March Brown Spinners

Last Thursday I went up Big Pine Creek, following PA Rt. 44 into the village of Waterville, located at the confluence of Big and Little Pine Creeks in Lycoming County. The shop is 22 miles from my house, all on back roads. But it’s a nice drive through beautiful country; I take PA Rt. 973 West from Quiggleville through Salladasburg to get to Rt. 44. I was on my way fishing, and I wanted to stop in McConnell’s Country Store & Fly Shop to get a few tying materials. Here is a link to their web site:

I was surprised since it was  Thursday that my close friend Dave Rothrock, of Jersey Shore, was working in the fly shop. He normally works weekends. Dave and I chatted and caught up a little bit on things, but regarding the fishing, he said the shop had been completely cleaned out of March Brown fly patterns of every sort. This was due to the good fishing conditions on Big and Little Pine Creeks, in large part due to the warm winter, lack of snow pack, and stable stream flows. Good fishing created higher than normal demand for flies, consequently the shop was sold out. I haven’t tied commercially for quite a few years, but I figured I would tie up some March Brown Spinners for the shop to help them out, even though they didn’t order them, I reasoned they would be happy to get some. And I could use a little extra cash, can’t we all? 😉 So on Saturday afternoon, I tied up three dozen March Brown Spinners in size #10. Below is a group shot of my work:

March Brown Spinners, size #10.

After I did the first dozen, I thought for the heck of it, I wanted to see how my timing was. If I still “got it” for production tying. So I clocked myself, start to finish, one dozen. When I took the last fly from the vise, I hit my stopwatch and the timer read: thirty-nine minutes, twenty-eight seconds. That’s three minutes fifteen seconds per fly. I was kind of pleased with that, but I did mess with the tail for over a minute on the first fly right off the bat. The first fly was four minutes eighteen seconds…dismal for a commercial tying time.

I once had a visiting friend from England, who did not tie flies, but was curious about it, having never seen it done. He wanted to watch me one day. He sat there and timed me, commenting each time I finished a fly. I remember I was tying #14 Sulphur Spinners, my best time on those (with split tail) was two minutes, fifteen seconds. But I plodded on after my four-and-a-quarter minute March Brown Spinner. I did have the wing material prepped ahead of time. But that would really only add about two additional minutes, still keeping the average time -per-fly at about 3-1/2 minutes each.

Here is a macro of a single fly:

March Brown Spinner, size #10. The rabbit dubbed thorax actually suggests the legs.

March Brown Spinner

The ingredients are listed in order of tying procedure.

Hook: Standard dry fly hook, size #10. This hook is a Dia-Riki 300.

Thread: Danville 6/0 Flymaster, No. 47 Tobacco Brown. I’m going to start listing the Danville Chenille Company thread color numbers from their website for clarification with my fly patterns, after a recent forum discussion of the correct color of orange floss for Gray Ghost bodies.

Wing: Clear Hi-Vis or Enrico’s Sea Fibers (both are the same product, different name). This comes in a large hank or bundle, and it must be sorted – separated from the main bundle; and sized according to fly size – a bit tricky but not difficult once one does it a few times. Experience is a good teacher.

Tail: Two fibers of moose body hair. Moose body hair is very strong and durable.

Body – Abdomen: Brown Flexi-Floss, * wound over tying thread base.

Body – Thorax: Rusty brown rabbit dubbing.

Head: Tying thread, cemented.

* The footnote for the Flexi-floss – well, this is confusing. Like the Hi-Vis and Sea Fibers, fly tying material companies market the same product and call it by different names. I guess they have to do that. It is confusing, even to experienced fly tiers, to say the least.

Independently of other fly tiers, I began years ago using Flexi-floss for mayfly bodies, specifically for dry fly bodies. I made that decision because I discovered that Flexi-floss floats. Now, Flexi-floss, Sexi-Floss, Super-floss, Dyna-Floss, Floss-Flex, and I don’t know what else it is called, but this is a DuPont product. All the same. I googled “Flexi-Floss” and found a Fly Fisherman Magazine article by Mike Hogue, owner of Badger Creek Fly Tying Materials in Ithaca, New York. Mike would be a good material source to check out.

