by Philip Rowley
Clear Water Pupa-Dark Olive
– designed by Philip Rowley
For size 14 or smaller use a Crystal Flash or SuperFlash rib to maintain a slim profile. Tie this pattern using a variety of body and rib color combinations. Mylar wingcases work best in algae stained waters.
Most stillwater fly fishers possess a comprehensive collection of chironomid pupa patterns. Through the correct use of throat pumps and macro photography we now know more about the nuances of chironomid pupa than we ever did. The trapped air and gases emerging pupa use to aid their ascent and final transformation to winged adult is a key feature, providing a mirror-like translucent sheen or aura.
Clear water lakes can be tough and along with some of our busier lakes slender realistic patterns in conjunction with refined presentation techniques are often required for consistent success. At times, wary trout seem to avoid beadheads. Enter the epoxy style pupa.
Fly fishing competitions are common across Europe. In many instances beadhead patterns are banned driving fly fishers to find other fast sinking alternatives. The end result was the creation of slender epoxy buzzers or pupa patterns that slice through the water. The layered coating approach associated with these patterns also created a bullet proof pattern than does a superb job suggesting translucence inflated pupa.
Maintaining the anorexic profile of an epoxy pupa through disciplined thread use is critical. Mimicking not only the pupa’s natural profile but providing room to build up thin layered coats. Use thin 8/0 tying thread and avoid excessive thread wraps. Fly patterns accumulate thread wraps throughout their construction adding durability in the process. When tying size 14 or smaller patterns, thread bodies and thoraxes are recommended. Permanent markers can be used to change thread color without the added bulk of swapping thread. Markers also provide interesting effects during the body coating process.
Synthetic materials such as Crystal Flash, Flashabou, SuperFlash, Frostbite and Midge Braid are also great body choices due to their natural glow. Dye lots govern choice as each material has its own unique colors.
Frostbite and Midge Braid is a woven Flashabou-like synthetic dispensed on spools or cards. This material is easily dyed providing fly tyers a range of colors. For chironomid bodies Frostbite or Midge Braid must be unravelled. Take approximately 1-inch of material. Pinch both ends with your thumb and forefingers. Pull slowly to unravel. In most instances, Frostbite or Midge Braid unravels into two 3-inch long stands held together at one end by a knot. In its unravelled state, Frostbite or Midge Braid maintains a twisted memory that can be frustrating. Combat this trait by moistening the strands to keep them together. Tie in the moistened strands at any point along their length using a couple of wraps, un-knotted ends aimed toward the hook eye. Once in place, pull the Midge Braid or Frostbite slowly until the ends almost pull out from the initial thread wraps. Add a few additional wraps to secure. The material is now under control and you are using its maximum length. Tie in Frostbite or Midge Braid at the thorax area. Wind it down the shank to the bend and back up over itself to the original tie in point. Overwrapping material with itself forms smooth durable bodies and covers any gaps you may have left on your initial pass down the shank.
Most epoxy patterns suggest the pupa’s distinct brown or reddish orange color wingpads using a variety of materials. The English Crisp Packet Buzzer uses thin strips from a Doritos bag. To make my flies stand out in stained algae water I use holographic orange or Uni’s Peacock/Orange Mylar. Holographic red Mylar is also worth experimenting with. In clear water conditions bright Mylar wingcases may be too overt. In these situations use dyed goose biots or Midge Stretch Floss. Summer Duck is my preferred color. In addition to the wingpads, a Pearlescent Mylar wingcase provides a subtle attractive glint to the thorax.
The body coating provides the signature touch to the epoxy pupa and there are a variety of products to choose from. As the pattern type would indicate epoxy makes a good body coating. Once encapsulated in a sheath of epoxy the body is impenetrable. I prefer rod winding epoxy over other epoxies as I can brush on thin multiple coats. Epoxy’s primary drawbacks are its time sensitive curing time along with its fussy nature to mix and work with.
