Posts Tagged Fly Tying

Minted in March

Minted in March . . .


Two for a Cent (NYC 03 2016)

Two for a Cent
(NYC 03 2016)

“Two for a Cent” is an early short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The author describes with a mannered eloquence the ember at the end of a lit cigarette. That scene from a mellow night remains one of my favorite descriptive passages in American Literature.

My essential pattern, the “one fly” for the tenkara fishing I most often do, begins with The Green Guarantee, two of which are pictured above with a wheatie from Fitzgerald’s era. Coins and fly patterns model well together and give me a chance to combine two of my interests in a single frame. As for the pattern, its universal color and shape viewed from a fish’s underneath perspective, dressed in fur and feather activated by motion though water, attracts all of the pond’s residents at some various points in the season, including season’s start.


Fifty Cents for a Quarter Dozen? (03 2016)

Half Dollar for a Quarter Dozen?
(03 2016)


“Half Dollar for a Quarter Dozen” is a possible title of three Muddy Moreblack arranged with an American half dollar to scale. The Muddy Moreblack continues the use of the double consonant and offers a pun on the mirrored famous last name of an acclaimed guitarist whose band’s music I hear played on fly shop playlists all the time.

This pattern matches tan and black on a size 6 or 8 streamer hook and, being weighted, smokes under the water. The effect conveys the colors of late winter, something waking, emerging from the water bottom’s silt and leaf litter. The dobsonfly nymph, hellgrammite, crayfish, and stonefly all the Muddy Moreblack may be. The pattern worked along banks, within the sticks that dropped those bottom leaves, can produce the one earned fish of a day when sudden sun chases the fishes from more open areas.

Freshwater fishes may suspend in tough spots as a defense mechanism. The clustering of various species of Centrarchidae also brings to mind an expression of conscious social interaction. May such gatherings be a fishes’ summit to plan the following growing season? Perhaps territories within the pond’s perimeter are hashed out here with the whiskered bullhead given free reign along the bottom and the entirety patrolled by a few scattered schools of carp prone to basking just out of conventional and fly casting distance.

Carp have been nowhere to be seen during the Ides of March. Sudden sun and warmth during the winter to spring transition has pushed New York’s sunfishes down or into what dense shaded cover may exist so early in the season. Fallen trees and a nest of limber overhangs then present the long fly rod throwing a line a more complex scenario. The fishes, still hovering, appear to challenge:

“Catch us if you can!”


"Catch Us if You Can!" (NYC 03 2016)

“Catch Us if You Can!”
(NYC 03 2016)


I did.


Bluegill (NYC 03 2016)

(NYC 03 2016)


Minted in March Black Crappie (NYC 03 2016)

Black Crappie
(NYC 03 2016)


Sunfish the color of a penny nestled in the sticks. Black crappie as iridescent as a silver coin.

Minted in March: Season’s Start

– rPs 03 18 2016

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Flies in February

Flies in February . . .


There sits on one of my windowsills a squat glass jar capped in gold. February finds this once full glass filling again.


Interests and the path spreading like branches follows evolving passion even in the face of an other’s suggestions. I do incorporate experiments and techniques from and with friends, yet I avoid the net of orthodoxy by remaining as much as a lone cat as I can.


Two patterns from the vice beside the windowsill are small enough to fit a few on the cap of gold:


Partridge and Olive


Partridge and Olive Size 12 (2016)

Partridge and Olive
Size 12


Heerl and Deer


Herl and Deer Size 12 (2016)

Herl and Deer
Size 12


Tenkara Kebari all but for orientation of the hackle. As the remainder of the recipes fall in line with orthodox Tenkara Kebari I pause, side with majority rule in regards to the fundamental composition of each pattern, and I acknowledge there exists a kind of “Reformed Branch” of Tenkara, too. This branch I do practice with attention to balance.


Both kebari patterns fish well in my favorite waters; confidence driven by the constant elements: sparseness, natural speckled hackle, and body iridescence.


— rPs 02 05 2016

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One Fly for the Tenkara Holidays

One Fly for the Tenkara Holidays . . .


TTMP Clan Green Guarantee 12 2015

“Six Green Guarantee!” (NYC 12 2015)


Gift giving. Among anglers the act can be a delicate wade on slippery surfaces. Some people may even take offense as far as viewing an offer as a hard press unwanted.

Gift giver I may be. The acceptance of a fly pattern example, a kebari, perhaps as a holiday present, a simple gift from a friend or acquaintance who ties is, when from me, an act and an artifact of interaction akin to a card: business, birthday, or holiday.

If the gift offered comes in duplicate, or more, fish the fly! Mix the gift pattern with your own for the classic swing or two in a flow’s current seam.

