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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 grandisfrom 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.
A few weeks ago I submitted 5 pairs of my tied flies to the 2021 Missouri Trout Fisherman’s Association’s Fly Tying Contest. The results have now been published and, lo and behold, I won 3 divisions – Nymph, Dry Fly, and Wet Fly! My winning entries were a Woven Polish Nymph, a Western Green Drake, and a Fontinalis Fin.