How To Fish Stillwaters

December 29th, 2003

This is Marv Taylor's final column for FAOL. We appreciate his contribution to make stillwaters less of a mystery to fly fishers. We wish him the best on his new job and book! ~ LadyFisher

Fore and Afts

By Marv Taylor, Garden City, ID

Some fly patterns just look productive. You know the minute you tie one on, you're going to interest the fish. But as much as I like fore and afts, they just don't really look all that fishy. I'm pretty sure I have not yet found aquatic insects with hackle-like appendages on both ends of their bodies; Unless it has been a simi-bald caterpillar. Not only that...but these fore and aft patterns often have different colored hackle on each end.

I first became aware of this type of trout fly at Henry's Lake in 1972 (I had only been tying for 4 or 5 years, and had only a couple of very poor pattern books in which to do research). Vina and I were camped next to an Air Force family from Cheyenne, Wyoming. Besides being a pilot, Colonel Bill Moberly was also a commercial fly tyer. His number one selling pattern, was a fly he called his Peacock Nymph. We fished together for a week, both at Henry's Lake and at Island Park Reservoir, using his peacock fore and afts about half the time. We caught a bunch of fish with the fly. One evening I took a 7-pound rainbow/cutthroat hybrid with Bill's fly at the Big H, my largest trout at the lake at that point in time.

The Moberly peacock is a simple pattern. Bill dressed the fly on 6 through 10, 4X long hooks. It has a thin peacock herl body, with three wraps of brown hackle at each end (I can't prove it, but I think the very popular Henry's Lake Renegade - featured in an earlier column- was an off-shoot of this pattern).

I had just initiated a "Fly of the Week" feature in the Boise, Idaho Statesman, so I ran the peacock fore and aft when I returned home. A couple of weeks later, the Managing Editor of the newspaper ran a photograph of some really large rainbows he had taken from a 'no-name' lake in the area. His fishing partner for the day had been Idaho's new Governor (Cecil Andrus). Dick told me they had caught all of their fish on the peacock fore and aft I had featured in the Statesman.

About hat same time I got acquainted with a float tuber at central Idaho's Horsethief Reservoir. One of his most productive flies was a chenille bodied fore and aft, tied on a 1XL hook. My new friend used a medium-olive chenille for a body, a black hackle on the front, and a light olive hackle on rear (see photo). I used fore and afts for a few years, then drifted off to other patterns. Then in the early 90s, I began experimenting with the pattern again, using mostly the variegated chenilles I had become so fond of, and my fore and afts began to produce again.

From about 1988 to 1993, central Idaho's Little Payette Lake became one of our better western Idaho trophy trout fisheries. Stocked with both Kamloops and Penask rainbow trout (from Canada), anglers began landing fish up to 5 or 6 pounds. I began playing around with a fore and aft using a black and orange variegated chenille. I had successfully used this chenille on crawdad patterns when I was trying to fool Idaho's Snake River smallmouth.

I added gold dyed grizzly hackle to both ends, a black marabou tail, and weighted it with about a dozen wraps of .015" fuse wire. It really didn't look all that great, but couple it with a deep sinking line, and the Little Payette Lake trout just wouldn't leave it alone.

I haven't gone so far as to identify it as one of my crawdad patterns yet, but I think maybe I should. Just worry it along the bottom like a scurrying crawdad, and hang on. The trout in my part of the country have become pretty fond of it.


    Hook: Mustad 9672, 3XL (or equivalent), sizes 6 - 10 weighted. While Bill Moberly tied his on 4XL hooks, I prefer 3XL.

    Thread: Black 6/0, prewaxed.

    Tail: Black Marabou.

    Rear Hackle: Gold dyed grizzly, 3 wraps.

    Body: Medium sized black/orange chenille.

    Front Hackle: Gold dyed grizzly, 3 wraps.

    Head: Black 6/0, prewaxed.


There are two types of "Halloween" chenille. The original Halloween Leech uses a chenille called "black and burnt orange." Marv's Halloween uses "black and orange." The latter is a softer orange, actually more of a natural orange. Burnt orange is a much deeper color. I've used both of these variegated chenilles on this pattern and find the softer orange to be much more effective.


I've always fished this fly down near the bottom. I guess I consider any pattern consisting of black and orange, a crawdad fly.

The tippet size is almost always determined by the size of the fly. I tend, however, to go one size heavier than normal on larger flies, particularly on patterns like the crawdad that elicit pretty savage takes.

The knot I use to tie crawdad patterns on? This decision is also influenced by the size of the fish. My preference for larger flies, especially when fishing over larger fish, is a through-the-eye-twice clinch knot. If the fish are not taking well, I will go back to the Duncan Loop. Although not quite as strong as the TTET, the Duncan does offer the fish a more natural drift.


    Hook: Mustad 3906B, 1XL (or equivalent), sizes 6 - 12.

    Thread: Black 6/.0, prewaxed.

    Rear Hackle: Ginger saddle hackle, 2 wraps.

    Body: Medium sized dark-olive/gold chenille.

    Front Hackle: Black saddle hackle, 2 wraps.

    Head: Black 6/0, prewaxed.


I tied this pattern two ways: I tie it on heavy wire hooks (Mustad 3905B), weighted. On other versions, I use dry fly hooks (Mustad 94840), hoping to keep the fly in the surface film.


Although I do fish this pattern on the bottom, as with Marv's Fore and Aft, I also fish it in the film, more as a drifting snail. ~ Marv

About Marv

You can reach Marv by email at or by phone: 208-322-5760.

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