Charlie Craven’s Basic Fly Tying (hardcover)


Charlie Craven is one of the best tutors of fly tying I have come across. I first came across his marvellous work in John Barr’s book ‘Barr Flies’ – Charlie did the tutorials in that book backed up by superb step by step photos. I think they set a new standard in fly tying tutoring.

Now Charlie has his own book out , ‘Charlie Craven’s Basic Fly Tying’.

Basic fly tying? I guess it is if you look at the flies he has chosen to present, but on every page are tips and tricks that I guarantee will have you smacking yourself on the forehead, and thinking “why didn’t I think of that.”

Anyone working through this book will have covered most of the ground needed to tie almost any fly. If anything Charlie’s photos and words have exceeded the standard he set in the Barr book.

I have been fly-tying for over 40 years, and I still learned heaps. If you are starting out fly-tying get this book, do not delay – so you do not learn the bad habits we old tyers have picked up. If you have a friend or family member just starting tying, buy it as  a present, they will continue to thank you for it for years to come, every time they sit at the fly-tying desk.

Cannot recommend it highly enough.

What About That Hook

A while ago I penned an article posing the question, why don’t fish seem to take any notice of the hook hanging down below a fly? It is not like it is not in plain view.


So I was intrigued to read this article which postulated…

“Hooks are not part of the trout’s developed searching or matching image. Therefore, in grossly oversimplified form, trout don’t care about the hook.”

Bead Flies and Adding Weight

I have had quite a few questions about adding extra weight to bead flies.

The short answer is that it is really not possible to add lead, or similar, to bead nymphs. But of course a gold or tungsten bead or two can be used when assembling the fly.

But when considering how much weight to use for a bead nymph, think on this:

  • Glass bead nymphs are relatively heavy, and in my experience heavier than similar lead weighted nymphs.
  • Because there is little or no fur or feather, little or no floatation from trapped air is possible.
  • The nymphs tend to be slimmer than ‘fur’ nymphs, and sink faster.

I think this ability to sink faster is one of the keys to the success of bead flies. They are ‘fishing’ longer than standard fur and feather nymphs.

Another question that hits my email is whether bead flies will take brown trout. This I think is based on the thought and fact that rainbows tend to take more colourful flies than browns. The bead flies I make for browns use dark coloured beads, often all black.

The bead fly article that raises all these questions is here.

Dry Flies in Winter?

I have just spent a couple of weeks fishing in the Taupo region. Well fishing is stretching it a bit. The first week the weather was atrocious, snow, rain persisting down, and gale force winds – and that was the good bits!

But it cleared up; I stopped swearing at the weather, which I have noticed in the past seems to have absolutely no effect on it what-so-ever, and went fishing. I had already decided that I was not not going to fish elephant-gun tactics – chucking and ducking nymphs the size and weight of a 9mm bullet, or heaving out fast sinking shooting-heads, in the big water of the Tongariro; this has well and truly lost its charm.

So I wandered up the smaller rivers. But I had forgotten that it was school holidays – what clown decided to give kids holidays in the middle of winter? So I attempted to fish the pools away from the teeming, water-thrashing hordes. This proved to be frustrating; regular floods have filled these unpopular pools with trees and the bits of same. Every drift it seemed would hook up on some bit of drowned timber or other. But there were fish there, deep in the jungle. Smart fish these Kiwi trout.

Help was at hand though, and I yet again grateful for a life-time habit of reading extensively. I had a month or two before read a book, ‘Tying Flies with Foam Fur and Feather‘ by Harrison Steeves. I had even got round to tying a few of these monstrous creations. Hidden away somewhere in that book was Harrison’s observation that he uses his foam flies in winter. That piece of information, hopped out from the dark depths of my mind, and demanded action.

So rather than lose more nymphs, I tied on one of the foam flies I had made ugly, tied a little gold-beaded thingy fly about 10cm away from the bend of the foam fly. Then I launched this combination out over the subterranean forest, with absolutely no confidence at all.

First drift, and the foam fly was monstered by a hen rainbow of 3kg (6lb). She and another four fish of around the same weight hit the fly, realised too late their mistake, but finally swam away once I removed the hook.

Three more pools, pretty much the same result, give or take a few fish up or down. Next day, more of the same, and the next, and the next.

The most surprising thing to me (after finally trying using a dry fly in winter) was the number of anglers who walked past, saw what I was doing, shook their head at the antics of the ‘old duffer’, and carried on to fish the crowded pools. Hope they never read this!

So they say that if you don’t learn something new every day, you had better pinch yourself, because you might be dead. It just seems to me a great shame that learning about foam flies in winter has come so late in my fishing career.


The Mystery of the Ratty Fly

“It’s an ages-old question: Do trout sometimes prefer a beat-up pattern?”
The excellent MidCurrent blog features an excellent (of course) article by Paul Schullery on the old question of whether ratty, beat-up flies catch more fish than neat’n’tidy offerings.

I’m a believer. I have written a couple of articles on this theme, Rufazgutz, and Imitation or Approximation.

If you buy store-bought flies, have a read of these articles and then take to your flies with something rough like a piece of hacksaw blade or a piece of Velcro. Picking out some fur with a pin or needle will help too. And as the article says if your fly gets a bit ratty, but is still catching fish, for goodness sake keep using it.

Commercially tied flies are tied to meet the demands of the first rule of fishing tackle retailing; ‘First Catch Your Fisherman’. I should know – I owned a tackle shop for ten years.

Does Fly or Lure Colour Matter

This article on the Midcurrent site is an excellent insight into the way fish see colours, and how this information can be used to refine flies and lures, and select lures and flies for varying fishing conditions.

While the article was primarily aimed at saltwater flies, it offers much to learn for all kinds of fishing.

There is one telling comment in the article – “Selecting a fly based on contrast, rather than on specific colors, is often the key to enticing a fish to strike.” (Someday they might learn how to spell colour 😉

Bead Fly Update

A short article I wrote on my site in 1998 had been near the top of site visit numbers ever since. But the information contained in the article needed updating, and some additional explanation.

So finally I have found my round-to-it and updated the article and included some photos of this dead-easy fly to tie, well actually not really tie, more like assemble.