Over the years, I have become a bigger and bigger fan of flies that solve problems.
“Improved” patterns often start out as ways to make flies float or sink better, be more durable, require less maintenance, or simply present a better footprint or silhouette to the fish. In some cases, you might set out to solve a single one of these issues, and in the process hit on all of them. Andrew Grillos’s latest offering, the User Friendly, has done just that.
I’ve written about Grillos previously when his spectacular Low Rider Stone pattern impressed me, and here he is again with yet another great problem-solving pattern with a modern twist or two.
Grillos is a master of dry flies with buggy silhouettes, and his other patterns illustrate this point quite well. The ever-popular Hippy Stomper features a fat foam hump, heavy hackle, and angler-friendly wing to create a buoyant, durable pattern that pulls fish up with a nondescript buggy silhouette that can match a variety of insects, just depending on how you hold your mouth when you fish it.
The User Friendly is Grillos’s idea of a mayfly-profile attractor pattern with a slimmer shape, and it uses many common attractor materials, yet produces a stealthier pattern.
Grillos started off with a standard dry-fly hook and built a tiny ball of dubbing at the bend to help spread the synthetic tail fibers for a wider footprint.
He created a slender Razor Foam hump over a slimly dubbed abdomen that he cross-hatches with thread to add segmentation and durability.
A pair of synthetic McFlylon wings are mounted upright and divided for both fish and angler appeal, and a pair of finely barred, wiggly rubber legs are added to create movement and surface area before a thick hackle collar is wrapped palmer style through the Ice Dub thorax.
Less Prep Work
The end result is a slender pattern reminiscent of familiar flies, but with an obviously modern take on materials and design. The User Friendly is built to require little in the way of maintenance on the water because it uses materials that are not easily saturated. The entire fly—save for the hackle—is composed of entirely synthetic components.
While the User Friendly seems to be a bit more on the attractor side of the spectrum, it really does act as a hatch matcher when tied in the appropriate colors. The original version was tied in yellow to match the Pale Morning Duns Grillos encountered one day on a Montana spring creek. He was as surprised as anyone that the burly dry fly produced fish after fish, and held up so well to the mauling.
Grillos owes this to the User Friendly’s attitude on the water—it sits lower than traditional collared mayfly patterns. He reasons that the flatter footprint matches the naturals a bit better, and I’d have to agree with his assessment.
The durability of the User Friendly fly was no surprise given its man-made components and built-in buoyancy. The fly lives up wonderfully to its name, requiring little in the way of on-stream maintenance to keep it floating. It also presents a pair of highly visible, light-colored wings to the guy on the other end of the string.
The fact that the fish eat it so well is the main focus for all of us, but those extra-helpful attributes make it a no-brainer when choosing from a box of many patterns.
I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of this series. Right now, the User Friendly is available from Umpqua Feather Merchants in a PMD version, as well as black, and the purple one shown here.
Grillos mentioned in our conversations something about a Green Drake version . . . and that now has my brain running wild with the possibilities. We live in the good old days of fly tying, and guys like Andrew are leading the way. Lucky us. You can see more of his signature patterns at andrewgrillos.com and at umpqua.com.
Tying the User Friendly Fly
Hook: #12-16 Tiemco 100.
Thread: Black Veevus 14/0.
Tail: Medium dun Mayfly Tails.
Back: Black 1 mm Wapsi Razor Foam.
Abdomen: Purple Hareline Micro Fine Dry Fly Dub.
Wing: Gray McFlylon.
Legs: White, fine round rubber, barred with a Sharpie marker.
Hackle: Grizzly rooster.
Thorax: UV Purple Ice Dub
1. Begin by dressing the hook shank and building a tiny ball of dubbing at the bend of the hook. Tie six Mayfly Tails in and wrap back over them to the dubbing ball to spread them. Wrap forward to just past the midpoint on the shank and clip the excess.
2. Cut a strip of Razor Foam that is about half as wide as the gap of the hook. Cut one end to a point and tie it in at the base of the tails, taking care not to create a lump.
3. Dub a slightly tapered abdomen up to the 75% point on the shank.
4. Pull the Razor Foam forward over the dubbing and tie it down at the front of the abdomen. Cross-hatch the thread with three turns back to the bend, then wrap forward again, forming Xs over the foam strip.
5. Wrap forward over the remaining foam strip to the back of the hook eye. Tie in gray McFlylon at the middle of the thorax area using X-wraps as you would to tie spinner wings. Lift both wings and make a few tight parachute wraps at the base to stand the wings upright.
6. Tie in a single strand of fine white rubber legs along each side of the thorax from the back of the hook eye to the front of the abdomen.
7. Tie in a grizzly hackle at the front of the abdomen with the inside facing the hook. Dub the thorax with a pinch of UV Purple Ice Dub.
8. Wrap the hackle forward with two turns behind the wings and another two in front and up to the hook eye. Clip the excess. Lift the foam strip and rubber legs and sneak a whip finish in behind the hook eye.
9. Use a black Sharpie to bar the legs, and then trim them to length. Clip the foam strip squarely so it extends over the hook eye. Trim the wings longer than the hackle, and snip a notch in the bottom of the hackle collar.
*Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado, and is the author of two books: Charlie’s Fly Box (Stackpole Books, 2011) and Tying Nymphs: Essential Flies and Techniques for the Top Patterns (Stackpole Books/Headwater Books, 2016).