Fly Fishing for Trout Home
User Password
or register.
Scientific name search:

> > Putting this site to good use!

BRomerApril 22nd, 2009, 10:19 am
Alcoa, TN

Posts: 8
I've been pondering over this last years craze in flies. The Split Back PMD. Wondering why it catches fish when it doesn't clearly represent a PMD or Sulphur. In Tennessee we have two major sulphur hatches Dorothea and Invaria. This fly doesn't represent either of the lot!

So after playing around on this site and several days at this vice I attempted to better represent the real fly in a fishable pattern. A gent on my local forum mentioned the name of GONZO, and some of his techniques after viewing this rather lengthy thread on trying to make this fly more realistic. I'm interested in hearing from him on this matter and finding out what kind of thread he uses on his flies for the legs. Looks rather simple.

Here's some of the dozen photo's I uploaded to that forum in trying to "get things right"!

Progression of things.

Trying to work out the shape of the fly.

The best I've mustered so far.

Side Shot


These photos show the bug underwater with a thinned out tail..I got a little over zealous thinking about pig trout and their teeth. Durability and simplicity go along way with me.

As you can see the shape and size are appropriate as is color. However something I'm struggling with is color. My local fly shop owner said a long time ago that two things mattered when selecting your fly to match the hatch, "First is size, second is color." I'm struggling with this thinking that he is partially right. Because the original fly caught fish and didn't appropriately match in color. Notice the claret/maroon abdomen! During our local hatch, the pre emergent fly is more of a mayfly brown/dark golden amber color!

So my current thoughts are; (In order of importance)
Size, Shape, Presentation, and lastly colors. Am I wrong? What's your all's experience show?

Mr. Troutnut, I've been using your site for quite some time. I commend you for your hard work in getting this site to where it is currently. Thought you might wanna see how some folks are using it.

Any insight to this fly would be helpful!


And apparently I don't know how to post photo's on this site...Could someone help me out there too, please!
Hug A Thug Program Director by Day, another Trout Nut the rest of the time!
FalsiflyApril 22nd, 2009, 12:12 pm
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 661
Simply change the upper case to lower case . That should do it.

click here
When asked what I just caught that monster on I showed him. He put on his magnifiers and said, "I can't believe they can see that."
TroutnutApril 22nd, 2009, 3:16 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
Welcome to the site, BRomer. Very cool series of photos... that's exactly what I had in mind for this site! I especially like the shape analysis.

I would suggest thinning the tail some more and using a couple well-placed thread loops to fan it out. The legs could probably use to be fanned out some more, too. Gonzo's thread legs would really help. He actually has a book, Fly Fishing Pressured Water, which you should put at the top of your list. It's perfect for someone with an analytical approach to tying like this. It's got most of his new tying techniques and some innovative fishing advice, too.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
BRomerApril 22nd, 2009, 4:05 pm
Alcoa, TN

Posts: 8
Thanks for the help on posting photos and secondly for the welcome! His book is hitting my too buy list pretty high. I just purchased Hatches II, and I'm already loving it!! It feels good to know I was close to the mark for once. Refering to slight but what I would consider important differences between invaria, rotunda, and inermis? (pmd) The brief color plates in the book empasized my thinking on this pattern. The author also gives mention of invaria's shape being very close to that of a clinger. I think switching to this pattern will more than likely bring more fish to hand as apposed to using the original "Split Back PMD".

I'm really wondering what type of thread he's using for his legs, as well as what material he's using for the tails.

I'm sorry if my grammar is bad, I'm sending this on an iPhone

Hug A Thug Program Director by Day, another Trout Nut the rest of the time!
TroutnutApril 22nd, 2009, 4:22 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
I think he just uses a typical sewing thread for the legs. It's not a matter of finding some particular brand, I think, so much as finding thread that matches the natural's color and leg diameter when coated with flexament or something similar. For tails, he uses dyed monofilament in the most realistic patterns. Some cheap Rit dye from the craft store (or even Wal-Mart) works fine.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
MartinlfApril 22nd, 2009, 5:31 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233

Great looking flies. How do you do the wing case? What do you use for the yellow emerging dun?

