Okay, so I'm not the guru of fly tying. I can usually get nice products out of the vise, and more often than not I'm happy with what I can churn out. That being said, when I tie an Adams is it really an Adams? And what about a Hares Ear Nymph, or a pheasant tail or Copper John? The answer, especially if you looked at the nature of fly tying 30 or so years ago, is probably, No.
I don't use grizzly hackle tips for Adams wings, or biot tails on Copper Johns, or tie a PTN with wire as thread. I grew up tying flies in an era when close was good enough, and good enough was reason to call a fly by the parent name. An Adams was an Adams weather it had grizzly tip wings or white yarn.
So I got to thinking about all the modifications I use on my flies. Whether I was the putz behind the change, or I saw a good tip in an article or book, I don't limit myself to 50 year old fly tying recipes, and I don't follow the steps like they are the Ten Commandments. Here are some of the mods I am fond of on established patterns, whether I came up with the change or not...
1. Adams -white poly yarn for the wings. Easier to see than hackle tips, easy to cut to length, and hold floatant well. Usually called a Bastard Adams.
2. Pheasant Tail -nothing fancy here. I just like the way Al Troth tied them, but I usually don't even bother to tie in wingcases or legs. Almost always tied with a bead.
3. Hares Ear Nymph -pheasant tail or mallard flank fibres for the tail, copper wire for the rib, and pearl tinsel for the wingcase. The tail change saves me from needing a creepy rabbit face hanging on my wall, and the fish don't seem to care. Usually tied with a bead.
4. Stimulator -I use a 2 or 3x long straight-shank dry fly hook instead of the curved shank hook on the original. I just don't like the shape, especially after losing a lot of fish one day on it, then landing a bunch on the same fly on a different hook style that same day...
5. Woolly Bugger -barbell eyes, and seal or rabbit dubbing instead of chenille allows me to really control the size of the body.
6. Copper John -pheasant tail fibres for the tail on a standard copper coloured tie, and soft black hackle for black or red or silver versions. The fibrous tails actually move in the water, giving life to the back half of the fly.
7. Elk Hair Caddis -I usually use the standard variant, but sometimes I use CDC for the hackle, trimmed to the length I want. It moves well in slower currents, and sits a bit lower than the original.
Well, I thought there were more, and undoubtedly there are, but that gives a good idea. Anyone out there have some great modifications that make a good pattern more durable, effective, longer-floating, or easier to tie?