The Other Side Of Fly Tying

    There has always been a fascination of things old, in my fly fishing and fly tying passion. When I was just starting in the sport, I loved the photos on Sportsman cigarette packages, of classic trout wet flies. Almost all of these pretty trout flies were not accessible to me for purchase at that time.

    Later on, when I took up fly tying, I could tie which ever trout fly pattern I chose to, or at least try to. Eventually, my fly tying of trout patterns improved over time. In the 1980’s I started to sell some of my patterns in a local gas station. Included in my sales were some snelled wet flies.

    I found, at that particular time in the 80’s, that some anglers still liked the old classic wet flies. Often these were used to fish for whitefish, but that is ok by me. There was still a demand for something that I really enjoyed tying.

    Later on in the early 1990’s, I decided to tackle the most difficult fly patterns that any fly tier could attempt. The classic salmon fly is a complex mixture of shaped feathers, many of which are exotic and hard to find. However, these are the most beautiful flies that I had ever seen. It took time to tie just one of these magnificent classic patterns.

Above: These classic wet flies that I tied for display, include some very popular patterns in the early days of trout fly fishing. Some of these I use to tie with snelled leaders attached, for local anglers to use in their sport. Patterns like the Royal Coachman and Black Knat (bottom left) were used regularly in local  trout waters. The wet fly was mainly used to catch mountain whitefish, at that time.

Above: I tied these Classic Atlantic Salmon flies for display purposes, in the early 1990’s. These are the most beautiful flies that some fly tiers like to put together. They take a lot of time to tie and require some very exotic feathers in their make up. The classics are a true art form and when properly displayed, they look great.

    The tying of classic wet flies has greatly influence me over the years. It prompted me to start tying streaming wet flies in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I always felt that the wet fly still had great potential for local trout streams.

    The streaming wet fly is very similar to common steelhead fly patterns that are popular on coastal waters and into the central  part of BC. They both have hair wings and they are close in size, but just a little smaller.

   The first streaming wet fly that I tied, used and sold, was the Spot tail minnow. It turned out to be a great fly pattern for the brown trout streams just to the north of

my home town of Cochrane, Alberta.

    As the years progressed, I developed some very effective streaming wet flies, that I personally enjoyed fishing with. These patterns are also a lot of fun to tie, using mainly a wing of squirrel fur, calf tail and a Spratley wing of pheasant tail.

    The entire concept was based on using specific colors and combinations of colors to entice trout to strike. I have found that both brook trout and brown trout respond the best to the brighter colors.

    The streaming wet flies are great patterns when all else fails. They are also very good for trophy trout.

Weighted Eye  -  Streaming Wet Flies

    I found that most of the fly fishing I do is on smaller streams, with tight cover. By adding a set of weighted bar-bell eyes to my streaming wet fly patterns, I could get the result I needed to get deep—fast.

    The brass, plated and painted eyes worked the best for adding the right colors to specific streamer patterns. Mainly yellow and red color eyes.

    All of my streaming we flies are tied on a size 8 streamer hook, so I have found that a medium sized eye was working the best for me, most of the time. On occasion, a pattern with a small weighted eye is used.

    I don’t like to invert the hook, with the point up, because of damage to the trout that I catch, so I tie in the eye on the bottom, bend side of the hook shank.

Right photo:


The barbell eye is added to the streaming wet fly to get the patterns down deep in a hurry. The most common color of eye is red and yellow, for my pattern selection. I prefer to use a chrome eye with painted eyes. Dubbing is used to wrap around the eye and form a head on the patterns.


A size 8 streamer hook of 3X is used for almost all of my patterns. Calf tail hair is the common choice for wing, but pheasant tail and squirrel is also used on some of the patterns.

I really like to use the Spratley Wing design on a number of my streaming wet fly patterns. Pheasant tail wings are great, when tied into the pattern properly.

Fly Fishing—Fly Tying And Conservation

    Over the years, I have know some very good fly fisher’s and fly tiers that were closely linked to conservation efforts. These conservation minded sportsmen recognized the importance of taking care of the resource that had given them so much thru the years.

    I find myself following in that same direction, having worked on projects to protect and restore both fish and habitat, over the last few decades. It is not like I feel I am filling an obligation, but rather I truly enjoy doing what I do.  

    Efforts to make sure our trout streams are there for the future generations should be part of a fly fisher’s experience. Simple things, like just picking up a little garbage while walking the shoreline, helps out a lot.

    During the winter months, when the snow and cold wind blows outside, it is great to sit and tie trout flies for the upcoming open water season. This pastime also helps to maintain the interest of a fly fisher in both fishing and thoughts of conservation involvement in the new year.

    While putting together the recipe for a trout fly, I often visualize the trout habitats that I have grown to love. Some favourite pools and runs wonder thru my thoughts and I can reflect on how lucky I have been to have had a lifetime of great fly fishing.

    This next year, I will be on the stream bank planting native willows and trees. I look forward to this and hope to continue  doing it into future years to come.