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A Touch of Midas

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 25, 2010

wet flies work great for bluegills. I wouldn't be caught dead without some ginger woolly worms, a few Royal Wulffs, and Prince and Pheasant Tail nymphs tied with small brass bead heads. Brown, olive and black leeches are also good Missouri flies, as are bead head woolly buggers in the same colors. If you reach the advanced stages of fly tying, you will probably want to add trico and rusty spinners on little #24 hooks.

Fly tying has changed in a couple of ways over the years. One of my early reference books was filled with pictures of brightly colored flies, patterns like the Professor and Parmachene Belle. I tied a lot of wet flies then, largely with duck quill wings and bodies of colorful silk floss. These were the flies that were traditional for Eastern brook trout fishing, and anglers in the Midwest and West used them too.

Now a fly tier is much more likely to be fashioning nymph imitations in the somber hues of nature, flies like the gold ribbed hare's ear, pheasant tail nymph or stonefly. The emphasis is on flies that imitate real aquatic insects, rather than the gaudy brook trout flies that were once so popular with anglers.

Fly tying, when compared to collecting antiques, is probably not a large hobby, but it does have some impact. According to the Fly Tackle Dealer, producers are nearing over 200,000 chickens in the United States solely for the production of feathers for fly tying. Colorado, Montana and Pennsylvania are the leading states in the hackle industry.

One producer is working on a bird with three times as many feathers on its back, saddles that will produce up to 500 12-inch long hackle feathers. Another chicken rancher is breeding birds for feathers with small round stems ... "so the tier can maximize the number of wraps he puts on the hook." Other breeders are trying to produce large feathers for big saltwater fly patterns.

Two areas that can trip up beginners are deer hair and dubbing. Deer hair is used to make several kinds of flies - streamers, bass bugs and some dry flies. It is slippery stuff and will want to spin around the shank of the hook as you tie it on. Covering the hook with thread before applying the deer hair will help, but you may want to build your thread handling skills before

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