Use Multiple Layers
Try using more than one underbody color for the underbody; for example, adding a contrasting rib and covering that with a translucent overcoat builds a multilayered color scheme. Multiple layers of different colored materials create appealing patterns beneath an outer layer of transparent wraps.
Tying a simple midge illustrates the influence of various layers of body materials on the appearance of the completed fly. The accompanying photographs demonstrate the impact of color and reflectivity when viewed through transparent Micro Tubing. Threading reflective tinsel or anodized wire through the tubing before wrapping the body enhances the elements of color and reflectivity. The tinsel or wire appears suspended in the rib, hovering slightly apart from the underlying thread base. The visual effect is particularly striking in a trout stream.
“The underbody can add a novel appearance to a finished fly, contributing as sassy or somber an influence as you choose.”
The accompanying photo sequence for tying a stonefly nymph shows the effect of threading anodized wire through a piece of tubing when forming the abdomen on the fly. A short, stubby stonefly nymph fishes well in several of our local streams, and this generic pattern generates a fair amount of excitement in late spring. Notice how the wire rib lies slightly apart from the body, adding visual depth to the construction. Dark translucent tubing subdues the bright yellow wire, and wrapping both materials over an underbody of hare’s-ear dubbing creates an effective combination of color and texture.
Wrapping Micro Tubing over a dubbed underbody creates a more uniform appearance without completely masking the texture of the coarse dubbing. Allowing the dubbing guard hairs to stick out from between wraps of tubing helps mimic the robust appearance of a stonefly nymph and exploits the scraggly texture of the material.
The Split-Loop Emerger is another example of a fly featuring multiple body layers: a thread underbody, a flashy rib, and an outer layer of Micro Tubing. The finished fly body has a mottled appearance created by the flash and tubing over the thread, and it has a slender silhouette.
The Bag Worm illustrates this using a thin veil of Antron fibers over a glass bead. The basic design is a hybrid of a San Juan Worm trailing behind Gary LaFontaine’s Sparkle Pupa. The eclectic mix of parts capitalizes on the visual appeal of two successful patterns and fishes very well during a caddisfly hatch. As with LaFontaine’s original, the Antron bubble likely imitates the early emergence stage of a caddisfly. The Antron sheath partially masks the reflective surface of the glass bead and punctuates the transition from the chenille extension. The combination of the worm and bubble—however an aquatic predator perceives it—is a reliable trigger. You can also trade a metal bead for the glass bead for when fish are feeding lower in the water column.
Wired Stonefly Nymph
HOOK: Curved nymph hook, sizes 14 to 10.
THREAD: Black 6/0 (140 denier) or 3/0 (210 denier).
WEIGHT: Metal bead head and lead-free wire.
TAIL, LEGS, AND ANTENNAE: Brown biots.
ABDOMEN UNDERBODY: Dental tape and hare’s- ear dubbing.
ABDOMEN OUTER BODY: Yellow anodized wire inside brown translucent Micro Tubing.
WING CASE: Mottled turkey.
THORAX: Hare’s-ear dubbing.
Tying the Wired Stonefly Nymph
Make the Water Behave
Many of the translucent body materials shown in the accompanying photographs are plastic; these ingredients are typically hydrophobic and repel water from their surfaces. The skins of adult insects exhibit a similar hydrophobicity and displace water to enhance buoyancy; we see this effect as slight dimples in the surface film. A plastic-coated body lying in the film can elicit a similar behavior from the surrounding water; the water behaves as if responding to the hydrophobic coating of a natural insect.
The underbody can add a novel appearance to a finished fly, contributing as sassy or somber an influence as you choose. The outer wraps of translucent or transparent plastic fine-tune the visual qualities of color, light, and texture. Whether filtered through tinted tubing or peeking between the gaps of adjacent body segments, your fly’s undergarments ought to be flaunted for all the fish to see. The right materials and a few simple tying techniques are all it takes to make flies with an inner source of color and light, conveying a sense of vitality and energy on the drift.
Russ Forney is a regular contributor to this magazine. Russ lives in Wyoming.