Welcome to Beginning Fly Tying

Part Twenty

Royal Humpy

An Introduction to Fly Tying:

The Humpy

By Al Campbell

If you live in an area that has a lot of alpine streams or freestone waters, you have probably fished the Humpy. This fly is designed to float in the fastest, roughest water.

You will see the Humpy tied several ways and with many body colors when you visit fly shops in the west. It has endured a number of name variations too. Called the Goofus Bug by Dan Bailey, the Crazy Goof, Turtle Bug and Fuzzy Beetle Bug by others, it lives on as a favorite fly for many western anglers. If you're headed to one of the rocky mountain states this summer, you need a few of these flies in your fly box.

As I mentioned at the start of our dry fly adventure, there are several things that float a fly. Up to now, we have concentrated on flies that are designed to float on the surface tension of the water. The extra heavy hackle and stiff hair tail of the Humpy are designed to increase the surface tension floatation qualities of this fly. The addition of elk hair in the wings and on the back of this fly adds the dimension of buoyancy to the fly.

Elk hair is hollow. The air trapped in the elk hair (or deer, caribou, antelope or moose) will cause a fly to pop to the surface even after it breaks through the surface tension of the water. This buoyant quality of the elk hair aids in the floatation qualities of the Humpy in turbulent water. Coupled with the extra heavy hackle, this is one of several flies that are ideal for fast water.

For the individuals who asked how to tie the Humpy, this fly's for you. I suspect those who have tried to tie a Humpy and failed had a slight problem with thread tension control. Most problems with hair wings and bodies result from too much tension on the thread while working with the hair. Too much thread tension while working with hollow hair results in flaring or cutting of the hair. It also results in breaking or bending the wings, or in some cases, the thread consistently slips off the wings.

It doesn't take a lot of thread tension to accomplish a properly tied fly. Since fly tying thread stretches, even a slight amount of thread tension will result in a tight fly body. If you insist on using killer thread tension on your flies, use it in areas where flared or cut hair won't impact the structure of the fly, like under the dubbing. Any place else, use gentle thread tension.

It's wise to practice careful thread tension control all of the time if you wish to consistently produce quality flies. Most of the time, problems with materials twisting around the hook, not standing upright or laying down properly or thread breakage are due to improper thread tension. And, almost always, new tiers use too much thread tension.

This said, there is one place on a humpy where extra thread tension is needed. At the start and tie down points for the humpy back, you need to add a couple of wraps of thread with a little more tension than you use on the rest of the body. This will cause the hair to flare slightly creating the 'hump' on the back of the fly.

Tied with a yellow under-body, the Humpy is a productive hopper pattern in fast water. Change the under-body color to red and you have a fly that will fool the fish into thinking they are observing a stonefly coasting by. In fact, the under-body can be tied in as many colors as you like to match anything on the water. Like the SHWAPF we tied earlier, this is a versatile fly. Unlike many flies we tied earlier, the success of this fly is usually limited to fast water.

I can't think of a better fly to use in the pockets of water behind boulders in a fast flowing mountain stream. It's also my favorite fly for the current seams below small waterfalls and heavy rapids. If you want a buoyant fly to use as a strike indicator for a small nymph, this would be a good choice. Need I say more about the benefits of a buoyant fly?

List of materials: Humpy

  • Hook: Standard dry fly; Mustad 94840, Tiemco 100, Eagle Claw L059, Daiichi 1180. Size 10 - 22.

    Mustad 94840

  • Thread: 6/0 to 10/0 Gudebrod or equivalent, color to match body or black.

  • Tail: Moose body hair. (Traditionally elk hair.)

  • Underbody: Angler's Choice super floss, poly yarn, antron or dubbing, color as desired.

  • Overbody: Elk hair tied to form the humped back that gives the humpy its name.

  • Wings: Elk hair.

  • Hackle: Quality brown neck or saddle hackle, webby parts removed and 1/16" of the remaining stem stripped of barbules.

    Tying steps:

  • 1. Create a fairly heavy moose body hair tail (12 to 16 hairs). You can use elk hair if desired, but it is more brittle and tends to flare or break easier.

  • 2. Select a medium sized bunch of long elk hair and comb out the short hairs and fuzz. When you only have long hairs left, drop them tip first in a hair stacker and even the tips of the hair. Then measure the wing for length (a little more than 1 1/2 times the hook gap) and tie down with a few loose wraps of thread. Continue wrapping the hair down to just short of the tail. Do not trim the hair.

  • 3. Gently pull the wing back and wrap the thread tightly in front of the base of the wing. Separate the wings, define them and position them like you did in the Royal Wulff. Add a drop of head cement to the thread at the base of the wings to secure them.

  • 4. Clip any short elk hairs extending over the tail short to the body. Thin the number of hump hairs to about half of the number you used in the wings, then tie them down to where the tail starts. Wrap a body of floss, poly, etc. over the hairs you tied down, tie off then trim.

  • 5. Pull the remaining elk hair over the back of the fly and secure with several tight wraps of thread.

  • 6. Trim the elk hair close to the wraps you used to tie it off, then cover the ends with thread.

  • 7. Tie in one brown and one grizzly prepared saddle or neck hackle.

  • 8. Wrap one hackle forward keeping the curvature of the feather and barbules facing forward. Tie off and trim. A half hitch will prevent the hackle from unwrapping.

  • 9. Wrap the other hackle forward, tie off and trim.

  • 10. Build a head, whip finish and cement.. Your finished fly should look like this.

    Finished Humpy

  • 11. From the front, you can clearly see the wings.

    It might take a few flies to get everything exactly right, but the Humpy is a perfect fly for perfecting thread tension control. It's also a perfect fly for fast water.

    You can modify a humpy several ways to produce different results. If you use white wings, brown hackle and a red floss body, it's called a Royal Humpy, another western favorite.

    Royal Humpy

    Or, if you want to, you can tie it with black wings and a black body. Olive and olive, why not? This is your fly now, and you have the ability to tie it any way you want, as long as you're tying it for yourself.

    For different version of a Humpy, check out the Yellow Humpy in the Fly of the Week.

    See ya next week. ~ Al Campbell

    Be sure to read Al's Product Review on Mustad Hooks in Product Review!

    Beginning Fly Tying Archives

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