Eye of the Guide


Tom Travis - February 14, 2011

Fly fishing and fly tying are activities which at time have been surrounded by controversy. I remember reading about and hearing the pros and cons of nymphing with an indicator. I have read and listened to discussions dealing with the pros and cons of using natural or synthetics when tying flies. As a fly fishing guide for over thirty years I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the discussions on the proper way to fish the famed spring creeks of Paradise Valley in Montana. There are some who only believe in fishing dry flies and emergers to visible feeding trout. Others are willing to use nymphs, wets and even streamers to cover the water and take trout whenever and however they can. The discussions will never end and there is no right or wrong. It is kind of like people taking about the weather, nothing is ever solved and we seldom seem to affect the weather by talking about it. The same can be said for the disagreement over what is fly fishing. Therefore, I have decided to share a few fly patterns with you that will more than likely raise the hackle of a few fly fishers. The patterns themselves are not all that unconventional however the addition of the Magic Cones or the Fly Lipps will more than likely be frowned upon by some folks. Hopefully there will others who will find these additions interesting.  


Magic heads are soft plastic cones which were developed by Marc Petitjean a very innovative and talented angler/tier from Switzerland. These soft cones offer a unique action to the imitation during the retrieve. These cones can be trimmed and shaped to meet many different angling situations. When added to leeches, streamers, various nymphs and even dry fly imitations these cones add a whole new look and action to the imitations. Magic Heads com in five different sizes and can be used on hooks from size 18 to size 6/0. When the cone is folded back you have the normal action of the patterns, however that action will be entirely different when the cone is folded forward. The cones can be used with bead, cones and even dumbbell eyes.


Fly Lipps are the creation of Greg Saunders of Pensacola, Florida. Fly Lipps are injection molded lips that you can add to any number of patterns. These Lipps will give your patterns the ability to swim up or down during the retrieve as well as darting side to side. The up or down will depend on whether you tie in the Lipp on the top or bottom of the hook shank. Where I have used the Magic Heads on a variety of fly types, so far I have only used the Fly Lipps on streamer and leech patterns for freshwater. I have used them on warm water streamers and variety of saltwater streamers.

That is not to say that they won’t work on other pattern types, it is that I just have not got around to experimenting with them. Fly Lipps come one size and I have found them useable on sizes 4 to 6/0. In a recent e-mail Greg told me that he had been fooling around with making a smaller size. 


As our most popular fisheries see more and more anglers and the fish see more imitations I feel that we have to experiment with new materials and new methods. I grew up fly fishing but there were times when the plug and lures anglers were sure catching a lot more fish than I was. I think a lot of American fly fishers are snobs. You know there is a lot to be learned from the bait lure and plug anglers that can be adapted to fly fishing.

While I’m on the subject I might a mention the American fly tier have far too little contact with tier in Europe and the United Kingdom. I think that this true on both sides and I think that the major fly fishing magazines could sure help. I first seen both of these items just two years ago and I immediately knew that I could create or enhance some imitations that would be different any thing the trout were seeing on the waters I fish.  That is also true when fishing for Bass or various Salt water species.

For more information on the Fly Lipps go to www.flylipps.com and for information on the Magic Heads go to www.petitjean.com


I am going share some patterns with you that I have tied with Fly Lipps and with Magic Heads. However, not on the same hook at the same time. The first pattern that I would like share with you is called the Western Lite Spruce Streamer. I was first shown this fly a number of years ago by Chester Marion a long time Yellowstone River fly fishing guide and excellent streamer fisherman. I know for a fact that Chet has taken a larger number of big fish on this pattern. For years this has been my number one favorite streamer, for a few years I had variation of this pattern with a cone head in the Orvis Catalog. Chet told me that the idea for this pattern came from the Rhode’s Tarpon Streamer. I know Chet also ties this pattern in Grizzly dyed Olive and in all Black. I doubt that Chet will be a big fan of the Magic Heads or the Fly Lipps, but they work very when added to his pattern. As all fly tiers do I have modified the original pattern just slightly.

In the fall and early spring we tend to fish this pattern with 8 to 10 weight shooting head. However, during the rest of the year I will use a number to different fly lines to include; Floating Lines, Sink Tip Lines and various types of Uniform Sink Full Sinking Lines.

I have used this pattern in rivers and on lakes. I have even tied small version of this using the Magic Heads and used them on the Spring Creeks of Paradise Valley. I also use this pattern for warm water species as well as for Steelhead. During the Salmon Fly on the western rivers I like to use a Sink Tip Line and employ a two fly cast with the Western Lite Spruce Streamer chasing one of favorite stonefly nymphs. I can be very effective!

flies beyond the normal - EOTG - Feb 14 2011



**When I tie this imitation in small sizes for the Spring Creeks, I like to use the Tiemco 101 in sizes 8-12.

The next pattern that I have found that work very well with either Magic Heads or Fly Lipps is Clouser Minnow. The Clouser Minnow was created by Bob Clouser of Middletown, Pennsylvania, in August of 1988. The number of fish species that has fallen prey to this imitation is unbelievable; it has been effective in warm water, freshwater and saltwater. The Clouser Minnow by itself is one of most productive pattern styles ever created, and it hard to think that anything could improve it. But adding a Fly Lipp or a Magic Head will definitely enhance the action and at times will make a difference. 

flies beyond the normal - EOTG - Feb 14 2011


NOTES: **To make the imitation dive, tie the plastic lip on the top of the hook shank then place the eyes. If you want the imitation to sink down and then swim up on the retrieve, tie the plastic lip on the bottom of the hook shank.

flies beyond the normal - EOTG - Feb 14 2011


NOTES: As everyone knows the Clouser Minnow can be tied in a variety of effective color combinations. So try one of your favorite color combination with a Fly Lipps or a Magic Head Cone, I think you will happy and surprised by the results.


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