Fly Tying Craven Mole Fly
January 10, 2015
When I think of the Mole Fly, I can't help but remember the adage that you can't judge a book by its cover. An inarguably simple pattern, the Mole Fly doesn't sell itself or strike a sense of confidence in most onlookers. But I have said many times that if I were limited to one fly to cast to trout rising to Baetis or midges, the Mole Fly would get my immediate nod.
I wish I could say that the Mole Fly came about after many seasons of trial and error, but must admit that it was born simply as a late-night exercise to fill my depleted guide boxes. It didn't strike me as "The One" at the time, but a few drifts over picky fish proved that this fly was special.
I attribute the success of the Mole Fly to how it sits in the water, with the hook eye parallel to the surface and the purpose-built, sodden beaver fur body hanging in the film with the CDC wing perched atop.
Placing a fly pattern, or a natural for that matter, in this position exposes it as a crippled emerger, with the nymphal body hanging low, and the adult just beginning to emerge onto the surface. Fish know that these bugs are trapped and therefore easy prey, and seem to not only eat them with relish, but actively seek them out.
In the days since its inception, the Mole Fly has made short work of more picky fish than I care to admit. I half-jokingly call this fly "No Fun" as it works so well there is hardly a doubt in my mind that it will get eaten. Those are strong words, and I truly mean it when I say that my friends and I all have put this fly to use with great effect on some of the toughest trout in the world.
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Start the thread immediately behind the hook eye, and form a short thread base back to about the 75 percent point.
Select a thick CDC feather with a thin stem. Pinch the tip of the feather down into a clump and tie it to the shank just behind the eye with a couple of tight thread wraps. Hold the thread taut while you pull the end of the feather back to shorten the wing to about a shank length long.
Anchor the wing with a few more tight wraps of thread. Reach in from the back of the hook with the tips of your scissors, and trim the feather butts at an angle.
Wrap thread over the tapered feather butts and well into the hook bend. Return the thread to the 50 percent point on the shank.
Dub a thin strand of beaver fur onto the thread, leaving a bit of bare thread between the top of the dubbing strand and the hook. Use the bare thread to work back to the end of the thread base, making the first turn of dubbing about halfway down the hook bend. Wrap forward to the base of the wing, forming a slight taper. The tapered butts of the CDC wing help build the correct body shape.
Use your thumb and forefinger to preen the wing back, and then bring the thread to the front of the wing just behind the hook eye. Hold the wing out of the way while you whip-finish the thread at the eye. Clip the thread.
Use a dubbing brush to rough up the beaver fur body. I like the dubbing to shag out so that it wets quickly and sinks the back of the fly adequately.
After you clip the CDC feather on your first Mole Fly, clip the center stem just a little deeper to eliminate the thick stem and leave a V-shaped notch in the tip of the feather. Then stroke the tips together so the same feather can be used for at least one, and maybe two more flies.
Mole Fly (Brown) Tying Instructions
Hook: #16-24 Tiemco 2487.
Thread: 8/0 gray UNI-Thread.
Wing: Natural dun CDC.
Body: Brown beaver dubbing.
Photos: Charlie Craven
While not a terribly visible pattern, the Mole Fly is a relatively good floater owing to its natural CDC wing. As I alluded to earlier, I specifically use beaver fur for the body of this fly as it easily gets saturated, and sinks into its proper position below the surface. Experimentation with more buoyant synthetic dubbings made flies that didn't break the surface film, and flopped on to their sides, rather than vertically as afforded by the natural fur.
I typically fish the Mole Fly on the end of a long, 12-foot leader ending in 5X or 6X tippet. I believe a single fly allows me more accuracy and control over the placement and drift of each cast, but many of my friends who aren't blessed with excellent eyesight fish it along with a more visible pattern like a Parachute Adams, and set the hook at any disturbance in the area of the indicator fly.
One of my favorite techniques with the Mole Fly is to cast up and across to a feeding fish and pull the fly under with a short strip—or lift of the rod tip—just before it reaches the target. The buoyant CDC pops the fly back up to the surface, and it seems that any fish that witnesses this upward movement is immediately convinced, and crushes the fly. With a pattern like this in my pocket, I often go looking for those picky fish that seem to defy all others . . . and I usually win.
One note on the care and handling of CDC flies: While not compatible with most commercial fly floatants, CDC is an incredibly versatile and buoyant tying material that easily lends itself to small patterns.
A variety of dry-fly powders and shakes can be used to restore the CDC once it gets wet, but over the years I have developed a bulletproof maintenance system that works surprisingly well.
To begin with, in its natural, untreated state, CDC is notoriously buoyant, and even when fished continually dries out easily with a mere fluffing. To amplify this natural attribute, I apply a light coat of Tiemco Dry Magic, a thin, gel-type floatant that won't mat down the delicate fibers. This application seems to keep the feather a bit more waterproof and for a longer period of time.
Once you catch a fish with the Mole Fly—or any CDC fly for that matter—the CDC fibers seem to lose much of their buoyancy. This is likely due to the dreaded fish slime that coats the fly when it's mauled by a trout.
Once I've caught and released a trout, I hold the fly in my forceps and swish it back and forth forcibly in the water to rinse away as much fish slime as possible. I then dry the wing with a Wonder Cloth DryFly Patch.
This method has become so commonplace that Umpqua Feather Merchants now markets a one-piece Dry Magic keeper with an attached Wonder Cloth fly drier called the Magic Patch.
Simply buffing the wing back and forth with the Wonder Cloth restores its fluff and buoyancy in seconds, and then you're right back in the game. This fish slime removal method works well on any dry fly and is a cornerstone of keeping your fly floating, no matter what it's made of.
Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie's Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado, and is the author of Charlie's Fly Box (Stackpole Books, 2011). He is also the featured tier in the iPhone app FlyBench, available in the iTunes store. Fly Tying Craven Mole Fly