Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

The Bi-Visible pattern was conceived and named sometime in the 1920s. It is most commonly referred to as the Brown Bi-Visible, but as a pattern, brown is just one iteration of the versatile pattern. For the fly tier, the Bi-Visible is indeed simple. For the angler, the Bi-Visible is both “Visible” on the water and if tied with quality dry fly hackle is a high floater that retains its flotation properties well.

The Bi-Visible was popularized by angler and author Edward Ringwood Hewitt in his 1926 work Telling on the Trout. Fishing in waters where trout preferred darker dry flies was problematic in low light or conditions with shadows and glare on the surface. Seeing a small dark colored fly during an evening rise can be frustrating. Hewitt wrote that the addition of a bright white or cream hackle to the front of an otherwise dark colored fly improved its visibility to the angler immensely. But the Bi-Visible as we know it today has its roots in flies many centuries old, the Palmer. First documented in the 1600s, the Palmer Worm introduced the tying technique of wrapping a hackle from the hook bend forward to the hook eye. The technique eventually became known as Palmering and is used today in a wide variety of wet and dry flies. Probably the most contemporary use of palmering hackle on dry flies are the Elk Hair Caddis and Stimulator. The densely wrapped dry fly hackle for the body on these flies makes them high floaters. From a simplicity standpoint, the Bi-Visible couldn’t be easier to tie. Rube Cross in The Complete Fly Tier (1936) dedicates an entire chapter to the style.


To tie a Bi-Visible start a thread base and tie-in a typical dry fly tail if desired. Deer or Moose Hair can also be used for tailing. With the thread at the hook bend, tie in the body hackle. If you use hackle from a cape, tie in the feather at the tip. If using a saddle hackle, you can tie in at the butt. Apply dubbing to the thread and wrap a thin body 2/3rds the way up the hook shank. Dubbing is optional but does provide a soft base for the hackle and can add another level of contrast to the fly. Wrap the hackle forward in tight turns over the dubbed body, tie off and clip. Tie in the front hackle at the butt and wrap forward in tight wraps. Bi-Visibles should be heavily hackled. Finish the fly with a whip finish or half-hitches.

Color variations and combinations are a matter of choice, but an over-arching principle should be a bright, lightly colored front hackle that contrasts with the body hackle. White, cream or silver badger hackles make excellent Bi-Visibles. One technique uses two contrasting hackles for the body with the lighter hackle extended to the front of the fly. An “Adams” variation can be tied using a dark brown hackle and light grizzly hackle over a gray dubbing. Both hackles are wound forward to the 2/3rds point but only the brown hackle is trimmed. The grizzly hackle is wrapped all the way to the hook eye to create the light colored front hackle. Some authors also tout adding a couple of turns of bright hackle to the front of more traditional flies to create flies like the Royal Coachman Bi-Visible.

The Bi-Visible is not only easy to tie, but it floats well and is unbiased when it comes to “matching the hatch”. On the Big Hole River not too long ago, there was an early morning Brown Drake hatch along with some caddis and small stone flies. Fish were steadily feeding in tight seams along a grass bank. It was difficult to see what they were actually feeding on. The morning sun was at my back and the glare on the water made seeing a dry fly let alone getting a good drift at 40’ somewhat difficult. I tied on a size 16 Bi-Visible and had no problems seeing the fly or getting the drift I needed. It is a good pattern—a simple, but effective fly—to have in your fly box.

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