My thoughts on Hot Tags

I went back to college at an older age armed with mature ambition. I jumped head first at a small University as a double major in both science and art. At first, this academic load was intellectually stimulating with days spent at an easel painting and late evenings deep into math formulas.

Living the life of a nineteen year old while in my late thirties wore a hole into my double major dreams. Relenting to the 24 hours only a single day can offer, I had to drop the art major. However, that couple of years spent in art school was highly beneficial to my approach in all matters of design, including how I design my flies.

When I started designing and fishing jigs patterns, I noted a significant spike in my catch statistics with the new hot-tagged nymphs over the previous generation of flies I had been using. Looking at my journals with a modicum of scientific scrutiny, I had to discard any correlation in a spike with the use of hot tags due to too many confounding variables. I had switched to using jig hooks and modifying my angling methods at the same.

The first patterns I tied on jig hooks with hot tags were my original Dirty Hipsters from 2013. I continue to tie a couple of variations of this fly because it is so advantageous in early summer. The pattern has morphed into several pattern sets that I am currently stocking my boxes with such as the knuckle dragger style of rubber-legged jigs. The designs are continually being refined to imitate more specific nymphal characteristics such as size, shape, color, and action of each of the EPTC groups.

Original Dirty Hipsters

The Original Dirty Hipster

The Original Dirty Hipster

Newbury's Original Dirty Hipster Hares Ear,

The dirty Hipster marks my jumping off point where I left the common euro-nymphing patterns and technique and into a more “tactical” approach; imitative flies that combine a tungsten bead and thoughtful hook design to use in an intended water type. This methodology is still based on the European methods with the same gear but being more imitative with fly design.

My current approach to fly design borrowed the chassis from the original European fly designs, but tying more imitative patterns that incorporate the use of modern UV dyes. This approach has increased the effectiveness of my design over the traditional European hot spot patterns originally intended for grayling.

Many new patterns are now incorporating UV and hotspot qualities into the design of the fly.

Left - Yellow Belly Knuckle Dragger with UV glowing underbody.
Right- Riffle Drifter Perdigone with UV Orange hot spot as part of the thorax.

Having fished jigs exclusively for five years now, I can now make some meaningful comparisons between the use of UV materials, hot beads, and noticeable increases in fly effectiveness. My current conclusion, and subject to change at any moment, is that bead color is more important than hot tags. This bias is due to my preference for using hot beaded jigs in the water types and season that they are most effective, during spawning!

I keep a few hot-tagged jig patterns in my box to be fished in water that may be too clear or shallow for the use of hot beads, but the added allure of a hot tag may be just the ticket. Lastly, I am incorporating UV — not to be confused with fluorescing — materials in all of my new fly patterns.

Who Killed the Czech Nymph

In my search to find the perfect fly pattern for fishing a trout stream anywhere at any time, I would not hesitate to proclaim the Czech Nymph the champion. It was a long battle with a lot of highly qualified contenders all seeking the crown but through it all, the Czech Nymph is still with us.


 The Czech nymph suffered a significant hit when the United States started to enter into the Tactical-Euro nymphing scene. One might think that an archetypical European style of fly such as the Czech Nymph would come along for the big European world tour, but it didn't. I believe it was a matter of market timing and the quality of hooks that killed the Czech Nymph. A few big names in manufacturing and distribution saw the trend coming in the mid to late-2000s and made nickel finished barbless grub and pupa hooks available on the United States market. Unfortunately, they did not have a proper point design for fish retention. They merely eliminated the barb on a classic straight point hook design, which resulted in a horrid retention rate. A barb serves a purpose on a barbed hook, to hold the fish. Without that barb, the classic hook has lost its hook holding power. I believe it was those early hook models available to us that couldn't hold a fish worth a darn and the simultaneous introduction of jig hooks on the U.S. market that caused anglers to shift attention to the new star of the show, the jig nymph.

