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Water Floatman
By Philip Rowley

The first boatman crashed onto the scene just after one p.m. on a beautiful, crisp mid-September day. Others soon followed. Within twenty minutes trout slashed wildly at the surface feast. This pattern had begun three or four days earlier and the fish were tuned in to falling boatmen. Today was different in that the trout were not interested in the diving boatman at all; only those that spun and struggled at the surface were on the menu. This proved frustrating as previously just about any boatman pattern previously just about any boatman pattern cast into or near a surface boil received piscatorial attention. A small size 12 Tom Thumb worked wonders that day. Floating flush on the surface looking squat and beetle-like, trout smashed the Tom Thumb without hesitation. I had learned a valuable lesson and I didn't need to be smacked between the eyes to realize that a floating water boatman pattern might be a good idea. The initial concept behind the Water Floatman was developed.

My design began using a standard dry-fly hook to cut down on the weight. Although deer hair seemed to be a natural choice for the shellback, I didn't like what it offered in regards to durability. Successful as it was that day, the Tom Thumb didn't last through many fish. I opted for closed-cell foam. Besides black closed-cell foam cut into 1/8" strips was much more like-like and durable. The Water Floatman would also serve double duty as a submersible fly. For the body I wanted a material that aided flotation and offered the glimmer associated with water boatman. Remembering Brian Chan's success, I opted for Crystal Chenille in silver, pearlescent or light brown. A prominent pair of Super Floss legs rounded out the pattern.

Materials List:

    Hook: Mustad,Signature R 30 standard dry fly hook #4 - #10.

    Thread: Black 6/0 or 8/0.

    Shellback: Black sheet foam cut into 1/8" strip.

    Body: Silver, pearlescent or light brown Crystal Chenille.

    Legs: Brown or olive Super Floss.

Instructions - Water Floatman:

1. Cover the hook shank with tying thread. Tie in length of black sheet foam cut into a 1/8" strip.

2. At the rear of the hook tie in a length of Crystal Chenille.

3. Between 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up the hook figure-eight in a length of Super floss. don't be concerned with the length, as it will be trimmed later.

4. Wind the Crystal Chenille forward to the hook eye in and around the Super Floss legs forming a squat body. Tie off the trim the excess chenille.

5. Pull the foam strip across the top of the fly forming the shellback. Don't pull too tight as this defeats the flotation properties of the foam. Trim the excess material.

6. Build a neat head, whip-finish and apply head cement. Trim the legs so each one is about shank length. Better to fall on the side of too long than short. Slightly longer legs give better action than short stubby ones.

How to Fish the Water Floatman

Cast into the paths of surface dining trout, the Water Floatman has met and exceeded expectations. Left dead drift or stripped and twitched across the surface, the Floatman mimics the stunned dance of the fallen boatman. But the Water Floatman's usefulness does not end at the surface. The Water Floatman has the versatility to take its charms to deeper reaches. Another popular method for fishing boatman and back-swimmer patterns involves the use of a full-sinking line. Despite their reliance of surface air these insects often cascade into deeper waters. Using a floating pattern such as a Water Floatman and a full-sinking line imitates the U-shaped route the boatman takes as it is pulled beneath the surface by the sinking line and stripped upwards to the surface. Even in the shallows over weedy terrain the buoyant traits of the Water Floatman keep it clear of the weed tops as I scuttle and bump it along using an intermediate or Stillwater line. The Water Floatman is perhaps my most versatile and durable boatman or backswimmer imitation. ~ PR

Credits: From Fly Patterns for Stillwaters, by Philip Rowley, published by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use permission.

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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