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The April-May 2021: Available in both print and digital.

This Month in Fly Fisherman:

Newman's Micro Matcher

How to master tiny legs

By Charlie Craven

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Charlie Craven photo

Walter Newman, a young fly fisher and fly tier from Littleton, Colorado, grew up just about an hour from the banks of the famous South Platte River. His formative years were spent fishing and tying alongside his father, but he gave it up for a period of time in high school to focus on the ever-present distractions that grab the attention of most teenage boys; girls and sports.

During his college years, Newman found himself behind the vise again, trying to match the local hatches as best he could. He credits a combination of his South Platte River days as well as a trip to the Gunnison River with the impetus to develop the Micro Matcher, his first commercially available pattern through Umpqua Feather Merchants.

Newman says he had great success with both the tailwater favorite RS2 and the new-at-the-time, Pat’s Rubber Legs patterns. His desire to create a hybrid of the two seemed at first far-fetched, but after a lengthy design process, he finally settled in on a perfect mix of technique and materials to create a leggy Baetis nymph that is an accurate match for not only Blue-winged Olives, but can be tied to match a variety of other blocky-bodied mayfly nymphs as well.

I have to admit, when I first saw this pattern I mistakenly took it as a simple tie. As it turns out, it is a tough little bug to pull off correctly, mostly owing to the placement of the ultrafine Spandex fibers of Senyo’s Shaggy Dub that are used for the trademark legs. Newman believes the water resistance of the legs causes the fly to whirl and flip about more like a natural. They also add a slight amount of movement in and of themselves. These tiny, little legs create a challenging aspect to what is otherwise a straightforward fly, but it’s these minuscule details that set a fly apart from the crowd.

The legs aren’t the only unusual aspect, either. Newman uses synthetic tailing fibers for the tail, but rather than tying them to length and splitting them, he ties them long and then cuts them off blunt to better replicate the thicker tail fibers of these mayflies. As a type A guy, this particular step really sticks in my craw, but then I figured if John Barr can cut the tail/shuck off squarely on a Barr Emerger pattern, Newman should probably be given the same grace. Time will tell on that decision.

The abdomen is typically made from 70-denier UTC Ultra Thread ribbed with extra-small UTC wire. The color spectrum using these products is unlimited. For my version, I opted for olive 30-denier Semperfli Nano Silk thread ribbed with silver wire, as I really like this particular color for Baetis nymphs.

This thread is very narrow, and that doesn’t hurt when you get to the complicated legging technique.

The wingcase is a slim strip of black Thin Skin, though you could easily substitute a piece of medium Mylar or Holographic Tinsel in its place. The thorax is the tiniest wisp of Superfine Dubbing. The entire top side of the fly is finished with a dollop of UV resin to finish off the shape, and accentuate the silhouette.

The legs present a few difficulties, and I found I had to really slow myself down and focus to get the three sets placed both evenly and perpendicular to the hook shank. I did this by twisting a tiny bit of dubbing onto the hook to create a small dubbing ball, and then tying in a strand of legs with a tight X-wrap. Then I dubbed another small ball of dubbing to repeat the process. Using the smallest amount of dubbing on the thread helps a lot, and worked even better when I actually split the legs with dubbed thread, rather than bare thread.

Newman likes to fish either the beadhead option (he simply adds a 1.5mm radiant tungsten bead to the hook) or the original as the bottom fly on a two- or three-nymph rig, and counts the purple version of his Micro Matcher (#22) as his favorite size and color. He most often fishes the Micro Matcher behind a leech or stonefly in Wyoming, where he now lives. For his home tailwaters in Colorado, he recommends a more stealthy combination of a Higa’s SOS Nymph or Gunslinger May along with a Micro Matcher, and a midge pattern like a Jujubee or Top Secret as a trailing fly.

The Micro Matcher might give you a few headaches at first, but once you get the technique dialed in, it’s pretty rewarding to have a row of such realistic little critters living in your fly box. It’s a perfect project given our current circumstances.

Newman’s Micro Matcher

Hook: #18-22 Tiemco 101

Thread: Olive 30-denier Semperfli Nano Silk.

Tail: Blue dun tailing fibers.

Rib: Extra-small silver UTC wire

Abdomen: Thread.

Wingcase: Black Thin Skin.

Thorax: Adams gray Superfine Dubbing.

Legs: Brown Senyo’s Shaggy Dub.

Coating: Solarez Thin, Hard UV resin.

1. Begin by clipping off a 6-inch length of thread and reserving it to the side. Start the thread on the hook at the 75% point and wrap a smooth layer back to the hook bend. Tie in three tailing fibers at the bend of the hook, keeping them right on top of the shank. Use your thumbnail to lift and evenly separate the tails. Loop the reserved section of thread around the bend of the hook, forming a loop, and slide it up and around the center tail. Pull the tag ends of the loop forward and in line with the shank, forcing the thread strands to evenly divide the tail. Tie down the legs of the loop as well as the butt ends of the tails and wrap forward over them with the working thread to the starting point. Clip the excess tail and thread strands flush.

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2. Tie in a short length of extra-small silver wire at the 75% point, and wrap back over it to the bend of the hook. Keep the wire along the near side of the hook. Build a slightly tapered and chunky abdomen with the thread, then reverse wrap the silver wire forward to form the rib. Tie off the wire at the front of the abdomen and clip the excess.

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3. Cut a strip of black Thin Skin to about half as wide as the hook gap. Tie in the Thin Skin about an eye length back from the hook eye, directly on top of the shank. Wrap the thread tightly back over the Thin Skin, keeping it centered on top, to the halfway point on the hook shank.

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4. Pull the tiniest amount of dubbing you can manage from the package and dub a short, thin noodle onto the thread. Build a small ball of dubbing at the base of the wingcase, ending with bare thread at its immediate front edge.

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5. Tie in a single strand of Senyo’s Shaggy Dub at the front edge of the dubbing ball with a tight X-wrap. Apply an even tinier amount of dubbing to the thread, slide it up tight to the hook, and use the dubbed thread to criss-cross through the legs and lean them slightly to the rear. Be aware of your spacing here, as you still have two more sets of legs.

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6. Repeat the process, tying in the center set of legs and dividing them with the thinly dubbed thread. Tie in the final set by duplicating the process once more. Ultimately, you want three sets of evenly spaced legs that extend perpendicular to the hook shank. Finish with the bare thread just behind the hook eye.

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7. Pull the Thin Skin strip forward over the top of the thorax and tie it down with a pair of firm wraps. Clip the Thin Skin as close the hook eye as possible. Newman uses a razor blade for this step, which would have been good advice for me to follow to eliminate the clunky stub at the hook eye shown here.

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8. Build a smooth head and whip-finish and clip the thread. I used a black marker to color the thread as well as to darken the wingcase and hide the striations where the Thin Skin was stretched. (I’m sure this will catch me more fish.) Apply a drop of Solarez Thin, Hard UV resin to the wingcase, and use your bodkin to smooth it from the hook eye to the base of the tail. Overall, you want a slightly humped shape to the topcoat. Cure the resin, then clip the legs to about a gap width long, and trim the tails square to about a shank length.

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*Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado. He is the author of four books, most recently Tying Streamers: Essential Flies and Techniques for the Top Patterns (Stackpole Books, April 2020).

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