In recent years acrylic resins have become more widespread due to their popularity with saltwater tyers. Acrylic resins require no mixing and dry in seconds once activated using the appropriate light eliminating the sagging risk associated with epoxy. I use Tuffleye Finish for my pupal patterns. Once the initial coat has been applied coat the fly twice with high gloss lacquer. Some products do not react well with others. Make a point of checking the compatibility between lacquer and acrylic resin. Tuffleye makes a specific lacquer for their products.
There are also several ‘over the counter’ options. Brushable super glue provides a great base coat as it adds lustre while fusing the materials. Once the super glue base coat dries cover the body and thorax with 2-3 thin coats of high gloss lacquer. Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails nail polish or specific high gloss coatings such as Hard as Hull are excellent choices. Acetone can be used to thin these products to ensure multiple applications without the risk of excessive build up. Always allow drying times between coats to provide the best finish.
With the exception of light activated resins, flies must be rotated to ensure a smooth even finish. I use a small battery operated dryer to dry a number of patterns at one sitting. Rotating your vise during the drying process works but reduces pattern production.
Most European epoxy pupa patterns omit the gills, a common feature to almost all our pupal patterns. Gills can be added during the tying process but gumming up the gills during the coating process is a definite possibility. I add the gills once the fly is dry. On smaller patterns a head of white tying thread does a good job suggesting the gills. Size 16 and 18 ‘White Spot’ pupa work well in clear waters, especially early in the day when smaller chironomids often emerge.
Epoxy style pupa patterns are fun to tie bringing out our creative juices. They offer a realistic profile duplicating the inflated glow of the naturals. In clear water situations or when trout have seen their share of chironomid patterns realistic an epoxy fly is the ticket. Don’t forget your favourite beadhead patterns. As they too reap the benefits of an epoxy style makeover!
Cover the front third of the hook with tying thread. Tie in the rib just behind the hook eye and secure down the shank into the bend along the near side of the hook. Tie in a length of red holographic Mylar at the bend of the hook. Wind the Mylar forward three times to forming a small thin butt. Tie off and remove the excess. Return the tying thread to the 2/3rds point on the shank.
Take a 1-inch length of Midge Braid or Frostbite body material from the spool or card. Using your thumb and forefinger pinch both ends. Pull gently to unravel the woven strand into two strands held together by a knot.
Tie in the un-knotted end of the two strands at the 2/3rds mark on the shank at any point along its length using two to three wraps of tying thread. Pull on the two strands until the ends almost pull out from under the thread. Place 2-3 additional wraps to secure the body material in place.
Using moistened fingers stroke the two strands of body material together and wind down the shank. Overwrap the butt slightly and then return up the shank to the original tie in point. Tie off and trim away the excess. The finished body must be smooth and slender. Counter wind the rib over the body, tie off and remove the excess.
Tie in the pearlescent Myalr shellback just behind the hook eye. Secure back to the body. Tie in the wingpad material in a loop along each side of the thorax just behind the hook eye. Secure the wingpad material down both sides of the shank back to the body. When using Uni Peacock/Orange Mylar tie it in so the peacock side faces out. The orange side shows when the wing pads are pulled forward.
Form a thread thorax using no more than three layers of tying thread if possible. The finished thread thorax must be thin, just slightly thicker than the body. Fold the wing pad material along each side of the thorax. Tie off and trim the excess. Pull the wingcase material over the top of the thorax. Tie off and trim the excess. Whip finish and remove the tying thread.
Coat the entire fly with your preferred body coating. Thin multiple coats are recommended to build up the thorax area while providing depth and lustre to the fly. Rotate the fly during as it dries ensuring a smooth even finish.
Once the coating is dry re-attach the tying thread at the hook eye. Split a single strand of Midge Gill in half. Tie in the Midge Gill strand on top of the hook at the hook eye so there are equal amounts on each side of the tie in point. Fold the back section forward over the front section and secure in place. Whip finish with a minimum of wraps, remove the tying thread and apply head cement. Trim the finished gills even with the hook eye.