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.

A Short List of Roaring Fork Valley Tactical Fly Patterns

I am often asked which of my flies would be the most important to carry in my box while fishing the Roaring Fork Valley. While I would like to respond with “anything you see on my site will work,” I know that is not the answer you seek.  I have developed many new tactical style patterns that have been proven very productive while fishing the local area. I will be more specific, to help you make local tactical fly choices when you visit the Roaring Fork Valley.

Glam Rocker Jigs

The single most effective new fly I have in my catalog is the Glam Rocker jig. If forced into one fly pattern to compete with, I would lash on this pattern on.

The Glam Rocker series covers several hatches very well from the Heptageniidae clinger shape to baetis swimmers and everything in between. Having a generic body profile allows this pattern to cover caddis and small stoneflies. I am confident that I can go out and catch fish consistently with nothing but a box full of Glam Rockers with various bead sizes and colors; with the top producing color being olive. In summer, when the pale morning duns and yellow sallies are hatching, the ginger brown is the best local color. A black Glam Rocker is handy all season long, but really stand out in March when we have several large midge hatches.


 MDJ jig - Mothers Day Jig

The end of April and into the first week of May is when the air fills with grannoms. Brachycentrus americanus and Brachycentrus occidentalis are the two species that hatch in overlapping waves progressing rapidly upstream. I would like to highlight, is the fish are very sub-surface oriented during this hatch, I do not bother with fishing a dry fly. Most feeding activity that you will see during the caddis blizzards is sub-surface on emergent pupae very near the surface, and not actually surface rises. Don’t be lured into the the false hope of stellar dry fly fishing, at least below Basalt.


When fishing the Mothers Day caddis, I fish a two fly rig set up with a Spring Caddis jig as a point with an upper dropper to drift high in the water column being a tactical Flymph.


Knuckle Dragger - Golden Stone

I like to fish big flies in big water for big fish. The Knuckle Dragger is my go-to pattern that gets deep and provokes a lot of river toughies. I tie the front legs extra long to activate a swimming motion with fly when used in conjunction with a loop knot. The golden stone color from March through Aug. From May-July the green drake version is my choice. I tie trailer hitches on the rear of my knuckle draggers to carry a smaller less buoyant fly such as my Green Papaya Czech Nymph.


Green Papaya

Number three on my top list is the Green Papaya. There are few days that I can’t catch fish with it. This pattern is killer during the yellow sallies. I only need a size 14. I fish the Green Papaya from mid-June through September. I usually fish this as a dropper behind a Knuckle Dragger.


Black Flashback Pheasant Tail.

From mid March through early May is a good time to use this pattern. It is a neo-traditional style of nymph with a down eye hook. These little gems mesmerize the trout too.

CDC Zika Jig

No time is a bad time to fish this fly, ergo it simply must be in your box if fishing in the Valley. This rule applies to everyone everywhere.

I could continue, but for now, this are all absolute essentials in my personal and guide boxes.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.