Winter Fly Tying
  |  First Published: June 2010

What a great past time fly tying is and there is no better time for it than on a cold winters day.

I’ve been tying for well over 25 years, starting with a fly tying course at school, even before I owned a fly rod let alone knowing how to cast one. I’ve enjoyed it ever since and have even been tying on a small commercial basis over the last 2-3 years.

When thinking about which patterns to present here, I thought about some new hotshot patterns but then really they are no better than many of the basic flies that have been used for years.

So here are some good old standbys and a few that sell very well in the Bronte Park General Store at Bronte Park in the Tasmanian Highlands, where the owner, Shane Hedger, sells them for me.

007 Nymph

Hook: #12-16 Kamasan B170

Tag: Hot orange Craft Fur

Rib: Blue wire or thin blue tinsel

Abdomen: Black seals fur or black possum (for the #16)

Thorax: Black seals fur or possum

Wing case: Crow wing fibres

Ken Orr’s 007 nymph is as a deadly fly as they come.

Ken originally designed and refined the fly over several years as a nymph for polaroiding but soon discovered that it has many more applications.

The 007 is my go-to fly for tailers when they aren’t interested in a larger wet. It's usually fished underneath a bushy, easy-to-see Zulu used for an indicator.

Attach the dropper directly to the bend of the hook on the Zulu using 2-3kg fluorocarbon leader material. You don’t need the 007 far under the indicator, about a hand span is a good distance; you don’t want the 007 lost in the weeds.

Many of the 007 patterns I see in catalogues or display boxes in the shops aren’t the correct pattern. You see them tied with a pearl rib, red wool tag or a peacock herl thorax: these are only cross bred black nymphs.

The 007 must be tied to the correct recipe otherwise it is nowhere near as effective. When ribbing the fly with the wire or tinsel, make sure that there is plenty of blue showing. The best way to do this is to wind counter clockwise so the rib doesn’t get lost in the dubbing material.

The Mk 2 Woolly Bugger

Hook: #10-6 Kamasan B830

Thread: Black

Body: Dark olive green chenille

Tail: Black marabou and hot orange marabou

Hackle: Black woolly bugger hackle

Rib: Gold or copper wire

The Mk 2 Woolly Bugger is a great searching fly all year round for those days when the trout aren’t showing. It also works very well in the smaller sizes for tailers and frog feeders, for which it was originally adapted for from the original North American Woolly Bugger with the addition of a short tuft of hot orange marabou on either side of the black marabou tail.

You see plenty of variations of the Mk2, but the above recipe is the correct pattern and the most effective and favoured by Ken Orr, one half of the team that developed the fly, the other being John Bessel.

The Mk2 is also very good with a bead head added for extra weight and action. I like to use a good dense marabou feather for the tail; blood quills or woolly bugger marabou is suitable.

The Whiting Farm bugger packs are great for the body hackle.

The Possum Emerger

Hook: #10-14 Kamasan B400

Thread: Black 6/0

Body: Black possum tail

Thorax: Black possum tail

Wing: Loop of black possum tail

Rib: Flat copper

There can’t be much said about the Possum Emerger that hasn’t been said before, except to say that trout flies don’t get much more effective than this little beauty. From the dun feeders at Penstock, chironomid feeders along the shores of Bronte to ant feeders at Bradys, it will fool them all.

Again, it’s a very simple fly with the tail, body, thorax and wing tied of the same material; the very useful Tasmanian brushtail possum tail fur.

The version that I tie has a couple of small variations to the standard pattern, being a ribbing of flat copper from a copper pot mitt and a larger more open loop for the wing.

I find the larger wing as against the smaller twisted loop of possum, usually tied, makes the fly easier to see on the water and aids in floatation when you fish the fly with the body just below the surface.

Better known as a pulling dry fly when loch style fishing, my friends and I fish it as a conventional dry, casting it to rising, cruising or tailing fish. When tied properly the Possum Emerger is a very robust fly and the one fly will catch many fish before falling apart.

The trick is to use a drop of head cement when tying the butt of the wing in and again on the completion of the loop after snipping of before tying the thorax.

The Zulu

Hook: #14-10 Kamasan B170

Thread: Black 8/0

Body hackle: Black

Hackle: Black

Tag: Red Float-Vis

Rib: Silver wire or thin tinsel twist

The Zulu, what a champion of a fly! If I didn’t have at least half a dozen of this pattern in my fly box, I’d feel incomplete, especially if I was standing on the shores of Bronte Lagoon, or any Tasmanian trout water for that matter - I love it.

Like the Possum Emerger, it does it all and will catch fish in many circumstances. It’s a great fly to hang a nymph under, such as a 007 for tailing fish and is easy to see in most different types of light.

Don’t be afraid to vary the pattern either, clip the hackle underneath so it sits low, tie it bushy or sparse. Try a hot orange tag or blue wire rib. If you vary it too much you can’t really call it a Zulu anymore but really the basic pattern is all you need.

I’ve caught and seen plenty of fish landed on the Zulu but by far the most memorable experience for me was capturing on videotape my uncle hooking and landing a 3.5kg dun feeding brown from Lake Field on a bright blue-sky day on good old size 12 Zulu.

