Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

Here’s a pattern I made up awhile back, just as a lark (although not made from one), that seems to entice takes when my other go-to flies do not. Since it seems wrong from a color scheme perspective but still draws strikes, I *almost* have a theory that it could appear like an “optical inversion” of common aquatic insects, and that this may confuse or appeal strangely to trout. After all, who knows what the brains of creatures who detect UV light will register? We don’t know exactly what their imaging system “sees.” Anyway that’s just one theory, and you know what theories are worth.

I tend to tie this fly “in the round,” for a ratty, buggy look, and I use longer than normal tail and soft hackle fibers. I’ve tried tying these same colors into a more precise and concise nymph shape, but by far my best luck has been with the wild-and-wooly ultra-long-hackle look.

Figure 1
Figure 1

The primary difference between this tie and other disheveled patterns (like the Bird’s Nest, for example…and truthfully this is pretty much a Bird’s Nest variant) is that while the body has gone dark and toward the ultra-violet end of the spectrum, the tail and hackle have gone in the opposite direction–toward white. It reminds me of a photo-negative (or x-ray) image of a light-bodied, contrasting-appendaged nymph. And for some reason, when the action seems to be off, this reverse visual gets undeniable attention.

The Recipe:

HOOK: Any good 2x/3x shank nymph hook, #14-#16 (I like #16 3x long)

THREAD: 6/0, Black

TAIL: White barred mallard flank or white barred wood duck flank fibers, longer than shank

RIBBING: Copper (or Amber) Ultra wire, small

Body: Claret Angora Goat dubbing (or mix with 50% “blood leech” color synthetic dubbing)

HACKLE: White barred mallard flank or white barred wood duck flank fibers, longish

THORAX: Claret Angora Goat dubbing (or mix with 50% “blood leech” color synthetic dubbing)

HEAD: Black thread

Figure 2
Figure 2

Tying It Up:

I use the J.Stockard 430 multi-use curved hook–a great nymph hook at a great price compared to other great nymph hooks. The geometry is such that the direction of the point on a hook-set is not quite in line with the eye, which to me means more hook-ups…and my experience with it very much bears this out.

Tie in the tail fibers. They should be close to white, with nice barring. I roll the fibers between finger and thumb to make sure their webbiness is mis-aligned and they’ll remain separate in the water. I tie them in a little longer than the hook’s length.

Tie in the copper or amber rib wire. Then get ready to dub. Since Angora Goat is so difficult for me to spin on a thread, I have to use a dubbing loop for it. The fly is a lot more rugged that way anyway, and with 6/0 thread a loop adds no appreciable bulk. Spin the loop up tight, then wind it on; make sure it’s quite ratty. Tie it off 65% of the way up the shank and snip the rest.

Wind the wire as visible ribs in the opposite direction you’d wound the dubbing loop, for excellent fly durability; tie off where the dubbing loop was tied off and remove any excess.

Take a look at the ratty dubbing you just wound on. Some strands will be loops sticking out of the fly, and I’ve never seen a bug leg that was shaped in a loop. With a scissors, render these into single-ended fibers sticking out. Try to make sure they’re not all exactly the same length, and shorten any so long and kinked they just plain look synthetic.

Now take another clump of white barred mallard flank fibers (maybe 7 or 8 barbs), spin them between finger and thumb to encourage them to remain independent of each other, and lay them flat against the body with their tips stretching back toward the tail. Spread them a bit and tie them in about where the dubbing loop was tied off. Turn the fly on its side and repeat with another few fibers, turn again and add a few more, and so on until there are long hackles more or less around the entire fly. (I greatly prefer adding wet hackle in this way rather than winding the barbs on via the feather stem; it’s slower but the individual barbs won’t clump together…so they move independently in the current.) The hackle tips should extend back past where the wire was originally tied in…maybe a few fibers shorter, maybe a few just a bit longer. In general, long and wiggly and disheveled. Remember that trout are fine with the unkempt look.

Figure 3
Figure 3

When the hackle is on and tied down securely, make another dubbing loop with just enough length to tie on a ratty-looking thorax overtop the thread that binds down the hackle. Treat the thorax the same way you treated the abdomen–process any loops and make it look like a teenager who has never heard of a comb.

Finish off the fly with a black thread head, and a dab of clear nail polish.

If you like weight in your fly, a few turns of some weight wire in the thorax area at the start of the tie will do the trick, although I don’t add weight to this one.

