High & Dry

How to tie two must-have dry flies: the Stimulator and the G&H Sedge.

[by Barry Clarke]

AMERICAN FLY TIER RANDALL KAUFMANN created the original Stimulator, and it remains a popular dry fly across North America. Originally tied to imitate the adult giant stonefly, under the right conditions it also works as a grasshopper and caddisfly. A well-dressed Stimulator is perfect for fishing rough, fast-flowing water. You can easily see this pattern at a distance and it fl oats like a cork. A Stimulator is versatile, and although it looks difficult to tie, it is relatively easy to make. It’s all about using the proper proportions of materials.

You can imitate most adult stoneflies by varying the hook size and color of ingredients. If you want to include even more triggering features, or if you intend fishing it as a grasshopper, add rubber legs to your Stimulator; this is similar to tying a pattern called the Madam X.


HOOK: Curved-shank terrestrial/nymph hook, sizes 12 to 6.
THREAD: Fine gel spun.
TAIL: Spirit River UV2 elk hair.
BODY: Golden yellow Antron floss.
BODY HACKLE: Golden badger or furnace.
WING: Spirit River UV2 elk hair and golden yellow Krystal Flash.
THORAX: Golden stone dry-fl y dubbing.
HACKLE: Grizzly.

Tying the Perfect Stimulator

Using good elk hair is an advantage when tying the wing and tail on the Stimulator. Deer hair won’t sit right as the wing and tail, and it will usually create an incorrect profile on the finished fly. Coarser, longer elk hair doesn’t fl are as much as deer hair, and it flows nicely with the terrestrial curved-shank hook. The Stimulator also has more dry-fly hackle than most other patterns. It is a long fly with a spiralwrapped body hackle and tightly wound hackle collar. Use the best dry-fly hackle you can afford: Whiting Farms, Metz, Keough, or a comparable brand. These feathers have the length and volume of fibers you will need for tying a nice Stimulator.

Even without rubber legs, the Stimulator is a great attractor pattern; fish it when most other patterns fail. Use the same presentation as when fishing with a caddisfly; streak the Stimulator over the water’s surface, especially on windy days. A Stimulator floats well on rough water, but on calmer drifts, trim the hackle on the underside so that it floats a little lower in the surface, and strip it hard with short pauses through the surface over possible fish lies.

Here is the Stimulator, tied using Spirit River’s UV2 elk hair for the wing and tail, photographed under ultra-violet light.

Prev1 of 2Next
Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse