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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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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

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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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.

streamer collage
streamer collage

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
Lefty’s DeceiverSaltwaterSaltwater bait fish
Big Eyed SempermouseArticulating StreamerSwimming mouse
Green Butt SkunkSalmon/SteelheadMostly colorful & flashy
Muddler MinnowTraditional StreamerSculpin minnow
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:

Fly Tying Card - Braided Blue Damselfly
Fly Tying Card – Braided Blue Damselfly

I inserted this card into the Realistic Dry Flies card set and you can find them on my Fly Tying Cards page.

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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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2021 Branson Fly Fishing Expo

2021 Fly Tying Awards

Last summer I attended the 2021 Branson Fly Fishing Expo and it went really well. The earlier sessions were somewhat lightly attended but the later sessions were pretty busy.

I spent the Thursday afternoon session tying Catskills-style dry flies and managed to demonstrate how to tie 6 of the 8 flies in one of my 5×7 Framed Flies. I must say that even I was impressed with how my divided wings, made from a wood duck flank feather, turned out on all 6 flies. After the session, all the fly tyers and vendors were invited to Branson’s History of Fishing Museum for a meet-and-greet event. If you ever want to see a frog harness or a minnow tube lure that’s definitely the place to go.

On Friday, I attempted to tie all 18 trout flies for an 8×10 Framed Flies display. That should be doable for me over an 8-hour span but no such luck. I managed to tie only 6 flies while spending most of the day gabbing with all the visitors. It was still a very interesting day though. What was interesting for me was that a beautifully-framed collection of last year’s three award-winning flies (one of which being mine) was auctioned off and it raised $75! Another cool thing was that this year’s seven award-winning flies (three of which being mine) will be put on display at that same History of Fly Fishing Museum for a year(!) and then will be auctioned off at the 2022 Expo.

On Saturday, I put all my frames and other projects aside and tied my award-winning flies exclusively. I hadn’t thought about it ahead of time but each of the three have a unique style or technique that aren’t very commonly used by most fly tyers. Here are those unique features:

  • Woven Polish Nymph: This fly uses two colors of embroidery floss for the body which are woven using a technique called the Shuttle Weave. The general idea is that you grab a strand of floss in each hand and don’t let go until you are done. It’s pretty cool. During the demo, I did discover that the link and QR code on my fly tying card for this fly were broken. Since then, I found a new link and updated the card so now you can watch a good video of the weave technique. See my Fly Tying Cards page for the card and the link.
  • Fontinalis Fin: This is a wet fly from Ray Bergman’s book titled “Trout”. See my Wet Flies page for more information on that book. Knowing that the word fontinalis is the species name for the brook trout, the fly’s name literally means “Brook Trout Fin”. What it is trying to imitate is the lower rear fin of a brook trout. Thus, the wings on the fly are made from wide strips of orange goose feather barbs, with one barb of black and three barbs of white attached to them. This technique is known as “marrying” feathers.
  • Western Green Drake: This fly is a somewhat realistic imitation of an adult mayfly with the stated common name – its Latin name is Drunella grandis from the Ephemerellidae family of mayflies. What makes this fly realistic are the style of wings known as Wally Wings. Another interesting fact about the name is “drake” is actually the Greek word for “dragon”. And yes, these mayflies really do look like tiny dragons. To make the dragon wings, a single mallard flank feather is tied down and split at the stem to form the two D-shaped upright wings. It’s pretty cool, for sure.