The Midnight Stalker

although the fly’s name might conjure up spooky visions of things that go more-than bump in the night, today’s new tying tutorial from Hans Weilenmann isn’t all that scary but instead a really nice wet fly more than worthy of consideration.

what makes it really nice ? well, its got a cool name to start with and then its black, and then it’s simple to tie, and it’s on a barbless grub hook, and that it has just the right proportions, and that it’ll look extremely buggy when wet, and then all of that tells me that this is not only a good one but a really good one and a really good one all year long for several species. if for some reason black doesn’t do it for you go ahead and change the colour scheme. you’ll probably catch less fish but then fishing isn’t all about catching fish, from what i hear… 

and if you’re feeling nostalgic of past Halloween Raves you could always listen to these appropriatly-titled sounds while wrapping the black wire body. enjoy !

Making it float

in yet another reminder of just how much ‘we’ve got it good’, here’s a more than interesting article on the long-ago development of floating fly lines and flies via The Fishing Museum Online.
i’ve selected a few amusing tidbits for you here but be sure to click on the tub of deer fat for the full article. enjoy !


“When anglers used relatively short lines – the vast majority of flies were fished less than twenty feet from the rod tip until the end of the 18th century – there wasn’t much need to make flies float, because they could literally be dangled on, or just under the surface. However, when longer braided lines came along and, in particular, when anglers made the move to silk lines, their tackle began to sink, dragging the fly under with it and so all kinds of ingenuity had to be applied to making it stay on the surface.”

“In the end, the tackle manufacturers stepped in and firms like Hardy’s and dealers like Chalkley started selling red deer fat, which was rubbed onto silk lines using a cloth.

Deer fat tinNeedless to say, some anglers objected to the idea of having to carry a stinking cloth dripping with rancid fat around in their pockets…”

“Another popular method of treating a fly so that it would float was to dissolve Vaseline in petrol; the artificial was dipped in the solution, and the petrol left to evaporate, leaving the fly coated in the gel. Once this method was perfected, the stage was set for a mini-golden age of dry fly gizmos, designed to paint, spray, or drizzle paraffin onto flies, without the risk of unplanned escapes (paraffin soaked clothes being a serious fire risk in an age when smoking was far more common than it is now). The ingenuity behind the design of some of these devices has to be seen to be believed, although there are one or two which were simply too clever for their own good – and although they were manufactured in quantity, few remain, perhaps because the majority of their owners flung them into the river in disgust. As an example we give you the ferociously complicated Illingworth oiler, most of which survive without their internal mechanisms, which, with few exceptions sprang to freedom long ago.”

a winged, quilled, cormorant buzzer

by Davie McPhail

here’s a very good example of what first appears to be non-sensical hybridization and further proof that trying to understand why a fish will take an artificial fly over another is as futile an attempt as well, maybe trying to understand the meaning of life or maybe why i went out with any of my exes…
what we have on today’s tying tutorial menu is your basic, if not more realistic and finer made than most, buzzer, or chironomid/midge pupae imitation with a black, undulating ‘wing’ mounted on it’s back.  bugs in their pupal stage don’t have wings and for the sake of argument, even if they did they most certainly wouldn’t be black and wouldn’t do the sexy wigglings that a marabou wing does.

now for the weird part. i’m getting more and more convinced that it’s this tail and not so much the body of the fly that’s really getting the fish to take.
after doing a lot of experimenting over the last year or so with this basic idea with flies like these that where inspired by the upright-wing Clyde style of wets or other UK reservoir flies.  far from wanting to compare my flies to Davie’s, this winged aspect and purpose however fits in with the Cormorant/Buzzer variant in the video at the bottom of the post.

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anyhow, what remains is, a whole heck of a lot of fish have been brought to the net with these weirdly winged flies. next step will have me trying out flies with just a wing. the idea is the wing acts as an extended body with a nice generalist shape with lots of attractive movement making the traditional body obsolete. of course, the main objective is finding flies that greatly attract fish but it’s also an exercise in minimalist tying. i guess the ultimate goal is to use just one material but that material’s selection and application needs to be just right. it’s a quest !
i’ve several prototypes that haven’t fished yet but judging by the all-important bidet-test, they have that certain-special ‘smell of success’ about them. pics to follow.

i almost forgot ! Davie’s video is as always an understated goldmine of tying tips and overall tying excellence. be sure to take note of the finer points by using the pause and replay buttons. enjoy !

