Author Archives: Mary Kuss


Guest Blogger: Mary S. Kuss, Life-long avid angler, licensed PA fishing guide, founder of the Delaware Valley Women’s Fly Fishing Association

Efficiency in fly tying is a subject that comes up from time to time in books and magazine articles. The authors are often commercial tyers who want to share what they have learned in the course of their work. Speed is essential for the commercial tyer, for whom time literally is money. You can certainly get some excellent ideas from these sources. Perhaps, though, the hobbyist tyer should stop and ask, “How fast do I really need to go?”

One of the more common suggestions made in these discussions is that one should carry the scissors in one’s hand all the time rather than wasting time by constantly putting them down and picking them up again. I gave this idea what I considered a fair trial, and found it awkward. I have the habit of lining up my tools on my tying bench within easy reach of the vise and automatically put each one back in the same place after every use. When I need my scissors, my hand automatically goes to them. The fraction of a second lost in this process just doesn’t seem significant.

Commercial tyers utilize a variety of time-saving practices that make their operations more efficient and profitable. To me, though, much of it seems rather extreme and tedious for the hobbyist tyer. It’s a common practice among serious commercial tyers, for instance, to pluck and store separately by hook size all of the feathers from an entire dry fly cape. One professional tyer I knew plucked out a cape and not only sized but also counted the hackles. He could then determine how many flies he could get out of an average neck and calculate the cost of hackle per fly. He obviously got a big kick out of this project. I wouldn’t. more…

Fly of the Month – Green Headed Monster

J. Stockard Pro Tyer: Paul Shurtleff, Springville UT, You can find Paul @:,

I’ll start off by saying that I don’t know much about this pattern other than it just plain works… I am unaware of the history of this fly and I don’t know who the inventor is or how long it’s been around. What I can say, is that I first caught glimpse of and heard of this pattern a few years ago during my search for fly patterns to tie in preparation for a fishing trip in Alaska. I am giving my ex brother-in-law, Bradley Bonnett who is an Alaskan fishing guide, full credit for introducing this fly pattern to me. Thanks Brad! As with most fly patterns I come across and adopt, I have since modified this pattern slightly from the original one that Brad gave me and renamed them as simply “Monsters” because of the versatility and color combinations this pattern has to offer. I’ve also used them in other places than just Alaska with great success…

A lot of Alaskan fly patterns, particularly the patterns for Alaskan salmon are tied “Intruder Style” meaning there is a stinger hook attached to a straight hook shank or Waddington shank by means of either a braided line or intruder/articulation wire typically. Fly patterns of this style are tied like this mainly for the versatility of being able to change out the hook when needed versus changing out the entire fly, which is how these Monsters are tied. Other than the tying style, there is really nothing super special about this pattern except for the ease of tying it and how well it performs. It is basically a “Bunny Leech” with lead eyes and a Cactus chenille head. Where I’ve modified it, is that I’m using an actual Intruder Shank with 15mm Plush Chenille with UV properties from Semperfli for the head. I’ve also added quite a bit of flashabou for fish catching attraction and added the new ML091 barbless Intruder/Tube Fly hooks from Moonlit Fly Fishing… What makes the Monsters special is that because of the way they’re tied, they’re not size specific and can be tied in many different colors/color combinations as well. more…

Improved Stimulator?

Guest Blogger: Clay Cunningham, Cody WY, Former National Park Superintendent

I have almost always been successful when fishing with the stonefly nymphs I tied that Randall Kaufman designed. Probably most fly fishermen did. Kaufman’s patterns were well known from the several books he published on the tying of nymphs as well as dry flies. Randall followed up his very successful stone fly nymph design with his version of a series of adult stone flies that is known as a Stimulator. His original version had a yellow body and an orange thorax. With varies colors and using different hook sizes the original design can imitate many different stone fly adults including the original yellow body and orange thorax that might be taken for a Golden stone or the large Salmon fly. Dave Hughes’ book, Trout Flies has the dressing instructions for stimulators including golden, green and orange. Hughes also provides patterns for “fluttering stone flies” which follow Kaufman’s original design though they are larger and dressed with a lot of hackle. The extra hackle is intended to flutter in the water’s current and represent legs of the fly.

I have caught fish with Kaufman’s version of the adult stone, but I wondered if some improvements could be made to encourage trout to strike more often. The two pictures with this blog show some of the changes I made.  Kaufman’s patterns used Antron, fur, or synthetic dubbing for the body. I used 1 mm fly foam. I used a permanent magic marker to color the abdomen if needed. The original designs were ribbed with undersized hackle which allowed the fly to float quite well. I ribbed the 1mm fly foam with undersized hackle as well. With the combination of fly foam and hackle the fly floats like cork and only needs one false cast to throw off any water before delivering the fly to the water again. Kaufman’s originals use elk hair for the tail. I used goose biots which I believe gives the fly a more realistic silhouette when viewed from under the water by a trout. Kaufman’s designs rely on hackle to represent the adult fly’s legs and my design does too, but I added thin rubber legs which might flutter a little more.

I hope these changes provide more action.