An Introduction to Fly Tying:
SHWAPF (swept hackle, wingless, all purpose
By Al Campbell
If you could only have one fly pattern
in your fly box, what would it
be? Would you choose a dry fly or a nymph?
If that pattern could be modified to match
many insect hatches, or if it could be fished
as a dry, wet, nymph or streamer; would it be
more likely to be your pick? What if someone
designed a fly that would fit almost all
occasions with only a slight modification in
size, hook or materials, but the tying steps
remained the same? Would that earn this fly
a place in the hallowed halls of your fly box?
In my case, it earned this fly the right to
its own fly box.
This pattern was featured in the fall 1998 issue
of Fly Tying Magazine
from Frank Amato Publications. It's called a SHWAPF
(swept hackle, wingless, all purpose fly). It's a
simple fly to tie and a simple fly to fish. You can
change any number of materials to change the looks and
attributes of the fly and still tie it with the same
simple steps. It can be a salmon fly, a dry fly, a wet
fly, a streamer or a nymph depending on the length, size
and style of hook or the materials used.
You can add a bead head, change the body materials
or hackle materials and still use the same simple
steps to tie a shwapf that looks very different
than the one you tied the last time. That's the
key to this simple fly, it's adaptable enough to
match almost anything you want it to match. That's
why it's called an all purpose fly.
I first designed this fly to chase brookies in
my native Montana waters. It was so easy to fill
my fly box with fish catching flies in very
little time, that it became a favorite of mine.
That gave me more time to fish and freed me from
the tying bench more often. I like that idea!
Need a caddis, mayfly or ant imitation? I've
used the Shwapf for all of them. Royal Shwapf?
Yup, that one too.
I've been using the Shwapf and teaching it in my
fly tying classes for fifteen years. It's a local
favorite for several reasons. First, it catches
fish. Second, it's so easy to tie and modify to
most occasions; even a novice tyer can master the
endless variations it offers. Third, since it's
so versatile, it fills many gaps in the fly angler's
arsenal of flies.
Don't be afraid to experiment with new materials
when tying this pattern. I tie it with dozens of
materials in sizes 2 through 22. Just change the
colors or materials to match any insect or water
critter you want to match. It's just that simple.
And, it simply catches fish; from bluegills and
trout to salmon and pike. Simple fly, simple tie,
List of materials:
Hook: Dry, wet, nymph or streamer hook. Your choice
for the type of fly you want to tie. I often use
a dry fly hook.
Hackle: Squirrel tail hair, badger hair, krystal
flash, antron, ..again your choice.
Back: Same material as the hackle.
Body: Rainy's No-Dub, punch embroidery yarn,
glass beads and dubbing, coarse or fine dubbing...
again it's your choice.
Thread: Match the thread color and size to
the body color and hook size.
For the first fly we'll use:
Hook: Dry - Mustad 94840, Tiemco 100,
Eagle Claw L061B or equivalent.
Hackle and Back: Fox squirrel tail hair.
Body: Rainy's No-Dub, glazed carrot color.
Thread: Gudebrod 3/0 orange or equivalent.
1. Select a small clump of hair from a
squirrel tail (about 12 to 20 hairs). Trim the
tips of the hair and tie it down, tips first, to the
bend of the hook.
2. Tie no-dub to the hook. Again, tie this
material down all the way to the hook bend.
3. Leaving the thread to the back, wrap the
no-dub forward, leaving room for the head of the fly.
4. Bring the thread forward in front of the
no-dub, over the hook, then over the no-dub to
tie the no-dub off. Make several wraps of thread
before you trim the no-dub.
5. Pull the hair forward over the back of
the fly. Tie the hair down behind the hook eye.
A slight upward pressure on the hair will keep it
on top of the fly as you tie it down.
6. Tie the hair down to the hook right behind
the hook eye.
7. Fold the hair back with your thumb and
fingers. Try to get the hair to flair completely
and evenly around the fly.
8. Build the head up slightly and trim
or tie down any loose strands of hair.
9. Finishing building a small, even head.
Whip finish and cement.
10. Trim the hair behind the hook bend.
11. Your finished shwapf should look like Figure 11.
If you decide to use dubbing for the body,
that's OK. Most beginners make the mistake of
using too much dubbing and not twisting it tight
enough around the thread.
When you dub a body, select half the amount of dubbing
you think you will need, cut that in half, and
then you'll only have twice as much dubbing as
you need to twist around the thread. Keep the
dubbing sparse and add more as needed.
Dub the body to the same point you wrapped the no-dub.
Finish the rest of the fly in the
same manner you did the last one.
To tie a Shwapf imitation of a blue wing olive
mayfly, change the hair to badger hair. Select
olive or gray Anglers Choice silk
dubbing or a fine muskrat dubbing. Use less dubbing
to create a fine, dubbed yarn around the thread just
slightly thicker than the thread.
Dub a thin body to the same place on the hook as
before. Pull the hair over the back
and finish the fly as before. Notice the different
color the badger hair provides? Changing where you
select the hair from on a skin or tail will often
change the color or shade of the hair and the
Experiment a little with different types of
hackle and body materials. If you use the same
tying steps, it's still a Shwapf.
For instance, I tie a Shwapf with a pearl Krystal
flash back and hackle, and a peacock body to imitate
backswimmers (water boatman), those little aquatic
bugs that look like they have oars on the sides of
their bodies. I also use glass beads and dubbing
to create flies that work as egg and flesh fly
You can fish this fly almost any way you wish.
I often fish it wet with a down and across approach.
Sometimes I grease it up and fish it dry. I've added
gold beads to the head of many Shwapf's to use them
as nymphs. In lakes I fish it with a slow twitching
retrieve for trout, bluegills, perch, carp and crappie.
In larger sizes I've caught walleyes, catfish,
bass and pike.
The Shwapf is a versatile fly that offers endless
possibilities. It will keep you busy for weeks
creating new matches for that fly you've always
wanted to match. Just let the creative juices
flow and enjoy the simple way it ties and fishes.
See ya next week. ~ Al Campbell
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