it is self-leveling. Before it has completely
set up, place the bend of the hook in the
meat of one hand (point away from the
flesh), and use your other hand to slightly
flex the shank from the eye, bending both
the fly and the hook just a little more.
Make sure the hook is straight. The epoxy
will flow back into the mold from the sides,
so don’t use too much.
When the spoon is dry, remove it from
the mold by stretching the Silly Putty.
Don’t worry if the epoxy flexes some, too.
Bend the spoon “blank” just a little
more to give it a concave underside.
File or trim any rough edges with scissors or an emery board. Set the spoon
aside until the epoxy fully cures.
Paint your spoon using nail polish,
glitter, markers, or paints. I like to mix
clear Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails with glitter for a light sparkle.
When you’re done with the glitter and
paint, allow everything to cure. Now is
the time for a final touch-up with the file. It
This, again, will give it concavity.
From here out, it’s all creativity. I like
to paint my flies with clear nail polish
mixed with glitter. You could also use
opaque nail polish, markers, or even dyes
mixed into the epoxy. Once the paint job
has dried, file any rough edges using an
emery board, and then apply a light coat
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 75
may look a bit rough, but just wait until the
two-ton epoxy smooths everything out!
For a clear, smooth finish, apply a
coat of two-ton (30-minute) epoxy
or more UV-curable plastic. I then place the
spoon on a rotator to dry. (Let the coating
level before curing if you’re using a UV-cured
product.) Remove the fly from the dryer and
let it completely cure for at least a few hours
before putting it in your fly box.
Here’s our finished spoon from the
top . . .
. . . from the side . . .
. . . and from the bottom. This “fly”
will have an amazing swimming
action in the water that will drive fish wild!
of two-ton (30-minute) epoxy over the
whole surface of the spoon.
Zach Matthews contributes to many flyfishing magazines, including Fly Tyer’s sister
publication, American Angler. He is also the
editor of The Itinerant Angler Web site. Check
it out at
Lee’s Baby Bird
HOOK: Standard saltwater hook,
size 1/0 or 2/0.
THREAD: Size 3/0 (210 denier) or
gel spun.
TAIL: Orange over white bucktail,
topped by root beer Angel Hair
and two furnace saddle hackles
on each side.
BODY: White, orange, and brown deer
body hair.
EYES: 3-D Prism Eyes.
Lee’s Baby Bluegill
HOOK: Bass bug or stinger hook,
size 2 or 1.
THREAD: Size 3/0 (210 denier) or
gel spun.
TAIL: Olive marabou, black Krystal
Flash, and two olive hen hackles
on the sides.
BODY: Gold, gray/blue, and olive deer
body hair.
EYES: 3-D Prism Eyes.
Lee’s Baby Rock Bass
HOOK: Bass bug or stinger hook,
size 2 or 1.
THREAD: Size 3/0 (210 denier) or
gel spun.
TAIL: Brown marabou, copper Krystal
Flash, with two Brahma hen hackles on the sides.
BODY: Cream, natural, and brown deer
body hair.
EYES: Red 3-D Prism Eyes.
DH Sandeel
HOOK: Standard saltwater hook,
size 1/0 or 2/0.
THREAD: Size 3/0 (210 denier) or
gel spun.
TAIL: White and olive (or tan) bucktail,
pearl Angel Hair, with two tan or
olive saddle hackles on each side.
BODY: White, tan (or light olive), brown
(or olive) deer body hair.
EYES: Lead dumbbell eyes painted
76 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
(Continued from page 80)
created it herself, suggesting that she might
not be able to duplicate it. So, when Orvis
invited Lee to do a guest tying demonstration, she immediately accepted.
On the scheduled day, she arrived at the
store with her vise and tying materials, and
got right down to business. About a dozen
people watched Lee intently as she wrapped
thread, spun and clipped deer hair, and
worked her magic. In about 40 minutes,
a duplicate little mouse pattern was all but
ready to hop off the vise and go looking for
some cheese, and any doubts about Lee’s
abilities were put to rest forever.
Lee’s love of fishing goes back a long
way. Her grandfather introduced her to
the sport when she was just four years
old, but it wasn’t until years later that
she tried her hand at fly-fishing. She had
heard about Long Island’s famous Connetquot River, which is fly-fishing only,
and armed with a fly rod that had been
given to her, she headed over there to see
what all the fuss was about.
