Video: How to Tie a Catskills-Style March Brown Dry Fly

Catskills-style dry flies often have some bare shank behind the eye.

March browns (Stenonema vicarium) are among the more important hatches in the East and the Midwest. The big bugs don’t usually create blanket hatches, but instead emerge sporadically throughout the day, which means you can often get a trout to eat a dun even when there aren’t any bugs actually on the water.

In this great video from Tightline Productions, Matt Grobert (an author and blogger) demonstrates the traditional Catskills method for tying this pattern.Catskills tiers were notoriously picky about keeping flies fairly sparse, with all the parts in correct proportions, and with some bare shank behind the hook eye. Grobert offers a great primer on creating hackle wings that are well separated, stand up nicely, and look great.

          March Brown Dry
          Hook: Standard dry-fly hook (here a Mustad 94840), sizes 10-14.
          Thread: Olive, 6/0 or 140 denier.
          Wing: Wood-duck feather.
          Tail: Brown hackle fibers.
          Body: Fawn-colored rabbit-fur dubbing.
          Hackle: Brown and grizzly hackle.
          Head: Tying thread.

5 thoughts on “Video: How to Tie a Catskills-Style March Brown Dry Fly”

  1. Nicely tied, a little different than the way Art Flick tied it my mentor. Art tied the hackle between the wood duck feather wing. I believed that gave the fly a better floating ability with the hackle stem under the dubbing.

  2. Spent an evening of fly-tying with Ted Niemeyer at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club in San Francisco in the 90’s. One of the things that he demonstrated was a classic Catskill dry fly as tied by Winnie and Walt Dette who he had . He spent some time with them and of course they are well known for their Catskill flies. The bare space behind the eye of the hook was one of their signature techniques.

    However, Winnie and Walt did NOT tie the fly with the space already behind the eye. They tied the fly as any tier normally would and then pinched the fly behind the back hackle to hold it in place, and then pinched the fly in front of the wraps by the eye and pushed the front of the fly back, leaving that characteristic empty space behind the eye.

    Besides the characteristic empty space behind the eye of the hook, that also caused the hackle to spread out from the base of the wing instead of standing up straight as it does when you hackle a dry fly without this push. If you look at any of the Catskill flies by those original tiers, you will see that same shape where all the hackle appears to be coming out of the base of the wing instead of standing straight up in front of and behind the wing like you see with conventional hackling techniques.


  3. Yes, it is fascinating to see the different tying styles. I spent many hours when I was younger watching Walt, Winnie and Mary Dette tying flies, as well as Poul Jorgenson. My tying has been greatly influenced by them and I treasure the memories I have of watching them and talking to them about tying and fly fishing. One of the things that has changed, and with it some of our techniques, is that they tyed without the use of bobbins, whip finish tools, and their hackle pliers were clothes pins that they sanded down and formed to hold hackle. Hackle has changed as well, and I know some tyers that now tie in the hackle in front of the wing and then wrap it back and then forward again. Thanks for the comments. Tight lines. Best, Matt

  4. So helpful for a person like me who learned to tie from books. Never saw anyone actually tie a fly except on DVDs and videos. My flies never look so neat but they do catch fish, if only unsophisticated put and take trout. Thanks for sharing! Robert

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