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The August-September 2022 issue: Available in both print and digital.
This Month in Fly Fisherman:
Tying Paramore's Thunder Thighs Hopper Fly
Eric Paramore and I started off on the wrong foot and it wasn’t his fault at all, nor was he even aware of it. You see, Eric is a longtime guide from Livingston, Montana, and is one of those guys whom you just hit it off with right away. After talking with him a bit, I can see why he is in such high demand on the water and why he’s been at this so long. He’s one of those guys with an easy demeanor that just makes you want to spend the day fishing with him.
I had been planning for months to write about his Thunder Thighs Hopper, but had done only a pathetic bit of background checking. My research had consisted merely of looking at it very closely with my good glasses on.
But as I sat down to attempt to tie the pattern, things changed very quickly. I confess to calling Eric many colorful names, as well as demeaning his upbringing, and I may have even brought his dog into it. Finally I gave up, and called him for help. Between Paramore’s coaching, and a few visits to his website, hopperfishing.com, I was finally able to figure out the finer details of this fly. As it turns out, this ridiculously realistic pattern is, at the same time, tricky to tie but not very complicated at all. I was just going at it the wrong way.
The Thunder Thighs is built from two alternating color sheets of 2mm Fly Foam. I immediately ran into trouble trying to glue these together, but Eric saved me, not only with the information on using water-based contact cement, but with a care package that contained all the parts I needed to tie up about a dozen flies, all premade and ready to go. Talk about a guy who knows how to make it easy.
Eric explained that while the obvious method of using Zap-A-Gap will work, as does 3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive, he prefers the water-based glues, as they don’t smell and gas you out of the room when working with them. It’s clear that Eric has nearly all his brain cells intact, while my own may have been diminished over the years.
Eric went on to explain that he punches out the bodies using a commercial round-end Chernobyl Cutter, in small for sizes 12 and 14, and medium for 8 and 10. He extends the straight front ends a bit to accommodate the extra length needed for this pattern by cutting the precut sections from the foam sheet using a razor blade or scissors. In truth, I found it to be a bit tricky, but figured out that punching the form about a half inch from the edge of the foam sheet, then simply following the edges of the cutout with a razor blade improved the process.
The namesake of this fly, its wonderfully chunky thighs, posed the next trouble at my bench. While it starts off simply, just using a razor blade and metal straightedge to cut several bicolor slices from the edge of glued foam sheet and tapering the ends with scissors, tying the Sexi-Floss lower leg into place proved to be challenging. Attached with a simple overhand knot and cinched down tightly, these legs, when properly formed, are unbelievably durable and outrageously realistic. They are easy enough to make if you just think it through a bit. Setting the angle of the knot to about 45 degrees to the tip of the foam thigh helps to form the properly angled joint, as does tying a right-handed overhand knot for one leg, and a left-handed knot for the other.
A simpler explanation of this would be to simply say that you bring the right side of the material over the top on one knot and the left side over the top on the other. Once you get the hang of this, building up several dozen legs becomes short work and even turns out to be fun.
The midportion of the fly worked out about how I had expected, though I did find myself trying to leave too much room at the head end for the tie-down of the wing, indicator, and legs. I slowly figured out that everything is tied in within the last thread segment and is easily pinched into this space given the compressibility of the foam. A short collar of dubbing is all it takes to cover this thread work, and leaves a very clean tie-off.
The polypropylene macramé yarn wing is topped with a short strip of orange foam to act as an indicator, and the front legs are just two more short pieces of the same Montana Fly Company Sexi-Floss used for the lower part of the kicker legs.
Paramore ingeniously adds the illusion of eyes by folding a thin strip of black foam inside the head segment. I must give him kudos for his ninja-level craftiness and the simplicity of this design.
After I struggled for about a week, I finally mastered the pattern. My imagination took over, and I twisted up Thunder Thighs in a variety of colors and sizes. I’m totally in awe of the perfect hopper silhouette this fly portrays, and it’s downright fun to tie.