“The Connetquot was definitely the
catalyst—that was what got me,” Lee says.
“I couldn’t fish it with a spinning rod, and
I wanted to fish there. It was a whole different world for me. I really loved to cast and
lay the fly down so nicely—the finesse of it.
The whole sport was very attractive to me.”
Making Durable Flies
For Lee, tying flies was a logical next step, and
so she began tying at almost the same time
she started fly-fishing. Part of the reason was
her frustration with commercially tied flies.
“Sometimes I would be disappointed
with store-bought flies because I would
catch two or three fish with one and then
it would fall apart. That annoyed me very
much. So, my whole way of thinking is
make it so you can catch twenty fish on a
fly, and that’s what I tell my customers. I
say that’s my goal. If you come back and
tell me you caught ten fish, okay, that’s
good. But if you come back and tell me
you caught twenty, I’m really happy.”
To reach this lofty goal, Lee incorporates
a number of techniques that make her flies
ultra durable. The proof is in the catching,
and as an example, she tells of how she
caught 23 cutthroat trout on Sportsman’s
Lake in Montana on a single Royal Wulff
that she tied. She still has the fly, and though
it’s pretty chewed up, she maintains, “You
could throw it out there tomorrow and
probably catch another fish with it.”
In the saltwater environment, toothy
predators are notoriously merciless on
flies, but Lee ties tough patterns.
“I have a sand eel that I tie; bluefish
can chew on it all day, and it holds up
really well,” she said.
Stripers, bluefish, weakfish, sea robins, and fluke have all chomped down on
Lee’s flies with the same satisfying results.
Encouraged by the success of her patterns, and spurred on by the need for better quality flies, Lee decided to start her
own business.
Birth of a Business
Deer Lee Beloved Custom Flies began in
much the same way that many small businesses start: through local networking. Lee
is a member of fishing organizations such
as Trout Unlimited, where she often gives
tying demonstrations and slide shows. Lee
has served as president, vice president,
and board member for the Long Island Fly
Rodders. She is also a program coordinator for Casting for Recovery, and received
special recognition from the State of New
York for her work with that organization.
In addition to enjoying all these activities,
she met many local fishermen who began
purchasing her flies.
Lee’s early success selling flies encouraged her to branch out, so she began giving tying demonstrations at consumer
fly-fishing shows and started conducting
tying clinics. Word spread, and with it,
demand—so that what had previously
been just a small local market began to
develop into something larger. I asked Lee
if she had any plans to increase her production and expand the business.
“I wouldn’t want it to get to the point
where I wasn’t enjoying it; that’s what I
worry about if I got into full-scale production. I’m not saying it’s not a possibility, but
at this point, I enjoy tying—it’s more like
an art and a hobby for me. I will definitely
start doing more shows in the future, and
get more into the business end of it.”
Attention to Detail
HOOK: 2X-long saltwater or wide-gap
streamer, size 4 or 2.
THREAD: Size 3/0 (210 denier) or
gel spun.
TAIL: Green, yellow, and white rubber
legs with chartreuse Krystal Flash.
BODY: White, yellow, and bright green
deer body hair.
EYES: 3-D Prism Eyes.
Lee’s Grass Shrimp
HOOK: 2X-long saltwater hook,
size 8 or 6.
THREAD: Olive 6/0 (140 denier).
MOUTH: Olive rug yarn.
EYES: Melted monofilament tinted
ANTENNAE: Tinted green monofilament.
Super Hair.
BODY: Mixed textured dubbings,
olive, gray, and tan.
CARAPACE: Olive EZ Body.
Kicker Frog
HOOK: Bass bug or stinger hook,
size 2 or 1.
THREAD: Size 3/0 (210 denier) or
gel spun.
LEGS: White and green Bug Skin.
BODY: Cream, olive, yellow, and black
deer body hair.
EYES: 3-D Prism or doll eyes.
Lee’s Mouse
HOOK: Bass Bug or stinger hook,
size 2 or 1.
THREAD: Size 3/0 (210 denier) or
gel spun.
TAIL AND EARS: Synthetic leather.
BODY: Cream and natural deer
body hair.
