September 30, 2014
While throwing streamers from a moving boat is absolutely one of my favorite things, the wear and tear from chucking a big, weighted pattern is often a limiting factor. Unfortunately, I don't have the self-control necessary to know when to quit, and I've ended more than one day on the water with both a smiling face and a brutally sore shoulder. After a trip to Montana's Missouri River a few years back, I decided to end the pain and began playing with a few new streamer designs to create wide-profile flies that cast and sink better, but still present the necessary fish-attracting profile and movement without going overboard on the weight and mass.
I started with the idea that there were already plenty of Woolly Bugger variations out there, and wanted to go somewhere completely different. While I have no problem whatsoever with large, bulky flies and their fish-catching abilities, I really wanted to incorporate specific design features to build a fly with a large outside profile, but without the volume and casting resistance common to many other patterns—a better mouse trap, if you will.
The first few variations I toyed with were modified deviations on saltwater baitfish patterns, a niche where it seems fly design is a bit ahead of what has been happening in the trout world. Long days of repeatedly casting big flies long distances has made aerodynamics paramount in the saltwater arena, and a fly that casts easily, sinks quickly, and provides the motion to indicate life is an important tool.
The fly I finally came up with is now known as the Dirty Hippy, named for my new wife who is, you might say, a bit more liberally minded than I am, and has an entirely different way of looking at so many things, much like the design of this fly.
The Dirty Hippy is sparsely tied and all but hollow on the inside. It's built mostly from lightweight marabou and Arctic fox fur, it presents a large profile in the water, yet slims down when you cast it. It sinks quickly with little weight, and maintains its shape and movement throughout the retrieve.
It is the way in which those materials are applied, and the inventive use of a brass cone to act as a spreader, that set this fly apart from other, more conservative streamer patterns.
The Dirty Hippy is really an easy fly to tie but the first few steps are some of the most important.
Begin by wrapping the desired amount of lead wire over a thread base behind a precisely placed brass cone—this step ensures that the lead is securely anchored and won't slide down the bare hook shank when a trout is chewing on it. The exact placement of the cone is important here too, about a quarter of the way back from the hook eye, to act as both a wedge-type spreader to keep the materials from slicking down tight to the hook, as well as add a bit of weight.
This unusual placement also provides an atypical swimming action, absent of the typical up-and-down jigging motion of more conventional conehead or dumbbell eye patterns. I have an inkling that this may be more important to the fly's success than I have given it credit for, as I truly believe trout get conditioned to the inherently similar jigging action of most streamer patterns, and the more smoothly gliding action provided by this center-weighted fly is just different enough to be enticing.
With just a smattering of flash and a sparse clump of soft Arctic fox fur for a belly, and sporting a wing made from a single, trimmed marabou feather, there is not a lot of bulk to this pattern until the materials are wedged up against the front of the cone and they splay out to form the overall shape.
A slightly thicker clump of fox fur is used to form the head, and is faced with a sparse bunch of UV Ice Dub to provide a bit of sparkle and flash. A set of realistic eyes are glued firmly in place with Tear Mender adhesive, and the fly is finished with a touch of marker to mottle the topside.
Of course, this pattern can be tied in a variety of colors to mimic all kinds of small baitfish. My favorite so far has been the baby brown trout version I show here, but the baby rainbow version has also been a big hit and the variations are endless. All black, brown, yellow, and gray-and-white have all had good success, and, I have even tied it articulated to present an even bigger profile while still saving my shoulder from endless repair.