August 04, 2020
By Charlie Craven
A good fisherman is patient. I’ve said those words to my guiding clients as well as my kids 1,000 times. Some of the best fishing lessons I’ve ever learned, and some of the best fishing tricks I have ever pulled out of my hat, have stemmed from slowing down, finding a good perch, watching, and waiting. The power of observation reveals all . . . sometimes it’s a fish rising subtly in a tiny cutout on the far bank, and sometimes just sitting there in the bushes reveals some bug activity that you may not have noticed in your rush to hurry up and have a good time. I’m finally old enough to be the “old bull” from that funny story, and I’ve learned that patience pays off.
It was during one of these summertime bank-sitting sessions that I first started to notice the variety of different terrestrial insects along a trout stream. While we all know about ants and beetles, and never pass up a chance to fish a hopper, there seem to be about 8 million other little critters along your favorite stretch of river that hardly ever get noticed.
Bees, wasps, and other winged insects are all over the place and often end up in the water, too. Trout don’t discriminate, and patterns tied to generally imitate terrestrials have proved to be a pretty valuable tool for me over the years.
I experimented with several patterns, both new and old, for several years before finally dialing in the Fat Angie. I wanted something that was buoyant, easy to see, and durable, but not something too specific and locked into a single insect type.
As I have mentioned many times before, I often use photos or samples of the insects I am trying to duplicate when I develop a new pattern, and I really try to imitate their most prominent features. One of the most conspicuous features of many of these random terrestrials is the wasplike waist, and the distinct gap between body segments. Close examination revealed that these bugs—ants are included in this gigantically sweeping generalization—often float low in the water with their butts below the surface. Because they are terrestrials, they are not at all comfortable in the water, and they look bedraggled and ragged when they find themselves adrift.
With this thought in mind I opted for the Daiichi 1167 Klinkhammer hook as a chassis for my new bug to set the pattern low in the surface, and dangle the back end through the surface film. This hook is sticky sharp and comes in a beautiful black finish that pairs well with darker flies.
Once the hook was decided, I went straight to my foam stash and started building. The body of the Fat Angie is made from 3mm foam, with the abdominal portion accentuated with a robust ball of superfine dubbing.
The legs were easy, durable Super Floss tied in over a slender waist. The wings started as thin, cut-to-shape slips of Gen2 Medallion Sheeting, but in practice they didn’t add much visibility or flotation to the fly. In recent years I have been using braided polypropylene macramé yarn more and more as a wing material on my flies, as it is waterproof and extremely buoyant. The crinkled texture of the braided material creates a lot of surface area, and the material is easy to see and maintain on the water.
I often brush and mix colors of this yarn to create a color cast and variegation to the wings, likely a matter of considerable indifference to the fish, but it makes me feel good, so . . . I have that going for me. I top the wing with a few strands of UV Blue Ripple Ice Fiber for both visibility and sparkle. The addition of a small, pink, foam hot spot makes the dark patterns easier to find on the water.
Finished off with a densely palmered hackle collar over a dubbed thorax, the Fat Angie is just enough of a whole bunch of different pattern profiles to work consistently. I tie Fat Angies in sizes 12 to 18, but use the 14 and 16 the most. While that may sound a little big, I urge you to try it. I have seen plenty of oversized terrestrials drifting along the edges, and the trout have also. While black is the most obvious color choice, I also tie them in tan, olive, purple, and red, and fish them with excellent results.
The overall construction of this pattern hits all my needs for a fly like this. It’s more than buoyant enough to float a beadhead dropper, it’s easy to see on the water, easy to tie, and uses commonly available materials. I have to admit I love the prospect of catching trout on something other folks haven’t even heard or thought of . . . but that’s just me. I never said I was a saint.
*Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box, recently moved to 7279 W. 52nd Ave. 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).
Tying the Fat Angie
Hook: Daiichi 1167 #12-20.
Thread: Veevus 14/0 Red.
Body: 3mm Black Foam.
Abdomen: Mahogany Superfine Dubbing.
Legs: Black Super Floss.
Wings: Polypropylene Macramé Yarn, smoke, rust, and gold mixed, topped with UV Blue Ripple Ice Fiber.
Indicator: Pink Razor Foam.
Hackle: Brown Rooster Neck or Saddle.
Thorax: Mahogany Superfine Dubbing.
- Begin by laying down a thread base from just in front of the hook point to about halfway down the bend of the hook. Return the thread to the starting point, and coat the top surface of the thread base with a light shot of Zap-A-Gap.
- Cut a 3mm by 3mm strip of black foam. Tie the foam strip in at the starting point on top of the hook and wrap over it to the end of the thread base, then back again to the front.
- Dub a robust abdomen using mahogany Superfine Dubbing over the foam tie-down area. Once finished, form a thread base up to the hook eye and back again to the front of the abdomen. Apply a small drop of Zap-A-Gap to the thread base at the immediate front edge of the abdomen.
- Pull the foam forward over the top of the dubbed abdomen without stretching it, and tie it down in front of the dubbed portion, right on top of the glue.
- Create a wide band of thread, binding the foam strip down for about 20% of the hook shank at the front of the body. Be sure that the foam is completely covered. Leave the thread hanging in the center of this band.
- Tie in a single strand of black Super Floss on either side of the shank at the center of the thread band. Leave the legs a little long.
- Lift the foam strip and advance the thread forward about another 20%, then pull the foam forward again and create a second foam segment by binding it to the hook with three tight turns of thread.
- Pull the foam strip forward over the hook eye and bind it in place with a wider band of thread all the way to the eye. Bring the thread back to the starting point.
- At this point, I find it helpful to use a piece of copper wire to bind the legs back along the hook bend to keep them out of the way.
- Select a small clump of the mixed colors of polypropylene macramé yarn, and top it with a few strands of UV Blue Ripple Ice Fibers. Tie in the wing with x-wraps at the center of its length at the front edge of the center segment. Make sure the x-wraps are tight and compact.
- Cut a narrow strip of pink Razor Foam, fold it in half, and place it on top of the base of the wing. Tie down the foam with a few tight turns and clip the excess flush.
- Tie in a brown hackle feather at the base of the pink foam, then dub a tight thorax up to the hook eye.
- Wrap the hackle forward with even spacing up to the hook eye, and tie it off. Clip the excess hackle tip, then lift the remaining foam up away from the eye of the hook, bring the thread to the back edge of the hook eye under the foam, and whip-finish. Clip the thread.
- Remove the wire holder and trim the legs and wing to about a shank length long, then trim the hackle flat along the bottom of the hook shank. Trim the front end of the foam to a short stub. I add a drop of Zap-A-Gap to the bottom of the hook right on top of the trimmed hackle to secure everything.