Also, I'd put presentation first. A fly that doesn't match what's hatching can work if presentation is right, and if it's wrong, it doesn't matter what you are showing them. Color is last in my book, though I do try to match it. And I think Lloyd also uses thread for tails sometimes.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
DOSApril 22nd, 2009, 8:58 pm
Buffalo, NY

Posts: 64
Andrew Nisbet
GONZOApril 22nd, 2009, 11:20 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Hi Brett,

Here's a link to an older thread that may (or may not) answer some of your questions about my use of thread for legs and tails:

..."First is size, second is color." I'm struggling with this thinking that he is partially right. Because the original fly caught fish but didn't appropriately match in color.

The priority suggested by the fly shop owner is a fairly common one, but I understand why you struggle with it. It leads to the larger question about priorities that you ask later in your post, but I'll share some observations about the subject of your nymph imitation before diving into the dangerous abyss of problems of imitation and prioritization.

Mayfly nymphs of many species show fairly wide variation in color and
markings. An individual photo won't convey this. Even when we look at nymphs on the stream, the smaller the sample, the less likely it is to accurately represent variation within a species/population. Entomologists deal with this issue all the time.

E. dorothea and E. invaria both have multiple color variations or "phases". Despite its name, invaria shows an especially wide variation. Perhaps this has something to do with the possibility that it might represent a "species complex" (incorporating the former rotunda and other synonyms), but it might also be related to its adaptation to a wide range of microhabitats (compared to some other ephemerellids). Whatever the reason(s), some invaria populations are indeed nymphs-of-many-colors. On the Yellow Breeches, for example, I often find four different color phases of invaria nymphs (olive, amber, brown, and nearly black) occupying the same rock. Under such circumstances, it is hard to imagine that nymph color would be a key trait for most fish. In streams where the nymphs display less variation, perhaps color might have greater (or more consistent) significance.

So my current thoughts are; (in order of importance) Size, Shape, Presentation, and lastly colors. Am I wrong?

To my way of thinking, you are no more wrong (or right) than anyone else who tries to establish a fixed order of priorities. The history of fly fishers trying to prioritize various elements of imitation/presentation is very old, but it's a circular exercise. It's one of those classic crackerbarrel debates (like wet fly vs. dry fly); it can be endlessly entertaining, but it's probably pointless.

For one thing, fish are individuals. Whatever they have in common, they also have individual experiences that contribute to their choices. Even if that could somehow be discounted, their situations are different. In and around each fish's lie, the flow rate, water clarity, lighting, and concentrations of prey or stages of prey will vary a little to a lot. The idea that the same elements of imitation/presentation always have the same significance to every fish in every situation is just not reasonable.

...I'd put presentation first. A fly that doesn't match what's hatching can work if the presentation is right, and if it's wrong, it doesn't matter what you are showing them.

Although I understand what my good friend Louis is saying, I also think this leads to another circular crackerbarrel debate about presentation vs. imitation. Separating the fly from its presentation causes us to draw misleading conclusions based upon two different perspectives--our's and the fish's. When fish are feeding on a particular insect and we catch them on a fly that doesn't look like that insect (to us), we readily conclude that presentation made the difference and the fly didn't matter. Conversely, when a rising fish that had ignored a previous fly takes a fly of a different pattern, we conclude that the appearance of the different pattern made the difference. Yet it may have been a subtle difference in presentation, perhaps enhanced by qualities of the fly other than its superficial appearance. Or it may have been just a matter of timing.

