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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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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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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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Nymphs Too!

Woven Polish Nymph

The premise of my website is “classic” wet and dry flies, of course, but I also tie and fish with a lot of nymphs. These flies more or less represent insects in their larva stage. And since my Woven Polish Nymph won an award at the 2021 MTFA Fly Tying Contest, I have decided to make my nymph fly tying cards (a) viewable in the Nymphs section of my Fly Tying Cards webpage and (b) available in printed form for a small fee under the Fly Tying Cards (Printed) product in my online store.

Classic Nymphs

Classic Nymph Fly Tying Cards (cover)
Cover page of Classic Nymph Fly Tying Cards

Other Nymphs

Other Nymph Fly Tying Cards (cover)
Cover page of Other Nymph Fly Tying Cards

The award-winning Woven 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. It is a little more expensive though. The weaving is what gives the fly the realistic texture and the link on the Fly Tying Card shows you how it’s done.

Woven Polish Nymph
Woven Polish Nymph in Coffee/Cream color scheme.

This fly tying card is in the Classic Nymphs card set and you can find it on my Fly Tying Cards page.