Photograph by Steve Barnett

Friday 7 December 2012

New Improved Recipe - Get Some Today!

The PPS (Poly Prop Sherry)

An effective fake of the Blue Winged Olive's Spinner the Sherry Spinner

·      Easy and quick to tie so saves your time
·      Low cost materials so saves your money
·      Nothing from endangered species so saves your conscience
·      Versatile, easy to match most spinners so saves your day

When this blog started we considered one of the most satisfying methods of fishing the dry fly -  fishing with a spinner imitation to represent the dead or dying adult female Blue Winged Olive. This is an upwinged fly that in her final stages of life, as she returns to the river to deposit her eggs, is known as the Sherry Spinner.  Looked at from above, the Sherry Spinner does indeed seem to have a body that is the colour of sweet sherry.  Looked at from below, with the light passing through her, she actually looks quite orange.

Inspection of many other spinners, such as those of the different flies anglers categorise together and name "Pale Watery", has shown that orange, rather than sherry or rusty colours is more evident when the light is behind the fly.  This is why the PPS has an orange body and can be used with great confidence when spinners of various types are on the water and the fishes' menu.

How to fish the PPS is simply as follows:
1.       Watch the rises and find a fish eating spinners.
2.       Work out how far up from the fish to cast your PPS to coincide with the rises of your chosen fish
3.       Make the cast and control the line so the PPS drifts as though attached to nothing
4.       When your PPS is taken, strike without breaking the tippet
5.       Get the fish away from the rest by using side strain
6.       Keep hidden if possible until the fish is in your landing net.
7.       Unhook the fish as carefully as you can to avoid damage to the fish
8.       Release the fish quickly, carefully ensuring it is recovered enough to swim away strongly
9.       Dry your fly and consider the next fish or move on to another spot...

History and Development of the PPS

For many years your faithful blogger's spinner pattern of choice was a traditional English dry fly called "Lunn's Particular" after its inventor William James Lunn, a justly famous Victorian river keeper on the Test in Hampshire, England.  This fly still works but is labour intensive to tie and to be made more effective needed its underside hackle fibres to be completely trimmed off to get it sitting flat in the water's surface. 

A personal decision in the 1970's to return all river fish to the water meant that, after a little while, the trout and grayling of my local rivers became a little more difficult to trick with this regularly seen artificial.  This was made more so when the fishery began to make the same move towards catch and release and all the fish caught were being returned and learning from the experience..

It was decided to try some of the other spinner designs that other innovative fly tiers had already created.  These were reasonably effective but the trout did not always take them in the same relaxed, innocent way that they ate the naturals.  Something extra was needed.

This led to a decision to go back to basics and come up with a pattern that would get that relaxed, innocent rise from trout convinced they were simply eating one more natural spinner.  Being an angler rather than a fly dresser it was important to devise a quickly and easily tied fly.  It had to use low cost, easily obtained materials.  It had to match whatever the trigger points were of the natural spinner to encourage that replica rise.  IT HAD TO WORK, nothing less would do.

Over three seasons, the first versions of the PPS were devised and used on the limestone spring-fed rivers of the Peak District in Derbyshire.  They were also used on holiday trips to other waters, such as the chalk streams in southern England and the spate and free-stone rivers in northern England and Scotland.  Materials and colours of materials were experimented with until the fly was proving infallible whenever deployed as described in the "How to fish the PPS" section above.  The fly stayed this way for a few more years.

A source of concern was that the body material of this successful version was of seal's fur dyed orange.  The development process started again and after numerous experiments with a number of natural and synthetic dubbing materials the best results came from Antron and similar fibres.  The examples at the top and below here are of UV Frog Hair, which has proven to be very easy to use and results in the PPS being as effective as before.
It was around this time that the PPS was shared with other anglers, particularly ones met in the evenings during spinner falls.  The feedback confirmed that the fly did exactly what it was supposed to do in the hands of folk other than myself.
It is believed that the PPS owes its efficacy to the following features:
The size and cruciform shape are what the fish are expecting to see when spinners are on the water
The orange colour, being achieved with dubbing, is still visible to the fish despite the hook inside it
The splayed tail and wings ensure the fly sits flat on the water's surface as per the natural spinner
The splayed tail and wings also act as tiny air brakes and get the PPS to land very gently

