(Designed by Les Robinson)
Hook: Daiichi 1260 or 1760 #4-#10
Thread: Gudebrod 6/0, color to match naturals
Tail: Marabou, color to match naturals
Under Body: Poly Yarn, color to compliment body
2nd Under Body: Seal's fur, color to match naturals
Body: Larva Lace or V-Rib, use 2 contrasting
colors, 1 light and 1 dark color
Wingcase: Raffia or Swiss Straw, color to match
Legs: Sili Legs, colors to match naturals
Head: Tan sheet foam, use permanent marker to
create eyes and mottle as necessary to
match natural nymphs
Fly tiers and fly fishers seem drawn to patterns with a “get up and walk” look to them. The kind of look where you know if the fly were to fly away it would be a fantastic pattern on the water. Certain techniques are borrowed from realistic flies that lend themselves to practical application. Woven bodies are one style that benefits working flies. Most prey items, especially aquatic insect nymphs and larvae vary their coloration in order to survive. Dark dorsal and light ventral surfaces are commonplace so flies that use woven bodies duplicate this feature-almost to perfection. Imitative woven body patterns are also a source of angler confidence and most agree that confidence improves presentation and results. Woven body patterns add to the overall durability of the fly.
The L.R Dragon is the brainchild of Les Robinson an innovative Okanagan fly tyer who’s foam bodied LR Boatman pattern was featured previously. Robinson’s L.R. Dragon, which incorporates a woven body with realistic profile, has proven itself on numerous occasions, especially when sight fishing to foraging clear water trout, arguably one of the most exciting and frustrating fly fishing experiences. The L.R. Dragon is tied with a creative combination of mass and buoyancy so it fishes upside down, hook point up, allowing the fly to be presented into inhospitable places with a minimum of fouling. The foam head helps saucer into the marl laying in ambush until a cruising trout can be coaxed into striking by popping the fly into view.
North American woven fly history traces its roots back to the 1920’s when barber and wig maker Franz Pott introduced his Mite series of flies, which used woven animal hairs like Chinese Ox and Badger. Other pioneer tiers, like Dan Bailey and George Grant soon created their own woven wonders. Dan Bailey’s popular Moss Back Stone incorporated horse hair and George Grant went as far as penning two books, The Master Fly Weaver and Montana Trout Flies. Many woven body tiers trace their skills back to the lessons contained within these two books. Fly tiers looking for modern day references should pick up a copy of Darrel Martin’s Fly Tying Methods and Ted Leeson and Jim Schollmeyer comprehensive Fly Tiers Benchside Reference as both of these books do an excellent job of illustrating a variety of weave patterns, tips and techniques.
As modern synthetics entered the market traditional patterns using animal hair were replaced with newer and more versatile materials. Woven body ingredients now include yarn, embroidery floss and chenille, both traditional Rayon and Ultra Chenille or Vernille. Of the two I prefer Ultra Chenille due to its durable construction. Plastic based body materials such as V-Rib and Larva Lace also weave well. Keep in mind when using these translucent materials that the underbody foundation for woven patterns affects the body color.
The Parallel or Shuttle weave is probably the most widely used technique. After binding the upper and lower body materials down the side of the fly they are then shuttled them back and forth over and under each other. Your hands never let go of the materials and at first it takes a bit of coordination to get the movements figured out. Other weave patterns to try include the Pott’s, Mottled Wrap, Spotted Strip and Half Hitch weaves. Once again, each style produces their own unique look depending upon the look and food source the tier is trying to suggest. Combining different techniques or incorporating additional colors into the weave augments the effect. For example, the Spotted Strip technique creates a variegated strip down the top of the fly, a trait common to many caddis pupa including the famed Traveler’s Sedge. The Half Hitch and Crochet weave styles incorporate knots after each weaving step and are commonly used with materials such as V-Rib and Larva Lace. Scandinavian fly tyer Torill Kolbu popularized the Crochet Weave a number of years back using a small crochet hook to simplify the weaving process. With a bit of practice this technique using overhand knots can be mastered without the crochet tool. The choice is up to the tyer. Keep in mind that different references sometimes have alternate names for the same weave pattern.
No matter what weaving technique you use there are a few tips and techniques to help reduce the learning curve. Underbodies are common to many woven patterns such as stonefly and dragon fly nymphs. Woven body patterns need a solid platform and a good foundation is key. There are a variety of popular underbody candidates including yarn, foam and leather. Keep the underbody smooth so the materials are not negatively affected by what lies beneath. Remember to factor in the thickness of the overbody materials as well as it is easy to end up with a pattern that is unnaturally obese. With the underbody complete, bind the overbody materials down each side and leave enough materials to weave with (8 inches is a good measure). Although weaving with the bobbin swinging around can be done more often than not it tends to be a source of frustration. Tie of the thread using either a series of half hitches or whip finish. Once the woven body is complete, attach the tying thread to complete the balance of the fly. Most tiers find it easier to weave by repositioning the vise so the fly is perpendicular to the tyer as opposed to its normal parallel tying position. Some prefer the hook eye to be pointing directly at them while others favor the opposite with the eye pointing away. Individual results and experimentation will determine what works best for each tyer. Vary the tension of the weaves to create different effects but after each weaving step remember to push and snug the wraps against each other to create a solid weave. Loose weaving causes the body to rotate and some instances unravel.
