FOM april 2017 lightningbugsofthackle square

FOM april 2017 lightningbugsofthackle squareGuest Blogger & Fly Tyer: Justin Bowman, J Stockard customer & avid fly tyer

My soft hackle lightning bug is a variation of the popular Western mayfly imitation, the lightning bug, an attractor pattern that is seriously flashy and typically tied from sizes 12 to 18. This is a great fly for high or dirty water conditions. This variation substitutes the traditional peacock thorax with FrankenFly nymph dub and a two material soft hackle collar from the original hackle or pheasant tail legs. The idea for the sparkle brush collar came from the thought, “why not add more flash to an already flashy fly?” The sparkle brush fibers (depending on the color) are thin enough to allow a fair amount of movement. Popular colors for the lightning bug are pearl, silver, gold, red, and purple.

Materials list:
Hook: J Stockard J2 217 traditional nymph hook #16
Bead: Cyclops brass bead 3/32” – gold
Thread: Veevus GSP 30 denier – white (colored to match fly)
Wire: Wapsi ultra wire small – silver
Body: Holographic Flashabou – purple
Tail: Pheasant tail barbs
Thorax: Frankenfly nymph dub – gumball purple
Wing case: Holographic Flashabou – purple
Hackle collar 1: EP sparkle brush – black/purple
Hackle collar 2: Soft hackle hen saddle patch – speckled brown
Adhesive: Loon Outdoors clear fly finish – thin


  1. SHlightningbug1 72 pxSecure hook with bead on it in vise.
  2. Attach thread to hook shank and clip excess.
  3. Pull a clump of 4-5 pheasant tail (PT) barbs straight out from the stem, keeping the tips aligned. Cut or pull the barbs off the stem.
  4. Tie in the pheasant tail barbs directly on top of the hook. The barbs’ length should be about ½-2/3 the length of the hook shank.
  5. Advance the thread over the PT barbs over the length of the shank and clip off the butt of the pheasant barbs near the bead. It’s important to have a smooth, level surface to wrap the flashabou over, so have the PT barbs cover the entire shank to avoid tie-in bumps.
  6. SHlightningbug2 pxTie in the wire first, then the flashabou – both near the bead, as well. Advance the materials and thread down the hook again just short of the bend of the hook. Bring the thread back towards the bead.
  7. Wrap the flashabou around the shank. Each wrap should be slightly overlapping. Tie the flashabou off near the bead, then double it over itself and make a few more securing wraps. The wire will help secure it, but flashabou is slippery and always seems to unravel, so I always take the extra step of doubling it over itself to try to make it as bomb-proof as possible. Clip off the excess.
  8. SHlightningbug3 72 pxWrap the wire the opposite direction around the shank. The counter-wraps also protect the flashabou from coming loose. Tie the wire off and helicopter off or trim the excess.
  9. Tie in another piece of holographic flashabou on top of the shank just behind the bead. Bring the thread and the flashabou back to dub the thorax. The bead plus the thorax should be around ½ of the length of the shank.
  10. SHlightningbug4 72 pxDub some Frankenfly nymph dub to the thread. Wrap the body to the approximate diameter of the bead (or slightly larger).
  11. Bring the flashabou strand over the dubbed thorax and secure it with a few thread wraps. Again, double it over itself and make a few more wraps. Clip off the excess. Now would be a good time to add a small amount of clear fly finish on top of the wing case flashabou.
  12. SHlightningbug5 72 pxMake a short dubbing loop. Trim off a clump of EP sparkle brush that’s around 3/8”. Put these sparkle brush fibers in the dubbing loop. Dubbing wax can help hold these fibers in place. Getting uniformed spacing between the fibers is next to impossible (or maybe I’m just not patient enough). However, if there are a large number of fibers clumped together, try to move them around a little between your thumb and index finger to get them un-clumped. If it doesn’t look right, take the fibers out and try again with a new set of fibers. Push the fibers up close to the top of the dubbing loop. If the fibers appear too long, don’t try to trim them until after the dubbing loop is spun. I don’t like the look of a dense sparkle brush collar, so less fibers are better. The idea of the sparkle brush collar is to add flash and movement, which is easily achieved with a sparse collar.
  13. Spin the dubbing loop. If the fibers became tangled in the thread, comb it out gently with a piece of Velcro or the Stonfo comb and brush tool. I use GSP 30 because I know I can spin the dubbing loop tightly and brush it without the thread breaking.
  14. SHlightningbug6 72pxWrap the dubbing loop and EP fibers around the shank a couple times. Tie off the dubbing loop and clip the excess.
  15. Tie in a feather from the hen saddle patch tip first. Pick a feather with shorter barbs near the top of the feather (towards the bottom of the saddle patch). Preen the feather’s barbs back so that you can tie in just the tip of the feather without trapping other barbs. Secure the feather with a couple wraps and clip off the tip of the feather.
  16. Gently, so as to not rip the feather out, wrap the feather around the shank twice. Tie the feather off and clip the excess stem.
  17. Make a few more wraps and then whip finish the fly. If you’re using white thread, color the thread to the desired color before making the wraps and whip finishing. Add some clear fly finish around the thread on the bead and cure with UV light.


  1. One of my MOST successful patterns (in the wet fly category) is one of the simplest. Mr. Bowman does a nice job on his soft hackle, but it doesn’t need to be so complicated. The fly will be moving thru the column, so keep it simple.

    Now as to my pattern, it is similar to Justin’s: Short shank, heavy gauge hook; speckled brown hackle fiber tail (one body length); Fine gold tinsel body; Peacock hurl thorax; short, speckled partridge hackle (tied swept back); Two turns black ostrich hurl at head (ahead of the legs). I have tried umpteen variations, including glass beads and weighted beads (tied in various locations on the body), but the basic fly as described has been the one that absolutely produces in the chop of the riffle (swing across the tail of the riffle and twitch upstream when it gets to the slower pool water – BAM!)

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