While the title of this blog would naturally tend to indicate “wet flies” I also enjoy tying and fishing dry flies as well. In fact, when I started tying commercially for Cathy and Barry Beck’s shop in the fall of 1989, my first fly order for about twenty five dozen flies was for black, winged fur ants and yellow stoneflies, all drys. It’s another story how my dog at the time, Molly, a black Cocker Spaniel-Border Collie mix, got a hold of and ate not one, but two, Grade #3 Metz capes I had bought from the shop specifically for this order. And she also chewed into two 100-packs of #20 and #22 Mustad hooks. I remember at the time finding all the #20’s, but finding only 97 of the size #22. Molly was a pup at the time, and she lived ten years. If she did ingest those three hooks, I guess she was none the worse for the wear. That was still a memorable loss of materials, even with the tier’s shop discount.
The Beck’s shop at the time was called Fishing Creek Outfitters. They sold the shop in 1992, and I continued tying for the new owner for about a year and a half, then started my own business in November 1993. Most of my commercial production in those years was tying drys. I tied primarily Comparaduns, but I also produced the shop’s version of the Marinaro-style Thorax Duns, Poly Wing and Hackle Wing Marinaro-style Spinners, and Poly Wing Thorax Duns.
The Comparadun fly was a Godsend when it came on the scene. Back then in the ’70’s, genetic dry fly hackle was a thing of the future, and it was hard to get quality dry fly hackle. So being able to tie a dry fly without hackle was a good thing. Dry fly necks that I bought at E. Hille’s, a local fly shop, unfortunately now out of business, were eight dollars for Grade AA. They were the best you could get at the time.
Initially the tails on the Comparadun were suggested by its originators, Al Caucci and Bob Nastasi, authors of Hatches and Hatches II, to be of mink guard hairs, or spade hackle fibers. I used them at first but once I tried the Microfibetts synthetic tailing fibers, I realized their ease of use and consistency in tying, especially for production tying. Ever since then, every fly I tie – almost – every fly with a split tail, I use the Microfibetts. Spinners, Comparaduns, Post-wing Thorax Duns, and Marinaro-style feather wing thorax duns, I use the Microfibetts. Barry Beck taught me to use the tying thread to divide the tail fibers, rather than a small ball of dubbing as was presented by Caucci and Nastasi, originators of the Comparadun. The thread method, once mastered, can be done in ten seconds or less. Which brings me to a point here – I just made my first home-made fly tying video this morning, tying a March Brown Comparadun. I posted it on youtube, and the video link will follow shortly.
Here is a photo of a March Brown Comparadun:
March Brown Comparadun
Thread: Dark Brown 6/0 Uni-Thread
Hook: Standard dry fly hook, #10 and #12
Wing: Natural brown deer hair
Tail: Brown Microfibetts, ten fibers split 5/5
Body: Tan rabbit dubbing
Ribbing: Made from the tying thread, reverse dubbed body, wind rib (bare thread) forward from bobbin after winding dubbing from thorax to tail
Thorax: Tan rabbit dubbing
Click here to view my (first ever!) March Brown Comparadun fly tying video:
I hope you enjoy the video!
The tying thread ribbing is accomplished with a technique I call reverse dubbing. After attaching and dividing the tail, wind the thread to the thorax. The dubbing is then applied to the thread, the idea is to add exactly the right amount, so that you run out precisely when you arrive at the base of the tail. Then the tying thread is simply wound from the tip of the bobbin back to the rear of the wing. Practice allows you to get good at this, but also, try to employ a parsimonious use of dubbing, not heavy. (I had to add that five-dollar “College Word” for my friend Truman – he’ll definitely have to get out his dictionary on that one. On the dubbing, it’s always easier to add more if needed than to try and remove excess if you applied too much.
The March Brown mayfly can provide prolonged dry fly fishing. In fact the other night on Lycoming Creek, it was June 4th, I witnessed the largest flight of Great Red Spinners – March Browns – that I have ever seen in my life. The spinners flew overhead, not just back and forth, but in a steady upstream flight, for well over an hour. There must have been tens of thousands of them. The number of flies that night would do justice to the productivity of some of the most fertile waters in the country. And yes, the trout turned on, and I did well with a March Brown Spinner, the one posted last year, and again recently, with the brown Sexi-Floss abdomen, moose body hair tails, and a spent wing of White E. P Fibers.