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Fly Dressing (Update)

An English old-timer named Frederic Halford literally wrote the book on tying dry flies back in 1886 – yeah, published 136 years ago – in his book titled Floating Flies and How To Dress Them.

I often thumb through the electronic archive copy over at Recently, however, I discovered that there have been some modern re-publications of his books and I now have a copy on order. Little did I know, the seller is shipping it from Australia. Talk about a slow boat from China …

A while ago I created a webpage based solely on the chapter in his book that depicts fly-dressing, Halford-style, in great detail. Recently, I added another section that shows a technique he developed called the Improved Method of Winging Upright Duns. Notice how the wings are tied on with the tips pointing rearward. You can read the rest over at my Fly Dressing page

What I really like about the technique is that it allows you to tie on the wings fairly close to the hook eye (necessary on small hooks) without the difficulty of trimming the wing feather stubs so close to the eye itself. It’s really an ingenious improvement to his original “ordinary” method.

One of the finest fly-dresser in the world today, Davey McPhail of Scotland, demonstrates this exact technique in one of his 700+ YouTube videos and it’s definitely worth a look. Saying that the guy is a master is actually an understatement. Here he spends the first few minutes talking about using hen hackle on a dry fly so you can skip to the 2:05 mark to get right to the fly-dressing.

Tying a Hen-Hackled Dry Fly (Greenwell’s Glory) with Davie McPhail

What a beautiful dry fly. Between the two of them, we fly-dressers can learn A LOT from their work. They are truly two of the best.

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2022 Sowbug Roundup – Fly Tying Contest

2022 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 24th, 25th, and 26th, 2022. This is the 23rd 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 Sowbug Roundup on their official webpage by clicking here.

Part of the Roundup is a fly tying contest. Initially, your entries were due a few weeks ago but because of the low number of entries (perhaps) the due date was extended to tomorrow, February 21st.

If you’ve read some of my recent blog posts, you would know that I get a kick out of fly tying contests. I decided to enter a fly pair in every single category. I really enjoyed going out and finding some new fly patterns that I had never tied before to complete the lineup. Here are my entries for this year’s contest.

2022 Sowbug Roundup Contest Entries
2022 Sowbug Roundup Contest Entries

The first two pairs on the right side are a little scrunched together and the Tenkara flies are stacked head-to-head and almost covered by the Lefty’s Deceivers but I think you can make out all of the rest.

#CategoryFly PatternReason For Entering
1NymphPolish NymphWon the “Nymph” division at the
Branson Expo last summer.
2Dry FlyWestern Green DrakeWon the “Dry Fly” division at the
Branson Expo last summer.
3Wet FlyFontinalis FinWon the “Wet Fly” division at the
Branson Expo last summer.
4Smallmouth BassMuddler MinnowTied once before with limited
5BassBraided Blue DamselflyHad never tied it before but
looked amazing.
6Warm WaterBig Eyed SempermouseHad never tied it before but
looked amazing.
7Salmon/SteelheadThunder and LightningHad never tied it before but
looked impossible.
8SaltwaterLefty’s DeceiverHad never tied any saltwater
patterns before.
9TenkaraTakayama Sakasa KebariDidn’t even know what it was
until I saw the Category list.
10Dave Whitlock PatternDave’s HopperNeeded a “Dave” pattern and had
actually tied this one before.
The Lineup (from R to L)

The winners of the contest will be announced on Friday March 25, 2022 at the Sowbug Roundup Shindig which will be held at St. Peter the Fisherman Catholic Church in Mountain Home AR.

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Classic Fly Tying Hats

printed hat ht cft logo white front

Hats with the Classic Fly Tying logo are now available!

Recently, I found a source for some pretty nice looking baseball-style hats and my first shipment arrived today. They are currently available only in White but I should have some Gray ones in soon. They obviously have my logo on the front which has been printed with a digital heat transfer process (I guess).

