Craven's Easy Humpy

Craven's Easy Humpy
Charlie Craven photo

Shortcut your way to Humpy happiness


There are few flies that strike fear into the hearts of fly tiers like the Humpy. Popularized by Jack Dennis and his Western Trout Fly Tying Manual, the Humpy is the quintessential Western attractor dry but has a reputation for being difficult to tie.

The original, complicated tying process used the same hank of elk hair for the hump and the wing and left little room for error. Because of its inherent trickiness, the Humpy is frequently a fly that gets bought rather than tied, and as a result has fallen somewhat by the wayside with some anglers.

The Humpy, however, is still firmly in my top five favorite dry flies. I especially love it when I'm raking in so many fish people ask: "What are you using?" They often expect some technical answer about a half-spent CDC stuck-in-the-shuck crippled emerging Baetasaurus rex. When I answer "a Humpy" they seem to think I'm lying!

Lack of respect from match-the-hatch fly fishers probably owes to the fact that the complicated hair wings and folded elk hair hump do little to mimic the shape of any single natural bug. Its bushy silhouette is often frowned upon these days as too chunky or bulky to fool picky fish.

Well, I am here to tell you that this just ain't true. I have caught many large trout from some of Colorado's most technical waters using a Humpy as a fly finder along with a smaller, more realistic pattern.

I vividly recall floating down a tumbling section of river with my friend Matt Prowse when we came upon a long slow glide littered with fish rising to PMDs. Bank feeders were lined up in all the likely spots, so I changed the dropper fly I was fishing along with a #14 yellow Humpy to something a little more PMD specific: I knotted 6X to the bend of the Humpy and tied on a #18 PMD emerger with a CDC wing.

After selecting the best fish of the bunch, we positioned the boat for a long down-and-across cast to show the fish the PMD pattern first with no leader or tippet coming into its window.

Humpy Fly
Rubber legs make this already high-floating dry fly more unsinkable. Charlie Craven photo

After patiently timing the rises I launched out a (rare) nearly perfect cast, complete with S-curves and an in-air mend to line the fly up right in the trout's feeding lane.

We could hear our hearts beating as the fly drifted down to the fish, and Matt started his own countdown to when the fish would eat: "five, four, three, two, one, one, one."

The PMD floated directly over the fish and continued on unharmed. The words "he didn't eat it" rang silently in my head but I was jolted back into action when the fish rose confidently and sucked in the Humpy.

I've had so many similar experiencesmany of them during caddis hatchesthat the effectiveness of the Humpy no longer surprises me. I have seen the Humpy work in so many different hatch and nonhatch periods that I'm stymied about what it really replicates.

The folded hump and tail are reminiscent of many crippled mayfly and midge patterns, and the overall profile and variable colors lend themselves well to various smaller stoneflies and caddis, as well as terrestrial patterns like early season hoppers and beetles.

Perhaps it's this combination of attributes that makes the Humpy such a great attractor pattern. Like so many of the best flies, the Humpy doesn't look a lot like anything, but looks a little like a lot of things.

My favorite way to fish a Humpy is from a drift boat or raft on any Western freestone river. I often fish a double-dry rig with a #14-16 Humpy tied to a 9-foot 4X leader, with a 18-inch section of tippet tied off the bend or the eye of the Humpy to attach a smaller dry like an X-Caddis, Mugly Caddis, or Parachute Adams.

From the boat, I try to drift the fly as close to the bank as possible where large trout hold up in super skinny water. Shallow riffles are another favorite spot for a Humpy double-dry rig.

When wading I fish a Humpy on a shorter 7½' 4X leader with a small nymph dropper like a Two-Bit Hooker or Poison Tung dangling on a short 12- to 24-inch dropper.

Closed-cell foam (Japanese beetle green with a yellow underbody shown) easier to work with than elk hair and is perhaps more durable than elk-hair versions. Charlie Craven photo

Over the years I've pieced together my own bag of tricks when tying the Humpy (see steps). My method is not the original complicated measure-and-hope method of constructing the wings and the hump from the rear of the fly forward. It also allows me to remove some hair from the hump, while leaving the wings with an adequate amount of hair. The thicker, more durable and buoyant butt ends of the hair become the hump, and the fine tips for the wings are more easy to measure, making this technique infinitely more predictable than its predecessors.

While I am not opposed to the original idea of using floss for the underbody, I typically just use tying thread. Wapsi 70-denier Ultra Thread is flat, making it easy to build a smooth underbody.

The Humpy can be made even easier to tie by using closed-cell foam for the hump instead of hair. This version is perhaps more durable than the all-hair version and with all the colors of foam on the market, the variations are endless. A yellow underbody with a Japanese beetle green foam back is one of my favorites.

Rubber legs are also a welcomed addition, and possibly make this already high-floating fly more unsinkable. Add barred Centipede Legs to orange- or yellow-bodied Humpys during hopper or stonefly season and you may be surprised by what eats this fly.

Charlie Craven is a commercial fly tier with 30 years at the vise and thousands of dozens of dry flies under his belt. He co-owns Charlie's FlyBox in Arvada, Colorado, and is the author of Charlie Craven's Basic Fly Tying (Stackpole Books, Headwater Books, 2008).


Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Chip's Monster Magic. Designed in Saskatchewan's pike paradise - works anywhere. Fly Tying

Fly Tying Chip's Monster Magic Fly

Dwayne 'Chip' Cromarty - January 15, 2016

Chip's Monster Magic. Designed in Saskatchewan's pike paradise - works anywhere.

How an Atlanta craft brewery is helping to save Georgia's most important trout stream. United States

Saving the Chattahoochee River

Ross Purnell - April 23, 2019

How an Atlanta craft brewery is helping to save Georgia's most important trout stream.

American Rivers today released its annual list of America's Most Endangered Rivers, identifying ten rivers facing imminent threats. News

2019 Most Endangered Rivers

Fly Fisherman - April 16, 2019

American Rivers today released its annual list of America's Most Endangered Rivers,...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Breaking the Surface

Breaking the Surface

Attack of the Bass continues as Breaking the Surface attacks bass with fly and lure 12:30pm ET Sunday, April 17th.

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

A backhand cast is when you use your backcast to deliver the fly.

 Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Best Panfish Flies Fly Tying

Best Panfish Flies

Skip Morris - October 17, 2016

Best Panfish Flies

American River California United States

American River California

MIchael Wier - March 23, 2017

American River California

Read about Colorado's backcountry fly fishing in United States

Indian Peaks Wilderness Area Colorado

Steven B. Schweitzer - May 03, 2016

Read about Colorado's backcountry fly fishing in " Indian Peaks Wilderness Area Colorado."

See More Stories

More Flies

A Super Soft-hackle Stone Fly breathe in the water, advertising 'big food' to foraging trout. Flies

Soft-hackle Stone Fly

Eric Pettine - January 03, 2016

A Super Soft-hackle Stone Fly breathe in the water, advertising 'big food' to foraging trout.

From my perspective, any list of the Flies

World's Top 13 Pike Flies

Matt Straw - September 05, 2017

From my perspective, any list of the "Best 13" pike flies on earth has to include something...

See More Flies

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.