Mike’s article was about “The Flexi-Floss Dun.” I don’t get the photos on my computer for some reason, and Mike’s article of unknown date, was nevertheless informative. He did however lump Wapsi’s Span-Flex into the same group with Flexi-Floss, associating it as the same material. Span-Flex is not the same as Flexi-Floss, it is different. Span-Flex is a latex product. It has a dull, matte finish. It comes in different sizes, not diameters as the article stated because it is not round, but rather is rectangular or square depending on the size.  Span Flex comes in three or four sizes. The Flexi-Floss is also of a squarish shape, but more oval, not cut flat like Span-Flex. Both products are very stretchy. Span-Flex, however, will eventually rot. So it is not a good material for a framed fly. I have some Latex Caddis Larva in my fly box, made from Span-flex, that are at least five years old, and the bodies came apart. So what, you say? The Latex Caddis Larva is a pattern I got from Rick Whorwood in Ontario back in the mid-90’s before Span-flex came on the market. Back then we used dental gum bands that your kids put on their braces. One round gum band would make three size #18 flies, but the material had to be wound with hackle pliers. Span-flex cured that difficulty. The Latex Caddis Larva is a great fly by the way, one I would have on a short list of nymph patterns for anywhere in the country, due to its imitative effectiveness of the net-spinning Hydropsyche caddis larva.

I often used a #18 Latex Caddis Larva on Spring Creek during my live, stream-side instructional nymph fishing demos, more than once resulting in hookups of six, eight, or more trout, prompting immediate and keen interest in the fly by onlookers and their desire to obtain the “magic bullet” pattern. I usually planned for this and had some for sale. 😉  I have another story about this fly too, for another time. Span-Flex is a good material, it provides translucence and is very much affected by different shades of the tying thread. Just don’t make more than a year’s supply of any pattern with it.

Flexi-floss – is a glossy material. Also very stretchy. It floats. Span-flex by comparison, sinks. You can put Span-flex in a glass of water and it will sink. Put Flexi-floss in some water, and even if you force it down, it rises back to the surface. Hence, a superior material to incorporate into dry fly bodies. It is also translucent, and is the best synthetic quill body substitute I have ever seen. It requires no soaking. It is durable. It comes in many colors, and like the Span-flex, is also of significant advantage for fly pattern design, due to its translucence and being effected by the color of tying thread used underneath it. One color of Flexi-floss can be made into a number of different shades by changing the base thread color. It has been used for legs, ribbing, etc., but its real boon to tiers of trout flies is its ability to mimic not only the appearance of, as A. K. Best, says the “smooth, waxy-looking bodies of mayflies,” but it excels beyond other materials with its translucence.

I have samples of Blue Quills, Baetis (different colors), Cornutas, Quill Gordons, Chocolate Duns, Mahogany Duns, Slate Drakes, March Brown Duns, Sulphurs, Light Cahills, Pale Evening Duns, Pale Morning Duns, and spinners for these patterns with the range of colors of Flexi-floss.

Tying Instructions

Step 1: The fly is tied by first setting a short thread base for the wing. Then set the wing about 1/3 the distance between the eye and hook point, attaching it with a thread wrap and then securing it with about ten tight figure-eight wraps.

Step 2: Wind tying thread to the hook point, stop and attach two moose body hairs. Begin winding to the barb. By placing your finger on top of the fibers, they will slid to the sides of the hook shank. Moderate thread tension will move them into place on the sides of the hook shank by the time you reach the end of the body. Note in the macro photo, the tail comes off both sides of the abdomen, like a real bug, not off the top like most other patterns.

Step 3: Wind thread forward to the thorax, and attach the Flexi-floss with one wrap. Maximize thread tension (to hold the body material in place, if it slips out you need more tension), and s-t-r-e-t-c-h the Flexi-floss, then wind over it to the base of the tail, stopping a smidgen ahead of the tail, and then wind thread forward to the thorax. Leave a little room behind the wings for the dubbed thorax.

