January 01, 2023
By Charlie Craven
Antonio Rodriguez is a decade-long veteran of the Portuguese Fly-Fishing Team, and served as the coach of their youth team as well. His journey into competitive fishing came almost by accident when he mistakenly signed up for a fly-casting class as a kid, and his proficiency led to an invitation to join the team.
Fly-fishing competitions brought him to the U.S. in 2015, and brought him into the fly-fishing industry as well through the friendships he made along the way. Antonio is an easygoing, almost soothing guy to talk to, without a trace of ego. My interactions with him have always left me saying, “I really like that guy,” which is something to be said, coming from someone with a reputation as a sourpuss.
My impressions of Rodriguez’s fly patterns have always been to marvel at the simplicity and creativity expressed in each of them. Everyone has some sort of opinion on competitive fly fishing—me included—but not one of us can argue about the windfall of innovations it has spawned. While most of us when prompted with the words “competition fly” think of a Perdigon or other tungsten bead jig hook pattern, competition fly fishers are occasionally faced with adult insects on the water. Sometimes the trout are feeding on top, and in the midst of competition, the anglers need to change their tactics. Their creativity doesn’t stop at a 60-degree hook eye.
Rodriguez produced the first versions of his adult mayfly pattern at the turn of the century, just as he began his competition angling career. One of my favorite things about this fly, aside from its buoyancy, visibility, and creativity, is its obvious lineage. You can follow along through the recipe and directions and virtually see the wheels turning in Rodriguez’s head as he developed a split-wing adult mayfly pattern using many of the same materials that are so commonly used on heavily weighted competition nymphs. I can vividly picture him tying a coq de León fiber tail onto a dry-fly hook, sitting back and looking around his desk for the absent dubbing, then making a split-second decision to use the fluff from the leftover butt ends of some waste CDC feathers as dubbing. This simple little material substitution is what sets this fly apart from so many others, and creates a pattern that is exceptionally light, buoyant, and realistic on the water. As a fly tier, the idea of picking up a scrap and using it in a new or unusual way is something that I deeply appreciate.
Rodriguez told me that he first tied this pattern to imitate March Browns for a competition in Slovakia, and he has had success with this fly tied in a variety of colors and configurations to match other insects as well. For his Blue-winged Olive and Pale Morning Dun versions, he uses a synthetic or natural quill abdomen in place of the CDC dubbing to better match the slender profile and distinct colors of these smaller bugs. However, I see no reason why the CDC dubbing trick wouldn’t work just as well in these cases too, particularly if the fish weren’t being too picky.
My first viewing of this pattern reminded me of Mike Lawson’s venerable No-hackle. While the No-hackle is a fly that requires tons and tons of practice to get right with any sort of frequency, Rodriguez’s pattern presents a beautifully similar split-wing silhouette with substantially less effort. His use of a small bundle of fiery orange Fluoro Fibre to split a clump of CDC fibers into two distinctly separate wings, and at the same time create a hot spot that makes the fly infinitely more visible, is a stroke of genius.
Rodriguez revealed that his first versions used a strip of Medallion Sheeting to separate the wings, but his current wisdom is that “As we get older, flies are harder to see.” He added the bright Fluoro Fibre in a deft maneuver to hide it from the fish, yet leave it plainly visible to those of us with a little gray on their temples.
As a final side note, I’d like to congratulate Rodriguez on his purchase of Front Range Anglers in Boulder, Colorado. Front Range Anglers was the first fly shop I ever worked in—about 30 years ago—and it has become an industry icon. On September 15, 2022, exactly seven years after Antonio first landed at Denver International Airport, he has realized his dream of owning a thriving retail store. That’s a pretty darn good success story, and I wish him all the best.
Antonio’s Mayfly Adult Recipe
- HOOK: #12-18 Tiemco 900-BL or 100SP-BL.
- THREAD: Gray 18/0 Semperfli Nano Silk.
- TAIL: Coq de León rooster saddle fibers.
- RIB: Extra-small copper wire or copper Krystal Flash.
- ABDOMEN & THORAX: CDC fiber dubbing.
- SIGHTER: Fire orange Fluoro Fibre.
- WING: Natural gray CDC fibers.
Step-by-Step Fly-Tying Instructions
1. Begin by wrapping a thread base from about two eye lengths back from the hook eye all the way to the bend. Tie in about a dozen coq de León rooster saddle fibers that are a shank length long at the bend. Wrap forward over the butt ends to the starting point and clip the excess.
2. Tie in a length of extra-small copper wire from the starting point back to the bend, taking care to keep the wire along the near side of the shank and maintain a smooth underbody.
3. Clip the fibers from the stems of a couple of CDC feathers. You can leave these fibers at their full length for larger flies, or cut them in half for smaller patterns. These fibers are the dubbing for the next step.
4. Grab a small clump of the CDC fibers and dub them loosely onto the tying thread, just as you would with fur. Build a slightly tapered abdomen from the bend of the hook to just short of the starting point, then wrap the copper wire forward over the dubbing in tight, evenly spaced turns. Tie off and clip the wire.
5. Use the tips of your scissors to finalize the body shape by trimming it into a more conical form. Tie in 18 to 20 strands of fire orange Fluoro Fibre at the 60 percent point directly on top of the hook and overlapping the front edge of the abdomen. Be sure to leave about an eye length of bare space behind the hook eye.
6. Apply another thin strand of dubbing and build a round thorax on the front third of the hook. The thorax should be plainly bigger than the abdomen, much like that of a nymph pattern. Build a smooth thread base on the shank up to the hook eye and back to the front of the thorax.
7. Stack two to four thick CDC feathers so their tips are even. Clip the center stems of the feathers, leaving a V-shaped section of fibers as seen here.
8. Clump the ends of the stacked feathers together into a bundle and measure them against the hook so they are just slightly longer than the shank.
9. Pinch the clump of CDC in place and anchor it down with several firm thread wraps right at the front edge of the thorax. Clip the butt ends as close as you can and smooth over the butt ends with a few wraps of thread.
10. Leave the thread hanging behind the hook eye and pull the Fluoro Fibre bundle up through the CDC fibers, dividing them in half.
11. Tie down the Fluoro Fibre at the back edge of the hook eye with just two or three tight thread turns.
12. Pull the long ends of the Fluoro Fibre back over the top of the fly and catch the fold with a few more tight thread turns. Whip-finish the thread over the fold and clip.
13. Trim the Fluoro Fibre to about half the wing length, making sure it is centered between the wings. Add a tiny drop of head cement to the thread wraps at the head.
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).