by Tim Flagler

The Smokejumper may well be my favorite emerger pattern for a variety of reasons. First of all, it’s relatively easy and quick to tie. Secondly, it can be tied in a nearly infinite number of variations using basically the same tying procedures. And last, but certainly not least, the fly just plain works.

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Detailed instructions for tying a Smokejumper fly. Detailed instructions for tying a Smokejumper fly. This is part of a series of Tim Flagler’s collaboration with Fly Tyer Magazine. Check out his article about the fly in the Winter 2022 issue of Fly Tyer Magazine. Recipe: Hook: Fulling Mill 5065 barbless Czech Nymph.

In terms of tying difficulty, Smokejumpers are within reach of most beginning tiers and include a variety of techniques that will come in handy for other patterns as well. By substituting some of the materials, the fly can be simplified even further, if desired. Because it’s easy to tie, it’s also a great pattern to help tiers get accustomed to tying on smaller hook sizes.


Hook: Fulling Mill 5065 barbless Czech Nymph.
Thread: UTC 70 Denier, yellow olive.
Rib: Ultra wire, extra-small, silver.
Wing case: CDC puff, light dun.
Thorax: Peacock herl.

Smokejumpers can be tied in an incredible range of sizes, anything from a 10 down to about a 24. They look and function best on hooks with fairly short, curved shanks, think scud and emerger hooks or even Czech nymph hooks.

A basic Smokejumper usually doesn’t include a tail or a trailing shuck, but it can if you want. Hackle fibers or a wisp of golden brown Antron are good choices. The body of the fly is usually thread but can also be dubbing, a goose or turkey biot, a stripped peacock quill or even something like colored stretch tubing. On the Smokejumper, the wing case and the emergent wing are almost always the same material, where the emergent wing is folded over and bound down to create the wing case. Whatever material you choose here, it should have characteristics that help it float so the fly functions correctly. A CDC puff or longer CDC feathers are most often used for the wing case and wing, but there’s no reason you can’t substitute a small amount of polypropylene floating yarn, EP Trigger Point fibers or Z-lon, as all of these have qualities that help them to float. Peacock herl is typically the choice for a Smokejumper’s thorax but nearly any kind of dubbing, either natural or synthetic, will work just fine.

So, why do Smokejumpers in all these variations work so well? It’s most likely due to how the fly rides in the water’s surface film. Because of their buoyancy, both the wing case and emergent wing generally stay above the water’s surface, while the abdomen and thorax hang below. This gives the appearance of an aquatic insect, such as a mayfly or a midge, trying to emerge from its nymphal or larval state to become a winged adult. At this time, the insects are all but helpless, neither able to swim nor fly away, and trout recognize them as an easy meal. Smokejumpers may also be mistaken for duns that have completely emerged but are struggling or stuck in the surface film. These are often referred to as “cripples”.

Although Smokejumpers are usually best fished in the surface film, I’ve had significant success fishing them just below it, and believe it or not, down near the bottom, towed behind a weighted nymph.