The fly and its presentation both contribute to the same objective: to get the fish to take. When the fish takes, the only conclusion that is reasonably free from unfounded speculation is that both the fly and the presentation were acceptable to that particular fish in that particular situation. We tend to think of imitation in terms of whether the fly resembles the prey from our stubbornly conceptual perspective. However, the important aspects of imitation are determined by the fish. From a fish-catching standpoint, it's only important to imitate what an individual fish needs to see. Therein lies the game and the eternal source of our successes and failures. In that sense, presentation is an inextricable aspect of imitation. I'm quite convinced that the difference between the fly and it's presentation is a distinction that exists in the minds of fly fishers, but not in the minds of fish.


MartinlfApril 23rd, 2009, 8:26 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
As always, Lloyd provides a thorough and thoughtful analysis, and as always he has me rethinking previous assumptions. I believe that I still think that presentation is the thing to attend to first--but I'm much more tentative in the assertion having read his post.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
PatcrisciApril 23rd, 2009, 8:44 am
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
sometimes it's not what you say, but how you say it that makes all the difference. sometimes it's not which fly you fish but how a fish sees it. in the end, it all has to "add up" or "compute" in the fish's brain. And so the fish is the final arbiter.

What, if anything, are we, as anglers and fly tyers, able to surmise about the effectiveness of a fly or about the effectiveness of presentation? Do certain flies outfish others?

Until someone invents a robot that can replicate the exact same presentation and fishing/water conditions over and over again, without variation and conduct trials in a controlled environment, I don't think it is possible to know if in fact one fly is more effective at catching fishing than another.

As Gonzo points out, each fish is the product of its environment and its own unique experiences and circumstances, and so, will respond slightly differently. Sorry if I'm getting too weighty or philosophic, but I find the whole subject fascintating.
Pat Crisci
GONZOApril 23rd, 2009, 10:39 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681

Do certain flies outfish others?

I think we all accept that they do to some degree, otherwise we would go into a fly shop and say "Gimme some flies, I don't care which ones" or we could just fish with a bare hook (and we certainly wouldn't be wasting time on a site like Troutnut, unless it was just to heckle the hatch-matching fools--that happens occasionally). Either of those approaches can work; the possibility of fish taking a bare hook has been proven long ago and most novices test the former approach on a regular basis. In the right situations those approaches might even work quite well. Increasing success would then be a matter of learning when, where, and how to use those flies/hooks in more effective ways. That simple strategy is basic to all fishing, but we also recognize that what we wrap around the hook can sometimes be a factor in success.

It's just that the conclusions we draw about why a certain fly is more effective than another don't always bear close scutiny (also true of our flies at times). Lacking easily verifiable evidence, we have to beware of our tendency--as A. J. McClane once said--to "squeeze a fact to fit a theory."

I've said before that it is probably a more difficult fly-tying challenge to design a fly that won't catch a few fish than one that will, but I suppose you could cut through all the crap by fishing a fairly accurate imitation of a very large rock. But then, the design of some recent "anchor" flies makes me wonder if we aren't testing the validity of that approach. :)


I believe that I still think that presentation is the thing to attend to first....

I believe that I would first tie a fly to my tippet before attending to matters of presentation, but that's just me. ;)

Seriously, Louis, I think you know me well enough to understand the significance that I assign to all aspects of presentation. I don't mean to diminish that in any way; it's just that thinking of imitation and presentation as separate things seems to miss the point from the fish's perspective.

Some aspects of the vague catch-all term "presentation" certainly have a practical precedence--casting accuracy and delivering the cast with something other than depth-chargelike impact, for example. Beyond that, most of the actions involved in the collective notion of presentation are about imitation (in the broad sense of suggesting something that the fish might eat). The way we arrange and manage the drift or manipulate the fly are mostly imitative functions, though some might also have "attractive" aspects. (I'm not sure that imitation vs. attraction is an entirely valid distinction, either, but that's a whole 'nother can of worms.) Whether the requirement from the fish's perspective is just to provide a vague suggestion of food/prey or something much more specific, both the fly and the presentation contribute something to that effort.