WHISKERS: Black Russian boar.
EYES: Melted monofilament.
Lee’s flies are among the most meticulously tied you’ll find anywhere. She employs exacting attention to detail, using
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 77
Shinnecock Silversides
HOOK: 3X-long saltwater hook,
size 2/0 or 3/0, bent into the Bend
Back style.
THREAD: Red Monocord and white
6/0 (140 denier).
TAIL AND BODY: Pearl Mylar tubing.
COLLAR: White bucktail.
HEAD: Red Monocord
Lee’s Sparkle Shrimp
HOOK: 2X-long saltwater hook,
size 4 or 2.
THREAD: Pale pink 6/0 (140 denier).
MOUTH: Tan craft fur.
EYES: Melted monofilament.
ANTENNAE: Brown boar hair.
Super Hair.
BODY: Mixed textured dubbing—tan,
pink, and coral.
CARAPACE: Mixed Scribbles fabric
HOOK: Standard saltwater hook,
size 2/0 or 3/0.
TAIL: White Fish Hair, pearl Angel Hair,
blue Krystal Flash, with two dyed
light blue badger saddle hackles on
each side.
BODY: White, light blue, gray, olive, and
red deer body hair.
EYES: 3-D Prism Eyes.
Tiger Slider
HOOK: Bass bug hook, size 4 or 2.
TAIL: White marabou, gold Flashabou
with 2 yellow saddle hackles on
each side.
SKIRT: Orange deer body hair with
BODY: Yellow, orange, and black deer
body hair.
EYES: 3-D Prism Eyes.
78 | w w w . f l y t y e r . c o m
Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation
only the finest hooks and materials; Lee
even dyes some of the deer hair she uses.
Each fly is a miniature work of art, and is
a deadly fish catcher.
Lee spends a lot of time carefully selecting materials and tweaks her designs
until they prove themselves on the water.
Her obsession with detail can be said to
border on the extreme, and she’s been
known to go to great lengths to ensure accuracy in her imitations. In one case, she
examined the stomach contents of a slew
of striped bass to find out what they had
been eating. To her surprise, they were
full of grass shrimp. As a result, she developed Lee’s Grass Shrimp, a pattern that
many anglers consider indispensable for
catching striped bass and other species of
saltwater game fish.
Through her Web site, Lee offers standard patterns such as the Light Cahill,
Adams, Stimulator, Hare’s-Ear Nymph,
Woolly Bugger, as well as a number of her
original freshwater flies. I asked her what
was new in that regard.
“I have an Isonychia that I tie with a
biot body. I use hen-hackle wings, and it’s
very realistic. I tie the wings at a little bit
of a different angle so that I can see them
better on the water. The fish seem to like
it a lot, so I’m happy with that one—that
one’s working well.”
Lee also recently fished an original new
emerger pattern which she and her husband, Jeff Farrell, tested in North Carolina.
“I just took that down there, and I believe Jeff caught nineteen fish on it, and I
had twenty-two—it was just crazy fishing.”
Lee also offers foam flies, streamers,
and bass bugs that she custom ties. Lee
has tied some of her more creative—and
whimsical—flies in the color patterns of
professional sports teams. She even tied
a custom order in the colors of the Irish
flag. This is the kind of originality that has
earned her a reputation as a top tier on
Long Island, and is gaining her recognition far beyond her local waters.
Lee has a special passion for tying
deer-hair bass bugs. This interest arose
from her forays fishing for smallmouth
bass on New York’s Hudson River. Despite the decline in this well-known but
recovering fishery, she continues to fish
there regularly, throwing big bushy flies
that she designs herself.
Custom Flies for
Special Situations
Lee is a custom tier, and fills orders for flies
according to such factors as the geographical location, time of year, and the terrain
or aquatic environment her clients will be
fishing. Once she has this information,
she’ll tie what she thinks is going to work
for that particular locale.
Orders come from all over the country
and even such exotic locations as Andros
in the Bahamas, where bonefish anglers
have been very successful with Lee’s patterns, most notably her Grass Shrimp.
