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> > Lafontaine sparkle pupa

DryflyMarch 9th, 2010, 7:26 pm
rochester mn

Posts: 133
How many people use this fly very often? I have a few in my box but they rarely see action. Gary Lafontaine was absolutely convinced about the air bubble idea, but it seems kinda radical. A sparkle pupa and a hare's ear soft hackle are supposed to imitate emerging caddis pupa but they look very different. Are there any Sparkle pupa believers here?

Also, I've tied a few up and noticed they don't alway trap the little air bubbles that they are supposed to. It makes me wonder if the "antron" yarn I have is the right stuff.
SofthackleMarch 9th, 2010, 7:40 pm
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
I have discussed the air bubble idea, here, and in other forums as well. I believe that trapped air on a fly just might attract the attention of the fish, to some extent. Whether emerging caddis actually do have the air bubble is questionable as far as I am concerned. I have not seen it described anywhere else by entomologists, nor have I seen photographic proof of it. Only La Fontaine said he's seen it. I'm not saying he's lying or made it up, just that it has not been scientifically proven.

I have seen film footage of certain mayflies that trap air about their body to swim to the bottom to deposit eggs.

In addition, Vern Hidy wrote about drying out flymphs between casts so they would trap air, creating what he called a "hydrofuge". He, too must have believed this made the fly more effective as an emerging fly.

Whether the Sparkle Pupa is a successful pattern, I'd say probably, yes. I've heard reports from numerous fly fishers that use it successfully. I have not used the pattern(s) at all, but I do use flymphs and I do feel trapped air about a fly enhances its capability.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
EricdMarch 9th, 2010, 7:48 pm
Mpls, MN

Posts: 113
I caught my first trout of this year on caddis pupa, but not the Lafontaine sparkle pupa. I'll tie some and let you know what happens. Generally, I'm in the camp of more voodoo than science when it comes to what trout will swallow. On that note, I've caught trout on some pretty radical flies, or clown flies as someone recently told me they are called. The UV questions from another post comes to mind. I do catch more trout on the clown flies tied with UV materials. Peacock herl is UV, right? I'm really asking. My Caddis pupa flies with Peacock herl caught trout right away in the same pool that I tried without first.
PatcrisciMarch 10th, 2010, 12:59 pm
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
i have never tied or used this fly but i know of others who swear by it -- mostly from what i have read. i stick with what works for me fur,hair, or floss bodied flymphs and pupa patterns.
Pat Crisci
DryflyMarch 10th, 2010, 6:00 pm
rochester mn

Posts: 133
Thanks for th ideas.

In my opinion the sparkle pupa is one of the more innovative ideas. It really was a new fly. I'm just a bit skeptical on this air bubble idea. I'll have to fish this pattern more often and see what the trout think. I'll report back.
WbranchMarch 11th, 2010, 4:28 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
I think it's a great fly. I don't care if it traps air to create bubbles or not. Initially when I read about it, and tied it, I was excited about Mr. LaFontaine's premise that the tri-lobal material attracted air bubbles and replicated emerging caddis pupa.

If you have doubts about the air bubble concept look around on this, and other, entomology web sites and see if you can find pictures of pupa rising in the water column. I tried the "touch" dub method that he reccommneds but was never successful with it or at least I didn't like the results. Now when I tie them I tie in about half a dozen sparkle yarn fibers to look like a trailing shuck, then tie in the sparkle yarn that is going to form the "bubble". Then I "noodle" dub very sparse amounts of fur to the thread and bring it forward, then create the "bubble" with the sparkle yarn. The book said you should make a "bubble" that fully encompasses the axis of the shank but that is a real pain on the butt for me, and considering my results, an unnecessary step.

Then tie the bubble down, add a short deer hair wing, and then I add a little more fur, always a darker color, for a head and tie it off. I cast it across and let it swing, when it straightens out below me I hand twist retrieve it back. I get many strikes during the hand twist retrieve. I also tie it on line wire TMC 100 and fisn it as a dry fly with good results.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
SofthackleMarch 11th, 2010, 10:09 am
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
I've yet to see a photo of the phenomenon. Perhaps you can provide a photo, or a link to one. I love to see real evidence so I know for sure and can emphatically state it's true.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
GutcutterMarch 11th, 2010, 10:36 am

Posts: 470
i agree with wbranch. i fish this fly first whenever i see caddis on the water with no mayfly hatch and fish rising. i rig a caddis dry and 10" behind it a sparkle pupae. i tie the fly the same way as matt except i use a tuft of cdc or a clump of float yarn instead of deerhair. almost all fish take the pupa in the film and not the "indicator" dry.
All men who fish may in turn be divided into two parts: those who fish for trout and those who don't. Trout fishermen are a race apart: they are a dedicated crew- indolent, improvident, and quietly mad.

-Robert Traver, Trout Madness
OldredbarnMarch 11th, 2010, 11:04 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608

I have responded here before re this fly and said that I've caught fish on it in situations where other things just didn't seem to work...I think the question we are trying to answer here is whether or not it's an "attractor" or a realistic imitation of some actual process that takes place in nature? "Inquiring minds want to know!"

Maybe we need the Gonzo or Taxon et al to chime in here...

Maybe it just sits in a "rightway" in the film for the fish to think its real...

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
FalsiflyMarch 11th, 2010, 1:00 pm
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 661
Quoted from Gary LaFontaine’s “Caddisflies”

Page 162, Pupa in short:

“The insect is called a pupa only during its metamorphosis. The developing structure pulls away from the larval skin, or cuticle, until the underlying parts no longer correspond to the previous features. The insect at this stage assumes the typical pupal shape.
The alterations continue, however, with the insect again developing a new body structure and separating from the pupal cuticle. It is then no longer a pupa in strict entomological terminology, but a pharate adult. The mature insect inside the skin controls all functions, its muscles moving the overlying parts such as the mandibles and swimming legs of the pupal cuticle.”

