Guest Blogger: Clay Cunningham, Cody WY, former National Park Superintendent
If you fish often for trout on a variety of rivers and streams, and you wanted to match every mayfly hatch that might come off in a summer; you would need many different flies in several sizes. You would also have to be knowledgeable of the many different species you might encounter at different times of the day in order to accurately match the hatch.
Here is a way to be equipped that reasonably matches many of the mayfly hatches of the season with a realistic number of flies. This method is less expensive and easier to accomplish for those that tie their own flies. But, judicious selective buyers can also be prepared as well.
The system requires six different color choices and three different hook sizes. I use Mustad hooks because they are less expensive, they work and odds are you might lose them to obstacles or large fish before they can be declared no longer useful. However, when any of those flies get chewed up by many fish being caught, don’t throw them away because for some unknown reason chewed up flies often leads to more strikes by trout. Each one of these patterns should be tied on a size 12, 14 and an 18, dry fly hook such as Mustad’s R50NP-BR hook. Size is important too, which is why you need these three sizes. Similar dry fly hooks from any other manufacturer work just as well.
For the tail of each mayfly I prefer them to be stiff enough to help keep the fly perched on the water. I use the synthetic nylon microfibet mayfly tails, which come in different colors, or dyed moose body hair similar to the hackle color. For these pseudo- hatch matching flies, you need brown, tan, gray light and dark dun, olive and black colors. Wings: Most of my dry fly wings are tied using poly pro yarn as it is waterproof, which helps with floatation. The other wing material I use often is wood duck or mallard flank feathers tied in the tradition of the Catskill flies. I only use white or gray (dun) colored poly pro for wings.
Body: Here is where you can choose different materials to construct the body of the fly. The choices in the six colors mentioned are Superfine dubbing which is waterproof, turkey biots, stripped hackle stems or strips of Razor Fly Foam for the smallest flies. Turkey biots, stripped hackle stems and fly foam result in smaller bodies. With these material choices you select whichever material you prefer of Superfine dubbing, turkey biot, stripped hackle stem or Razor Fly Foam for the different fly sizes on a 12, 14 or 18 hook. You end up with six different colored flies in three sizes each for a total of eighteen flies. I often use 1/16th inch diameter foam cylinders. I cut a small tapered piece from the cylinder and tie it in behind the wing where it is compressed with tying thread. Or you could cut a thin strip of floating fly foam and wind it behind the wing for the smallest flies. This helps to construct a tapered body and the completed fly will float well. When using stripped hackle stems, soak them in water before winding on the hook and cover with clear, thin fly cement. If you use Superfine dubbing, taper the body and keep it sparse.
Hackle: For the brown flies, use brown or ginger hackle. For the tan flies use ginger or dun colored hackle. For the olive colored flies use grizzly, dun or black hackle. For the gray flies use two hackles, a ginger and a grizzly. For the black flies use a grizzly or a black hackle. If you vary the hackle colors you could create more than eighteen pseudo-hatch matching flies.
Those who tie your own flies might nor find this method useful, but if you buy your flies and want to be prepared as best you can, and as economically possible; the pseudo-hatch matching is a suggested method.
With these six different colored flies in three sizes, you will be prepared to reasonably match many of the hatches of mayflies that might appear each season. If you are observant, your presentation will be close enough to cause fish to take your fly.


  1. Clay,

    You never directly mention the six fly colors. Where you mention tailing your flies, you mention six colors for tails, which implies the six flies’ colors. In the Hackle section, you mention five body colors–brown, tan, olive, gray, and black. Can you clarify?

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