Fly Tying Tips and Tricks: Hackling

another great tying tip from In The Riffle. this one on how to keep hackle wraps nice and tight and perpendicular to the hook on either bulky, irregular or tapered fly bodies.  good and dead simple stuff indeed, one to put in the “D’Oh ! why didn’t i think about it ?! category.

fly design, doctors, accurate inaccuracies and ‘oh, what the heck… !’


“Many doctors fish for trout, but there have been endless arguments over the best choice of fly. To extend evidence based practice from their professional into their leisure hours (where it might conceivably be more useful) Britton et al ( p 1678) carried out a randomised trial of five different dry flies (artificial floating flies) on the River Kennet in Berkshire. Before the trial the investigators had most confidence in the Grey Wulff and least in the Cinnamon Sedge. In the trial the Cinnamon Sedge caught the most trout and also seemed to be significantly favoured by brown as opposed to rainbow trout. These findings are of biological as well as practical importance, but the trial was small and the authors press the urgent need for much more research.
None of the investigators has any intention of taking the slightest notice of the results of this study.”
quote via

what a conundrum !
on one hand, we have flies like the one above based on LaFontaine’s Emergent Sparkle Pupa. it’s a classic in all its variants, it repeatedly catches fish all over the world:
it’s a go-to fly but it’s also based around elements that are more of a pipe dream than reality.
caddis pupa aren’t surrounded by some mysterious ‘force-fieldish’ type haze or veil as they’re working their way towards the surface and then there’s this ‘issue’ of a self-produced air bubble to assist them in reaching the surface that seemingly no entomologist has been able to observe in any considerable percentage (most haven’t observed them at all… ) meaning that this sometimes bubbly occurrence can’t be considered a biological fact, further meaning that from a practical/logical standpoint, this freakish element of a fly’s design is hardly worth considering.picture_2868_medium1
but then once again, this fly works very well and that’s the interesting part because it seems to me that it entices but not for the reasons we might think, further proving that the common saying “try to think like a fish” is bunk because a) fish don’t think, and b) we don’t even know how we think so it seems kinda dumb to be randomly transposing guesses and wishes onto creatures that can’t tell the difference between a ragged mess of fluff bound to a hook and the real thing.

and then on the other hand, we have the doctor’s example where even though a certain pattern entices fish more, it’s  scoffed for some mysterious reason and i’ll venture that reason is that they didn’t believe in/have faith or simply denied the cinnamon sedge’s mojo (even though the smarter docs caught most of the fish with it)(oops ! that implies the others weren’t very smart. oh well… )
ok, the doctor’s example is hardly scientific and can’t be considered as anything really serious but i chose to cite it here because it’s an example of a group that has a higher-than-most education level based on science and science is usually based on facts yet here their judgments seemed to have been based on tradition, which in turn, makes this all the more interesting because  this very same approach goes way beyond education or social status and can be found in all levels of people all over the planet, so if anything, we can leave logical reasoning out of the equation.

how does this happen ? why is that ???????
well, apart from just a few of many more possible ramblings mentioned above, i don’t have a clue and since this subject might be a good one for the Physiological studies à la Freud department, don’t expect any answers from me but if you want to see what is yet another great tying tutorial from Curtis Fry at Fly Fish Food on tying this awfully successful yet ‘make believe imitation’, ignore all this and click below. enjoy !

a better Bugger

another  great piece by Monsieur Cheech at Fly Fish Food

Wooly Bugger

there’s probably fourteen million tutorial videos out there on how to tie the Wooly Bugger and thirteen million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and eight of them basically suck: either there’s a disregard for proportions or they’re overly dressed, sloppily tied or simply butt-ugly, what usually remains is a fly that in my opinionated opinion isn’t worthy of being presented to the wonderful creatures their meant to attract.
anyhow, that leaves two… we’ve already seen Tim Flagler‘s excellent version a while back and here’s the other.

as pointed out in the video, the idea here was to improve on a pattern that most would think needs no improvement. to each their own of course but that way of thinking doesn’t lead to progress. on the other hand, experience, knowing how materials interact and most importantly, how their combinations will act once in the water (not at the vice or on a pic but in front of a fish, where it really matters) does make a better fly.
add durability to that and i’d say Cheech has done an excellent job.
click the image above to access the article and material list for this awesome fly. enjoy !