I have been fishing the Czech nymph since the summer of 1993; perhaps earlier if we consider the earlier caddis larva designs from the Jack Dennis / Randall Kaufmann era.  As I was transitioning into Czech Nymphing, a curved shank, dubbed caddis larva was the most productive fly style in my box behind the Pheasant Tail Nymph, also tied in the same Dennis/Kaufmann method. I found that Czech Nymphing style of fly fishing with a weighted green rock worm and pheasant tail in tandem, to be the best combo for fishing the 1-3' deep walking speed riffles on the Deschutes River. I usually fished a golden stone as my anchor fly before June and then switched over to Czech Nymphs following the Stonefly hatches.

With the availability of European hook styles that have a proper rolled point, we can now bring Czech nymph hooked fish consistently to the net. I found one model of a hook to be particularly useful, are the Hanak model #333 and Fulling Mill Czech Hook. While I usually shy away from proposing such a specific recommendation on hooks, my daily fishing logs show a hook to landing ratio that is heavily biased in favor of the rolled point czech hooks.

What makes Czech Nymphs particularly useful is that they mimic the shape and posture of a vast array of aquatic food organisms that fish regularly see. I tend to think that the form and posture of the fly alone is the strike trigger. As such, we have the freedom to experiment with the colors and sizes that suit our reasonable whim. I tie and fish a size 8 heavily weighted Czech Nymph wearing golden stonefly colors and pair it with another smaller contrasting Czech nymph. The fun for me when landing a fish while fishing a tandem rig is to see what fly the fish took. Sometimes, I notice species-specific fly choices when brown trout may go for the golden stone Czech and the rainbows choosing an upper dropper. This could be due to many factors that are beyond the scope of this article but I suspect current speed and sink rate are a primary factors.

I tie my Czech nymphs bi-direction as a function of speed and quality control in my fly tying workflow. I dub my way forward rear to front and then reverse directions tying down the shellback from front to rear with a whip finish at the back. In this step-by-step tutorial, I show you my tying sequence for tying clean Czech Nymphs.

Long live the versatile Czech Nymph!




Less is More - You Need to Put Your Flies on a Diet.

You are tying your flies too fat!

As the euro-nymphing revolution sweeps across the landscape, a revolution in tactical fly design is taking a free ride. There will be some tying adjustment for fly tyers who are accustomed to attaching split shot to their tippets to get the fly into the zone. Without split shot dragging your offerings into the abyss, you will need to re-think your fly tying designs.

John Newbury Tactical FLies

I started my journey into the European nymphing scene back when I discovered Oliver Edwards Fly Tyers Masterclass and the Czech Nymph trend of the mid-1990s. Back then, we didn’t have the tungsten beads and new hook designs. Creativity was required to tie a fly that you could fish without weight attached to the tippet. Oliver used the leaded foil from wine bottles to build the weighted underbody on his nymphs. Czech nymphs do not require much weight to sink the fly if they were thinly dressed without bulk. If you do need weight, you can add a thin layer with flat lead-free wire at the tying vice.

Fly patterns designed for optimal sink rate and swimming action lack buoyant materials and require various tungsten or brass beads for weight.

The Czech nymph has fallen to the wayside in favor of all the sexy new jig patterns we are tying. However, it was my experience tying and fishing Czech nymphs for so long that made me keenly aware that a well tied, thinly dressed fly pattern will outperform everything else in your box.

Overdressed flies will not sink as rapidly as a thinly dressed fly and tend to clumsily roll around in the current at less than optimal buoyancy. I am sure your overdressed Frenchie will catch many fish, as will your mop fly; however, you may never realize how many more fish you could catch simply by using much less material on your fly patterns. Let the weight of the bead and hooks do their job, to sink the fly. Let the dressing come along for the ride without slowing things down. Too much material on your fly can inhibit sink rate and action.

The next time you sit down to tie a fly, practice tying with the least amount of thread wraps and materials. You may be surprised by how little dubbing and other materials you need.