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.