“Tenkara is One Fly Fishing” has been offered as a koan, as well as a sales absorbing orthodoxy, yet I have met masters who swing tandem soft hackles on a long furled leader with the grace of every other magician who has penned a trout treatise.

One Fly. The inquiry begs an absolute or other from every voice. Is there an answer . . . yet?

Meanwhile, fish that gift fly, or deconstruct the recipe for future fun with one fly on the water.



When the good wine flows as fast as a pocket water flow, one knows many more than expected have arrived. Plenty of guests made a party for the NYC Tenkara Club in Manhattan, New York City. A table appointed well greeted the second floor guest at Orvis, 489 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. Saddle hackles hung in rows and a white screen displayed slide show views of tenkara fisheries and fishers employed with a variety of matched tackle. Adam Klag displayed tenkara rods short and light along longer models capable of tangling with major Cyprinidae.

Respected voices filled the space with Q&A and useful demonstrations of tackle management.

“What About One Fly?”

There it was, then. The Question.

I refer to my Tenkara Fly Code first shared in May of 2012:

That is my “Fly Box Flashback” for the close of December, 2015.

Time since New York City’s tenkara public meeting has since been spent with irony tying multiple patterns. So far from One Fly has been in part inspired by this recent gathering of tenkara angling kin. If I were a cub reporter and copy editor in attendance on December 8, I would have titled my reportage:

Tenkara Takes Manhattan

. . . the i-RON-y.

– rPs 12 14 2015


Postscript: My 2015 holidays season’s tenkara gift suggestions and recommendations in random order:

Crooked Lines by Dominic Garnett

Nissin Flying Dragon Carp Rod at Tenkara Bum

Simple Flies by Morgan Lyle

Tenkara Flies by Anthony Naples

fallons angler issue 4


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For Short

For Short . . .

Theodore Gordon and Deer Hair Cahill Sakasa Kebari (photo taken 03 01 2015)

Theodore Gordon and Deer Hair Cahill Sakasa Kebari
(photo taken 03 01 2015)

“Deer Hair Cahill Sakasa Kebari”

Testaments of all faiths have in their spirit the sense of a letter from one to another. Letters “Of and To” are “For and From” as well. A blog in a sense is such a form. When standards are held up, when the focus is on a subject rather than an “I,” a post can be a literary act of sharing with conviction most commendable.

The level of Art is reached at times in any endeavor. The epistolary word, being of high standard, demands much from an author to become Art. Theodore Gordon’s mayfly patterns are canonical, so is his correspondence with G.E.M. Skues and Frederic W. Halford, written when he was nestled in the ‘kills of New York, read still a century after composition.

Gordon remains a compelling figure for contemplation when engaged in the sport of fly fishing and the craft of fly tying. Readers now are individuals never to be connected to the man in real time or place in the physical sense. We may never fish with him, although tethered we are by Gordon’s active mind talking from the page printed in his own careful words.

Gordon and his thoughts on the artificial fly are well known. Another fly fisher of New York, Daniel Cahill, goes more unsung, perhaps for the simple reason he did not write, although his surname stands attached to another of the canonical Catskill patterns. He was a brakeman for the Erie Lackawanna railroad and a fly tier during the late 19th Century. His Light Cahill and its variants, a staple imitation of the pale Stenecron (Stenonema) mayfly, endure as surely as those of Gordon, although the man’s actual voice, from mouth or page to ear and mind, may be silent.

Gordon and Cahill, mayfly and trout: all four have combined along one tenkara path to form a pattern I find works when trout fishing during the warm months of May through August. Shaded runs, a calm evening, or when the sun lets go of the water during the middle of a morning. A trout rising at such a time on a ‘kill might find such a basic pattern effective fished wet or dry.

I combined the deer hair I have kept close this tying season with 6/0 olive, tan, black, or white thread and bodies of yarn, feather, floss, tinsel necked with a standard peacock herl thorax. One with an angora rabbit fur body resembles a very impressionistic Light Cahill.

Deer hair is employed for the hackle rather than feather. This is a sakasa pattern, one that holds a Japanese traditional tenkara hackle orientation. The trick with deer hair folded forward is to retain a soft and parse head, which I half hitch at the rear base of the hackle. Scissors, bobbin, and thread are all the tools most necessary. Visual aids, if or as needed, of magnification 1.0 to 5.0 times can help on the details when hooks are on the smaller end. My preferred size for this pattern, based on satisfactory catch rates, is a 16.

“Has the pattern a name?” or “What do you call it?” has been asked. I reply in conversation: “(Swegman’s) Deer Hair Cahill Sakasa Kebari or Deer Hair Cahill Sakasa Kebari, for short.”