He goes on to explain:

“The insect that cuts its way out of the cocoon and swims or crawls to the surface is not a pupa but an adult in a transparent pupal covering.
The pupal cuticle, once the emergent insect bites through the silk grate blocking the case opening, still leaves two purposes: it keeps the adult dry and it acts as an inflatable bag. Until the insect escapes completely from the cocoon it cannot generate air bubbles, since they would anchor it in the shelter, but after pulling free of the silk matrix it begins to fill the cuticle with gasses.”

Page 166, Adult in short:

“The most common means of egg laying in the trout streams occurs below the water, the female diving or crawling to the bottom. The insect, carrying bubbles of air under and around its tightly folded wings.”
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."
SofthackleMarch 11th, 2010, 1:15 pm
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Yes, I've read that description. I have noted that adult caddis swim below the water to deposit eggs. I believe certain mayflies (baetis) also do. The air bubble, there, might be present. What I'm questioning is the creation of a bubble as the fly emerges/hatches. I've not seen proof of this phenomenon either as an eye witness or through underwater photography. I'm NOT saying it does not occur, however I've not seen any proof only what LaFontaine wrote he saw. I was wondering why he never got a photo of this or for that matter, why hasn't anyone else--at least that I know of?

Personally, I'd love to see it proven because I have a tendency to believe it may occur.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
GONZOMarch 11th, 2010, 2:34 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Hi Guys,

First, let me second Matt's (Wbranch's) opinion that LaFontaine's fly is a great one. Many anglers would agree. Gary proposed a "Theory of Imitation" and a "Theory of Attraction." My theory is that the sparkle pupa represents a nexus of both theories, although I also think that the significance of the "gas bubble" on emerging caddisfly pupae may have been somewhat overstated (or overemphasized).

If you are interested in the gas bubble debate (which has been more active in the UK), you can read an excerpt from "Deconstructing Gary" at The full text basically makes the argument that the gas bubble is not documented in the scientific literature. While on that page, you might also want to click on "Caddis Contrasts and Conundrums."

For an American counterpoint to the Brit deconstruction, see Ralph Cutter's website. (Cutter is the author of Fish Food and a keen observer of underwater life.) This site contains the photo that Mark requested. It is purported to be the first to capture the controversial phenomenon. It is the third photo of the article "All That Glitters" at
FalsiflyMarch 11th, 2010, 3:36 pm
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 661
Hey Gonzo,

It's good to have you back!!!!!
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."
DryflyMarch 11th, 2010, 7:50 pm
rochester mn

Posts: 133
So is the sparkle supplied from the yarn itself or the air trapped by the yarn? My pupas have failed at capturing actual air bubbles, does the antron veil need to encompass the entire abdomen?

SofthackleMarch 11th, 2010, 8:27 pm
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
GREAT! Thanks for the info, Lloyd. Much appreciated.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
WbranchMarch 12th, 2010, 3:54 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
"I don't care if it traps air to create bubbles or not."

I'm quoting myself as since the fly is so effective it is of no consequence to me whether or not there is a bubble. I've never been one to be very interested in FF theories or science. If the fly catches fish that is all I really care about - I like the unfettered, unscientific, approach to fishing.

Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
PatcrisciMarch 12th, 2010, 1:47 pm
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
excellent article. thanks for the pointer Gonzo.
Pat Crisci
BackcastMarch 12th, 2010, 3:16 pm
Northwest PA

Posts: 2
Hello all,I've been a fan of this site for years and follow the posts with much interest,but have never felt compelled to "enter the fray" until now,so here goes.Regarding the LaFontaine sparkle pupa,it's a great fly,and I've caught trout on it in both the green and tan versions(both the wet and dry styles as well)but it's not a very exacting copy of the natural.Not that it matters all that much 'cuz presentation trumps fly selection just about everytime.LaFontaine was a fishing genius and was way ahead of his time,though some of his flies seemed to have a sci-fi aspect to them i.e; "the airhead".I've been using small D-rib with a krystal flash underbody to give it some subtle sparkle,or alternately clear microtube for abdomens on pharate adult imitations.The trout seem to like 'em well enough.For some great footage of various insects crawling,drifting,swimming and emerging, check out Ralph Cutter's DVD "Bugs of the Underworld".Its got a sequence of the pharate swimming,then emerging at the surface.He discusses the sub-cuticle gas bubble of mayfly nymphs as well.
MartinlfMarch 12th, 2010, 7:26 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3229
Thanks to all who have contributed to this thread, especially Gonzo. We've missed you and your wisdom. Thanks for the links to these fascinating websites. Every time I get lazy or tired of trying new things and think, "you have enough information on bugs, enough fly patterns, enough basic approaches, now go and learn to fish better with what you have," something else comes along to get the wheels going in my head again. This is major. I have new flies to tie, new things to try. I suppose that's what it's all about anyway.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
WiflyfisherMarch 13th, 2010, 2:07 pm

Posts: 662
To emerge, the adult, still in its pupal skin, cuts out of the case or shelter using special mandibles. It then rapidly swims to the surface of the water or the bank, using fringed legs. It is assisted in reaching the surface by a bubble of gas secreted between the adult and the skin. This however makes them appear as a silvery bubble that is very conspicuous to fish.

From: The Beginner’s Guide to Caddis...
John S.

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