First, some good news: The Caddis Fly just bought a bunch of super-bitchin’ Euro-Capes in natural grizzly, red, pink, blue and purple. These necks have extremely long, durable hackles, perfect for Pick-Yer-Pockets and Intruders. Since the cute hippie chicks vacuumed up the world’s supply of Euro-Saddles a few months ago, these Euro-Capes are a welcome sight.
Next, I owe you Oregon Flyfishing Blog readers an update on Intruder tying. For those who missed my step-by-step post on tying shank-style Intruders, check out this link: https://oregonflyfishingblog.com/2009/12/29/tying-shank-style-intruders/
At the time of my last Intruder post in December of 2009, I was spending roughly two hours per fly. Most of that time was eaten up in the dubbing-loop stages, and at that time I was using between four and six dubbing loops for each fly. Soon after the post, I eliminated the rear dubbing loop. This trimmed a little time off the fly, but more importantly, it “opened up” the fly, removing some bulk and allowing the inner workings of the fly to be seen from behind.
Another issue nagged at me. I had always been disappointed by the lack of movement in Lady Amherst. For all its “bugginess,” the material looked utterly dead in the water. After studying Brian Kite’s ingenious Pick-Yer-Pocket, a widely available variation of the Intruder, I decided to incorporate grizzly hackle tips into my Intruders instead of the Amherst fibers. The results were great, and today all my flies use grizzly tips to provide contrast and movement. This step eliminated one more dubbing loop, but offered no real time savings, as each tip had to be tied in separately.
The big revelation came this January. At one of our early-season winter steelhead camps, Jason Koertge, Spencer Miles and I sat around the cabin table tying and drinking. While we were still coherent, Jason took a moment to show Spencer how to “clump” craft-fur. He tied in the fur in reverse, trimmed the butt-ends short, then folded the fur back over itself, adding a bump of thread in front to stand it up. Then he greased the fur back with spit and tied in a clump of ostrich herl, also in reverse, just ahead of the craft fur. Finally, he pulled the ostrich back and wrapped another bump of thread in front.
“You know, it’s like how they tie Temple Dogs, with the three-part wing?” Jason looked at us for some kind of acknowledgement, but we just stared at him wide-eyed.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I admitted. “But that is awesome!”
“Really?” His brow furrowed. “Bullshit. Your messing with me now,” he warned.
“No, seriously,” I said. “This is all new for me.” Spencer nodded, “Me, too.”
Jason sometimes takes for granted that everyone knows all the stuff he knows, which is funny, cuz most people only know about one third of what he knows. Anyway, he cranked out a sweet fly in a matter of seconds. Spencer and I were slack-jawed. He explained the Temple Dog routine of tying in the wing, in reverse, in three stages. This “clumping” technique created a much stronger flare than my dubbing loops, and they were fast. I knew immediately that Jason had turned my little world upside down.
My next Intruder was finished in 40 minutes and required only one dubbing loop, that for the furry head. The new fly had all the characteristics of a well-engineered Intruder, but with less bulk and more profile due to the extreme flare created by the three-step clumping technique. What’s more, the underside of the fly was completely open, revealing more of the layers and inner workings that were normally covered up by my dubbing loops. I laughed in disbelief, then tied another one just to be sure it was real.
The next day we fished hard, and I tested my new Intruders diligently. Sure enough, as I followed my friends through a favorite run, the line tightened hard and a huge steelie hurled himself skyward. The great buck proved to be un-landable, and my hook came back considerably straightened. But the new Intruder had been sufficiently validated.
Since that trip, I’ve tied and tested dozens of these flies, and the results have been consistent. Like anything, the clumping technique takes practice and has a few pitfalls, but it puts Intruder tying on the fast track, so to speak.