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April 10, 2011 / flogginwater

Flies, flies, and MORE flies

The last few nights (okay, the last few months of nights) I’ve been suffering from a nasty case of insomnia. I hate taking pills – anything stronger than ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) and I don’t really like them. I do NOT have pleasant history with sleep aids, so I really, really don’t care to take them again. So I wind up staying up all night, most nights, getting to bed anywhere between 3 and 5 AM. It hasn’t been terribly healthy, I’m sure. Might be able to blame it on worries about impending fatherhood – but I don’t think that’s 100% it. I don’t know what is, honestly.

So to pass the time, I sit on the computer and surf, or blog, or write stories, or look through my photo collection – or I’ll turn the computer off and bust out the vise and tools, and tie up a bunch of flies.

I’m no production tier by any means, and my flies don’t normally look fly-shop quality – but they catch fish, and it makes me happy to catch fish with flies that I have crafted with my own hands – ugly or not. Actually, I think ugly flies tend to catch fish more than fisherman, as ugly flies usually look more like wounded insects anyway. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, in any case.

I enjoy tying flies – tinkering with old patterns, coming up with new patterns, trying new things, trying to master “old” things – much like my fishing style.

I’ve morphed, as a fisherman. I no longer need store tied flies, I don’t even need established fancy fly patterns – usually. The best producing flies in my boxes are old, easy to tie, easy to fish patterns in sizes *I* can actually see and handle. The #1 fly for me, hands down, for any species, is the Woolly Bugger. Black, olive, green, blue, purple, white, orange – doesn’t matter – the woolly bugger and it’s variants are THE #1 producing fly for me, numbers wise. Probably big-fish wise also. When I tie them, I alter them just a bit. I forgo wire ribbing – it doesn’t honestly add anything to the fly, except another step in the tying stage. I will occasionally add some Crystal Flash to the tail, or tie it in on either side of the body. Or not. Anymore, I usually don’t even bother with a chenille body – I’ve discovered that dubbed bodies using loose marabou barbules work just as well, or just wind on a marabou feather and cinch some of the strands down with the hackle feather. Has similar bulk as a chenille body – but it’s one less material that I need to buy for the flies.

I also normally tie my buggers with dry-fly hackles or wound saddles, instead of hen hackles. I read somewhere – I think in an old Outdoor Life or Field & Stream article, that the stiffer feathers make a bit more noise in the water, that can draw a fishes’ attention. If it does or doesn’t, I don’t know – but I do it anyway.

Sometimes I’ll make bead-bodied buggers, just for fun. Glass beads are great for this – and they sink the fly, so I don’t need to wind on lead wire beneath the body, or use a flashy brass or silver bead on the head (unless I want to).

The #1 dry fly pattern that I fish most often is an almost forgotten pattern, at least if you read magazines and look at fly catalogs – it’s the Bivisible. I haven’t seen this fly mentioned in print in ages, actually the last time I recall, for sure, reading about it, was in an old AOL Outdoors article in the mid 1990’s. That’s the article that sold me on the pattern – I started tying them in numbers, and fishing them – and discovered that yes – such a simple pattern DOES work well.

For those not familiar, the Bivisible is a palmer-hackled dry fly, normally made with two colors of feather (usually a colored or black body, with a white ‘head’ of hackle, to make it easier to see.) That’s it. It’s just tightly wound hackle around a hook. No wings, no legs, no arse-holes, no articulated mandibles, just stiff hackle wound tightly around the shank for the whole length of the fly. These things float high in the water, making them good for fishing in rough water or flat water. They can imitate general bug life, or you can fish them in a hatch of midges as a clump of micro-flies. Whatever – they work, and work well. If I could only pick ONE dry fly pattern to fish for the rest of my life, it’d be the Bivisble. Three colors and three sizes are all I’d need – give me Grizzly, Olive, and Black, sizes 8, 12, and 16 and I could fish just about any hatch, on any river, and catch fish with one of those colors in one of those sizes.

That’s not to say I don’t like, or fish, other patterns. I enjoy tying a lot of different styles and sizes. Parachute style dries are a weak point for me except in sizes 12 and up – but I still like trying. I also like trying to tie funky nymphs that actually sort of resemble real bugs – instead of sticking to my standard soft hackle ‘buggy’ nypmhs, woolly buggers/worms, and simple scud or thread worm type flies.

Not long ago I started tying and fishing with rabbit-stip flies and jigs – these have rocketed up toward the Woolly Bugger in status for me – rabbit fur just really does some magic things under water – and looks like live, undulating protein packed food to a fish. Deadly.

The last few nights, I was tying up some “standard” dry flies, along with some odd ball stuff, and I tied up some prototype mini streamers and “creatures” using some swimming nymph hooks (number 6) and some small-size metalic-painted lead eyes. I’ve also tied up some big 1/4 oz bucktail jigs and rabbit strip jigs. More flies to add to the already full boxes… but it does pass the time, and it relaxes me, and it gives me something to do when I can’t fish.

I dream of finally getting on the water, on a nice warm (but not too warm), clear (but not too clear day, with good clear water, so I can sight fish with my new creations, and watch the fish attack my fly! My day dreams are always of big cutthroat trout, or largemouth bass. Occasionally, when tying up something like a foam beetle, I think about trophy sized bluegill and pumpkinseed.

Please enjoy some photos I took tonight of some of my more recent creations. They might not be the prettiest, but each one of them has fish mojo – I feel it.

Till next time, tight lines!



  1. Cofisher / Apr 10 2011 09:44

    I really enjoyed reading this. I agree that my sometimes poorly tied flies often catch more than store bought. I think I'll go tie some flies now.

  2. John Montana / Apr 10 2011 10:25

    Dude, I could do major damage with that 5th and 6th one down. Nice work.

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