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Adventures in Fly Tying... January 2010

The Mixed Media
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard


The Mixed Media is, of course, a variation on the Clouser Deep Minnow theme.  I designed this fly in 2001 and really dialed it in by 2003, when I first published it on the Fly Tying Forum.  I called it the Mixed Media after the art term.  In the art world, mixed media refers to a work of art, typically a painting or other visual piece, that combines various techniques or materials that are each traditional to the form, but not typically blended.  The use of Sili-Legs as a wing on a Clouser and as far as I know this is the first such documented use really does define the concept of a mixed media work.  It is an homage to one of the most productive fly designs ever, and not an effort to "invent" a vanity fly.  In one of those strange twists of fate, it turned out this fly is simply a killer.  I'd like to say that I knew it would be, but the honest truth is that I wouldn't have published it, or even mentioned it, if I hadn't started have crazy success with it.  Dave Votaw, our own Fly Fish Ohio Science Editor and a smallmouth bass zealot, swears he fishes just this fly from June through August.  Judging from the depletion of the pattern in my stock boxes, I'll believe it.

The Mixed Media is about much more than little strands of rubber or silicone. The counterbalance of this pattern is the short, brushy, soft wing of red fox body fur, tied complete with the underfur in place. This is an idea I "borrowed" from Eric Leiser's Llama, a favored fly from my misspent youth. The combination of the Sili-legs and the short fox fur, in the staggered-wing configuration, allows the pattern to be vaguely representative of a crayfish, crab, sculpin and darter. The whole thing shimmies in a way that's just irresistible to a wide range of species. Certainly this is an effective smallmouth bass and rock bass pattern, but Alex Cerveniak of the 40 Rivers To Freedom blog swears it's his hottest carp fly.  He called it "the one." I've had reports that Erie Steelhead will crush this when many other patterns draw a blank.  And I know from first-hand experience that Florida redfish will pounce on a Mixed Media that's stirring up puffs of silt from the bottom.  But first and foremost, this is a fly that will drive bass nuts!

This fly was designed to be fished aggressively, and I've don't suggest it for dead-drift techniques.  Cast it to a likely spot and let it sink to the bottom.  Then hop it back in a series of 3-inch to foot-long strips with pauses to let the fly sink again.  The hit will almost always come on the pause.  It's really an imitation of an adult crayfish during their late summer, early autumn mating dance and the opaque Sili-legs work to cut a sharp silhouette and provide a non-stop bit of action with a slight sonic signature.  The fox body fur turns translucent in the water, allowing the orange thread to shine through.  The sparse dressing allows the whole thing to breathe and show glimpses of the flash at the center.  You can vary the color by choosing darker legs and fur, but keep the orange thread and a copper or gold-based flash.  Ideally you'll dress the fly to match the bottom of the areas you fish, while retaining just a bit of a trampish glow. The Mixed Media might be a lot of things, but one thing it's not is shy!


Hook: Mustad 33903 kink-shank popper hook, size 4.  For larger flies in size 2 and size 1 I use a 3xl ring-eye hook.  I don't tie this fly in sizes smaller than size 4, or in sizes larger than size 1 because it's very difficult for the materials to scale to other sizes. The size 4 is the classic package.
Thread: Danville 140 denier fluorescent orange

Eyes: Black or gold dumbbell eyes is size small or medium for a size 4 fly.

Body: Tying thread

Belly: Pumpkin flake Sili-legs, 6 to 8 strands doubled over for size 4. For size 2 use 8 strands and for size 1 use 10 strands.

Flash:  4 strands of grizzly/copper Flashabou doubled over the tying thread to provide 8 strands of flash for a size 4 fly.  Use 6 strands for size 2 and 8 strands for size 1.

Wing: Red fox body fur with the underfur left in place.

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The Mixed Media is a fly that will take just about any species, but it's designed primarily as a bass fly.  Fish it like a hardware fisherman would fish a jig-n-pig.
Place the hook in the vise and lay down a base of thread to a point just above the hook point.
Set the dumbbell eyes into the kink in the kink-shank hook and secure with five diagonal wraps in each direction and three frapping wraps under the eyes but over the shank.
Select 6 to 8 strands of Sili-Legs in the color of your choice that best matches the bottom in the area you'll be fishing.  Just a little lighter is typically better than a little darker than the substrate.
Using the full length of the Sili-Legs, fold the leg material over the tying thread at the mid point. Make three or four wraps to secure the thread and pull gently on the leg material to stretch it. Then make three or four turns up onto the leg material so you get a secure and nicely tapered tie-in point.
Fold the legs over the lead eyes, but don't stretch them.  You want just a bit of slack in the legs so they don't break from the rough jaws of the fish.  Move the thread behind the lead eyes and wrap a waist, securing the legs to the hook shank behind the eyes.  Don't use a lot of thread pressure or you may cut the legs with the thread.  Whip finish over the waist and move the thread back to the front of the eyes.
Fold the flash material over the thread and tie down. You should end up with 12 to 16 strands of flash. Trim the flash just a tiny bit longer than the Sili-legs after you've finished the fly.  I like to cut the flash to staggered lengths..
Select a patch of well marked red fox body fur. You can use fox tail, but be advised that it isn't quite as effective.  The soft body fur and thick, gray underfur are part of the magic of this fly.
Tie in a thick clump of fox fur, using your scissors to trim a taper to the tie-in point before securing it to the hook.  Wrap a prominent head..
Coat the head and the waist with Sally Hansen's or a fly tying cement and go fishing!




Tight lines and improved-definition waters...

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