Step 4: Wind the Flexi-floss forward, secure with at least 3, and no more than 4 wraps. And I mean tight. Cut off. One six-inch section of Flexi-Floss, cut from the cable tie bundle, will make 6 – 8 size #10 flies.

Step 5: Dub the thread and wind the dubbing in figure-eight wraps, keeping the wing at right angles to the hook shank. Some spinners I have seen have a thorax that is too sparse, skinny. I like to imitate the natural bulge of the thorax of mayfly spinners; a more realistic body silhouette triggers more strikes.  Finish wrapping and whip finish the head, and the fly is done.

I just finished two dozen size #18 and #20 Dark Rusty CDC Comparaduns for an order; the nice thing about Flexi-floss, is it will split. Use your bodkin to skewer the middle of the material about a half-inch from one end, and pull the Flexi-floss away. This will split it; then simply grab the ends and pull it apart. This yields smaller width sections of material that can be used on tiny flies.

The bodies of these small patterns I dressed have a “quill body.” I’ll try to take photos tomorrow and add them to this post. That way folks can see the benefit of this stuff. Hope you like the flies!

(Edit – May 1st: One of these days I’m going to start making tying videos and put a few on Youtube I guess).

#16 Blue Quill Polywing Thorax Dun, tied with Flexi-Floss body.

26 comments on “March Brown Spinners

  1. Kelly L says:

    Interesting blog today, thank you. I could never be a production tyer. I don’t know how in the world you can tie that fast! WOW. I enjoyed reading about the materials too. I have meant to try some Flexi-floss, and Span-flex, but haven’t gotten around to that yet.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Kelly;
      Thank you for your comment! As always, I appreciate your observations, and especially that you take your time to read this stuff. 🙂 I know how you feel about tying “repetition” but whenever I think of my stint of commercial tying, I surely learned a lot during those first four years – 1989 – 1992. Tying commercially, 900 – 1100 dozen per year, was a fast-track acceleration of every aspect of my tying skill; speed, uniformity, counting wraps (AK’s advice – you get so you count subconsciously), continuity of the pattern / size, handling materials, prepping to produce, all good stuff. Without that experience my tying would be different today, for sure. Again, thanks for the comment!

      • EDWARD TORCHIA says:

        Hello Don…I think I told you my friend lives up on a farm in Jersey Shore. I wanted to fish Pine in the worst way, but just can’t pull my self from Penn’s Creek. The spinners look great and I will add those to my spinner patterns for next season. Hope you are enjoying Maine and some Brook Trout fishing….Again it as a pleasure meeting you and ABBY
        and remember ENJOY THE MOMENT

      • Don Bastian says:

        Hi Ed;
        I can identify with you not wanting to leave Penn’s Creek. I’ve never fished the Delaware, for example, because it’s anywhere from 2-1/2 to 3 hours away, and I have to drive away from Penn’s Creek, Big Fishing Creek, Spring Creek – what I call the “Golden Triangle of Trout Streams” in Pennsylvania. Not to mention Little Pine Creek, Slate Run, Cedar Run, Lycoming Creek, Loyalsock Creek, and all the smaller tribs that feed these streams. And a few more I prefer not to publicly indentify. 😉 Lots of trout fishing opportunities close to home. 🙂
        Glad you like that March Brown Spinner. I took a 16″ brown at Doc’s the first night we fished on that pattern. Hooked another, and rose and missed a few others besides. Thanks for your support! Tight lines, friend!
        PS: Glad you enjoyed meeting Abigail, she seemed to adopt you as her new best friend how she snuggled up to you on the day bed. She is a great dog and a wonderful companion.

