Phil's Fly Box : Dunc's Floating Carey







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Phil's Fly Box:
Dunc's Floating Carey

with Philip Rowley
Website | Email


Step 1: Debarb hook, place in vise and form your basic wrap leaving the thread hanging at the rear of the hook. Don't build up to much thread as this inhibits the spinning of the deer hair. Select a stack of premixed deer hair. About the diameter of a pencil is fine. Spin a body of deer hair all the way up the hook shank to the eye. Remember to leave room for the head.

If I have one weakness it's my liking for a good dragon fly nymph pattern. Dragon nymphs can be intricate in design, and for the stillwater fly tier they can be what the stonefly nymph is to the river tier a source of constant imitation. Angling friend Duncan Laird is a big fan of dragon fly nymph patterns also. Duncan and I have had long discussions regarding tying and fishing these underwater predators.

This pattern represents the spider like nymphs of the family Libellulidae . The most common species of this family found in British Columbia is Sympetrum . Adults of this family of dragon fly are identifiable by their distinct wing patches. Hence the name, red shouldered dragon. Some call this family of dragon flies Gomphus , Gomphus are not as common in B.C. as the Sympetrum species and can be recognized by their distinct club tails in the adult stage. Differing characteristics of these two species in the nymphal form include the overall body shape, stout antennae of the Gomphus and the different structured mouthparts.

Sympetrum have a 2 to 3 year life cycle. They are widespread across the province but I have found the greatest populations in the clear water lakes of the interior region. They inhabit chara weed in large numbers. Lakes such as Roche, White, and Peterhope have dense populations of these insects. The nymphs crawl across the bottom and out of the water to emerge. Emerging nymphs crawl up docks, weeds and trees for the final transformation into the adult stage. Primary emergence time is usually from mid June through August. Keep your eyes peeled along the shoreline for the nymphal shucks and birds such as robins working the shoreline picking up the nymphs as they crawl out of the water.

Step 2: Trim the body to a cigar shape. Remember to keep the gape of the hook clear so as not to impede the hooking ability of the fly.

Sympetrum nymphs are sedentary ambush feeders, although they have the same jet propulsion system other species of dragon fly nymphs are famous for. However they prefer to cover or bury themselves in the bottom substrate and wait for their prey to come to them. Sympetrum nymphs will wait until their prey is practically, "between their eyes" before grasping their prey in their spoon shaped labium. This tactic is deadly and they seldom miss. Popular food items include shrimp, mayfly nymphs, damsel nymphs, etc. Essentially anything they can get their jaws into.

Duncan prefers to fish this pattern with a Stillwater line. Allow the pattern to slowly sink to the bottom. Retrieve the fly in 4 to 6 inch strips as though you were shaking a thermometer. Duncan feels that this retrieve adds to the success of this pattern. During sedge hatches Duncan has also used this pattern successfully. Tied in smaller sizes the overall size, shape, colors, and behavior of this pattern mimics the sedge pupa swimming just under the waters' surface. Don't forget to give this pattern a try when probing the drop offs on slow days.

Step 3: Select an appropriate pheasant rump hackle. Strip away the flue at the base of the feather. Tie in the hackle wet fly style with the shinny side of the feather facing towards you. This way the fibers will naturally sweep rearwards. Wind the hackle 2 to 3 times maximum. You do not want a heavily hackled fly. Apply head cement and go fishing!

Tying this pattern is easy. What makes this pattern unique is the method Duncan uses to mix the various colors of deer hair. He selects the colors, removes any under fur and throws them all together in a bowl such as a margarine container, and mixes them by hand as though it was dubbing. Once mixed Duncan selects a "stack" of deer hair and spins it onto the hook shank. This method of mixing creates a very natural looking body made up of a wide variety of colors. The particular pattern illustrated in this column utilizes 8 different shades of deer hair. You can vary the overall color to simulate various stages in the nymphs' life. Add more light olive and lime green to simulate a freshly molted nymph or more dark greens and olives for a mature nymph. If you like you can tie this pattern with natural deer hair and color it with permanent markers but the overall effect is not the same. Next spin and clip the deer hair body to a cigar shape. Selection of the pheasant rump is also important. Duncan likes to use a brown pheasant rump feather. Make sure the barbs of the feather are no longer than the body of the fly and that they are stiff in nature. You do not want the hackle fibers to lie tight to the body but rather stiff and flared so optimum movement can occur.

This pattern is a simple but lethal design. In years past Duncan used his pattern to great effect on White Lake. Stomach analysis revealed concentrated feeding upon Sympetrum nymphs.

Dunc's Floating Carey

  • Hook: Tiemco 5263 or Mustad 9672 (#6-#10)

  • Thread: Green 6/0 or Monocord

  • Body: Mixture of spun and clipped deer hair

  • Hackle: Pheasant Rump, Brown Phase


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Phil's Fly Box : Dunc's Floating Carey