woven stoneflyStory and illustrations by Robert A. Williamson

(Published Feb. 1995, Utah Fishig & Outdoors)

Trying to create trout flies by utilizing weaving is nothing new. There have been many pioneers in the development of the woven artificial fly. Early in this century, we find several individuals creating patterns with weaving processes. Probably the most noted is the late Franz Potts.

Potts created a whole series of woven flies. Although, many of his patterns were similar, he incorporated different types of hair and different colors to create his bugs. His flies were made by weaving hair to make the flies durable and attractive. His flies included such famous ones as: Sandy Mite, Lady Mite, Fizzle and Rock Worm. Many of these flies can still be purchased today and many flyfishers use them exclusively.

Another pioneer of the weaving process is George Grant. Grant was intrigued by the Potts process of weaving the hackle out of hair. Through Grants dedication in trying to figure out how Potts had woven the hackles, he was able to come up with a technique that was different than Pott’s, but works just as well if not better. Grant has been called the Master Fly Weaver because of his talents. He insists, however, that the real master weaver will always be Potts.

Other tyers came on the scene a little later; these being Dan Bailey with his Mossback stonefly nymphs, Hank Roberts and an unknown tyer who actually came up with the same patterns almost simultaneously. In actuality, it was really Hank’s wife who came up with the pattern. Through the writings of George Grant I became familiar with some of the weaving techniques which set me on a course of discovery and creativity which has not stopped or been satisfied.

While I realize many of these patterns I have been working on are not necessarily new, I do believe that some of the little twists that are used may be. It must be stated here that the use of cork and the use of closed cell foam have been
attempted by many tyers, in fact, a tyer known as Paul Bunyan (real name-Norman Means) was creating, and someone may still be creating, a cork bodied fly called the Bunyan Bug. The Bunyan Bug has a body entirely made of cork, painted to
look like a large stonefly adult. The Wing material was placed in slits along the sides at right angles and was usually made of a sandy colored horse hair. This hair was cemented into the slits for more durability.

Other tyers have also experimented with the closed cell foams making bug bodies entirely of the foam. And, others have used the polypropylene yarns that are woven to create extended body flies. The twists that I am experimenting with, and in fact have developed patterns with, are using the weaving process over an underbody of either closed cell foam or cork. The material used to weave over the cork and foam is polypropylene yarn or fibers. These fibers are available in a variety of
colors suitable for making stonefly adults, grasshoppers and cicadas.

My first attempt at weaving were attempts to make stonefly nymphs, and so I used a lot of yarns and floss that held the water in. The nymphs were beautiful and actually caught some fish. I took, and still do take, a little abuse from some tyers and fishermen because they cannot understand why a person would take the time to tie a woven fly, when in their views a dubbed fly is easier to tie, and some feel superior in fish getting abilities. I can only answer that I love to tie them and
love the way they look and perform.

I can also say that it takes a lot of fishing and a lot of fish before they are rendered useless.

With the manufacturing of the small diameter hollow tubing, many tyers have used it in the ribbing of the large nymphs, and some tyers are creating liquid filled flies by shooting oils into the tubing in the same manner as the flies created by
Michael Tucker. I use the tubing on most of my stonefly nymphs now by weaving it on the abdomen portion
of the fly. It gives the nymphs the wet sheen common with most of the stonefly nymph’s exoskeletons.

By weaving the polypropylene over a cork body I have come up with a hopper, stonefly and cicada that have fished well for the last two seasons. With the use of elk and deer hair as a wing material, we get a little better insurance of good
floatability. I have also added a rubber leg material for a little more action during the drift. While these flies do not lend themselves to too much commercial exploitation, I am somewhat glad of the fact.

Sometimes by having something a little different each season we can fool some of those larger wily fish by showing them something that they haven’t seen over and over again. The experiments will continue as that is what brings pleasure to my
tying experience. Part of the intrigue of fly fishing for me is to take experimental patterns and give them a ride down the creek. When they actually catch a fish it is a satisfaction that is so overwhelming that it is hard not to gloat.