Fly Fishing Initialisms

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

Initialisms is a term coined in the late 19th century as a precursor to a more familiar term—Acronym. According to Merriam-Webster acronym did not appear until the 1940s. Regardless, most folks know what they mean, despite having a subtle difference in definitions. Take the first letters of any short name or phrase, put them together to abbreviate the name or phrase. This is a handy way to shorten writing or conversation without losing the meaning of a longer string of words. The subtle difference, however ignored by the masses, is this. If you can pronounce the string of letters as a single word, i.e. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) it is an acronym. If you have to recite the letters one by one, i.e. CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) it is an Initialism.

As I was working through a bunch of Wikipedia articles related to fly tying, it struck me that Initialisms and acronyms have to some extent permeated our avocation like they have across the spectrum of endeavors. Only uninitiated fly anglers wouldn’t be familiar with these initialisms—PMD (Pale Morning Dun), BWO (Blue Wing Olive), EHC (Elk Hair Caddis). Of course there are more obscure initialisms that might take some explaining—CDL (Coq de Leon), CDC (Cul de Canard), PTN (Pheasant Tail nymph)

As I reviewed fly tying and fly fishing literature, other initialisms that seemed a bit obscure appeared.

  • TDC (Thompson’s Delectable Chironomid).
  • GRHE (Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear)
  • APBTPT (Andy Pusan’s Bead Thorax Pheasant Tail)
  • WR16 (Wood Road Access 16)
  • IP Red (Island Park Red)
  • LC Moose (A stonefly tied by W. Lewis and S. Christensen with moose wings)
  • LBS (Little brown stone)
  • RAM Caddis (Ross A. Marigold)
  • H&L (House and Lot)
  • AP Muskrat Nymph (Andre Pusan’s)
  • BLM nymph (Beaded Little Mayfly)
  • PMX (Pale Madam X)
  • JRB (Jack Rose Bastard – a midge adult)

And probably one of the most bizarre initialisms out there:

  • SCHWARPF (Swept Custom Hackle Winged All Revised Purpose Fly)

Initialisms are useful in written communications to shorten the writing as the initials can be explained the first time they are used. “The CDC (Cul de Canard) Emerger is a useful fly during mayfly hatches.” But in verbal communications, initialisms can be problematic. First, if it doesn’t roll off the tongue like PMD does, it can sound awkward. “Look at those BWOs”. Also, unless the listener knows what the Initialism means and is familiar with it, things can get confusing. Imagine this older guy walks into the fly shop and starts a conversation with one of the staff. “I am heading down to Bust Your Butt Creek for a few days camping and fishing with my new girlfriend. I’d like some PMDs and PEDs as that’s what’s happening down there now. “The staff guy replies, “We’ve got the PMDs in the sizes you need, but for the Performance Enhancing Drugs, you’ll have to go the drugstore around the corner.” The old guy replies, “Oh I don’t need those with this girlfriend, I meant Pale Evening Duns.”

One of my favorite PSWBs

So, when I hit the Firehole in Yellowstone next Spring I will be ready with my PSWBs if the water is high. Otherwise the WBs with P&O trailers will work, but I always carry some EHCs and GGs for when the hatches are prolific.

Fly of the Month – The Shrimpadillo

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

ShrimpadilloAn inshore Gulf Coast flats trip to Florida in the Spring of 2021 was very successful save one frustrating morning. As I paddled the kayak in the early dawn across a shallow flat at low tide, I encountered several dozen tailing bull redfish. It was quite a sight as large pods of fish slowly meandered around the flat stirring up breakfast. I wasn’t really set up fly wise for redfish, but quickly changed flies and started chucking various stuff in front of fish. For whatever reason, they were not the least bit interested nor spooked and I never connected before the pod slowly moved away. So when I returned home, I started thinking about what flies I needed if I wanted to be successful in the tailing redfish scenario. One of the options was the traditional spoon fly, a redfish staple.

I had never really tried to tie spoon flies before primarily because I was never keen on all that slow drying epoxy and braided tubing hassle. But times had changed and with a little research it was easy to discover the advent of new methods of tying spoon flies with purpose constructed cutouts, hooks and UV resins. As I ventured down the spoon fly road, I came across a unique design—the Shrimpadillo.  Half shrimp, half spoon, the Shrimpadillo was a hybrid design that captured the essence of a shrimp pattern as well as the wobbling nature of the spoon fly which might represent a baitfish or crab pattern. The Shrimpadillo is the original creation of brothers Steven and Alan Kulcak of Sightcastfishing.com, a south Texas outfit.

The inspiration for the Shrimpadillo came after a day on the water sight casting to redfish along Texas Gulf coast. Alan had the original idea but both brothers worked through many variations until they felt they had the pattern nailed down in terms of effectiveness and durability on the water. Steven told me the name came to them almost instantly as the fly looked like the head of a shrimp with the shell of an armadillo—an abundant resident of the South Texas countryside. Rumor even has it that one version called for the urine stained belly fur of a female armadillo, but I couldn’t verify that.

Continue reading → Fly of the Month – The Shrimpadillo

Simple Flies – The Gurgler

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana


Fundamentally, there couldn’t be a more straightforward, simple steps fly to tie than a Gurgler.  Conceived in the 1980s by fly tyer Jack Gartside for New England stripers, the Gurgler has been adapted to just about any species in fresh, salt or tropical waters that will respond to a top-water fly.  Australians have an idiom—Down the Gurgler—that characterizes efforts that have been a waste of time and/or money or items lost, never to be found again.  In the case of the Gartside Gurgler, efforts in tying and fishing this simple fly will never go “Down the Gurgler”.

The original fly was tailed with white bucktail with a bit of flash, a under body of palmered grizzly hackle and a 3mm white foam body.  The classic folded foam body with a short lip in front of the hook eye hasn’t changed in the 40 years this pattern has been around.  What has changed however is the adaptation of the myriad of synthetic flash materials available today to this versatile pattern.  Most of my experience with the Gurgler pattern has been on saltwater flats in Florida for Speckled Trout, Snook and Redfish but it is easy to see how the pattern has been adapted to bass, trout, panfish, and northern pike to name just a few.

Any Gurgler is fundamentally a three part fly—tail, foam and body—and as far I as can tell, always tied in that order.  It is a simple recipe.

Continue reading → Simple Flies – The Gurgler