Water Boatman Fly

Water Boatman Fly

 Water Boatman Fly

Catching big 'bows doesn't have to be complicated

Stillwater fishing has become more and more popular here in Colorado over the last decade. What was once merely a fun alternative during runoffwhile the rivers were too big and muddy to fishhas become the primary focus of a select group of hardcore anglers who are willing to spend most of their time figuring out what makes stillwater fish tick. These fellas quietly roll into my shop in the spring and fall with cellphone pictures of fish that are utterly jaw-dropping. Tim Drummond is just that sort of guy.

Drummond grew up in Longmont, Colorado, and is the son of cane rod builder Frank Drummond. The younger Drummond came by his addiction naturally, fishing up and down the Front Range before finally settling down and guiding for North Park Anglers in Walden, Colorado. He's now in his seventh season there.


North Park Colorado is home to the village of Walden, but more importantly it's the cradle of Delaney Butte Lakes, a series of impoundments harboring fish of sometimes mythical proportions. These lakes are food factories, with crayfish, leeches, scuds, Callibaetis, and damselflies as their main attractions. Leave it to an analyst like Drummond to sift through all the options on the stillwater menu and single out the lowly water boatman as one of the most important foods in the ecosystem.


Water boatmen, at first glance, resemble some sort of water beetle, with prominent legs and blocky bodies. They are often a mystery to even seasoned fly fishers. As it turns out, trout relish these little morsels, and tank up on them every chance they get.


Tim's Water Boatman pattern is a genuinely simple affair that is tied entirely of synthetic materials and uses a gunmetal-colored glass bead to add a bit of flash and weight, and square off the face of this odd little critter. Water boatmen are good swimmers when they want to be, and lazy bottom bouncers when they don't, so Tim ties his fly lightly weighted to drift as much as possible.

Using Thin Skin over a pearl Lateral Scale shellback to create a glow from within, and beautiful black peacock Ice Dub to form the body, Tim finished his fly off with a pair of Flexi Floss legs swept back along the body to imitate the prominent oarlike legs of the natural. This fly has everything it needs, and nothing it doesn't.

While this pattern could be referred to as a "guide fly," I hate that term. Guides are in the business of catching fish and I've never seen one who oversimplifies anything. Experts like Drummond have a reason for everything they tie to a hook, and everything they do while fishing. I love that sort of thing!


Drummond typically uses an intermediate line with a 12-foot 3X leader and a single Water Boatman, but he sometimes fishes the fly under an indicator, particularly when the infamous North Park wind creates a bit of chop on the water. The Boatman bounces and jigs under the indicator, and he finds he can even get a bit of a "drift" in under the right conditions. Drummond caught his largest Delaney Lakes trout without using an indicator, by simply casting the fly out and retrieving with short, steady strips.

My experience shows that a long strip-retrieve can also sometimes be deadly. I cast in the direction of some sort of visible surface activity, and make a single, very long, steady strip to swim the fly in a long arc. I'm always amazed by how often I'm rewarded with a charging trout inhaling the pattern when I fish it this way, but you can be sure I'll also try Drummond's short-strip method the next time I'm in North Park.

Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie's Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado, and is the


featured tier in two Fly Fisherman DVDs: Warmwater Fly Tying and Saltwater Fly Tying. His latest book is Tying Nymphs: Essential Flies and Techniques for the Top Patterns, available from Stackpole Books/Headwater Books (2016).

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Modern methods for catching smallmouths on topwater flies. Bass

How to Catch Smallmouth Bass on Topwater Flies

Dave Karczynski and Tim Landwehr

Modern methods for catching smallmouths on topwater flies.

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.

Here's a look at 8 new fly lines for 2019. Lines

8 New Fly Lines for 2019

Fly-Fisherman

Here's a look at 8 new fly lines for 2019.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

 Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Black Beauty

Black Beauty

Master fly tier Charlie Craven discuss the tools and materials needed to tie the Black Beauty.

Bahamas - Bonefish

Bahamas - Bonefish

Conway casts for his personal best bonefish while fishing the Grand Bahama islands.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

George Daniels offers his advice on which types of fly-fishing leaders are best for the most common applications you'll encounter on the water. How-To

Picking the Perfect Fly-Fishing Leader

George Daniel - January 22, 2018

George Daniels offers his advice on which types of fly-fishing leaders are best for the most...

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top models on the market today. Gear

Top Drift Boats of 2019

John Fedorka - April 02, 2019

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top...

Fly-Fisherman Editor Ross Purnell shares his top five best trout fishing destinations in the world. Worldwide

5 Best Trout Fishing Spots in the World

Ross Purnell, Editor

Fly-Fisherman Editor Ross Purnell shares his top five best trout fishing destinations in the...

See More Stories

More Fly Tying

These dense, indestructible nymphs will improve your subsurface game. Fly Tying

Perdigon Nymph

Charlie Craven - January 15, 2019

These dense, indestructible nymphs will improve your subsurface game.

The Kamikaze Sculpin is easy to tie, versatile, and smartly designed to get the job done. Fly Tying

Tying the Kamikaze Sculpin

Charlie Craven

The Kamikaze Sculpin is easy to tie, versatile, and smartly designed to get the job done.

Read Fly Tying

Water Boatman Fly

Charlie Craven - September 16, 2016

Read "Boatman Fly" to learn how to tie this neat fly!

See More Fly Tying

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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

×