Then go try it. I’ve had success dead-drifting it, particularly in riffles…also under overhead tree boughs…but it works well strip-retrieved too, with wet fly techniques, even upstream against riffle current. The long white barred soft hackle fibers move well in use, and can’t help but be noticed. One more plus about this fly: It’s a good-looking fly! And so it inspires confidence. That always makes me fish a fly better.

I was going to egotistically call it Mike’s Merlot, in honor of the red-wine-colored body and my own gloriously arrogant self, but my 11-year-old daughter pointed out that since she had rolled her eyes and said “Whatever…” when I first showed it to her, this meant she’d earned the full credit for having created the pattern. She likened that to an endorsement…of sorts. So she has named it after herself. It’s now called, “Veronique’s Vino.” Apologies to the great Cal Bird, who I think would approve. (I’ve also tied it up with a very dark olive body…”Veronique’s Greeno”…which seems to do nearly as well although I have less time on it.)

Figure 4
Figure 4

It’s quick and easy to tie. Try it! I have no idea what insect it might mimick…I guess it could resemble some kind of stone fly nymph, except that it also works when stripped, and stonies can’t swim. I think of it as an “attractor nymph” because when stripped it induces takes when dead drifting anything at all bores fish to death. But I don’t care much what it may look like; it could resemble a piece of rancid purple limburger cheese with wings for all I care, as long as it draws strikes. And not infrequently, it does.


  1. Hi Michael, love your soft hackle and the name. That dubbing blend looks like a good one for an iso. In fact Tim from tightline on YouTube recently posted an iso parachute video. He had a similar color blend but his tail material was a thin white & black barred micro silicone leg. He says he been doing well with it in the low clear water that we’ve all been experiencing as of late. Lots of similarities in the black/white materials and blue / violet color of both dubbings. Lots of contrast. So I would agree with you, plus the fact your fly is kick butt buggy looking! Thanks, really enjoy your posts.

  2. Thanks guys, let me know what happens when you try this pattern! (Veronique says she’s tickled at her newly acquired world renown.) The pattern is pretty quick to tie–and that’s from a guy who’s a sloth at the vise.

    Hank, you bet on next season, but I’m also about to see how this pattern works in autumn–I still have a little time left in this season, where I live. Late August was still working with it, so I have high hopes.

    Joe, your buddy Tim might have a good thing going with that thin silicon-leg tail. Probably the barring is the most important feature in a tail, although I do also prefer tails that taper out to a natural feather-barb thinness. Back when I was stupid(er) and used to render hackles the right length by trimming their tips off AFTER winding them onto the hook, I didn’t get a lot of strikes. The thinner the fibers at their extremity, the better…I think so anyway, and so many great anglers have said that movement is the key (which is why soft hackle is such a good material).

    I’ve tried the very dark olive version of this fly (aka “Veronique’s Greeno”) a bit more since I wrote the article up, and it’s not too shabby a performer. Tried black dubbing too but it didn’t impress…of course it was an off day, but the dark wine color was still drawing strikes. So that dark wine color (“Veronique’s Vino”) remains my clear favorite so far. I’ve not tried any dark blues or purples or bright reds.

    Again, myself, I get a lot of value out of a fly that looks great to my eyes. Must be a confidence thing–I find I stay with it on each cast and just plain fish it better. Now, when I get out, this is one of about six sub-surface patterns I’m likely to reach for first. (Some of the others include an olive mayfly nymph thing with three real long moose-mane tail fibers and a huge clear epoxy hunchback…it was an accident but the thing flat-out works…I should write that one up too; and a little green caddis worm thing I tie with a tuft of black schlappen for legs; and of course the classic gold-ribbed hare’s ear. I rarely go to flash patterns unless I get bored and stop thinking straight…although there have been moments when a nymph with a little flash saved the day…but in general I think the waters I fish are clear enough that the unnaturalness of flash can be a liability.)

    I find myself tying every nymph these days on that J.Stockard 430 hook. I really like that hook. Even the size 22 is tie-able by my shaky hands, since the shanks are 3x long–and because of the extra shank length I can tie with a smaller hook size for a much more natural look–and still get hook-ups. Again, the bend leaves the point a little “open” when the line is pulled–it’s not pointed directly at the hook eye. I think it’s a superior point angle for hook-ups, and it’s why I tried the hook to begin with. Fishing downstream of my position, I pull far fewer out of their mouths than I did when I was using a similar hook sold by the O-boys that had a “York” bend. A salute to J.Stockard for finding and offering this 430 hook and for pricing it such that we can fish them up against bank and bottom without caring if some of them go feral on us.

    – Mike

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