The Scintilla Stick Caddis

Hook: #14-12 Kamasan B830

Body: Gingery black Scintilla dubbing

Head: Yellow ultra chenille

Thread: Brown 6/0

My previous favourite small wet for tailers and shallow water cruisers was the good old Fiery Brown Beetle, but these days my first choice is a 007, if that fails it’s straight on with a Scintilla Stick Caddis.

This is another simple fly, as all great flies seem to be, but is very effective. Stick caddis are the staple diet of early season trout so it’s no wonder a good stick caddis imitation is so effective. I tie my Scintilla Stick Caddis very slim, as I believe that most Stick Caddis imitations are tie far to bulky and it should have a definite taper from head to tail.

A good way to achieve a good tapered Scintilla is to tie in the yellow chenille on top of the hook a fraction behind the eye but with a centimetre or two hanging over and in front of the hook eye.

Then bind the chenille to the hook with close turns of thread, a third of the hook shank back towards the hook bend, then snip the remainder of the chenille off.

Wind the thread back to above the hook barb and dub the body material sparsely forward to the hook eye but building up a nice cone shape right to the eye, finish the head off underneath the chenille and varnish. Now the fun part, get yourself a lighter and holding the fly by the hook bend pass the body of the fly quickly, twice through the flame, this will singe the Scintilla and create a smooth, realistic body.

The final step is to touch the flame to the overhanging chenille and let it burn back until there is about 2-3mm of yellow showing, with the burnt bit forming the head and the unburnt chenille representing the caddis grub body.

Sloanes Fur Fly

Hook: #10-8

Thread: Black 6/0

Wing: Natural wild rabbit fur

Head: Black ostrich herl

The Sloanes Fur Fly is a simple but very effective early season fly designed to be fished in the weedy shallows to early season tailers and frogging fish. I rely heavily on this fly when fishing the flooded margins of Bronte Lagoon and the Woodwards Broadwater and other shallow weedy lake margins.

Don’t use a heavy wet fly hook for this fly; you don’t want it to sink to fast, I like a lighter hook such as the Kamasan B170 or the Mustad R50. There is nothing worse than giving the fly a twitch to attract a nearby trout only to have the heavy hook catch on weeds or grass.

I like to present the fly to a moving fish and let the fly settle without any movement often the fish will rush over and swallow it whole, I’ll only twitch the fly if I get no response to a static fly.

Don’t worry to much if the fly floats at first I’ve had plenty of trout suck it from the surface, probably mistaking the fly for a floating corby grub or other morsel. I also tie the fly using black rabbit fur and yellow or orange thread.

It’s a simple fly to tie, first lay a bead of thread starting at the hook eye and wind back along the shank to the half way point, then half way back to the eye of the hook, tie the rabbit fur in here.

The secret is in how you fold the rabbit skin, use a thin strip of fur cross cut from a dried skin 2-3cm long and around 4mm wide, fold both ends of the skin strip, skin to skin meeting in the middle and then fold again, then tie the bundle on to the top of the hook as a normal fur wing, the fur will engulf the hook, snip the folded skin away and add a drop of head varnish, then tie in and wind 4-5 turns of the ostrich herl, then finish with a nice neat head.

The Glister Tag

Hook: #12-14 Kamasan B405

Thread: Black 8/0

Tag: Fluoro pink Float Vis

Body: 50/50 mix of claret Seals Fur and olive Glister

Hackle: Coachman brown dry fly saddle

The Glister Tag has really become a favourite of mine and my close fishing mates. I’ve even heard the comment that “it’s better than the Red Tag” spoken several times, which is a huge statement.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of success with it when polarizing on those perfect blue-sky days out in the 19 Lagoons and beyond; the fish in Botsford love it!

Although the Glister Tag tied with a Coachman Brown hackle is the most popular; I also tie them with a black hackle, which is also effective. I like to tie the fly with a nice full hackle so cram 8-10 or more turns of hackle on and makes sure the seals fur and glister is well mixed. There are a few very similar materials to Glister that are produced under different names and are quite suitable for this pattern, Diamond Brite is just one of them.

The Brett Wolf Emerger

Hook: #10-14 Kamasan B400

Thread: Dark brown 8/0

Tail: Coachman brown hackle feather fibres

Body: Awesome Possum dubbing

Thorax: Awesome Possum dubbing

Wing: 4-5 CDC feathers

Hackle: Coachman brown

Rib: Dark brown Uni-Flex

I tie and sell more of this fly than any other pattern that I tie. Parachute hackled flies are very effective, either tied as a mayfly spinner or the dun stage and the Brett Wolf version is one of the very best at imitating the dun that you can use in Tassie, both in the highland lakes and the lowland streams and storages.

I tie it in two colours, a light version with a body of rust brown Awesome Possum dubbing and a beige CDC wing post. The other with a dark brown Awesome Possum dubbing body and a dark, almost black CDC wing post: I use a coachman brown hackle and tail on both versions.

With any parachute hackled fly it is important to get the hackle size right. Use a hackle size at least one to one and a half sizes larger than you would for a conventional hackled fly. So if you are using a size 12 hook for your Brett Wolf Emerger use at the least a size 10 hackle, this will ensure that the fly will land at sit perfectly most of the time, the larger hackle actually looks better also.

With any fly where CDC feathers are used, don't use liquid or paste floatant, they mat the CDC feather and destroy the natural buoyancy, use a good powder floatant. I like the powder from Loon, called Loon Dust.

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