I started tying my own flies not long after catching my first fish on the fly. Some how I just knew, even at that early stage of my new found passion, that I would be better served tying up my own menu. Not that there’s anything wrong with the commercially available flies, but I wanted just a little more control over my presentations. After learning the basics: knots, dubbing and material techniques, I started churning out large numbers of single bugs that I just came up with, more or less, for testing purposes. Many of them still sit in my boxes today, untested, too many in fact.
I’ve found over the last few years that there is a reason the hares ear and pheasant tail have been around forever, and that reason is this, with changes in the size and color of these two patterns and you can mimic almost any bug in the water. Since this relatively simple revelation of mine, I’ve started to really concentrate my tying efforts on simple, easy to tie patterns, that I will generally tie in three sizes and colors. To briefly break down my thought process on this for you, all my flies are basically built one of two ways. Type one is a slender bodied fly with a thread, biot, or pheasant body with a rib, and a simple dubbed collar for a thorax, ie the pheasant tail. Type two is a fly that is dubbed, ribbed, and tapered from the tail to the head, ie the hares ear. My midge box is very similar in the fact that all my bugs are either a generic WD-40, type one, or a zebra midge, type two (without the dubbing.) All these bugs are basically tied in olive, brown, tan, and black and in sizes 12-16 for the nymphs and sizes 18-22 for the midges.
One of my favorite type one patterns is the Baron, this is a simple fly, that’s fast to tie and similiar in profile to the pheasant tail. I tie this pattern in sizes 12 through 18, and in olive, dark brown, and amber. The Baron is one of Loren Williams’ flies and his website is worth a look if you want some ideas for really simple, fast patterns that will put fish in your net, complete with step by step tutorials. If I could only pick one fly for the rest of my life it would be the Baron, it has brought more fish to hand for me over the last year than any other pattern. A good example of my type two flies is Loren’s Hare and Copper, yep, it’s just a good old hares ear, but the different possible variations on this bug will keep you busy for a while, such as using a contrasting color for the spiky collar.
My dad, on more than one occasion, told me, “Son, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” I’ve applied that statement to a lot of things in my life, most recently my fly box. So, if you’re just starting out tying flies don’t over think it, because what it boils down to is this, trout food basically consists of two things, hare ears and pheasant tails. Until next time, tight lines!