  2. Bill says:

    Nice batch of spinners, Donnie. I especially like the segmented effect of that abdomen. I’ll e-mail you a photo of the sulphur spinner pattern I’ve been tying this week …

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Bill;
      Thanks for your compliment…that appearance is one of the reasons why I love this material. Flexi-floss, et al, gives a segmented appearance without ribbing, it’s the shape of the material and the way it wraps and lays down on the shank.
      I have a macro-photo of my D. cornuta spinner pattern that I designed, it’s olive “flexi” with a single strand of yellow rayon floss for a rib. I should post that, in fact I intend to…
      I stopped subscribing to Fly Fisherman some years ago, so I don’t know when Mike’s article appeared…he and I had the same idea without knowing it…Bary Beck was the person that told me the Spanflex sinks and Flexi-floss floats…which was the spark that inspired me to try it on drys. As AK says, the “smooth waxy-looking bodies,” this material does a great job of mimicking that, plus the added bonus and practical applications of enhanced floatation and translucence.
      I need to tie several patterns with the same body material, different threads and post them so you and my other readers can see the difference. Thanks for your compliments, and for your support! Hope to have some tight lines together and be able to holler, “Fish On!” :mrgreen:

  3. Jeff Turko says:

    Hi Don. I fished big Pine a couple weeks ago and the MB’s made quite an appearance. I heard someone working at the Slate Run shop say, “I’ve never seen so many smiling faces,” when asked how the fishing was. Coincidentally, I also fished Spring Creek last weekend. I enjoyed your Spring post(s) as well. Seems that everytime I take a drive to go fishing, you make a post about that same stream;) I must be doing something right!

    Your spinners look great. I dislike dealing with quill bodies so I am definitely going to try some Flexi-floss. Thanks for the info. Take care.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hey Jeff;
      Thanks for your comment! Yeah it seems maybe you and I are crossing “virtual paths.” 🙂
      You are correct about the March Browns on Pine Creek. I talked to an old friend today who has had a camp there for over 15 years, above Slate Run – he spends most of the month of May there and into June. He said he’s never seen anything like the numbers of the March Brown duns on the water this year, on several occasions. Good stuff! I’m lucky I live close enough; I plan to get back up there more than once over the next three weeks. The way we’re still having frosty nights, the water temps will hold up well. Isonychias, Green and Brown Drakes, Cornutas, and Sulphurs are backstage, waiting for their time to enter the play. It might even be worth sleeping in the Nymphmobile a time or two. :mrgreen: Thanks again for your comment!

  4. Texfly says:

    Great post as always Don. You are right about the different names for the flex floss , everyone seems to call it something different. A quick search brought up many different types and descriptions of what may be the same thing. What is your suggestion on picking up the right kind and or brand for dry flies. Thanks

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Texfly;
      Thank you for your comment and appreciation of this post. I am glad you like it. As far as what brand to use, as noted they are all the same. Just stay away from the Span-flex for dry flies. It is a different product. The Super-Floss (Umpqua), Dyna-Floss (Cascade Crest), Sexi-Floss (Montana Fly Company), or Flexi-floss (Orvis) – it doesn’t matter, DuPont makes it and the tying materials companies buy it. Umpqua has the largest selection with 29 colors, MFC has 18 colors. Probably about 10 are all you need. Thanks again for your post, appreciated it! Cheers!

  5. mayflytyer says:

    Very, very nice! Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thank you for your comment! I am glad you enjoyed the pattern. This spinner is a fish catcher for sure; lots of other mayfly species can be imitated with this same material and spent-wing design. I’ve been fishing these spinner patterns for about 15 years. Thanks again!

  6. Fine looking spinners but I think they would pass for Isonychia spinners better than March Browns.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thanks for your comment Jerry; glad you like the flies.
      Generally I tie my Slate Drake Spinners a bit more on the brownish side without much rust color, and usually I find trout feeding on spinners key in on size more than color. A close shade to the natural, especially as dusk settles, gets more back-lit to the trout’s view as light fades. That’s my speculation, based on my personal observation and experience, as well as that of other anglers and authors over the years. Will we ever figure this out for sure? Not likely, and let me be the first to say that I don’t always slay the trout when they’re taking (what I think) are spinners. Thanks for your critique! Appreciate it!

