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.

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.