Famed fly-tier, angler, and cab-driver Jack Gartside wrote that he came up with the Sparrow pattern out of sheer laziness, while camping on the Madison river in the 1980s:
Being a lazy fisherman, I hated changing flies any more than was absolutely necessary and wanted a fly that I could fish as a nymph or as a streamer or even as a passable hopper imitation (greased to float, sunken as a drowned grasshopper). So I was looking to come up with an impressionistic fly that would combine some of the common features of both insect and baitfish, a fly that could look (depending on how it was fished and its overall size) like lots of things in general and nothing in particular. I would let the fish make up its own mind as to what it was.
. Tim Flagler of Tightline Productions, offers his own version of Gartside’s venerable pattern in this great video. Flagler uses Chickabou and soft-hackle feathers in place of Gartside’s pheasant, creating a fly that retains the silhouette and versatility of the original, but with perhaps a bit more action and flash in the water. As usual, there are also some useful tying tips in Flagler’s lesson, such as wetting a feather to make it easier to work with and how to blend dubbing.
Hook: 2X-long nymph hook (here a Dai-Riki #730), sizes 4-14.
Thread: Brown, 8/0 or 70 denier.
Tail: Tan Chickabou feather.
Rib: Gold Ultra Wire, small.
Body: Natural gray-squirrel, natural rabbit fur dubbing, and golden-tan
Collar: Single tan soft-hackle feather.
Head: Soft-hackle fluff.
Tools: Dubbing brush.
Some sparrow-themed tunes:
PS: If you don’t know who Merry Clayton is, watch this.