Most will agree that the first flies did not float
very well, if at all. Actually, most think they were
not intended to. They were just intended to attract
fish. That the general style of flies continued for
hundreds of years is not surprising. Fish are curious.
So far, there has not been a fly that wouldn't at some
time and place catch something. As time went on,
inventiveness brought forth a wide range of materials
and some attempts to make flies float and more or less
represent in varying degrees some insect forms. Not to
go into the bait representations at his time.
With clever minds and quality feathers, flies started
to float and the dry fly was indeed born. It lived on
more than one continent and in several styles but there
remained a certain sameness to all dry flies. The general
shape of a trout fly was a tail, a body, a wing, and some
hackle. This is true for the wet and the dry. The only
difference is the amount of hackle and the web in the
feathers. The elements remain virtually unchanged.
The first realistic attempt to create an actual dry fly
was by Vincent Marinaro, the creator of the jassid. His
use of a slanted front tank and photographs of a fly tied
with a cris-crossing of two hackle feathers produced a
fly which for the very first time gave an accurate impression
of the footprints of a dun as it floated on the surface.
Another often overlooked feature of his fly was the placement
of the wing which was nearly dead-center of the hook shank.
With the combination of the cross-style hackle and the
proper placement of the wing he was far ahead of the field.
Too far actually and his flies were never accepted as
anything but bizarre and an oddity. A shame really as
he was quite correct and the flies were a snap to construct.
He was however perhaps blinded by his own theory and failed
to take his inspection to the next level. That a dry fly needs
to represent an insect and do so well before it gets into the
window of a fish's vision is an accepted fact and one to be
striven for at all costs. Observation of living insects from
below the surface will reveal some interesting elements however.
As he stated, the "color of the body of a dun is superfluous
as it does not engage the water," is close but not quite
accurate. A dun can at times keep its body above the surface
but it is greatly the exception. Usually the body will ever
so lightly touch. That the color is not readily apparent is
true, but that it does touch is also true.
To represent a dun correctly the tier needs to rethink what
it is he is attempting to do; to represent, from below the
surface, an image that will interest a fish enough for it
to start the rise response. To do so is far simpler than
has been accepted and followed over the years. The only
elements that are required are three. A body. A wing/post.
A hackle, wound shinny side up, so as to represent an image
from below the surface, of the legs of an insect, and enough
turns to float the fly.
A tail is unnecessary and counterproductive only helping
to sink a fly no matter what it is made of. The vertical
wing/post needs to be applied first to the middle of the
hook shank for balance and needs to be made of a material
rigid enough to facilitate the winding of a convex,
horizontal hackle feather, which will be used to support
the fly and represent the insects legs.
Nothing else is needed and will only serve to further the
demise of the fly. Keeping the body slight/sparse is best,
selecting a winging/post material which is highly visible
to the angler is desirable and the hackle should be in
proportion to the body and the pattern of the legs of the
insects being represented.
Color is not necessary at all and only shade may be of any
value, actually one set of light and one set of dark of any
given hook size will be sufficient. As these flies are of a
generic nature it is only natural that I refer to them as
These are a style of tying requiring the exact placement
of the elements and has not before been previously suggested.
Flies such as these may have been tied before but not with
the full understanding and intent as these are. They are
extremely simple to construct and the rank amateur can
This is not to imply that all of the millions of other flies
which have been the creation of the fly-tier's mind will not
continue to catch fish. They will. However it is time to put
an end to that era and actually advance the craft. The 'generic'
flies are easier to tie, require far fewer materials and shades
in one's fly collection and will actually entice fish to rise
more freely as they more closely represent the insect which
the fish consumes daily.
There is no set way these flies must be tied. No secret method.
No rules. Whatever works for the individual tier will be fine.
The only thing that must be adhered to is the placement of the
parts. The wing/post of the appropriate height and centered,
the body slim, the hackle wound concave (seen from the bottom)
around the post with enough turns to support the fly. ~ JC