Fly Tying Videos: the HatchMaster, a simple, elegant, adult Mayfly pattern

by Davie McPhail

hatchmaster mcphail

if you’re one of the many anglers who enjoy casting your flies into trees, rejoice ! this one’ll not only catch a lot of fish because it has all the right elements but will only cost you a little thread, a hook, two feathers and maybe two minutes of your time.
the ‘one feather extended body’ style was shown to me a few years back by Master-Tier Ulf Hagström with the difference that he slimmed down the body with varnish before tying it in. while the thinner body/abdomen looks a bit more realistic (let’s just say, at least from the tier’s point of view) than Davie’s version, it has a problem floating (varnish can’t soak up floatant) whereas when initially left unvarnished, the profile becomes thinner when floatant is applied, giving a very similar visual effect while the abdomen stays afloat imbedded in the surface film where in my opinion, it’ll  leave a bigger surface imprint more visible to the fish below.
mix colors and sizes to match your local bugs. you can also replace the hackle by cdc for calmer waters.
whatever you do with it it’s damn good stuff, enjoy !

“The great point, then, in fly-dressing, is to make the artificial fly resemble the natural insect in shape, and the great characteristic of all river insects is extreme lightness and neatness of form. Our great objection to the flies in common use is, that they are much too bushy; so much so, that there are few to be got in the tackle-shops which we could use with any degree of confidence in clear water. Every possible advantage is in favour of a lightly-dressed fly; it is more like a natural insect ; it falls lighter on the water, and every angler knows the importance of making his fly fall gently, and there being less material about it, the artificial nature of that material is not so easily detected; and also, as the hook is not so much covered with feathers, there is a much better chance of hooking a trout when it rises. We wish to impress very strongly upon the reader the necessity of avoiding bulky flies”

an excerpt from W.C. Stewart’s infamous The Practical Angler  1857

brave and authoritative statement to say the least, any thoughts ?

thanks to Dennis Shaw for reminding me of this quote.

Understanding fly tying thread diameters – denier, aughts, resistance and lady’s tights

a lot of good info here and i’m all for this thready revolution. saying ‘aught’ when having to depict thread diameters makes me feel stupid and somewhat dirty. maybe it’s the shotgun-shell connotation or maybe because it sounds like it might be swedish, i don’t know but whatever it is, i don’t like it.
what i do like however is this informative article, here’s a preview.


By  Christopher Helm

“In the late 1930’s, the Chenille Company created the “aught”( 3/0,6/0, 8/0, etc.)

system to indicate the size of thread. This was based on a system where the

number or “aught” was the base point and as the thread became smaller additional

zeros were added indicating that the thread was finer. As an example, a thread

with six zeros ( 000000) translated to a 6/0 thread. As other thread distributors

were born after the early 1960’s, they followed the same system which was

assigning a standard that does not provide as accurate a measurement for the fly

tier as denier.

In 1988, Tom Schmucker of WAPSI Fly, Inc. in Mountain Home, Arkansas

introduced a nylon thread simply called 70 UTC and 140 UTC based on denier,

which is the method of measuring thread. This is the system that the garment

industry uses for thread to sew clothing. Denier is defined as the weight in grams

of 9000 meters of nylon, polyester, rayon thread, etc. There is a correlation

between denier and breaking strength of nylon and polyester thread, the smaller

the denier number the lower pound/ounce breaking strength of the thread.”

click the link above for the complete file. enjoy !

related articles

think BIG !

more for the novelty aspect rather than the finished result or the method, here’s a parachute dry fly intended for carp on a size 2 circle hook. yes, a size 2 circle hook. carp parachutecontrary to what a lot might think, our big slimy friends do come up to the surface to feed on insects and it’s a very fun way to catch them.

so if you’re going after these big slimy fish it might be a good idea to have a few of these flies in your (very big) fly box. as noted in the video and a practical issue that immediately jumps to mind is floatation issues with such a heavy hook, specially if there’s any kind of wind or current. at first we might think that this hook size is overkill but the two carp above photographed last summer had me cautiously underestimating the bigger (top) fish at over 20kg. i still haven’t managed to catch it…
back to the fly: at this level of unsightliness… i can’t imagine it would hurt to add one more hackle around the post and  hackles with the stiffest fibers should help a lot to hold up the half bottle of floatant needed to keep this on the surface. soaking it in Permafloat or similar other permanent waterproofing liquids after tying it should do the trick !

here’s the beast, enjoy !

related articles

What is a Flymph ?

