Jack Fields, Guest Blogger and avid fly tyer

Designing effective flies, where does one start with this exactly? Creating something that will convince another living thing that our creations are good to eat, and that, it is food.

Books? They’re great for research. Experienced friends? Yes! There you go! Hatch charts? Great source for what’s happening on your local stream or one you plan to visit and this gets us the closest to our beginning, the stream.

The stream you fish the most is where we’ll make our start. A little entomology 101, what’s under those rocks and in the drift? No better way to start designing effective flies than to have a look at what’s in the trouts kitchen. You can do this by simply wading in and start turning over stones, or you can use a seine net like the one pictured. The trays shown are containers from take out that I use to view the insects that I’ve collected.

What materials will give us movement? The impression of life is what we strive for in our patterns. To design flies that represent nothing but look like everything is the direction my tying has taken over the years and it has proven very successful for me year round. Tying flies that represent a particular insect for a particular hatch is very effective but what I’m talking about here is patterns for the rest of the year.

A good working knowledge of materials and life in the stream is a must for designing effect patterns. Using the knowledge you’ve gained through time on the stream and at the vise and trying different materials, studying how they act in the water and creating the proper illusion of life to make a winning pattern of your own design is very fulfilling.

We all must crawl before we walk and so it is in tying and creating effective patterns, we must put in our time at the vise and stream. Pay our dues so to speak. Showing fish a pattern they don’t see often (or at all) especially in pressured water goes a long way to improving the numbers and size of your catch.

Hot spots, I’ve personally never found a nymph that has a bright chartreuse, pink, orange, or any other neon color on them but man can they be effective! (A dead or dying shrimp does come to mind) I like to move my hot spots around on my ties, and use different materials to create them. A word of caution here, hot spots don’t need to be huge to be effective the trout will see them just fine. A while ago I began to nymph after dark and the trout have no problem seeing and eating a nymph in the pitch black of night. But this like many other things is of personal preference, and if something works for you why change it?

For this pattern I’ve used Orange rabbit veiled by the front of the thorax for a hot spot.

Your pattern can be perfect in size, tones, proportions and have all the necessary triggers it needs to be effective but it won’t do a bit of good unless you can put it where the trout can see it and is willing to go get it. Most of the time that means you need to be close, (times of a hatch and perfect temps aside.) A good assortment of different weights of flies are a must to be able to adjust your rig to the changing depths and speeds of the current as you move upstream. If you’re not feeling your flies ticking the stream bottom chances are you’re not deep enough. Some sizes you won’t use much at all but when you need a size 6 with a 3/16 tungsten bead to get your target fly down to the trout in that hard charging water not a whole lot else is going to help you here.

There is a particular section of stream I fish regularly, it’s roughly 3′ + deep and runs hard (like you can’t take a step in hard.) There’s a large rock that makes a real sweet spot with another 15′ downstream, and the water is cooking between the two making it difficult to get the proper depth for very much of it. I found myself adding split shot after split shot trying to get down fast enough and stay there to properly cover as much of the run as possible. Personally I’ve found that split shot attached to the leader just becomes a mess in water like this. My solution for this kind of situation was a double tungsten beaded nymph with a tungsten thread for an underbody.

What’s nice about this tie is it weighs a ton but still maintains the slim buggy profile I was after. This really just scratches the surface of the topic here, it’s my hope that it’s found useful to you. I wish you all ,good tying and fishing…


  1. You show some real nice flies here Jack, and you mke some great points about features of a fly that are more intended to alter how it fishes than how it looks–such as the one that sounds like it’s made almost completely of tungsten. By “designing” flies I see you mean not only the appearance but the fishability too. Good points. Every now and then I try to turn out some existing classic pattern but give it some different property–quick sinking, or snag resistance, or drifting head down, or whatever. Not sure I succeed at that every time but the good fight is fought.

    I also fouund your comments about hotspots to be a little different from the usual observations, and they’ll likely inspire a little extra experimentation.

    Thanks for sharing your insights here; I enjoyed your article.

    – Mike

  2. Really enjoyed your article, Jack. Your enthusiasm for your tying and fishing ring out loud and clear in your writing. Thanks for sharing with us.

  3. Excellent read! I’m always learning from the shared knowledge of guys like you! Thanks Jack!

  4. Michael, I’m glad you liked it.
    I’m glad you were able to take something away from this Brad.
    I thank you both for the kind words…

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