1) Cover the hook shank with tying thread forming firm base. Tie in a clump of marabou for the tail and pinch to length just past the bend of the hook, no more than ½ the shank length. Take a 4 inch length of Poly yarn and divide it in half. Take one half and fold the ends together so they form a loop. Tie the Poly yarn loop onto the shank just above the hook point by the ends.
2) Secure the poly yarn back and forth along the sides of the shank to form an underbody reminiscent of a natural Darner dragon nymph. Remember, keep the body relatively slender to match the naturals and to consider the bulk of the overbody materials. The finished underbody should occupy ¾ of the shank. Once the underbody is complete pull the poly yarn down below the hook shank and tie off at the rear of the hook. Do not trim the excess. Advance the tying thread forward to the ¾ point on the shank. Take the remaining poly yarn and twist it tight. Secure the twisted poly yarn along the underside of the hook to create a natural ridge. Tie off the poly yarn at the ¾ point and trim the excess. Coat the completed underbody with brushable Fisherman’s Glue and allow as short time to dry.
3) Starting the ¾ point on the shank secure the contrasting Larva Lace colors along each side of the hook, round side out to aid the final body profile. As the L.R. Dragon is fished hook point up the lighter color should be tied in place along the far side of the hook and the darker color along the near side of the hook. For patterns fished in the traditional hook down manner the body materials would be tied in place darker dorsal material along the far side and lighter ventral material along the near side.
4) With the body materials in place form a simple overhand knot. Pull the knot tight and position it at the base of the tail. The lighter body material should now be on the far side of the hook and the darker body material on the near side of the hook. The overhand knot helps secure the body materials so they don’t slide back on the shank during the weaving process.
5) Move the thread back to the bend of the hook. Twist a sparse amount of seals fur dubbing onto the thread and cover the underbody with seals fur. Tie off the tying thread using a whip finish or half hitch at the front of the finished underbody
6) Begin weaving the body by forming a small loop in the lighter ventral length of the body material across the top of the body. Pinch the tag end of the lighter Larva Lace under the hook shank against the hook bend for control. Take the darker dorsal length of Larva Lace place it over the tag end of the lighter body material. Bring the darker body material under the hook shank and then through the loop in the lighter body material then through the small loop forming a knot. Pull the knot tight by pulling up on the ends of both lengths of the body materials locking the weave into position. The lighter body material should be on top of the hook while the darker material is below. Try to seat this initial weave tight against the overhand knot formed in step #5.
7) To form the second half of the crochet weave take the darker body material and form a loop by bringing the body material under the hook shank and pinching it against the hook bend for control. Bring the lighter body material under the tag end of the loop and then through the loop across the top of the hook forming the knot. Pull the knot tight by pulling up on the ends of both lengths of the body materials locking the weave into position. The lighter body material should be on top of the hook while the darker material is below. Seat this initial weave tight against the crochet weave formed in step #7.
8) Continue the crochet weave technique by alternating the knots detailed in steps #7 and #8 until the woven body is completed. Reattach the tying thread in front of the finished body. Tie of the remaining body materials and trim the excess.
9) With the woven body now complete invert the fly in the vise. Prepare the wingcase material by first unraveling it to its full width. Fold the wingcase material in half across its width 3 times forming a ½ gape wide strip. Tie the prepared wingcase down directly in front of the body so half points forward over the hook eye the balance over the rear of the body. Fold the forward portion of the wingcase back over the body and tie in place. Trim the folded wingcase to shape resembling the natural nymphs about half way down the woven body. Mottle with a permanent marker if desired.
10) Cut a thin gape wide strip of tan sheet foam. With the fly still inverted in the vise tie the foam strip in place directly in front of the body. Pull the foam strip forward and press it against the hook eye to create a small mark. Take a dubbing needle and stab the foam at this mark in both directions.
11) Slip the pierced foam over the hook eye. Pull the remaining foam strip under the hook shank and bind in place at the front of the body to form the foam head. Using permanent markers darken the tops and bottoms of the foam to compliment the overall body color. Use a black marker to create the eyes on the edges of the folded foam head. The finished head should occupy the front 1/8th of the fly.
12) Take a strand of Sili Leg material approximately 3 inches long and lay it across the barrel of the bobbin and hold it in place with the forefinger. Try to ensure that there is an equal amount of leg material hanging on either side of the bobbin barrel. Grab both ends of the leg material doubling them around the bobbin barrel. Slide the legs up into position on the far side of the hook in front of the body. Secure the legs in place along the far side so that they trail down the sides of the fly. Repeat this process with a second length of leg material and secure in place along the near side of the hook facing the tyer. Trim the legs even with the tip of the tail. Do not pull on the legs when trimming to avoid a set of short stubby legs.
13) With the legs in place dub a thorax between the foam head and wingcase. Apply the dubbing so that it helps train and further sweep the Sili Legs back along the body. With the thorax complete apply head cement to approximately 3/8th of an inch of tying thread and wrap this in place directly behind the foam head to avoid matting any dubbing fibers down. Whip finish to complete the fly. Coat the foam head with C-Flex cement to protect the finished artwork