I must disclose at the outset, that this post describes a fly that has yet to be field tested in Colorado by this fly fisherman. If you follow this blog, you know that I am a huge fan of fly designer Andrew Grillos. He was the creator of the pool toy hopper and hippy stomper, and those two flies evolved into two of my top producers. Andrew has mastered the creative use of foam in many of his designs.
I recently began following @andrew_grillos_flyfishing on Instagram, and he posted a photo of a User Friendly. Andrew is a fly designer for Umpqua Feather Merchants, and he obviously was attempting to generate interest in his new fly with the hope of influencing sales. I immediately exchanged some comments with Andrew, and he directed me to a recent column by Charlie Craven in Fly Fisherman Magazine. Since I am a subscriber, I searched through my pile of unread magazines and found the article that Andrew referred to.
I anxiously scanned the tying steps and accompanying photos, and my immediate thoughts migrated to the applicability of the user friendly to the western green drake. Up until now I stocked my fly boxes with three versions of the large western mayfly; a parachute green drake, a green drake comparadun, and a Harrop hair wing green drake. Each produced fish in certain situations, but none were consistent trout attractors. To varying degrees they absorbed water, and maintaining a solid surface float with a large waterlogged fly was a problem. Floatation was a particularly significant problem with the comparadun version due to its lack of hackle and relatively large size. I worked through this shortcoming with frequent dabbing and trips to the dry shake canister, but these minutes subtracted from time on the water. As the old proverb suggests, you cannot catch fish if your fly is not on the water.
The feature of the user friendly that caught my attention was incorporating razor foam into the body construction. I was a bit concerned about scaling this feature down to size 16 and smaller flies, but the concept seemed well suited to a size 14 fly on a 3XL hook. I reached a point in my production tying when green drakes were at the top of the list, and I was very excited to experiment with the user friendly, so I took the plunge.
|Hook||Tiemco 200R Size 14|
|Thread||Dark olive 6/0|
|Tail||Six brown microfibbets|
|Rib||Maroon sewing thread|
|Overbody/Thorax Underbody||Green razor foam|
|Abdomen||Pale olive dubbing (Ligas No. 21)|
|Wing||Poly yarn or McFlylon|
The tying instructions outlined by Charlie Craven utilized a material list that produced a purple user friendly, so my first step was to select substitutes required to replicate a green drake. I decided to adhere to my standard brown microfibbet tails, pale olive dubbed abdomen with a maroon thread rib, and a hackle of dark olive grizzly hackle. For the differing features of the user friendly I adopted dark green razor foam, small barred olive and black sillilegs, and tan ice dub. The ice dub was applied at the the thorax of the fly to provide a touch of flash. If I had an olive ice dub, I would have chosen that, but I recently challenged myself to use the vast quantity of materials that already consume space in my storage cabinets rather than purchase more.
My single biggest remaining decision revolved around the wing. Craven’s pattern required a gray poly wing, but I desired something darker for my green drake. I extracted some white Mcflylon and green poly yarn from my storage bag. I never settled on a preferred wing material and ended up tying five of each color.
Needless to say I am very pleased with the outcome of the user friendly tying experiment. The final verdict is in the hands of the trout; however, I feel very confident that these green drakes will dupe western fish during green drake hatches. The splayed tails and V-cut hackle should cause the fly to land upright every cast, and incorporating the narrow razor foam strip into the body and thorax should greatly improve the buoyancy of this green drake model. Initially for the white Mcflylon wings I colored the base with a black permanent marker and left the tips white for visibility. I think this wing closely mimics the dark gray of natural green drakes. I must admit, however, that the green poly wings were also very consistent with the overall olive appearance of western green drakes. In reality I suspect that both will be effective, as I am not convinced that trout obtain a clear view of the color of the wing, since it is above the water. Their trigger is most likely the silhouette of a large wing protruding out of the back of the fly.
These ten user friendly green drakes will join my already diverse and abundant supply of western green drake imitations. Hopefully this fly will evolve into a regular occupant of my line during green drake hatches and not a platoon player, but its role will be defined by the hatches that I encounter in the upcoming season.