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More Fly Tying With David

Last week, I wrote about David tying up his first Woolly Bugger (sometimes called a Woolly Booger). This evening, David wanted to do some more tying so I thought it would be a good opportunity to review some basics with him and see what he remembered.

Before we started, he successfully named the parts of the hook and could identify the area where the “head” would be. He then recalled from memory what materials we’d need to tie an olive woolly bugger – thread, chenille, marabou, saddle hackle, lead wire and head cement and retrieved them from his fly tying kit. I was impressed! So instead of letting him watch the video instructions, I wondered how much of the directions he would remember on his own. But first, we practiced starting and wrapping thread around the hook shank. David did a fantastic job and had it nailed immediately. I was impressed with his neatness.

With little help from me, he had the hook shank wrapped with thread, the lead wire attached and secured, and the marabou wetted with his mouth and correctly sized for length. He did need some help holding the materials to the hook shank “just above the bend, right Dad?” and getting them secured. But after that, he recalled all the correct steps and in order. If he keeps this up, we might have another A. K. Best on our hands! I’d like that – if he can tie up all the flies I need that are smaller than a size 14. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves at this point.

When he had completed all the steps, he very carefully applied head cement to the head after I tied it off. He did find out how sharp a dubbing needle can be though, with a minor “boo boo” – but no complaints from him.

When the head cement dried, it was time to put the newly tied Woolly Bugger into David’s fly box beside the others. As he always does when he opens his fly box, he exclaimed, “I just love all of my flies, Dad!” And he looks at them admiringly and tries to remember what each one is called and asks me when he forgets. “Right. I knew that,” with a big smile on his face after I remind him of the name of one he’s forgotten.

He wanted me to take a photo of him with his fly box:

As you can see from the smile, the “wee man” is very proud of his fly collection so far, and he indicated that he can’t wait to catch a rainbow trout on one of them next year with his Snowbee Junior fly rod. Lord knows I’m hoping he will finally catch a fish with that that fly rod and reel outfit I got him for his birthday this year, too! And I’m glad that he’s still thinking that far ahead right now, with weather warnings about a big snow storm coming our way, he’s also looking forward to some cross country skiing as soon as possible.

As David went through the fly box, he asked about a couple of different patterns and one caught his attention – probably because he had seen me catch a number of fish with it in the past couple of years while stillwater fly fishing. The Copper Oval Tinsel chironomid. He asked what it was supposed to look like to a fish.

So, we went through the life cycle of a chironomid and how the eggs hatch at the bottom of the lake, and the pupae and larvae stages they go through before becoming a tiny small black fly often called a midge. David was quite impressed and compared this to what he knew about caterpillars and butterflies.

“Do you remember when I caught some fish using this chironomid, how I told you we had to fish it very slowly?” We then got into a discussion about how chironomid pupae and larvae don’t have tails, fins or muscles to propel themselves through the water quickly and depend on other factors to get them to the water surface – often very slowly, and meanwhile are good sources of food for fish.

David then disappeared from my office, only to reappear about twenty minutes later with this drawing I’ve had scanned:


David explained to me that this was his drawing of the life cycle of a chironomid (he forgot one of the stages, but that is ok). On the left, the eggs at the bottom of the lake. Then follow the arrow – the pupae stage. Floating at the mercy of the currents in the lake as it makes its way up toward the surface. When it finally gets there, it becomes a midge – and David decided to add his view looking down upon the water surface too.

Hmmm.. maybe not another A. K. Best, but an entomologist on my hands!

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