Size 14 to 18 hook
Angora Rabbit for Body
Peacock herl for thorax
Deer hair for hackle
6/0 thread for wrap

All the Tools Most Necessary: Tenkara Still Life (photo taken 03 02 2015)

All the Tools Most Necessary: Tenkara Still Life
(photo taken 03 02 2015)

Deer Hair Cahill Sakasa Kebari: a mouthful for fish . . .

– rPs 03 02 2015

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Tenkara and Trichoptera

Tenkara and Trichoptera . . .

Olive Tenkara Trichoptera Larva (ties 02 17 2015)

Olive Tenkara Trichoptera Larva
(ties 02 17 2015)

“The architect in the stream.”

One could make the case that bugs are in my blood. My paternal uncle, Bernard G. Swegman, has worn several hats over the course of an academic career that includes published papers on caddisflies, the trichoptera. i

Caddis patterns are a pillar of creative fly tying and effective fly fishing. The caddis dry fly can be like potato chips to an eager trout. The nymph and emerger must offer a flavor that overcomes the texture of their exterior cases self-constructed from sticks and pebbles and mortar. Yes, to me, the caddis is an architect of a stream insect.

Besides trout, wet caddis imitations make an excellent start pattern for the smallmouth bass and sunfish found in the freestones of the Mid-Atlantic region. Green sunfish, redbreast sunfish, and rock bass all take the nymph swung by structure and drifted along current seams.

One tenkara trichoptera of my own I like to swing along rock ledges and other deep bank areas. A simple larva pattern, not unlike a Poopah pattern, the body of this one appears more straight and sinuous on account of ultra chenille instead of dubbing; I also employ a standard wet fly hook that extends the ribbed tinsel body just a bit.

A tenkara rod’s greater length allows me to high stick this fly in areas open overhead where exposed clay banks are often found beside meadows. Smaller sizes 14 through 18 in olive, tan, or gray all lure fish with the olive coaxing more specimens to net on an average day

Olive Tenkara Trichoptera Larva

Size 14-18 Mustad 3906 wet fly hook
Olive ultra chenille for body
X-SM French tinsel for rib
Peacock herl for thorax
6/0 Green UNI-thread for wrap

– rPs 02 17 2015

i “Occurrence Of An Intersex Individual Of Psychomyia flavida (Trichoptera)”
B G Swegman Entomological News 89: 187-188 (1978)

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Angling Art and Manhattan Kebari

Angling Art and Manhattan Kebari . . .

I Found Fishing Writer's Block:  mixed media (copyright 2015 by ron P swegman. all rights reserved.)

I Found Fishing Writer’s Block: mixed media
(copyright 2015 by ron P swegman. all rights reserved.)

My fishing jacket’s front zippered pockets are reserved for light litter storage and occasional gifts. The latter may include tackle, lures, and sometimes flies found over the course of an outing on the water. One pond trip in 2014 brought to my gift pocket a green pencil snapped in two and a small red and white bobber. Arranged this week with a small amount of imagination created a new sculpture – “I Found Fishing Writer’s Block” – visual metaphor rendered in the medium of found fishing objects, photographed.

More conventional material creation has included my attempts at kebari. The patterns I call “kebari” for I fish these patterns in subtle variation with my Ebisu and Yamame telescoping rods in the streams and stillwaters I explore on this east coast of North America.

Some pumpkin yarn came into hand from my friend, Brian. Time seeing this material go unused was spent in contemplation, which incubated tying ideas influenced first by the color found to varying degree in Dave Whitlock’s Squirrel Nymph, Safet Nikosevic’s October Caddis, and Brian’s own Cinder Worm pattern. My results this February have so far included:

Swegman’s October Caddis; a nymph

Swegman's October Caddis Nymph (tied 02 06 2015)

Swegman’s October Caddis Nymph
(tied 02 06 2015)

Size 12-16 Wet Fly Hook
Deer hair for tail
Pumpkin dubbing for body
Peacock Herl for thorax
6/0 Green Thread for wrap

This pattern in various colors has lured stream trout and fallfish as well as bluegills in ponds.

Swegman’s Sunfish; a weighted hair wing streamer

Swegman's Sunfish (tied 02 06 2015)

Swegman’s Sunfish
(tied 02 06 2015)

Size 6 Streamer Hook
.030 Wire for weight
Deer Hair for tail and wing
Pumpkin dubbing for body
Peacock herl for thorax
6/0 Green thread for wrap

This pattern is effective on black crappie and largemouth bass when the fry of bluegill and yellow perch are available as forage.

I for my record state no idea here presented is new. The colors and silhouettes, however, have been shaped by experience and conditions unique to this tenkara reporter on multiple seasons spent using both conventional and tenkara fly fishing tackle.