Materials for the New Improved Recipe:
Hooks:  18, 16 and 14 (the examples are on size 16 hooks)
Thread:  Orange
Tail:  Fibres from a large white cock hackle (NB cheap Indian capes are perfectly fine for the PPS)
Wing: Medium Dun Polypropylene yarn
Body, thorax and head: Orange Antron dubbing or similar.  The pictured flies used Orange "UV Frog's Hair"
1 - Start the thread at the top of the bend and make a small but distinct bump of tying thread.
2 - Cut off the waste thread.
3 - Take a bunch of the hackle fibres by stripping them from about half an inch of one side of the stalk and gauge them to be about the same length as the hook.  Tie them in at the bend and take the turns of thread back towards the bump of thread previously made.  Whilst doing this, splay out the fibres to make a fan shaped tail.  This tail is important, it suggests the splayed tail of the natural female imago (spinner), supports the fly on the meniscus and helps it to alight gently onto the water.  It also adds to the visibility of the fly which is also important as it is mostly deployed during the evenings when the natural spinners are on the water in great numbers.
4 - Trim the waste ends of the hackle fibres level with a point about 1/8th of an inch back from the eye.  Tie in the trimmed waste ends with close touching turns which anchor the tail and make a bed of thread creating a smooth base for the body and wings.
5 - Tie in the winging yarn on the top of the hook shank with two turns of the thread at the front of the body line.  Have a short length of the yarn pointing forward over the eye of the hook and the long length pointing towards the rear.
6 - Take the long length and while holding it towards you tie in the yarn using figure of eight turns to lock the strands of yarn out at right angles to the hook shank.  Leave the thread dangling in front of the wing.
7 - Dub on a very small amount of the orange dubbing yarn to make an elongated sausage shape as per the picture.
8 - Wind the dubbed thread once in front of the wing and then make a figure eight turn of the dubbed thread over the cross of the figure of eight wing locking turns.  Then wind the body down to the bend making a carrot shaped (and carrot coloured) body as you go.  Use the tying thread to make half a dozen tight, open ribbing turns back to the front of the fly.  Make a tiny head with a whip finish and cut off the thread.
9 - Take the yarn wings between the first finger and the thumb of the left hand (right hand if a Southpaw) and pull them back over the hook bend.  Use scissors to cut them off at a length level with the rearmost part of the hook bend, resulting in the finished PPS (Poly Prop Sherry). 
10 - Varnish the head and, whilst the varnish is still wet, use a hackle tip to pull through the eye to clear it of excess varnish.  Both the body, or the wings, can be trimmed at the bench, or the waterside, with scissors if a thinner profile or shorter wingspan is required, depending on the type of spinners your fish are feeding on at the time.
Don't forget to make these in fives: one for the fish, we can all make a mistake; one for the trees, we can all make another mistake; one for the tippet; one for the fly box; and one for the other angler who comes over and says "Excuse me please but I couldn't help noticing how well you are doing tonight.  Would you mind letting me know what fly are you using?"
Regular Rod


  1. that looks like a fly Santa would use... very festive!

  2. I still have a copy of the one you gave me on the river RR. Since then the copies I've tied have taken me dozens of fish, so I know it works. Thanks Buddy for the excellent post.

    fishermanrichard at 14:48 on New Improved Recipe - Get Some Today!

    1. Great post again RR :) I have had some lovely fish on this excellent pattern & I find the hot orange seals fur version works very well in my part of the world - one thing I have found though is that I have to use a much more sparsely tied tail to get results down here.


  3. Hey Rod, thanks for providing the tying steps for this fly. I'm anxious to try it as I've never tied (on purpose) a spent fly. I can't wait to try it.

  4. Nice posting RR. What a beautifully simple fly. I appreciated the trouble you've taken in explaining the pattern and how to fish it. Thanks.

    One thing I've noticed when I fish with spinners like this is that over time the tippet gets twisted and ends up wrapped around itself and, ultimately, tangled. I think what's happening is that in the cast the fly behaves like a sycamore helicopter. I suspect it's too much false casting on my part. Have you come across anything like that? Any advice?

    1. Oooh! Spiralled tippets! A rich source of new invective if ever there was one...

      The PPS avoids this as the wing material of choice, for me anyway, is "Tiemco Aero Dry Wing in Medium Dun". This comes on cards and is loaded in four strands. By using one strand only and keeping the wings no longer than as described in the Step-by-Step and combined with the generous amount of cock hackle fibres in the tail AND not using too thin a tippet, the problem is averted and no spirals ruin your evening's Sport.

      With bigger winged spinners, like the PPSG, the addition of the hackle with the underside cut away after winding also stops the problem of spiralled tippets as the hackle acts like a drogue and keeps the fly from spinning around.


    2. LOL let's hope any responses don't get too heated.

      The flies I last had this problem with were shop bought BWO spinners.... Just took a look. They're very sparse in the tail and have quite a lot of wing material. No Hackle.

      Thanks for the thoughts. I'll make some adjustments and see how things go.

  5. Hi RR!

    I must have missed this post before. Very nice step for step HOWTO tie this fly that really seems very promising. I checked my tying stuff the last time I saw a post on this fly to check that I had seals fur of the right color and I had. I guess that would work on this improved PPS too. Thanks for sharing!

    Friendly greetings,
    Mats Olsson

    1. My pleasure. To be brutally frank, the method of fishing it is the most important aspect about fishing with this or any other spinner pattern. It is a fascinating way to try and catch a fish...

  6. Many thanks for this great step by step!

    Every seson I am always flumoxed by not having any spent spinners in my box and reading through your archives has now given me a nice simple pattern to fill the gap.

    Thanks again