Welcome to Beginning Fly Tying

Part Ten

An Introduction to Fly Tying:
Tailwater and Spring Creek Favorites

By Al Campbell

If you live in an area that has spring creeks or tailwaters, you likely live in an area that has scuds. You also are likely to have a lot of midges in the streams, especially in fall, winter and spring. Unless you're a dry fly purist, you'll want to have a few of these goodies in you fly box.

Before we start on the flies, it would be a good idea to discuss dubbing a minute. Dubbing is what we call the stuff you twist around the thread to make fly bodies. We've already used some pre-packaged dubbing, but we haven't created any of our own. It's easy to create your own dubbing though. All you need is a coffee grinder or a blender and some fur or yarn. You might also find a little good dubbing in your clothes dryer screen after you wash a throw rug or wool coat or sweater. Just remember, cotton is not a good type of dubbing.

If you set out to make your own dubbing, first you need some raw materials. Macramé yarn, sparkle type knitting yarns, animal under furs, carpet yarns, poly yarn, dacron, antron and rayon all make good dubbing materials. For fine dubbing, the under fur of some animals is a good choice. Mink, beaver, muskrat, opossum and rabbit fit this category. For coarse dubbing, yarns (especially the course type), short hairs from the ears, feet and face of certain animals, antron, krystal flash and wool are good sources.

Experiment a little and you'll open up a whole new arena of materials you can use in your tying. A good example of what I'm talking about is the scud pattern we'll tie this week. The dubbing is a coarse macramé yarn I cut into short pieces (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch) and toss in the blender and mix with sparkle yarn from the fabric store. I keep adding yarns until I have the right color and texture blend for what I want to tie. Stop by a few yard sales for an old blender and some macramé or knitting yarns and give it a try.

On to this week's flies.

Scuds are not flies but rather crustaceans of the amphipod family. Their closest relatives are beach fleas you might find on the coast somewhere, but they belong to the broad family of crustaceans that includes crayfish, lobsters, sowbugs, crabs and shrimp. They are often called freshwater shrimp because they resemble shrimp in many ways. If you care to count, (the fish never do) they have seven pairs of legs and swim with a short, jerky sideways motion.

Scuds are important to the fisherman because they provide a large part of the fish's diet in waters where they are abundant. In some cases, the fish feed almost exclusively on scuds. Since that's the case, scuds should be one of the patterns in your fly box.

List of materials:

  • Hook: Scud hook - Tiemco 2487, 2457; Eagle Claw L055, L056; Mustad 80250BR; Daichi 1130. Sizes 12 to 20.

  • Back: Scud back, Body stretch, plastic bag, latex glove, or any similar material.

  • Dubbing: Any commercial or homemade coarse dubbing, color to match the natural in your area (most range from olive or tan to bright orange or pink, but some are so light they look gray).

  • Rib - Copper or gold wire.

  • Thread - 3/0 or 6/0, color to match dubbing color.

    Tying steps:

  • 1. Start the thread and tie down the back material around the bend of the hook. (If you use plastic bags or latex gloves, cut the strips to about 1/4 inch wide.)

  • Tie the ribbing wire to the same point as the back material.

  • 3. Dub a body of coarse dubbing. (This is one time you don't need to twist the dubbing too tight around the thread.)

  • 4. Stretch the back material over the dubbing, tie off behind the hook eye and trim. Be sure to keep the back on top of the fly.

  • 5. Wrap the ribbing wire around the body to form even segments. Tie off the wire and trim it behind the hook eye. Build a head with the thread, whip finish and trim.

  • 6. Use a needle to pick out some of the dubbing from the underside of the fly. (This will form the legs of the scud.)

  • 7. Trim the legs even with the hook point.

  • 8. Cement the head. I like to cement the body too, by soaking cement up under the back material from the sides.

  • You'll find other scud patterns in books and magazines, and in the "fly of the week" archives here on FAOL. If you fish spring creeks, tailwaters or lakes that are fed by these sources, you need a few scud patterns in your fly box.

    Another insect that's common to these types of water is the midge. We looked at a midge emerger a couple of weeks ago. Another form of the life cycle of midges is the larva. This small worm-like larva is often called a blood worm because it is often blood red in color. In certain waters and at certain times of the year, fish feed almost exclusively on this tiny larva.

    Many flies have been designed to imitate the midge larva; the most famous of these is the brassie. The lace larva is another. I'd like to say I designed this fly, and I may have (I've been tying this one for 15 years now), but it is so easy, it's likely others have tied some version of it before me. No matter who tied the first one, it's the best midge larva imitation I've used; a consistent producer on the Bighorn River and in South Dakota tailwaters.

    List of materials:

    Mustad 94840 and Tiemco 200r
  • Hook: Dry fly or nymph - Tiemco 100, 200; Mustad 94840, 80050BR; Eagle Claw L061B, L052; Daichi 1190, 1270. Sizes 16 to 24.

  • Body: Small clear tubing (midge Larva-Lace, small V-Rib, small Liqui-Lace, Anglers Choice Body Stuff or any similar stretchy, small tubing or lace).

  • Thread: 6/0, 8/0 or 10/0 (I like Gudebrod for its strength). Color to match the natural in your water, usually red, orange, olive, gray or black. It's a good idea to tie a variety of colors and sizes. The thread color will give the fly its color.

  • Collar: Coarse sparkle dubbing, color to match the thread.

    Tying steps:

  • 1. Start thread and tie down lace to the hook bend. Be sure to cover the hook and lace with thread, it's what gives the fly its color.

  • 2. Wrap the lace tightly to just behind the hook eye.

  • 3. Tie off and trim.

  • 4. Dub a collar of coarse dubbing. Don't make it too big, just enough to fill in over the thread that tied the lace off.

  • 5. Whip finish, trim thread and cement.

    In rivers or streams, fish this fly near the bottom by adding lead putty or a small split shot to your leader near the tippet knot. In lakes, fish it near weed beds suspended below a strike indicator.

    Midges are so plentiful, even the largest trout will feed on them. To most, it seems strange that any large fish would zero in on such a small meal, but if you've ever eaten popcorn shrimp you know how small things can add up to a mighty big meal. And so it is with midges; they are so plentiful, they add up to a large meal and are the mainstay of many fish throughout the year.

    See ya next week. ~ Al Campbell

    Beginning Fly Tying Archives

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