Skues Medium-Olive-Nymph-if nothing else it sounds pretty cool but let’s dig a bit more.

“Vernon S. “Pete” Hidy coined the term flymph. What is a flymph? A flymph is a hatching insect be it mayfly, caddisfly, midge, or stonefly that according to Pete Hidy is in the stage of metamorphosis “changing from wingless nymphs to flies with wings”. These flies are historically fished with a across and downstream technique that allows the current to naturally swing and raise the fly up to the surface in front of a rising or holding fish in a manner that activates the soft hackle collar and body materials effectively imitating life in the ascending artificial fly. The attraction of these flies is that not only do they look natural but they behave natural as well. They have movement; they have the appearance of life.”

now, the last part to me is probably the key element when considering constructing these flies: “the appearance of life’ (even though the real bugs could be stillborns or spents, their leg/body/wing parts would still move throughout the drift downstream)

“Traditionally flymphs are tied with natural body materials that will undulate in the currents. These body materials include hare’s mask, peacock, muskrat, mole, squirrel, and other natural fur with guard hairs. Shaggy body materials like rabbit, hare, and squirrel hold water well, sink quickly and also capture small air bubbles when they penetrate the surface film. These air bubbles create shimmer and sheen and look particularly similar to caddis pupa which uses internal gases to propel them to the surface or egg-laying caddis that dive underwater to lay eggs and carry with them oxygen bubbles for respiration. The hackle collars of flymphs are chosen with color and movement in mind to match the emerging wings, antennae, and legs of the ascending nymph. Soft, webby feathers such as hen, partridge, grouse, starling, woodcock, or quail are choice. These feathers absorb water and each has it own unique action underwater.”

such invaluable insights, want tons more ? click either pick for the full, well-worth-the-read article or The Royal Order of Water Buffalos  ooops ! i meant the TIBOTF logo here.

and since it’s the first fly you’ll see when you get there: the all-time classic inevitable must-have super-sleek Partridge & Orange spider,
partridge & orange HWhere’s a hot-off-the-press video tutorial on how to tie it by Hans Weilenmann. enjoy !

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‘Somebody left this behind…

another lovely drawing from Takashi Kuwahara that brings a thought:

when returning a captured fish we give it the chance to grow, reproduce and then we all get to capture it and it’s offspring again and continue the cycle.
when we loose a fly to a tree we’re giving another angler the opportunity to try it out and hopefully find success with our dearly departed, continuing the fly’s life cycle…

'somebody left this behind

The World About Us


the educated trout -book cover

what a charming, lovely find. much more than just a fly fishing movie, this very rich one hour film divided in four chapters gives us a view of a not-so-far past on southern england chalk streams, their ecosystems, their habitants, flies, gorgeous under and above water film and photos studies of insects and fish and all sorts of other goodies.
i’ll pass on the ‘educated trout’ aspect but greatly applaud their somewhat early adoption of catch and release. give yourself an hour to kick back, forget the  week-end stress and allow yourself to be emerged in these beautiful streams. enjoy !
thanks Alun !

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Oliver Kite and a year of fishing

here’s a blast from the past from a long-gone mini series first aired on British tv in the ’60’s.
quite a colorful character this Kite and a pleasure to listen to, these stories go through a year’s full of seasons and we’ll discover a time in the UK through images that has disappeared. it’s a bit hard to see all the dead fish but being 50 or so years old it’s fair to say that the concept of catch and release wasn’t very widespread if at all known of.
writer,  naturalist, broadcaster and fisherman, he also had a few original ideas on fly design and here’s two of them.
Hook Nymphs: ‘Pheasant Tail Nymph sans pheasant tail’ and a ‘I don’t know what’ 
PTN_sans_pheasant-tailHook: Wet fly, sizes 14-16
Thread: Red copper wire
Body: A ball of copper wire behind the hook eye to simulate a thorax.

“Invented by Oliver Kite in the early 1960s, this is surprisingly effective. In one TV programme, Kite was seen to catch grayling with this fly while wearing a paper bag over his head! The problem is that the vast majority of fly-fishers either have no faith in such a simple tying, or they want more complex flies in their boxes.”

i hope you find the time to watch the whole series below, it’s an enriching experience. enjoy !