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And The Winner Is …


The judging of the 2023 Sowbug Roundup fly tying contest has been completed and I had the fortune of winning THREE fly tying awards: Best In Show, Best Warm Water Fly, and Best Wet Fly. All of the winning flies were mounting in a really nice frame and the end result looks like this.

2023 Sowbug Award Winners

Best In Show

At the top of the frame is my salmon/steelhead fly entry, the Dusty Miller. It is a very old and fairly ornate salmon fly of European origin. This fly was given the “Tom Schmuecker Best In Show” award, being voted the top fly in the entire contest. This year is the first year that the award became named for Tom Schmuecker, the president of Wapsi – a fly tying material company located in Mountain Home, AR. Unfortunately, Tom passed away a few weeks before the contest but his son Joe was able to attend the banquet and present the award. Very sad.

2023 Sowbug Best In Show

Best Warm Water Fly

At the bottom center of the frame is my warm water fly entry, the Dahlberg Diver. This fly won the Best Warm Water Fly award. It’s a fairly large fly, being just over 6 inches long, so I think that’s what got the attention of the judges. The head of the fly was made with tied/packed/trimmed deer hair of three different colors and the tail contains some really nice looking grizzly dyed saddle hackles.

2023 Sowbug Warm Water Fly

Best Wet Fly

In the top row of the frame just to the right of center is my wet fly entry, the McGinty. This fly won the Best Wet Fly award. It was invented many years ago by someone named McGinty. The body of the fly is wrapped with alternating strands of yellow and black chenille, making it resemble a bumble bee. The wings consist of feathers taken from the iridescent blue/white patches on a pair of mallard wings. They are quite delicate and it is not easy to get them tied onto the fly and still look decent. These wings look okay (not great) but they were still good enough to win an award.

2023 Sowbug Wet Fly

Presentation of Awards

The fly tying awards were presented at a banquet called The Sowbug Shindig. Here I am pictured with John Berry, a fishing guide in the Mountain Home area, who was one of the judges for the contest.

Presentation of Awards at Sowbug Shindig
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2023 Sowbug Roundup – Fly Tying Demonstrator

Sowbug Roundup is a three day fly tying and fly fishing show that is held in Mountain Home, Arkansas. The next event will be held Mar 23rd, 24th, and 25th, 2023.

As I have mentioned earlier, I will be a fly tying demonstrator at this year’s Roundup. The difference between this year and earlier years though, is that I have a plan! I prepared some presentation boards that show the topics and the flies I will be demonstrating. It really helps me when I plan ahead.

Day 1 – Tying Materials: Natural vs. Synthetic

On Day 1, I will be tying very similar flies, side-by-side, with one version containing mainly natural materials and one with mainly synthetic materials. There are no right or wrong tying materials but I will be highlighting the differences. The board below highlights those differences.

2023 Sowbug Expo Day 1

Day 2 – Winging Dry Flies

I commonly use five different methods of tying wings on dry flies. On Day 2, I will be demonstrating those methods. Some are old and some are new, some are easier than others, but they all produce a different look. The board below highlights the five methods I use.

2023 Sowbug Expo Day 2

Day 3 – Body Styles

I will only be demonstrating fly tying in the afternoon on the third day so the plan is pretty limited. Also, if you’ve been at Sowbug on Saturday afternoon the crowd clears out pretty quickly. I think everyone is just anxious to get their traveling underway.

Because of the limited time, I don’t have a presentation board prepared for Day 3 but I will be tying flies with two different body styles: Trimmed and Woven.


For the trimmed body style, I will be tying flies that are mainly constructed with deer hair that is trimmed to a shape that really makes the fly.

muddler minnow photo
Muddler Minnow
Dahlberg Diver


My “go to” woven fly is called a Polish Nymph. This fly is tied by weaving two different colors of floss, one on the top and one on the bottom, and creates a really realistic-looking caddis larva. The technique used is called a Shuttle Weave (I think!). One strand of floss is held in each hand and they are crossed over without ever letting go of them. It’s really amazing to watch.

Polish Nymph
Polish Nymph created by Vladi Trzebunia, the 1989 Polish Gold Medalist
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2023 Sowbug Roundup – Auction Flies

Royal Coachman Lake Fly

Sowbug Roundup is a three day fly tying and fly fishing show that is held in Mountain Home, Arkansas. The next event will be held Mar 23rd, 24th, and 25th, 2023.

I will be a fly tying demonstrator at this year’s Roundup. Part of the duties of a demonstrator is to donate three flies for the auction. The flies will be put into a framed collage and sold at the Fly Tyer’s Dinner on March 24th.

For my auction flies, I have chosen three flies from Mary Orvis Marbury’s magnificent 1892 book Favorite Flies and Their Histories. It’s a revolutionary book for its time and one I refer to often.

One of my flies is from the Lake Fly section, one is from the Trout Fly section, and one is from the Bass Fly section. Here are my flies as well as the images from the book where they came from.