Speaking from the perspective of a tier who has several foam hopper patterns to his name, I am not easily impressed, and I don’t generally carry other folks’ patterns in my box, but the Thunder Thighs was cause for a rearrangement in my fly boxes to make a bit more room.
Paramore's Thunder Thighs Hopper Step-by-Step Recipe
HOOK: #8-14 Tiemco 5262.
THREAD: 8/0 Veevus or 3/0 Danville monocord.
BODY: Two alternate color sheets of 2mm Fly Foam, glued together and cut with round-end Chernobyl Cutter.
WING: White polypropylene macramé yarn.
EYES: Black 2mm Fly Foam.
LEGS: Sliver of bicolor foam from body for the thighs, and small barred Montana Fly company Sexi-Floss from the knee down.
FRONT LEGS: Small barred Sexi-Floss.
COLLAR: Dubbing to match foam color.
1. To make the legs, start with a 1 to 1.5mm slice of the pre-glued foam sheets. Cut a long angle from the bottom of the strip to the tip, forming a long triangle for the thigh.
2. Tie an overhand knot in a length of Sexi-Floss and loop it over the tip of the triangle. Tighten the knot down at about 45 degrees to the tip of the leg to cinch it at an angle.
3. Clip off the excess leg material in front of the knot, and clean up the tip of the foam. If the knot is cinched down tightly, no glue is necessary. Repeat this process for as many legs as you’ll need. I like to do several dozen at once, so they are ready to go.
4. Place your hook in the vise and dress the shank with a thread base from the eye all the way back to the bend. Leave the thread hanging at the bend, and place a small drop of Zap-A-Gap on the thread right at the bend.
5. Measure a precut foam body against the shank so the round end is about a half shank long. I pinch the body to make an indent in the foam. Place the foam body at the bend of the hook with the indent lined up with your thread. Push the body down onto the wet glue and cinch the foam in place at the bend of the hook with four firm turns of thread.
6. Segment the extended portion of the foam by bringing the thread up and off the bend of the hook over the top of the foam at a long angle. Make one bigger segment with vertical wraps, then travel the thread a bit farther back and make the second, small segment with a few more vertical turns. Reverse the travel process to return the thread back to the bend of the hook, and finish with a single firm turn through that first segment on the shank.
7. Lift the foam and pull it to the rear while you wrap the thread forward about a third of the shank length, then lay the foam down again and create a segment using four or five firm thread turns. Repeat this process twice more for a total of three segments on the shank. The front segment should be just a little short of the hook eye to allow room for the fold we will do in the next few steps.
8. Separate a clump of white polypropylene macramé yarn and tie a section in at the center of its length on top of the thread in the last segment.
9. Fold the front end of the macramé yarn back and tie in a 2x2mm strip of orange foam for the indicator. Again, the wing and the indicator are all tied in on top of that last thread band at the head.
10. Fold a 1x2mm strip of black foam over the remaining foam and pinch it into a loop just below the hook eye.
11. Pull forward on the black foam to sink it deep into the fold as you fold the body back over itself at the front of the hook. Cinch the body foam down on top of those initial thread wraps to create the head.
12. Clip the body foam off flush to the tie-down leaving a short nub, then trim the wing at the bend of the hook. Trim the indicator to about half that length. Trim the black foam flush with the sides of the head to create the eyes.
13. Place a kicker leg along the near side of the hook and measure it so the knee sits near the bend of the hook. Tie the near leg in place, and then repeat the process with the other leg on the far side. Trim the excess foam flush.
14. Tie in a short section of Sexi-Floss in the gap between the head and the indicator, taking care to separate the bases with a few thread wraps on each side. These legs should be in a wide X pattern.
15. Dub a thin noodle of matching-color dubbing onto the thread, and use it to cover the thread work and tie-down area, ending at the front of the hook, just behind the eye.
16. Lift the foam head up and back and sneak the thread in under it and over the hook shank. Make a couple turns to anchor the thread, then whip-finish on the shank and clip.
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, 2020).