I'm just saying that when a fish takes a fly, whether we might attribute that to imitation, suggestion, or attraction (which I think might merely be shades of the same thing, as in the strength or quality of the suggestion), the fly and the presentation play roles that may vary in significance, but they are not independent. Both have to be acceptable to the fish. I jumped on your statement only because it sounded like the "a bad fly will succeed if the presentation is good, but a good fly won't succeed if the presentation is bad" expression that I have often heard. The "good fly/bad fly" judgment is ours. As far as I'm concerned, the fish votes on that matter by taking the fly. Otherwise we seem to imply a notion that borders on the preposterous: "I know that fly's not good to eat, but I so admire that guy's casting and line management skill that I'm going to take it anyway!"

PatcrisciApril 23rd, 2009, 11:32 am
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
"it is probably a more difficult fly-tying challenge to design a fly that won't catch a few fish than one that will."

I would submit that ultimately, flies are tied by people, for people, and not solely for the purpose of deceiving fish.

I would also say that fly tyers tie flies that are interpretations -- much as a painter might interpret a landscape or portrait. These are interpretations of what they observe (i.e. natural insect life) and what they believe to be effective based on fishing experience, and knowledge learned through reading, studying, or discussion.

For me, my flies are tied to catch fish, and I think that this is a core reason for most of us who tie flies. Having said that, I also know that(for me)there is a sense of satisfaction derived from the simple, mechanical act of tying and the conscious thought processes behind it (i.e.: what material? what color? what size?, etc) and from the self-expression and extension of my own being, thought, feeling and aesthethic.
Pat Crisci
GONZOApril 23rd, 2009, 11:58 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
I agree, Pat. Fly fishing and fly tying are forms of self-expression. And when our self-expression intersects with that of a fish, we experience the (sometimes tangential) aspect of fly fishing known as "catching." :)

PS--Have we (I) scared away poor Brett?
PatcrisciApril 23rd, 2009, 1:10 pm
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
Brett, sorry, if I steered this away from your original post. Judging from you photos, your fly tying skills are quite advanced. As far as prioritizing the physical characteristics of your flies to optimize fish-attracting quality, I try to approximate size, silhouette, and color to create a fly that gives the impression of life more than exact imitation. If you are pleased with the design of your fly, if you fish it with confidence, and it works for you, then it's done! For me, going beyond that point tips toward the art of fly tying, which I neither have the skill nor inclination for, but genuinely appreciate. Keep on tying! I hope this helps.
Pat Crisci
GONZOApril 23rd, 2009, 2:15 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681

I can't let Pat accept the blame for hijacking your thread, so I'll add some specific input about the fly as you requested. I'm quite sure that it will work nicely as is, but I'd encourage you to give the thread legs and tails a try. In their simplest application, the added tying time is negligible. Whether or not a more "accurate" imitation would be of any value, the added durability would be a definite benefit. (For example, you wouldn't need to beef up the tail fibers in order for it to survive the sharp teeth of numbers of big trout.)
WiflyfisherApril 23rd, 2009, 2:57 pm

Posts: 663
There is one other element than can play a factor in fish deciding if they want to eat the passing object... "movement". Movement is not at the top of the list, but I believe there are times that mimicking a wiggling, struggling nymph seems to be a key factor that can trigger a strike.
John S.
MartinlfApril 23rd, 2009, 3:13 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
"But then, the design of some recent 'anchor' flies makes me wonder if we aren't testing the validity of that approach."

OOOH Good one, Lloyd. But I did like the follow up on presentation and imitation. ;>
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
GONZOApril 23rd, 2009, 11:21 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Don't mind me, Louis. Along with self-expression, I also believe in self-entertainment. (But you've read my book, so you already knew that.) ;)

Actually, I think it's interesting that we're developing a whole category of flies where their secondary function is catching (hooking) fish. (Hmmm... I guess some flies have always been like that, but this is more of a deliberate design.) We now have flies that are designed to serve primarily as indicators or weights. I particularly think that John's (JAD's) nymphing technique in which the "anchor" serves variously as weight, underwater indicator, and attractor for another fly that has the primary function of hooking fish is really quite clever and fascinating.
BRomerApril 23rd, 2009, 11:35 pm
Alcoa, TN

Posts: 8
In order, and I apologize for being abscent.