– rPs 02 06 2015

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Harlem Meer, Blue Again

Harlem Meer, Blue Again . . .

Free at last: Harlem Meer without ice.. (photo taken 03 21 2014)

Free at last: Harlem Meer without ice.. (photo taken 03 21 2014)

The wind was up. The sun set the high cirrus aglow. Harlem Meer reflected deep blue and, occasionally, bare trees. Rippled, the winded surface did not deter the birds. Canada Geese, Mallard Ducks, and Hooded Megansers all utilized the resource. I found myself, too, with colleagues Fergus and Jesse. We three angled urbanely for an entire Friday.

The water was clear and dark, free of weed. Only the bottom, where we worked our offerings, hinted at the ragged rooted bases of plants yet to rise.

I decided to employ one of my own finished fly patterns:

The Green Guarantee; a bucktail streamer

Green Guarantee: bucktail version.

Green Guarantee:
bucktail version.

Size 6 hook
030 wire for weight
Deer hair for tail
Olive floss for body
Peacock herl for thorax
6/0 Green thread for wrapping


Where others using conventional fly fishing outfits and ultralight spinning outfits failed, tenkara succeeded. One fish fell for the delicate dance of the pattern. The limber tenkara tip had provided again.

Crappie as long as your pine handle: Tenkara USA Ebisu and a black crappie. (photo taken 03 21 2014)

Crappie as long as your pine handle:
Tenkara USA Ebisu and a black crappie. (photo taken 03 21 2014)

First black crappie of 2014

The day’s fishing ended on a silent moment. We three stood abreast and watched, as time lapsed in front of us, the bend of a cove letting go the last of its lock of ice.

Harlem Meer, blue again.

– rPs 03 31 2014

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A Tenkara Fly Code

A Tenkara Fly Code . . .

A tenkara fly code selection, including, row one: Light Cahill, Elk Hair Caddis; Deer Hair and White, Grey Wool and White; Amano Kebari, Royal Coachman; row two: E-Z Pheasant Tail Nymph, Pheasant and Orange; Muddler Minnow, Silver Tinsel Bucktail. (photo taken 04 30 2012)

One of the most influential artificial fly theorists of the last century was Vincent Marinaro. He was born, raised, and fly fished in the same western and central Pennsylvania region where I lived the first forty years of my own life. Limestone spring creeks and their rich insect hatches fascinated him and his approach, which he documented in two major works: A Modern Dry Fly Code (1950) and In the Ring of the Rise (1976).

Marinaro’s theory of the fly as related in his Code centered on two premises: the first was that small patterns were more effective; the second was the wing was the thing, the part of the fly that really mattered given the upward perspective of a feeding trout. What has risen from his opinion, as well as those of Halford and Skues, Flick and Meck, and a long line of others, is a cornucopia of patterns that imitate a world of fish food items that live somewhere within the water column and the calendar year.

Tenkara has come in recent years to the forward perspective of some western anglers, carrying with it a more simplified overall approach. This philosophy applies as well to the fly pattern. Imitation in the tenkara code goes only as far as tying a fly that matches the general silhouette of “insect” or, even more generically, “forage’ . . .  The rest of the game is the fishing process, placing and manipulating a pattern to provide it life-giving allure. Thus, it is not surprising to find a tenkara angler who carries just one pattern in the box. Different sizes of the fly, perhaps or for sure, but still only one pattern.

I have contemplated the western match-the-hatch tradition and the tenkara one-fly philosophy and have settled on my personal compromise: A Tenkara Fly Code.

The basics are simple: a fly pattern that imitates an insect can be large or small, floating or sinking, light or dark. That stated, my fly box will hold eight (8) flies to imitate insects plus an additional two (2), a large and a small streamer, to imitate minnows and crayfish. Here is the breakdown:

2 light floating (one large, size 12; one small, size 16)

2 light sinking (one large, size 12; one small, size 16)

2 dark floating (one large, size 12; one small, size 16)

2 dark sinking (one large, size 12; one small, size 16)

2 streamers (one large, size 8; one small, size 12)

This approach assembles a manageable assortment of ten (10) flies total, which can be realized in a single large and small example of five basic patterns, or ten separate patterns, each individual fitting into one of the ten specific slots in the size department. This second approach offers a little more variety, thus flexibility, especially in the streamer category, which has a wider range of organisms to cover. A trip to a freestone stream could include a large Muddler Minnow to imitate sculpin and crayfish; a small tinsel bucktail to imitate shiners and other silvery minnows. A trip to a pond might require a Black Woolly Bugger to represent a leech; a Gray Ghost to simulate a smelt.

That’s a whip finish for me, for now. The fun part, applied fly pattern theory practiced along a stream or around a pond, comes next.

– rPs 04 30 2012

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