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Adventures in Fly Tying... August 2010

Murray's Strymph
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard


Murray's Strymph is a fly originated by Harry Murray, a well known smallmouth and trout angler, guide and fly shop owner from Edinburg, Virginia.  His home waters include the Shenandoah, where he's developed a reputation as a creative, perceptive and thoughtful angler.  Murray's book Fly Fishing Techniques For Smallmouth Bass is a landmark work, one every serious creek angler should have in his collection.  Among the flies originated by Murray, and he's responsible for a bulging handful of productive patterns, the Strymph is my favorite for its versatility and dependable productivity.  

The Strymph, as its name suggests, is a melding of a streamer and nymph much like Russell Blessing's Wooly Bugger.  But the Strymph goes farther.  Rather than marabou, the Strymph's ostrich tail holds together in the water with all the herls moving as one.  This refines the illusion of a hellgrammite, large burrowing mayfly nymph, leech or baitfish pattern, especially when casting upstream and fishing the fly back downstream as one would do on a lively smallmouth stream.  The fly incorporates elements of Polly Rosborough's Casual Dress nymph, Ed Shenk's White Streamer.  The chewy dubbing-loop body adds texture (smallmouth bass love texture), translucency and internal motion; all of which suggest life. 

Murray recommends several colors of Strymph including olive, black, cream and natural rabbit.  Sized range from a petite size 10 to an intimidating size 2 and the fly should always include enough lead to get it to sink efficiently, but not so much that it plummets to the bottom without action.  I like to fish the Strymph on a fluorocarbon tippet using a loop knot to preserve as much micro-motion as possible.  The trick to the Strymph is to fish it slowly.  This fly is for the fly fisherman what the straight tail Senko is for the spin fisherman.  It's a fine drop bait and a great dead-stick bait. 


Hook:  4XL ring-eye streamer hook, size 10 to 2.  In this video I use a Daiichi 1750, size 4.
Thread: Black or any color to match the body.  Use 3/0 210 Denier for the largest sizes and 6/0 140 denier for the smaller sizes.

Weight:   10 to 20 wraps of lead wire that's about the same diameter as the hook wire.  I like .025 for a size 4.

Tail 20 to 30 herls from an ostrich plume

Body: Dyed or natural rabbit fur in a dubbing loop

Hackle:  Hen hackle or waterfowl flank, tied in the manner of a soft hackle fly with two or three turns of soft, long hackle providing action and veiling of the body.

Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 


New High Definition - 720p!

High Definition Windows Media File



Wrap 15 to 20 wraps of lead wire onto the front third of the hook.  Ensure enough space to wrap the hackle and finish the head in front of the lead wire. 

Cover the lead wire with a smooth base of thread and bring the thread back to a point over the barb of the hook.

Select 20 to 30 ostrich herls and even the tips by pinching off the fragile ends.  You can add a few strands of flash if you'd like a brighter fly, but keep any flash sparse.  The ostrich tail should be about as long as the hook shank.  Tie in the ostrich at the end of the lead wire to form a full and even underbody. Wrap the thread back so its right over the hook point. 

Lock in an 8" loop of thread by wrapping back over the loop to a point over the hook's barb, then bring the thread forward to the hook eye.  Insert the dubbing twister into the loop and wax the thread loop to help hold the rabbit fur in place.

Clip bunches of rabbit fur from the hide and place between the loops, careful to keep the thread over the mid-point of the fur. Spread the fur out so it's evenly distributed in the loop.

Once the fur is evenly distributed, twist the thread into a fur chenille. 

Wrap the chenille up the hook shank, stroking the fur back between wraps.  Advance the fur dubbing loop to the eye and tie off, leaving enough room for the hackle and head.  Tie off the thread with a whip finish and clip.

Comb the body with a dubbing brush to fluff and align the fibers of the body.

Trim the rabbit body to a tapered carrot shape using curved scissors

Re-attach your thread in front of the body and prepare the hackle. 

The original patter specifies a soft hackle such as a hen hackle or partridge feather.  On this particular color I like the mottled effect of a mallard drake breast feather

The hackle should be long and relatively sparse. Tie off the hackle, form a neat thread head and tie off.  Add a bit of tying cement and the Strymph is complete.

This is a versatile pattern that  imitates a lot of the things smallmouth bass eat.  The natural rabbit and grey is a fine imitation of a chub or river shiner.

The YouTube video embedded below is a slightly truncated version of the full video offered for download.  To see the full video, please select the standard definition or high-definition 720p files offered in the links above.  Please note, the HD version is a BIG file and download times may be considerable if you're on a slow Internet connection.  It's worth the wait!



Tight lines and clear waters...

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