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.
Fly Tying The Dirty Hippy
Hook: #2 Tiemco 5263.
Cone: Large copper-colored brass.
Thread: Tan 3/0 Danville's.
Weight: .025"-.035" lead wire.
Flash: Two strands each of pearl, copper, and gold Flashabou.
Belly: Cream Arctic fox body fur.
Wing: Ginger marabou.
Collar: Tan Arctic fox body fur.
Face: Tan UV Ice Dub.
Eyes: ¼" Gold Holographic 3-D Eyes.
Extras: Sepia and Orange Prismacolor marker, Tear Mender adhesive, Collier's Dubbing Brush.
Photos: Charlie Craven
Fly Tying The Dirty Hippy Step 1 of 10
Slide the cone up to the hook eye. Start the thread about a quarter of a shank length back from the hook eye and build a thread base to the middle. Wrap 10 to 12 turns of lead wire over the thread and break the wire ends off with your thumbnail. Use the tying thread to anchor the wire in place, and coat this base with head cement. Push the cone back against the lead wraps so you have about a quarter of the hook shank bare in front of the cone. Hold the cone in place with your material hand and jump the thread from behind the cone to the front. Make a thread base up to the hook eye and back to the cone, crossing the thread back and forth over the cone several times to square it on the hook.
Fly Tying The Dirty Hippy Step 2 of 10
Cut two full-length strands each of gold, pearl, and copper Flashabou, and line them up on your desktop. Pick up all six strands of Flashabou in one bunch (wet it with a bit of saliva) and capture the center of the bunch at the front of the cone with a couple of thread wraps. Pull the backward-facing ends toward the far side of the hook and make a few turns of thread to hold them in place. Pull the forward ends back along the near side of the cone and bind them down.
Fly Tying The Dirty Hippy Step 3 of 10
Cut a clump of cream-colored Arctic fox body hair from the hide. Grasp the longest tips in one hand and pull out and discard the dense underfur. Place the butt ends of the clump at the front of the cone along the far side of the hook shank. The tips should extend at least a half shank length beyond the bend of the hook. Make a loose wrap of thread around the butts at the front edge of the cone and as you draw this thread wrap tight, allow the fur to roll around the bottom and sides of the hook shank. Make a few more turns over the butt ends of the fur up to the front of the cone, which acts as a spreader, widening the profile of the fly. Clip the butt ends of the fox fur and make a few turns of thread over the stub ends.
Fly Tying The Dirty Hippy Step 4 of 10
Clip the center stem of a marabou feather about halfway up, leaving a V-shaped tip. Bunch this marabou feather up, and measure it against the hook so it is a touch longer than the fox. Place the feather flat on top of the hook shank in front of the cone. Capture the base of the marabou with a few wraps of thread, using the thread to distribute the marabou over the top half of the hook. Lash the stub ends of the marabou in place with several tight turns of thread. Clip the excess, and move the thread forward to the bare hook shank.
Fly Tying The Dirty Hippy Step 5 of 10
Clip a heavier clump of tan Arctic fox from the hide, and measure it so the tips extend back to about the midpoint on the wing. This clump should be relatively square-ended, to form a proper collar. Fold the clump around the top of the shank to encompass the shank completely. Make a single loose turn of thread around the base of the fox fur, and then let the fox slide through your fingertips and around the shank to distribute the hair 360 degrees around the shank. Lock it in place with several tight turns of thread.
Fly Tying The Dirty Hippy Step 6 of 10
Use the tips of your sharpest scissors to trim the fox fur as close as you can to the top of the shank, then trim the bottom half with a separate cut.
Fly Tying The Dirty Hippy Step 7 of 10
Hand stack a large clump of tan UV Ice Dub to get all the fibers going the same direction. Place the center of this clump behind the hook eye. Grasp the dubbing and fold it around the collar to encompass the entire hook shank. Wrap a loose turn of thread around the Ice Dub, and draw upward to tighten the thread and allow the thread torque to evenly spread the strands. Fold the dubbing strands back over the fly by pinching the hook eye and build a small thread dam at the front of the Ice Dubbing. Whip-finish and clip the thread.
Fly Tying The Dirty Hippy Step 8 of 10
Apply a small drop of Tear Mender on each side of the fly, right in line with the front edge of the cone. Press an eye onto the adhesive on the near side. Place the other eye on top of the glue on the far side in the same manner, and then pinch the two eyes together against the cone. You should be able to line them up with your fingertips and get them perfectly opposed, and adhered to the front of the cone through the collar.
Fly Tying The Dirty Hippy Step 9 of 10
Use the broad tip of your sepia marker to create bands across the top of the collar, as well as across both sides. Grasp the marabou wing in a single bunch and make four or five evenly spaced bars up both sides of the wing. The ink will clump the marabou together, but don't sweat that, we'll fix it in a minute. Use an orange marker to just brush lightly against the UV fibers on the outside of the collar under the eyes and add a blush of color to the throat and cheeks.
Fly Tying The Dirty Hippy Step 10 of 10
Run the bristles of your dubbing brush through the wing from the base to the tip to soften the barring and separate the fibers. The brush smudges the edges of the ink just enough to create beautiful, soft barring. Remove the fly from the vise and clip the Flashabou at random lengths — not straight across. The flash should be just a touch longer than both the marabou and the Arctic fox hair.