No. 40 Royal Coachman (Lake Fly)

Royal Coachman Lake Fly
No. 40 Royal Coachman
Royal Coachman Lake Fly
40 Royal Coachman – Created by John Haily of New York City, a professional fly-dresser, in 1878

No. 143 Grizzly King (Trout Fly)

Grizzly King Trout Fly
No. 143 Grizzly King
Grizzly King Trout Fly
143 Grizzly King – A variation of John & James Wilson’s “Professor” wet fly

No. 273 Mather (Bass Fly)

Mather Bass Fly
No. 273 Mather
Mather Bass Fly
273 Mather – Created by C. F. Orvis; named by A. N. Cheney in compliment to his friend, Mr. Fred Mather
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2023 Sowbug Roundup – Fly Tying Contest

2023 Sowbug Roundup Contest Entries

Sowbug Roundup is a three day fly tying and fly fishing show that is held in Mountain Home, Arkansas. The next event will be held Mar 23rd, 24th, and 25th, 2023. This is the 26th year that the North Arkansas Fly Fishers (NAFF) have put on the Sowbug Roundup. The first Sowbug had 20 tyers and 150 attendees. The 2019 Sowbug had over 140 fly tiers and over 1000 attendees. The official name is actually the International Sowbug Roundup, a Celebration of Fly Fishing. You can read about event on their official webpage by clicking here.

Part of the Roundup is a fly tying contest. Your entries were due last Friday, February 10th. An announcement with the rules of the contest can be found here.

If you’ve read some of my past blog posts, you would know that I really enjoy fly tying contests. As I did last year, I again decided to enter every single category in the contest – except for the Youth Category of course. I really enjoy going out and finding new fly patterns that I had never tied before in order to complete my lineup.

2023 Sowbug Roundup Contest Entries
2023 Sowbug Roundup Contest Entries

Here are my entries for this year’s fly tying contest.

#CategoryFly PatternReason For Entering
1NymphAtomic StoneA good-looking, moderately difficult stonefly nymph pattern and one I had never tied before.
2Dry FlyRegan’s Mayfly SpinnerA very impressive-looking dry fly pattern and one I had never tied before.
3Wet FlyMcGintyA fairly easy fly to tie but very difficult to get it to look right. I don’t think I did very well this time.
4Warm WaterDahlberg DiverAn absolutely amazing looking fly and one I had never even thought about tying before. On a size 2/0 hook, it’s HUGE!
5Smallmouth BassGartside GurglerThis is a classic bass fly pattern that I had never tied before. I think they turned out like they are supposed to.
6BassMuddler MinnowI have tied this one before but have never really had it turn out well. I think this pair did though.
7StreamerBarr’s Meat WhistleThe name alone convinced me to enter this one. It’s a new pattern for me.
8SaltwaterLefty’s DeceiverI entered this one last year but wasn’t very happy with how it turned out. This year’s entry is much better.
9Salmon/SteelheadDusty MillerThis pattern is similar to the one I entered last year, which actually won an award. Unfortunately, this year’s entry isn’t as good.
10TenkaraGrave DiggerThe name alone convinced me to enter this one. I guess the colors resemble a famous monster truck of that name.
The Lineup for 2023

The winners of the contest will be announced on Friday March 24, 2023 at the Sowbug Roundup Shindig which will be held at St. Peter the Fisherman Catholic Church in Mountain Home, AR.

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Wool Yarn for Fly Tying (Update)

Berroco Ultra Alpaca - #6214 Steel Cut Oats

I’ve expanded my wool yarn product line a little and here are the updates. You can find all the wool yarns I now have available in the Fly Tying Materials section of my online store.

Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift

I added three more colors of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift super fine yarn. In addition to Oyster, Salmon, Heron and Ivy from my original post, I now have Burnt Umber, Leprechaun, and Purple Haze. The first two came from the wonderful recommendation from a reader. The last one I picked because it’s called for in a Tenkara kebari pattern called the “Grave Digger”. The name of the fly alone sold me on that one!

Killer Bug

I’ve been on a quest to find a suitable replacement yarn for Frank Sawyer’s infamous “Killer Bug” fly pattern, since they quit making Chadwick’s #477 back in the 1960’s. Even the black market for that one is running out.

I recently came across a thread on the Classic Fly Rod Forum of someone else’s quest on the same topic. (Apparently I’m not the only one looking!) There are several great photos that compare the different types of yarn the author tried and in the end he recommended “Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine” yarn in the color “#1214 Steel Cut Oats”. It looked really promising until I went looking for UAF-1214 and … that color has been discontinued! Ugh.

Berroco Ultra Alpaca

I did see though, that Berroco Ultra Alpaca (not the “Fine” type though) yarn was available in that color so I went ahead and ordered a skein of UA-6214. It’s a medium yarn and has a different blend of materials but perhaps its fairly close to the color of UAF-1214.

