Category Archives: Fly Tying

Four Flies

About a half a century ago when I was beginning my journey down the slippery slope of fly fishing, a wise old fly fisherman gave me a bit of advice. He told me that if I was going to fish dry flies I only needed four patterns. They are Adams, Hendrickson, Light Cahill and Yellow Adams. He said with those four flies in various sizes from 10 to 18 I could dry fly fish for trout anywhere and any time.

I have remembered his advice and have tried to keep it simple. But new and fancy materials came along. Genetic hackle and sparkly stuff that wasn’t even dreamed of then (the sparkly stuff incidentally is a spin off of the space program – really it is!) came about with other materials, tools and techniques. Like all fly tyers I delved into the mysteries and artistic realms of creating new a better patterns.

Not only would trout be a target of my thread – tinsel – fur – and feather masterpieces but other fish would be sought as well. Colors would range from black to bright florescents that might seem more in place at some modern punk music festival.  Recently I read about a material that absorbs so much black it is totally black. It wont be long until it comes to a fly tying shop near you.  So as I prepare for an upcoming trip to a Laurentian Shield lake in search of northern pike and walleye, I dumped the fly boxes on the table and began to sort through them. I wondered if I had too many. Nah!

But on that lake in Canada I will probably be asked what I am using to catch the fish. “Black Wooly Bugger,” is most likely going to be my answer if not “Chartreuse and White Clouser Deep Minnow.”

I just looked in my fly box again. I guess I better tie some.

23rd Rivers Conservation Camp Concludes

The 23rd Pennsylvania Rivers Conservation & Fly Fishing Youth Camp concluded at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg yesterday. The students, staff and the folks at Messiah did an outstanding job in bringing about the success of the camp. For an overview of the camp please view the slide show prepared by staff member Kelsey Miller at

PA Rivers Conservation & Fly Fishing Youth Camp

This week is the 23rd Rivers Conservation & Fly Fishing Youth Camp. Our venue this year is at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg.

We have a great group of students and they are learning a lot. For many it is their first experience at what college life might be like. What a great group to work with.  They are learning the sciences behind coldwater conservation, doing habitat repair, learning to tie flies and so much more. As I type this they are learning advanced fishing techniques. For more information go to

The Pennsylvania camp is the oldest in the nation and now there are 22 modeled after this one.

What Haven’t I Dun: A Fly For All Seasons

This fly originally appeared in CVTU’s Favorite Flies: Fifty-three Productive Patterns From Cumberland Valley Trout Unlimited

CVTUFavorite (501x800)

Hook – Standard Dry Fly, Fine Wire, Perfect Bend, Turned Down Eye, Size 10 – 20

Thread – 6/0 White Pre-waxed

Body – White dubbing natural or synthetic

Tail – White or very light cream hackle

Wing – White Poly Yarn

Hackle – White or very light cream

Color – Indelible, waterproof felt tip markers (Black, Green, Brown, Orange, Yellow)

Who among us has not been on a stream with a fly box loaded with the wrong patterns? We’ve all done it.  It can be so frustrating.  We have spent years collecting material.  During the past winter as chilled winds blew out of the north we sorted flies and calculated our needs.  Then with the self-assurance that we knew what was going to happen, we proceeded to tie flies for the upcoming season.  Then at last it was time, and we proceeded to the stream only to find Hendricksons had hatched early and March Browns, not normally due for another two weeks were on the water.  AAAAAAAARRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

But relax fellow angler. A solution is at hand.  First a couple of things that you need to understand.

  1.       You can make a dry fly sink
  2.       You can make a spinner from a dun but not vice versa.
  3.       Fish ain’t that smart and
  4.      Liquor doesn’t necessarily help.

Using the materials described above tie at least a half dozen in each size in the Catskill tradition. That is to say tie standard dry flies. You will notice you now have a selection of all white dry flies. Put them in a separate fly box. That was simple enough. In your vest stuff the indelible pens, a pair of fly tying scissors and the white fly box. Incidentally, the flies you have tied will work on the Breeches when the White Flies are on. Now go fishing.

You have arrived at your favorite hole. The fish are taking emergers and after careful observation you have determined what they are but you don’t have that pattern. Get out the White Fly Box. Select one of the proper size. Trim the hackle to make the imitation sink. Use the pens to appropriately color the fly. Fish to your heart’s content.

The emergers change to duns. Again you are caught short. Pull out the WFB. Select the proper size and color appropriately with the pen. There you go Bucky! You’re back in business.

When the duns change to spinners select another fly, trim the hackle and color appropriately. There you have the spinner.

Now a couple of key points.

  • Do not color the flies beforehand as the colors when they touch in the fly box may bleed together.
  • Do not place colored up flies back in the WFB as they may stain the white uncolored flies
  • Check beforehand to see if your dry fly floatant will make the colors run.
  • A full color spectrum of pens is not necessary but go ahead if you feel compelled to have absolutely every color for every situation.
  • Pick materials that you find easy to use and tie with. I prefer poly yarn for wings and white rabbit fur for the body.So there is one solution to making sure you have the right fly in the right situation. It’s not as much fun as collecting material and tying all those patterns, and while that is still encouraged this might make life just a bit easier.

The Cumberland Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited has compiled and published two books, CVTU’s Favorite Flies: Fifty-three Productive Patterns From Cumberland Valley Trout Unlimited and More of CVTU’s Favorite Flies. Both books are indispensable references for anglers who are planning a trip to the Cumberland Valley and want to know what flies to tie or buy.

When Fly of the Month was inaugurated in our monthly newsletter, members were challenged. “Do you have a secret weapon that you want to share with your fellow CVTU members? Do you have an invention that the trout just can’t resist? Submit your favorite pattern…”.

The members responded, and these books are a compilation of over 11 years of Fly of the Month patterns. Some are classics, some are flies adapted from other areas that have been successful here, and some are inventions of the contributors. All are proven patterns that will be worthy additions to your fly box. Books may be purchased at monthly members meetings. The books are 6″ x 9″, and spiral bound to lay flat on your tying desk. Books are now in stock! To order either or both by mail, click on

CVTU’s new book, More of CVTU’s Favorite Flies is now available. A sequel to our popular CVTU’s Favorite Flies, this new book follows the same format, but is in full color.