I’m also looking at hats with embroidered logos and in other colors but that’s for another day. UPDATE: I just couldn’t wait so I went ahead and designed an embroidered logo! As soon as my shipment arrives (due by Feb 23rd) , the embroidered hats will be available in White and Black, and the printed hats will be available in Gray in addition to White, which is available right now.

You can shop for a hat in my online store by clicking here.

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Tying Streamers

streamer collage

From my last several posts you might conclude that I’ve been working on tying some different fly patterns for fly tying contests. If you did, you’d be right. And by ‘different’, I mean fly patterns that I’ve never tied before. Tying new flies is very rewarding but … time-consuming. What I have done is taken the time and ventured into a category of flies I don’t fish very often called Streamers. If you don’t know what a streamer is then here’s a nice definition I found on the web:

Streamers are big flies used to imitate small bait fish and other moving aquatic invertebrates and creatures. The majority of the time these active flies will be given additional movement by different retrieves; also known as strips.


Going clockwise from the upper left, here are the streamers I have learned how to tie and will be submitting to a few fly tying contests that are coming up:

Fly Pattern NameContest CategoryCreature Imitated
Barr’s Meat WhistleTraditional StreamerSculpin minnow
Dahlberg’s DiverTraditional StreamerBaitfish
Muddler MinnowTraditional StreamerSculpin minnow
Big Eyed SempermouseArticulating StreamerSwimming mouse
Streamer Fly Patterns

For the complete details of how these flies are tied, please scroll through the following stack of Fly Tying Cards or optionally download the PDF.

If you’re interested in tying some of these ”different” flies, hopefully these Fly Tying Cards will save you some time so you can get right to it.

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Tying Thunder and Lightning

thunder and lightning photo

Here’s another fly I’m going to enter into that fly tying contest I have mentioned. It is called Thunder and Lightning and it appears as fly #29 in the Salmon section of Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book Favorite Flies and Their Histories. Thus I will enter it in the Salmon category of the contest. Apparently, it got its name in the early days because it was used when the water was rising after a storm.

thunder and lightning photo
thunder and lightning photo

I must say that this is one of the more difficult flies I’ve ever tied. There are many details involved and I even had to source some additional materials just to tie it (#4 Salmon Hooks, Golden Pheasant Crest, Orange Saddle Hackle, Blue Guinea Feathers, Artificial Jungle Cock Eyes). Oh well, it doesn’t look too bad for a first attempt – which is always the toughest by the way. Does anyone else struggle with tying a new fly for the first time?

Here is the fly tying card for the Thunder and Lightning:

Fly Tying Card - Thunder and Lightning
Fly Tying Card – Thunder and Lightning

I created a new collection called the Old Favorite Salmon Flies Collection and inserted this card into it. You can find the new collection in PDF format in the Wet Flies section on my Fly Tying Cards page. However, it’s the only card in the collection (so far).

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Tying a Braided Blue Damselfly

braided blue damsel photo

Here’s another fly I’m going to enter into that fly tying contest I mentioned last time. This one is called the Braided Blue Damselfly which I am going to enter in the Bass Category of the contest. It’s a fly pattern from world-class fly tyer Barry Ord Clarke, a.k.a. “the featherbender”. You can watch him tie this fly here.

braided blue damsel photo
braided blue damsel photo

I did make the following “improvements” to the recipe in his video:

  1. Instead of using a length of white Dacron backing for the tail and coloring it with a blue marker, I came across a commercially sold product from Hareline Dubbin called “Adult Damsel Body” in color “#23 Blue”. All I had to do is melt the end so it wouldn’t unravel and then add the black segmentation markings. I do need to straighten out the curl a little more though.
  2. Instead of using blue foam from a craft store, I used the more dense “Thin Fly Foam” from Wapsi in the color “Damsel Blue”. That’s kind of a no-brainer.
  3. I typically prefer SLF dubbing over Hareline Dubbin Ice Dub so I used SLF Prism in the color “Electric Blue”. To make it look a little more like the UV Blue Ice Dub used in the video, I could add a little SLF Prism dubbing in “Hot Purple” but I didn’t think it was necessary.