Pictured below is that Berroco Steel Cut Oats yarn on the left and what I had ordered previously, Patons Classic Natural Mix, on the right.

It’s been said that the yarn color for the Killer Bug should resemble rare meat red and the Berroco definitely has a little more of a pinkish hue to it so that one might work out better.

There are a few other substitute yarns mentioned in the thread, one of which is Jamieson’s #195 Moorland, but that one seems too dark and doesn’t have the pinkish hue. Too bad because Jamieson’s yarn is thinner and a little easier to tie with.

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2022 Sowbug Roundup – Fly Tying Awards

The 2022 Sowbug Roundup has come to a close and I can happily and humbly announce that I was the winner of two categories of the Fly Tying Contest. All the winners were presented with very nice plaques for the winning flies in each category. They were presented on Friday night at the Sowbug Roundup “Shindig”. Here are my awards:

2022 Sowbug Roundup Fly Tying Awards

There were some really amazing flies submitted, so I’m pretty astonished that my flies were among them. All the winning flies were mounted in a fantastic looking shadow box which was auctioned off at the Shindig. It went for $1600!. My flies are at the left end of the first row and second from the left in the second row.

2022 Sowbug Roundup Fly Tying Contest Winners

Here they are up-close and personal:

Salmon/Steelhead Category

thunder and lightning photo
Thunder and Lightning

Bass Category

braided blue damsel photo
Braided Blue Damselfly
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Wool Yarn for Fly Tying

Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift - #290 Oyster

I have some fly patterns that call for wool yarn in the material list. However, it seems that many online fly shops carry a rather limited selection of colors or else don’t stock wool yarn at all. Craft stores have literally hundreds of colors but you are stuck with buying a ball that has 100 or 200 yards in it. Also, you have to decide what size yarn to buy from the myriad of choices and the knitting jargon they use is beyond comprehension for a fly fisherman. So what to do?

Enter Classic Fly Tying! I have opened up a new product line for wool yarn. I bought a few giant balls of yarn and repackaged them onto 5-yard cards. It’s the perfect size for your tying bench because it comes in packs similar to other carded fly tying materials such as Antron yarn, polypropylene yarn, and chenille.

Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift

As far as the type of wool yarn goes, I offer the most popular brand – Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift. It’s a lightweight 100% wool yarn and comes in some really great colors. I currently have it available in Oyster, Salmon, Heron and Ivy. You can find them in the Fly Tying Materials section of my online store.

I’ll be adding a few more colors soon. Right now I’m looking at adding more colors such as Buttercup, Tangerine, Cashew and Lime. Let me know if you would like another color and I’ll take a look.

These colors look great on nymphs and scuds! I’ll be demonstrating the “Tellico Nymph” fly pattern, from my Classic Nymph Collection #1, using some of these colors at the upcoming Sowbug Roundup.

5×7 Classic Nymph Collection #1 (black)
Tellico Nymph
Tellico Nymph a southern classic from the Tellico River of TN and NC in the 1940’s

Incidentally, Jamieson’s #290 Oyster is the yarn of choice for the “Utah Killer Bug” fly pattern.

Patons Classic

Patons Classic is another brand of yarn I have come across although it’s quite a bit thicker than Jamieson’s. Patons Classic is a “4-Medium” size yarn and 3-ply where as Jamieson’s is a “1-Super Fine” size yarn and only 2-ply, although it’s fairly easy to pull out one strand. Currently I have two stock colors.

Experimenting with Dye

Some time ago, I experimented with dye on fly tying materials. I needed some Bright Yellow and Scarlet hackle that I didn’t have so I colored some pieces of white rooster hackle and hen hackle. While I was at it, I dyed some lengths of Patons Classic yarn in the color Winter White. Here are the yarns that resulted from my experiment.

The whole process went extremely well except for the bright yellow rooster hackle that slipped down the drain while I was rinsing it!

Happy tying … with wool yarn!

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5x7 Old Favorite Bass Fly Watermark #1 (gold)

If you’re familiar with my website you will know that I post quite a bit of information on fly tying. However, another part of my website is an online store where I have flies that have been tied and mounted in a shadow boxes available for purchase. I have at least 8 different themed collections of flies in a couple of different frame sizes.

I’ve been tying them for a little while now and have finally come to my senses and began updating the watermarks that appear on the background of the framed flies. Initially, I just had some fancy feathers in the backgrounds, and they looked okay, but my daughter demanded that I do something better.

Here are the first few watermarks I have updated. These are the 5×7’s. The one on the left is pretty obvious – two bass. The one on the right is an old picture of Ray Bergman tying a fly. If you can read the fine print, the flies in this collection are from his 1938 book titled Trout. It seemed fitting to me.

Here is one of the 8×10’s. Two rainbow trout.

8x10 Old Favorite Trout Fly Watermark #1 (gold)
8×10 Old Favorite Trout Fly Watermark #1 (gold)

All things considered, they look pretty nice when covered with the flies.