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Adventures in Fly Tying... July 2009


The Katydid

Featuring Mike Schmidt As Our Guest Fly Tyer

Article by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard


Mike Schmidt is the owner of Angler's Choice flies.  He's been featured on this site before, with two installments of Fly Box Porn under his belt. Mike is a great fly fisherman and a talented fly tier.  We caught up with him at a local "Tie and Lie" event at Buffalo Mountain Coffee Shop in Cincinnati, where we filmed him tying some classic winged wets.  The first fly he tied demonstrated quill wings - it's the Katydid.  In the next episode of Adventures In Fly Tying we'll join Mike as he ties a married wing pattern.

John Merwin, in his truly outstanding book The New North American Trout Fishing (©1994 Castle Books, ISBN 0-7858-1192-3), had this to say about winged wets in general: "The ancient British tradition of small, drab wet flies was developed over centuries of fishing for often-selective brown trout, which was substantially more difficult than the brook-trout fishing that characterized much of nineteenth-century American trout fishing.  While many of the flies have remained the same, however, modern trout fishermen have simply forgotten - or never learned - how to use them.  The subtleties of wet-fly fishing have been largely overshadowed by the relatively recent and high-tech glitz of graphite and the search for increasingly sophisticated fly patterns. For example, both now and centuries ago, the most common wet-fly method is to cast quartering downstream (meaning across the current in a downstream direction) and to then let the fly or flies play across the current. A more sophisticated method was described by W.C. Stewart, who plied his we flies in the tumbling streams of the northern British Isles.  Stewart used his 1857 book The Practical Angler to advocate fishing wet flies upstream without drag, a radical suggestion at a time when almost all of his cohorts worked their flies down.  His arguments for this approach eventually evolved as the classic, upstream dry-fly method..."


Reed Curry, of The Contemplative Angler blog, had this to say in a 2006 entry on traditional winged wet flies: "By the late 1940's, phrases such as "I take my flies and my Martinis dry" gave some indication that the fishing of wet flies was considered passé, if not just one short step removed from poaching. The traditional wet flies, especially in a two or three fly cast, did not approximate any stage of an insect's lifecycle. That leads us to ask this question: "What do the trout think of this?. Are trout today too sophisticated to be taken in by the colorful creations of yesteryear?" Well, absent proof that memory of fly types is transmitted through genetics, it seems safe for us to conclude that, if trout -- Brook, Rainbow, and Brown -- could be caught readily on our very American wet flies in 1920, they can be caught with the same ease, on the same flies, today. Experience has taught me the truth of this, a delightful experience of trout charging a worked fly in fast water, an experience I hope all fly fishermen will enjoy. "


Winged wet flies enjoyed a minor renaissance over the last decade due primarily to the work of Don Bastian, who is the featured author of Ray Bergman's biography in the book Forgotten Flies, Don tied all 483 wet flies featured in the color plates of Bergman's Trout, an auspicious undertaking.  Bastion also has two DVD's available showing his techniques for tying these established patterns. Mike Schmidt studied with Bastion, where he learned the art of the traditional wet fly. 


Mike Schmidt comments: "The Katydid is, to me, a perfect way to start off an introduction to the classic winged wet style of fly. It is a very simple and yet effective fishing pattern, and incorporates all the pieces most common to the style. The Katydid is a great pattern to work on to get down the basic techniques and tricks before moving on to more complicated patterns that incorporate such things as palmered bodies and married wings. The Katydid, as tied in this video, is meant to be of 'fishing quality' so it’s tail and wings are a little longer and thinner than the proportions you would look for in a classic ‘display’ quality fly. Another difference is that there was less attention paid to the floss body being glass smooth and having a fully formed head. Hopefully this quick tutorial will pique your interest in this underused style of fly and we will be competing for the best duck quill sources soon.!"


Hook: Daichi 1530 Wet Fly Hook, sizes 6 to 14

Tag:  Flat gold tinsel
Thread: Black 70 Denier (8/0)

Body: Highlander green floss

Rib: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Matched pair of green duck quill sections

Hackle: Green

Wing: Matched pair of green duck quill sections

Head: Black thread coated with a high-gloss finish consisting of three coats of black Pro-Lak head cement

Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 



Mount the hook in the vise. Here we are using a size 6, a good size for fishing both trout and smallmouth bass.  Start the thread one hook-eye width behind the hook eye.

To make the tag, tie in the flat tinsel first.  Wrap the tinsel back to a point directly over the back spear of the hook barb and then forward again.  This will make a smooth tag that set's up the rest of the fly.

Here the tag has been wrapped back and is being wrapped forward again.

Tie off the tinsel with a few thread wraps and cut the excess. Then wrap the thread back over the tinsel to the point where the tail will be tied in. The tail should begin directly above the middle of the hook barb.

Select a matched pair of duck quills.  You'll need one feather from the right and one from the left wing, ideally both from the same position on the wing.  This will yield the best match.  Note that you'll only use the lower 1/3 of the feather, and you'll only use the outer, thin layer of the feather. The thick, pithy center won't tie in correctly.

Cut a section about 4 feather barbs wide from each quill and match them so they are curving out, in a splayed manner.

Using a pinch-wrap, mount the tail and tie in.  Cut the excess at a taper to keep the underbody smooth.

Tie in the ribbing tinsel along the side of the body to get a clean start on the wrap and to keep the back of the fly from becoming lumpy.

Here you can see the splayed tail and the tinsel and floss tied in and ready to wrap.

Wrap a smooth floss body.

And rib it with a traditional five turns of gold tinsel.

Use a "beard hackle" technique to tie in a small bunch of hackle barbs under the fly.  The beard should reach just to the point of the hook, no longer.

Select two more sections for the wings, one from each of the two feathers. The wings will be about as long as the body and should be about twice the width of the tail slips.

Carefully measure the wings so they are the right length.

The wings should extend to the bend of the hook.

Tie in the wings with a loose pinch wrap and secure with several tight wraps going forward towards the hook eye.

Here you can see the wings properly set.

Carefully clip excess material at an angle so you can build a smooth head.

Wrap a neat thread head and finish with two whip finishes.

Coat the head with Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails.  For a "perfect" head finish, Mike suggests three coats of Pro Lak black lacquer with time to dry between each carefully applied coat.


Tight lines and traditional waters...

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