After incorporating those changes, here is the fly tying card for the Braided Blue Damselfly:

Other Bass Fly Tying Cards (cover)

I inserted this card into the Other Bass Flies card set and you can find it on my Fly Tying Cards page.

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Tenkara Kebari

takayama sakasa kebari

I barely even know what Tenkara means but I’m working on some flies for a fly tying contest and Tenkara is one of the categories. I at least need to figure out that much so here I go …

As far as I can tell, Tenkara is fly fishing done Japanese style. The style includes a specific type of fly rod, fly line, leaders, and of course, flies. The fly I have chosen to enter in the contest is called Takayama Sakasa Kebari. The word kebari translates to “hairpin” so it basically means a hair fly. The word sakasa translates to “upside down” and in this case it actually means backward or reverse. I have read that the reverse hackle style (tips pointing forward) is the easiest way to tie a fly “in hand”, i.e., without a vise and thus stream-side. I used a vise to tie my fly but it’s a pretty simple fly so I think I could actually tie it without one. Oh, and the Takayama part of the fly’s name is just the city in Japan where the fly originated and is most popular.

takayama sakasa kebari
takayama sakasa kebari

I chose this fly because it is simple. Besides the curved hook and silk thread, it has two materials – a soft hackle feather from a rooster pheasant and three herls from a peacock eye. You just can’t get much simpler than that! Here are the specifics I put on my fly tying card:

Tenkara Fly Tying Cards
Tenkara Fly Tying Cards

Click here for the video I used to learn how to tie the fly and basically everything I now know about Tenkara.

Feel free to wish me good luck in the contest.

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Classic Nymphs Collection Available

A while ago I wrote a blog post called “Nymphs Too!”. The reason for the post was that I had just won the “Nymph” division at the 2021 MTFA Fly Tying Contest and I wanted to publish my fly tying method for that fly. Since then, I pulled together some additional classic fly patterns and created a product variation for a set of these Classic Nymphs.

One of the classic nymphs, my award-winning Polish Nymph, has been a great fly for me. It’s a caddisfly larva imitation and the colors can be varied as much as there is embroidery floss – hundreds of colors and shades. A skein of cotton floss is under a buck and will make a great many flies. I do like polyester floss for the underside because it comes in brighter colors that don’t fade when wet. The weaving is what gives the fly the realistic texture and the link on the Fly Tying Card shows you how it’s done.

Regarding the remainder of the classic nymphs in the collection, I’m sure you’re familiar with some (Copper John, Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear, Prince Nymph) and perhaps not familiar with the rest. The namesake Classic Nymph is an amazing looking mayfly nymph imitation and is one I need to try out in the water. It’s beautiful! The red quill abdomen, the curved wood duck fiber tails, and the red dot on top of the head seem very realistic to me. The Tellico Nymph also caught my eye and made its way into the collection. The shell-like back gives it the appearance of a scud. This one needs to get wet for me as well.

The following Classic Nymphs are included in this collection. You can find a detailed photo and description of each fly in the Classic Nymphs Collection on my Nymphs webpage.

  • Classic Nymph
  • Copper John
  • Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear
  • Governor Alvord
  • Montana Nymph
  • Polish Nymph
  • Sawyer’s Pheasant Tail Prince Nymph
  • Tellico Nymph

A Framed Fly Collection for the eight classic nymphs is available under the Framed Flies (5×7) product in my online store.

5×7 Classic Nymph Collection #1 (black)

A set of fly tying cards for the Classic Nymph collection has also been created. These are (a) viewable at the bottom of my Fly Tying Cards webpage, or (b) available in printed form (for a small fee) under the Fly Tying Cards (Printed) product in my online store.

Cover page of Classic Nymph Fly Tying Cards