The Superheros of Flies
These new patterns will perform feats of trout-catching strength on your local waters.
by Vince Wilcox

Image The comic book character Superman was spawned in the imaginations of two teenage boys named Shuster and Jerry Siegel in 1933. It took five years for their comic strip to gain acceptance before Detective Comics, the predecessor to DC comics, bought the publishing rights. The original character was actually a villain, not the superhero we know today. Since that time, Superman evolved into a beloved hero and became a worldwide phenomenon. While Superman—the fly pattern—may not be able to take down Hitler or stop drunk driving like the original could, it gives justice to all anglers seeking to apprehend elusive trout.

Right around the year 2000, a growing number of the anglers who patronized our shop, the Angler’s Roost, in Fort. Collins, Colorado, desired to fish blue flies. I must admit that as nontraditional as I often am in my tying methods, I was quite apprehensive about fishing such eccentric-colored patterns; in fact, I was opposed to such ideas. Yes, I know many salmon and steelhead patterns have incorporated blue in their recipes for centuries, but I didn’t think the color belonged on my trout streams; certainly the fish I was targeting were smarter than that. My response to such requests was usually something like, “If I had to catch fish on a blue fly, I would go home!”

Much to my dismay, the following season the number of anglers requesting blue flies continued to rise. I decided that if people really wanted to buy a blue fly, then I should design one that would be worthy of their hard-earned cash.


Superman to the Rescue
When I began thinking about tying a blue fly, I immediately envisioned Superman and how he was dressed. I wanted to incorporate the superhero’s color scheme into my new pattern. Since I was attempting to reincarnate the Man of Steel as a fly, it only seemed logical he needed a bulletproof abdomen that was capable of fending off a speeding bullet—or at least a brass abdomen that could endure the mash of a trout’s jaw. I had began using Micro Tubing for legs on my stonefly patterns some years earlier, and found it a very effective application. Blue tubing had just become available, and it would make a fantastic set of legs and arms that would breathe additional life into the pattern and be new to both the fish and the anglers. At this stage of development, the only thing missing from the costume was the cape and hair.

A couple of seasons earlier, I was heading to the San Juan River for a week of fun and fishing with Rick Takahashi. (Look for Rick’s new book, Modern Midges, from Headwater Books.) Perusing the inventories of tying materials available at other shops often leads to new discoveries, and on this trip I discovered fuchsia holographic tinsel at an establishment called Ark Anglers. Although I wasn’t sure what I would use it for, I purchased a couple of spools anyway; I knew that some day it would serve a purpose.

The first couple of angling days on the San Juan gave me the opportunity to try a bunch of my patterns on the local trout, and they worked beautifully. The Lint Bug, which is typically a fantastic producer on midge-laden waters, was picking up strikes, but not with the frequency I had anticipated. When I returned to the vise that night, I tied some Lint Bugs using the new tinsel for the dorsal side as a substitute for the standard Lint Bug Flashback. The next day the pattern was an instant success, and the FBI (Fuchsia Backed Insect) was born. (See the Winter 2007 issue of this magazine for more information about the Lint Bug and FBI.) I soon incorporated fuschia tinsel into other patterns, and they all worked well.

As I was designing the new Superman pattern, it was obvious that fushia tinsel was the perfect material to represent the superhero’s cape. I quickly selected black UV Ice Dub for his new hairdo, and was ready to try my miniature Superman on the water. As with any new pattern in progress, I was eager to see what the fish might actually make of this newly spawned insect. There are patterns I create that, even before they drop from the vise and into the water, I know will be outstanding producers, and I was confident that Superman would not disappoint. The Big Thompson River serves as a fabulous testing ground for my new flies, and that water’s trout quickly gave the pattern their vote of confidence. First looked at by many anglers—including myself—as a novelty fly, Superman is now a main component in fly boxes of anglers around the world. Since its first trials on the Big Thompson, this pattern has accounted for landing landlocked salmon, steelhead, bass, panfish, and a slew of different species of trout.

The Dynamic Duo
In the late 1970s, Superman joined forces with the League of Justice, an alliance of superheroes that sought to fight crime around the globe; the superhero alliance formed in the water has proved to be a formidable opponent for feeding trout.

My first encounter with Dynamic Duo of fly patterns came on a trip to the South Fork of the Snake River in Idaho. The Victor Emporium serves as a hub for many anglers entering Idaho to venture onto the South Fork, and like any good fly shop, it offers proven local patterns and fishing recommendations. Much to my amusement, the shop was featuring two flies called Batman and Robin; naturally, I had to pick some up for closer inspection. They looked like nice patterns, so I decided to buy a few and try them; fortunately, like Superman, they were fun to fish and caught trout.