Martin, the case to this fly is simple and can be tied in several fasions. Dub up past the point where you want you wing case to be. Return your thread to the position where you need the case to start. Drop in two of what ever color biots, or in this case razor foam, ontop of the fly's abdomen lying directly beside one another. Tie them in by the end (for biots). Then place your third biot, or again in this case 2mm fly foam, in between the other two biots. I use white preferably and color with PrismaColor pens (Golden Rod is this specific color, it matches our eastern TN hatches "Perfecto!") Dub forward on the hook, add your leg material, and then pull the third biot you tied in towards the hook eye. Tie it off and then fold over the other two on either side of the hooks eye. Tie down and fin! Don't worry to much about eye crowding. It sounds like alot of material to finish off at the head, but it really isn't. Have fun with it.

Secondly, as to presentation I'll revisit momentarily as I progress through this response.

Dos, TU-Though I can't take credit for the original, and for some reason I can't put my finger on it's inventor. Though at one time I knew the mans name...For now I'll just call him a good man!

Gonzo, first off lemme say many thanks for replying to this thread. Secondly, I'd like to know more about this thread usage, and the method your using to kink them. I'm really liking the color white because with markers it can be instantly transformed. What specific threads and sizes are you using? I'll narrow the gap and say for hook sizes 14 thru 18? I'm not asking for specifics just wanting to get in the ball park when I go thread hunting at the place I hate the most, "WalMart" CC thread!

In reference to your post, I guess I too, could be partially to blame in the order of things to come. I used the term "realistic" to strongly in what I was ultimately attempting to say. My attempts in my original post, was rather a stab at making a "fishable WESTERN pattern" more of a "fishable EASTERN pattern". By minutely altering the fishable pattern. Which brings me to the order of things. I must add that I'm slightly confused by your first post and furthermore loving the newly coined phrase..."classic crackerbarrel debates" Awesome!

Note:By no means do I have any right to say that I possess the knowledge to even follow a skilled "classic crackerbarrel debate" on this subject. However, in the process of learning I follow with further questions.

On this particular species, invaria, I understand that they take on various different colors during their life cycle and that many things can effect thier colors. So this begs the question, During an invaria hatch will size and shape have any account on getting a fish to bite, if color is a semi moot issue? This is where my real problem with this particular pattern lies. The shape of the original pattern is what I'll say "Off by a long shot." I guess I just have a hard time believing that if you threw black thread on a size 14 hook that you would ultimately fool Mr. Trout during this hatch. Some things have to play into fooling these guys. Ultimately what I'm stabbing at is, Does making the fly, this fly in particular, more accurate with the size, shape and color (though broad) more attractive during this particular hatch? More "realistic", or rather more in-line (believable) with the actual bug.

Furthermore, I have to agree with your quote on presentation. " The idea that the same elements of imitation/presentation always have the same significance to every fish in every situation is just not reasonable." I would also agree, under my own observations, that certain things play part in the fishes eating behavior. I would further agree that certain conditions may render this fly, or any fly in particular, non-edible to one fish under one set of conditions and edible to another in a different set of conditions. One most noticable is a fish in a riffle making split second descisions to eat, whereas a fish in a slower moving pool has ample time to inspect his meal and decide if it's edible.

Knowing how, where, and when a particular hatch will rise and fall has to be invaluable. I suppose this is where your all's knowledge makes for a better angler, and something that I strive to be.

Martin, revisiting the earlier post, I too think I understand where you were going with what you said. Refering to the quote "and if it's wrong, it doesn't matter what you are showing them" and "but I'm much more tentative in the assertion having read his post" I'm laughing in a confused manor as well! I guess that's why we come and post on this forum!