  7. Oh, hardly a critique Don! I’ve found several of your patterns that I’m going to steal! Some friends and I stayed in Cross Fork in June and spent a bit of time on Big Pine Creek. Some amazing fishing. My best evening resulted in a 14″ ‘bow, 16″ and 17″ browns and 2 18″ browns! My have to stop by again next year. Very envious of you who live thee 🙂

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi again Jerry;
      I had my best day ever on Big Pine Creek in all the years since the 1970’s, on May 17th of this year. I took 16 rainbows during the day, one 17″, all on nymphs except one on a bugger. Then in the evening I landed an 18″, a 19″ brown on my Extended Body Slate Drake Thorax Dun, and hooked and lost a third large brown. The weather, winter, rain, snow & lack thereof, all contributed to a very stable flow on Big Pine Creek from late March right through this year. Made it one of the best years ever for dry fly fishing. I am glad you like some of my patterns of flies that I tie, or if they may be someone else’s pattern. Thanks for your comment!

      • Hello again Don!

        I’m a little slow sometimes. I was ready to tie some MB spinners this evening and thought I would check on tail color so searched and your blog came up top of the list! I went, Oh! Right! So I cam here and checked the materials list and noticed that I now had everything I needed to tie your MB spinner! And I did! And they are awesome! It’s only taken me 5 years to do it! Wish I could post a pic. So if I wanted to tie an Iso spinner, other than size, what alterations would you suggest? Than ks so much for having done all the hard work for the rest of us!lol

      • Don Bastian says:

        Hi Jerry;
        Thanks so much for your compliments on my pattern variation! These designs do work very well! I tie them as small as #20 for little Baetis spinners. You just split the flexi-stuff for the body with your dubbing needle and peel it apart.
        For an Isonychia spinner, use dark brown thread for the underbody, and a rusty dun / darker brown dubbing in the thorax. And do these also have two strands of pearlescent Krystalflash in the wing? I can’t remember if this pattern has that…
        This is something I added after I’d been tying these for a while. Helps in visibility, and the trout like it. 😉
        Thanks again, and good luck fishing them!

      • Jerry Plaaten says:

        Hi again don!

        Well, it only took me 5 years to get back to this page. Was ready to make some MB spinners and wound up back here where I noticed I actually had all the materials I needed to make some of these. Of course, I used UNI-flexx and micro fibbets as substitutes but the flies are gorgeous! Thanks so much for doing the hard part for me! Copying is so big deal. I love the way these look and have high hopes for them this season. Wish I could post a pic for you.
        Thanks again,

  8. Bruce says:

    Hi Don. I happen to come across this March Brown Spinner thread and I enjoyed it. Can you still buy Flexi-Floss for dry fly bodies? If so, where do you purchase yours?

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Bruce;
      After responding to your question via e-mail, I need to also say, I have not bought any Flexi-Floss for a decade. It lasts forever, unless you use it up more for legs perhaps. My sulphur orange is the color I’m lowest on…
      Thanks for your comment!

  9. […] Super Floss, Dyna-Floss, Sexi-Floss, Floss-Flex, etc., topic was discussed on another post here: I’ll be posting these flies separately – soon – with […]

  10. darrell says:


    Excellent article, and I can’t wait to start seeing your YT videos:)

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Darrell;
      Thanks for your comment, glad you liked this article! Once I get my orders caught up, and get the book under control,then I would like t start doing some tying videos, and post them on youtube…we’ll see…
      Thanks again for your comment!

  11. Darrell says:

    Excellent article Don, I’ve not tied with flex floss for a while now – at least I know it’s not going to rot away before I get around to using it again!
    A little tip that someone may have already mentioned but FF can be a real pain to tie off – it can shrink back past the tie-off point, but if you pull the FF tightish and twist the thread around the FF length so you get 2 or 3 wraps around it, (similar to making a peacock herl rope) THEN tie the FF off it saves the frustration of finishing the fly and watching it unravel.

    BTW: can’t wait to see the YT videos:)

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Darrell;
      When using the Flexi-Floss (which I found out yesterday from the Orvis rep that Orvis has discontinued that product – 😦 – I have never had the issue of it unraveling. I make three usually, and that is sufficient, but sometimes, four tight turns, cut it off, and of the hundreds of patterns I’ve tied with it I have never had one unravel on me.
      I’ll get on finding out who still carries that product, because it has some really great uses for mayfly patterns. It is an excellent synthetic quill material. Thanks for your comment!

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