Soon after that trip to the South Fork, I signed a contract with Idylwilde Flies, a commercial fly-tying outfit, to become one of their signature tiers. As it turned out, Idylwilde was the supplier of the Dynamic Duo, and Superman was right at home in the Idylwilde lineup.

The great thing about fishing searching patterns—or in this case, superheroes—is their ability to produce regardless of visible hatches or feeding activity. The middle of the day is often the most challenging time on the water, particularly during the summer months. This is when these flies can be at their best.
One technique I utilize when nymph fishing is to place weight approximately six to eight inches above each fly in a multiple-fly rig. I bounce the flies along the bottom, and remove weight as the hatch progresses to work the patterns up in the water column to follow the feeding fish. If you keep the dimensions of the flies and weights tapered as you would a leader, with the smallest at the end of the tippet, you can easily fish with a three-fly rig. I occasionally fish as many as four or five flies in a technique I call “laying out the buffet.” This method allows me to imitate nearly all forms of trout food until the fish tell me which one they prefer.
Superman crosses entomological barriers, and although I originally created it as a mayfly attractor, I also use the pattern during stonefly and caddisfly hatches with great success. Although I shunned blue flies a decade ago, I now find that they produce nearly all the time, regardless of the hatches, and that they are particularly effective during high water and when the water is tannic stained.

Tie all the members of the fishy League of Justice. I think you will agree that they always “answer the call.”

Vince Wilcox is a contributing writer for this magazine and owner of Wiley’s Flies in Rainbow Lake, New York. For more information about tying his flies and much more, check out Vince’s Web site at www.wileysflies.com.

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Tying the Superman
Superman
Hook:
Mustad C49S, sizes 18 to 12.
Head:
Gunmetal brass or tungsten bead (If you want Superman to sink faster than a speeding river, use a tungsten bead one size larger than normal.)
Thread:
Black 8/0 (70 denier).
Abdomen:
Blue Ultra Wire.
Wing case:
Fuchsia holographic tinsel.
Thorax:
UV Ice Dub, color to match the abdomen.
Legs/arms:
Blue Micro Tubing.
Collar:
Black UV Ice Dub.

1 Slip a bead on the hook, and place the hook in the vise. Start the thread, and tie a piece of wire on the hook.

2 Wrap the thread down the hook, binding the wire to the shank. Wrap the thread back to the front end of the hook.

3 Wrap the wire up the hook to create the abdomen. Tie off the excess wire and cut the surplus.

4 Tie on a piece of holographic tinsel; we’ll eventually use this to create the wing case.

5 Tie on two pieces of tinsel to form the wings of the fly.

6 Wrap a light layer of dubbing to make the thorax and form a base for the legs. The thorax will keep the legs from rolling around the hook when you tie them to the fly.

7 Clip two pieces of Micro Tubing. Tie an overhand knot in each piece of tubing. Tie on the legs so that the “hands” are facing away from the hook.

8 Apply a light layer of dubbing to cover the thread wraps you made when tying on the legs. Pull the wing case forward so that it is directly in line with the hook eye. Tie off and clip the tinsel.

9 Wrap a tiny pinch of black dubbing behind the bead to make the collar. Whip-finish and snip the thread.

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Image Tying the Green Arrow
Hook:
Mustad 3906B, sizes 16 to 12.
Head:
Gold brass or tungsten bead.
Underbody:
Lead or lead substitute wire.
Thread:
Black 8/0 (70 denier).
Tail:
Rusty brown goose biots.
Abdomen:
Peacock Lite Brite or Ice Dub.
Rib:
Copper brown Ultra Wire.
Wing:
White goose biot.
Throat:
Pheasant tail fibers or brown soft hackle.
Collar (optional):
Black Lite Brite or Ice Dub.

1 Slip a bead onto the hook. Place the hook in the vise and start the thread. Tie on the biot tails.

2 Tie the butt ends of the biots. Tie a piece of wire on the far side of the hook shank.

3 Tie the end of the lead wire just behind the bead and back down the shank. If you want to forgo using this piece of wire, use a heavy tungsten bead for the head.

4 Wrap the lead wire forward, and then bend it back and forth to trim the excess just behind the bead.

5 Spin a pinch of dubbing on the thread and wrap a tapered abdomen.

6 Wrap the copper wire forward to create the rib; four to six wraps look about right. Tie off and clip the excess wire in front of the abdomen.

7 Tie in the throat on the bottom of the hook shank so that it fans out across the belly of the fly.

8 Tie on two biots to create the V-shaped wings.

9 Spin a tiny pinch of dubbing on the thread and wrap the thorax. Whip-finish and clip the thread.

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