The other day I was thinking about common features of virtually all the mayfly dry fly patterns I use to imitate emergers, cripples, and duns, and realized all of them share at least two out of three characteristics, and many feature all three. Here are these features:
1. I exclusively tie/fish patterns suggestive of “impaired” insects.
Trout have evolved to eat bugs that aren’t going to fly away. For this reason, they prefer to eat cripples, emergers, stillborn insects, and drowned duns when possible. Your traditional Catskill-style dry flies that float on the foam on a glass of beer look cool, but they don’t look like they’re struggling. On the other hand, many popular patterns already imitate impaired insects. The classic Sparkle Dun suggests both emergers and cripples, while parachute dries look a lot like drowned duns, for example.
How do you make a pattern look impaired? Thankfully, there are some easy tricks. In fact, two of the three techniques below are easier than techniques for tying unimpaired insects.
- Use trailing shuck material for a tail. See the Purple Hazy Cripple above for an example. On this pattern, the tail is either golden brown Widow’s Web or brown Sparkle Emerger Yarn.
- Trim the hackle underneath the hook so the pattern rides low in the film, or use parachute hackle. It’s hard to see in the photo above, but the cripple has about 40% of the hackle under the hook trimmed almost to the shank.
- Use the “cripple-style” wing. See above.
2. All of the mayfly patterns I use have slender bodies with slight segmentation and a faintly glossy appearance.
If you look at a real mayfly of virtually any species, they have very slender bodies with prominent segmentation and a somewhat “slick” appearance. To match this appearance on all but the smallest mayflies, here are the three best methods for creating bodies that look like this:
- Use turkey biots, either with the fuzzy edge of the biot “out” or in. On the Soda Fountain Parachute dry above, they’re tied facing out. Alternately, use a rooster or peacock quill to create a similar body.
- Use spandex (as on the Hazy Cripple above) or Hareline’s Micro Tubing (exremely fine surgical or bead-stringing plastic tubing that has been colored).
- Use tying thread ribbed with Krystal Flash and then coated with head cement, super glue, or UV resin, as on the red Missing Link below. This is a great choice for patterns featuring crossover appeal to midges and mayfly spinners as well as emerger/cripple/dun mayflies. Photo courtesy Umpqua Feather Merchants.
3. The vast majority of the mayfly patterns I use utilize hydrophobic synthetic yarn (poly yarn) for their wings.