Photograph by Steve Barnett

Thursday 9 September 2010

Now is the time for...

... grayling on the dry fly!

If you are out over the next few weeks and you find grayling rising, this fly is very reliable in bringing them up from amazing depths to snaffle this tiny creation.  Sturdy's Fancy may be a "fancy" pattern, implying to many that it doesn't imitate anything but please believe me this is another very successful caricature style of fly that can be used to hint at all sorts of flies: reed smuts; midges; tiny terrestrials; even little sedge flies.  Sturdy's Fancy can mimic them all.

It is best on small hooks - 16 down to 20 (for smaller than that the materials are not really suitable) with 16 and 18 being the most useful sizes.  These small hooks force you to use fine tippet material 6x or even 7x so don't bang hard on the strike and to give yourself a bit of stretch, make the tippet at least a yard long with an ell or even a fathom being better if the wind conditions permit.

Here's how to make the Sturdy's Fancy:
Put the hook in the vice shielding the point and wind on a short bed of purple thread, in this example it is Pearsall's purple Gossamer, same stuff as used in Kite's Imperial.
Lay on and tie in a piece of  red floss with two turns of the thread.  Danville's DRF Fire Orange (fluorescent red) nylon floss has been used here but the original was red silk floss.
Lay the forward pointing length of floss back over to the bend and trap it on top of the rearward pointing length on top of the hook.
Carry on winding a bed of thread whilst at the same time tying down the floss to the bend

Cut the tail to a length about the same as the hook gape

Tie in a single peacock herl and keep the thread dangling at the bend.

Wind the herl to the front of the bed of thread and back to the dangling thread to make a body.  Tie in the peacock herl at the bend and then rib the herl body with the thread in open spiral turns then keep winding forward four turns of thread on the hook shank to make a bed for the hackle stalk.

Tie in the hackle with the dull, concave side facing you, making a bed as you go for the hackle when you wind it.  Trim off the waste hackle stalk.
Wind the hackle.  Tie it in and wind the thread quickly through the hackle back to the eye to avoid trapping too many hackle fibres.  Make a whip finish and varnish the head, cleaning out the eye whilst the varnish is still wet.  The hackle tip left in your hackle pliers makes a good pull through for the job.

You will be amazed by this fly if you have not already used it.  Grayling will rise up from the bottom, through several feet of water to eat it.  If you see them "missing" the fly, try a finer tippet, but do be careful on the strike.

Regular Rod


  1. Hi RR,
    This looks a simple fly to tie. Do you need a white hackle? The reason I ask is that I have no suitable cape but do have grizzle and a nice light gray.
    Once again a smashing post.

  2. The original dressing called for "mucky white" I use a cream but try them both until you can get a white cape. Tie the same fly with brown thread and a natural red hackle and you have the famous "Red Tag", which is one of the best chub flies ever in big sizes.

  3. RR, how do you fish it? Is the whole fly "Ginked"?

  4. The whole fly is treated with floatant, whether you use Gink or not is up to personal choice, but the whole fly is "anointed"

  5. When winding the hackle, do you wind towards the eye or back towards the bend?

  6. Towards the bend along the bed of thread you made when you tied in the hackle stem.

  7. We're fishing the Wye this weekend so I've tied up a few to try - thanks for the excellent step-by-step.


  8. There will be floating leaves to contend with...

    Hopefully the winds may ease a little for you.

  9. Sadly, we were thwarted not by the wind and leaves but by the heavy rain on Friday that made the river all but unfishable on Saturday. Here's hoping for better luck for the WTT grayling weekend.


  10. Thank you for this. I have been asked to tie a few grayling flies for a chap (salmon flies are my forté) and have been searching for this pattern. I have bookmarked your blog and will post a link on my forum @


  11. Thank you JohnB, I will do likewise.

  12. Just had a gentleman and his wife visit my house to see a dog we have for sale.
    We struck up a conversation about fly fishing.
    He told me that in his teens he used go to get flies from a man called Mr Sturdy, yes the designer of this fly.
    The gentleman told me it was the only fly you need, fished wet or dry, grayling and trout will take this fly.