Articulation Perfection

The biggest trout prefer eating the most vulnerable insects. This pattern imitates a helpless-looking fly that no trophy fish can resist.

[by Vince Wilcox]

Articulated dry flies are not very popular; in fact, there are very few jointed surface patterns. Every commercial tier likes to believe that he is the first to create something really new, but I have also learned that more often than not, someone else may have had a similar idea. When it comes to producing flies commercially, the Dingle-Berry is certainly one of the first of its kind.


Rear Section

Hook: Mustad 3906, size 14.
Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier).
Tail: Brown speckled Centipede Legs.
Abdomen: Pheasant tail Midge Tubing.
Rib: Natural ostrich herl.
Head: Olive brown Ice Dub.
Connecting joint: 20-pound test fly line backing. You may color the backing using a permanent marker.

Front Section

Hook: Mustad C49S, size 12 or 10.
Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier).
Abdomen: Pheasant tail Midge Tubing.
Post: Orange foam cylinder.
Underwing: Pearl Krystal Flash.
Wing: Golden brown elk hair.
Legs: Brown speckled Centipede Legs.
Hackle: Furnace.
Thorax: Olive brown Ice Dub.

When creating this articulated dry fly, I was thinking about the propensity of fish to select the easiest targets for their meals. This also led me to design many dry flies on curved-shank hooks and with trailing shucks; these features give these patterns the illusion of being stuck in the surface film as they are emerging or even crippled on the surface. A curved hook and parachute allow the rear of the abdomen to sink below the surface and imitate an easy mark for the trout, or at least an insect that is inhibited from quickly flying away.

To take the dry fly to the next level, I wanted to figure out what else I could do to catch fish in still waters and on slow flats when selectivity seems to be at its peak. Fish feeding in flats and lakes have the advantage of inspecting their food at a leisurely pace because the insects aren’t quickly whisked away. This helps explain a fish’s enhanced selectiveness in flat water versus the aggressive nature of a trout living in fast-moving water.

After carefully observing several hatches of larger insects, I determined that the bigger, more selective fish keyed in on the bugs that were still working to get free of their shucks. I had used a dry–dropper rig to imitate emerging insects with great success, but there were many occasions when fish came up to inspect the dry fly—and even bumped it with closed mouths—and then swam away. Cutthroat trout, as aggressive as they can be, are some of the most likely to give it this nose bump.

One day a lightbulb went off in my head: what if I blended the nymph and adult stage of a larger insect into one fly? That’s how my articulated dry fly was born.

Tying the Rear Section
Making the Connection
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