Pat Crisci, "Sorry if I'm getting too weighty or philosophic, but I find the whole subject fascintating." AMEN!

Gonzo, on your second post, at first I'll admit I was rather confused at first reading. As it was somewhat backwards, rather un-winding, to how your first post read. After a second read I realized the point you were pushing at. Refering to waltzing into to a fly shop and asking for any kind of fly and it working once streamside. Though I do believe this to be almost true on some of our GSMNP streams.. Those brookies will eat anything. Yes, even a bare hook. Dumb, but beautiful territorial fish, that's another subject!

Gonzo and Pat Crisci, "But then, the design of some recent "anchor" flies makes me wonder if we aren't testing the validity of that approach. :)" I'm particularly fond of little hints such as this one < :) >, apparently you all are "in the know" and I'm not. Is someone willing to spill the beans and shoot me an email or something? :)

Wiflyfisher, I'm currently looking into the whole wiggle craze. Gonna whip some up this weekend! I'm reading that it's rather important in this particular species when rising to the surface to hatch. It's said that they thrash their tails frantically on thier rise to the film.

Finally I wanted to add to all that my confusion on this matter is overly compounded by the dozen patterns in my fly box that some how manage to muster fish when it doesn't appropriately match any hatch on days where no one is catching fish. It's one of the wonders I'm stuck consistently struggling with. For some sick reason instead of being happy about catching a fish on one of these patterns, I'm stuck wondering why the fish ate it. I haven't gotten too overly stubborn about sticking with one set of tactics, and I'm consistantly being told that's a good thing when it comes to this sport.

I also thought I'd offer up one of those patterns that's consistantly confusing me and another pattern that got me thinking of tying every bug to match more closely to the real bug.

Copy cat of Oliver Edwards Heptaginadae (in an attempt to simplify it), this man started this headache. But he's a great fisherman, and I tend to believe his ties put fish on the hook.


One more...A semi-realistic, that has yet to be fished but ties up easily.

Please let the debate continue!

Hug A Thug Program Director by Day, another Trout Nut the rest of the time!
BRomerApril 23rd, 2009, 11:52 pm
Alcoa, TN

Posts: 8
I almost forgot to mention. Gonzo, did you hear the register ring? I just ordered your book my friend. I'm very interested in reading it. Especially after only getting to look at a few pages via Google reader! Bummer!

Hug A Thug Program Director by Day, another Trout Nut the rest of the time!

Quick Reply

You have to be logged in to post on the forum. It's this easy:
Username:          Email:

Password:    Confirm Password:

I am at least 13 years old and agree to the rules.

Related Discussions

TitleRepliesLast Reply
Re: need a good pattern
In Male Ephemerella invaria Mayfly Dun by Anttam
1Jan 7, 2009
by Phishheaduj
Re: Deer hair daddy long legs dry fly
In Fly Tying by Coha
1Jul 31, 2020
by Martinlf
Mosquito Adams
In Fly Tying by Mcflyangler
Re: Sexy Shad Clouser Minnow
In Fly Tying by Mcflyangler
1Jun 10, 2016
by Wbranch
Re: BWO Floating Nymph Ideas
In Fly Tying by Feathers5
7Mar 7, 2013
by PaulRoberts
Re: Cranford Trout Fishing Club meeting this Thursday
In General Discussion by MAL1924
1Oct 17, 2007
by MAL1924
Re: Info on Chris Helm
In the Photography Board by Oldredbarn
2Nov 29, 2014
by Martinlf
Re: More Realistic the Better?
In General Discussion by Adam412
9May 15, 2016
by Adam412
Re: Griffiths Gnat
In Fly Tying by Mcflyangler
1Jun 20, 2016
by Flytyerinpa
Re: Nymphing set up.
In Fly Tying by FC54
7Nov 19, 2019
by Tphillips