One of her clients called to tell her that
he caught 23 fish of five different species
with this one pattern, while another from
New Zealand swears by her version of Polly
Rosborough’s famous Casual Dress, which
she ties in a variety of colors. Over in Barnegat, New Jersey, a client has been catching
striped bass on a new fly Lee recently developed called the Shinnecock Silversides. This
pattern has also proved successful on Long
Island, and will almost certainly be effective
anywhere small baitfish are prevalent.
Lee knows through personal experience
and the feedback from clients that her flies
catch fish, and believes that once a customer
tries them, they’ll be back for more.
“Once you tie flies for somebody and
they work real well,” she says, “they’re going
to come back to you. I don’t think it’s superstition or anything; they just believe that you
have a way of tying it or weighting it.”
In addition to the encouragement of
her customers, Lee credits several tiers for
helping her develop both her skills and
business. She regards Tom Baltz as her
mentor, credits Gil Padovani for building
her Web site, and is quick to mention Bob
Lindquist for showing her many tricks for
working with deer hair.
I asked her if it would be possible to
sum up in a few words what fly-fishing
means to her. Without hesitation, she
said, “Fly-fishing never lets you down.”
I don’t think anyone ever said it
Jay Jacobs is a regular contributor to our magazine. In his real life, Jay repairs and restores
fine stringed musical instruments. Jay lives in
New York State.
To see more of Lee Weil’s flies, go to her
Web site,
W i n t e r 2 0 1 0 | 79
(Required by 39 USC 3685) 1. Title to Publication: Fly Tyer.
2. Publication No. 015-056. 3. Date of filing: September 15,
2010. 4. Frequency of Issue: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter.
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of Publisher, Editor and Managing Editor: Publisher: William
S. Morris III, PO Box 936, Augusta, GA 30903-0936. Editor: David Klausmeyer, PO Box 810, Arlington, VT 05250.
Managing Editor: Russ Lumpkin, PO Box 1207, Augusta, GA
30903-1207. 10. Owners: MCC MAGAZINES, LLC, PO
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of QUESTO INC., PO Box 936, Augusta, GA 30903-0936,
stockholders of QUESTO INC., Augusta, GA, owning more
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GA: Mary E. Morris, Augusta, GA; W. S. Morris IV, Augusta,
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Amount of Bonds, Mortgages or Other Securities: None to
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Issue During Preceding 12 Months: 51,722; Actual No. Copies
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and Other Non-USPS Paid Distribution: Average No. Copies
Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months: 10,995; Actual No.
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Classes Mailed Through the USPS: Average No. Copies Each
issue during Preceding 12 Months: 0; Actual No. of Single Issues
Published Nearest to Filing Date: 0. 15C. Total Paid Circulation
(Sum of 15b. (1), (2), (3), and (4)): Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months: 32,963; Actual No. Of Single
Issues Published Nearest to Filing Date: 32,046. 15D. Free or
Nominal Rate Distribution (By Mail and Outside the Mail): 1.
Outside-County Copies included on Form 3541: Average No.
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of Single Issues Published Nearest to Filing Date: 0. 15E. Total
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and (4)): Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12
Months: 653; Actual No. Of Single Issues Published Nearest to
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Date: 51,077. 15I. Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation
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During Preceding 12 Months: 98.05%; Actual No. Copies of
Single Issues Published Nearest to Filing Date: 97.94%. I
certify that the statements made by me above are correct and
complete. Signed: Michelle L. Rowe, Business Manager.
Long Island’s Master Bug Maker:
The durability of her flies catches both fish and fishermen.
by Jay Jacobs
Lee Weil brings a high degree of precision
and enthusiasm to her fly tying.
ong Island native Lee Weil, a trainer and outrider of thoroughbred horses, had
been tying flies since the early 1980s, and she had gotten pretty good at it. Lee got
so good, in fact, that in 2005, when the local Orvis store announced that it was
going to run a “Best Fly” contest, she decided to enter. The competition was formidable,
and among the many entries were a number of flies made by some of Long Island’s most
skilled tiers. In April, the store announced the winner: Lee had won with her Lee’s Mighty
Mouse, a fanciful yet realistic deer-hair pattern capable of fooling even the wiliest trout.
Lee graciously accepted the gift-certificate grand prize and the congratulations
of most of her fellow tiers, but there was a little trouble in paradise: Upon seeing the
exquisitely tied little mouse pattern, one person questioned whether Lee had actually
(Continued on page 76)
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