Photograph by Steve Barnett

Sunday 13 March 2011

Boy Scout's Motto is...

Be Prepared!

It is nowhere near the time for the Drake yet but it is worth looking ahead and making some flies in readiness. One very handy fly that seems to work well right into the latter part of the Drake’s season, even after the trout have seen quite a few artificials already, is this effort, which goes by the name of Ethafoam Bodied Mayfly (EBM to its friends).

It is made of recycled rubbish that you have to obtain and process.

It is not the easiest fly to keep afloat.

It is not as robust as some patterns.

Nevertheless, it is deadly and the trout mistake it for the real thing... a lot!

Obtain one of the thin ethafoam bags that Television sets are often packed in. The type you want has a discernable membrane of plastic on one side. Some thin ethafoam bags do not have this membrane. You need one with it, as you will see shortly.  No membrane?  You bought the wrong TV!

Cut out a panel of the material about a foot square, with no printing on it and avoiding any holes put in to stop you suffocating your children with it. On a cutting board (or flattened, breakfast-cereal packet) lay the panel flat and then take a straight edge and scalpel, or very sharp craft knife, slice it into strips approximately ⅛ th of an inch wide and almost as long as the panel, leaving about ½ an inch uncut. Repeat this until you have made as many strips as you want to make flies. The end result is a tassel of ethafoam strips all held together at one end. This is the body material.

The rest of the fly uses, long shanked hooks, pheasant tail fibres, brown tying thread, badger and dyed yellow cock hackles and brown partridge breast feathers.

 Put the hook in the vice, this is a size 10 LS, and run on a bed of the brown thread.

Tie in a bunch of cock pheasant tail fibres with the tail about the same length as the hook.

Snip off the waste ends at an angle. Then tie in a strip of the prepared ethafoam you prepared earlier.

 Wind back and forth with tight turns (hence the earlier quest for the membrane-reinforced ethafoam) to build up a body, finishing at the tail end, tie it in with three or four tight touching turns. Pull the waste end tightly to load it with tension. Cut it off as close to the turns of thread tying the ethafoam in. The tiny end should disappear under the last turn. If it doesn’t, then take another turn or two over it.

You should now have a brown band of tying thread right at the end of the body. Now take one ribbing turn forward and then make several close touching turns of the thread to make another brown band of tying thread.

Then carry on with the ribbing turns forward over the rest of the body. Continue with the thread to just behind the eye to make a bed of thread to take the hackles.

Prepare the feathers by stripping off the fluffy fibres at the base of the stalks. Lay the partridge feather down on the bench concave side uppermost.

Lay the yellow dyed cock hackle, concave side uppermost, on top of the partridge feather with the base fibres of each feather aligned with each other.

Lay the badger cock hackle, concave side uppermost on top of both stacked feathers and align its lower fibres with those of the other feathers.

Carefully pick up the stacked feathers and, keeping them aligned, tie them in, all together, winding the thread over the stalks until they reach the front of the body.
Trim off the waste ends of the stalks. Leave the thread dangling here. 

Take the badger hackle tip in the pliers and wind it fully up to the thread and catch it in with two tight turns. Keep the thread dangling here still. Tweek off the hackle point.  Take the yellow dyed cock hackle tip in the pliers and wind it fully through the badger hackle turns until it reaches the thread. Tie it in tightly and then quickly wind the thread through the wound cock hackles, take a couple of turns of the thread in front of the partridge feather making a short bed behind the eye. Tweek off the hackle tip.

Take the partridge feather tip in the hackle pliers and make two turns or even three if you can manage it in front of the wound cock hackles and tie it in as tightly as you dare. Make a whip finish. Tweek off the partridge feather tip. Stroke and hold all the feather fibres back out of the way and varnish the head well. Finish off by pulling one of the waste hackle tips through the eye whilst the varnish is still wet.

Voila the EBM!

This fly caught me my biggest ever river trout, which is probably why it gives me such a lot of confidence when I use it.

Regular Rod


  1. Thank you. It is easy to tie once all the materials are assembled. It needs a lot of attention to keep it floating high but it is worth the effort.

    Regular Rod

  2. Just spent half an hour looking through the attic for some ethafoam! found it eventually, now to get some longshank hooks ordered and i'm sorted for the the Wye on the 29th of May. Lets hope the weather is better than last year and we get a good hatch.
    All the best Sean