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The Ray Charles Sow Bug Pattern & Tying Instructions

Fly Tying Recipe: The Ray Charles Sow Bug
Standard dry-fly hook (here a Dai-Riki #300), size 16
Fluorescent orange, 8/0 or 70 denier
Pearlescent Flashabou
Natural ostrich herl
Tying thread
Head cement
Try this pattern in orange, pink, and gray, as well
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Video Transcript:

The Ray Charles Sow Bug is a great little pattern that’s super easy to tie and has proven itself just about everywhere particularly on the Bighorn River in Montana. It’s usually fished subsurface and I’ve found it especially effective trailed behind a weighted nymph, like a bead head hare’s ear.

Although it can be tied on a curved shank hook, a standard dry fly hook like a Dai-Riki #300 also works really well. The pattern is frequently tied in size 16. Start by mashing the barb on the hook and getting it firmly secured in your tying vise.

For thread, I’m going to go with fluorescent orange 70 Denier UTC in order to form a bright little head on the fly. Start your thread on the hook shank behind the eye and take wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag.

You can use spooled flashback material but straight flashabou works just fine. Lay the flashabou on the near side of the hook and take thread wraps to secure it. Allow thread torque to carry the flashabou to the top of the hook shank and then hold it up at a shallow angle as you take wraps rearward to keep it centered on top. End with your tying thread right at the start of the bend.

Here, I’m going to use natural colored ostrich herl to form the body, but the pattern seems to work well over a wide range of colors. Orient the plume so the stem side or backside is facing you. Snip a single herl off at its base, right by the stem. With the stem side of the herl facing you, snip off the little angled portion of the butt and then strip an 1/8th inch or so of fibers free from both sides of the stem.

With the stem side of the herl pointing up, lay it against the near side of the hook and take thread wraps to secure it. Continue making nice, even thread wraps all the way up to the hook eye. Begin to wrap the ostrich herl around the hook shank. Although it can be difficult to see, the bare stem is pointing forward, toward the hook eye. Each wrap you take goes over the bare stem of the previous wrap. You don’t want to twist the stem while doing this. As you can see, orienting the herl in this manner results in a nice full, even body.

When you reach the eye, take a few thread wraps to secure the herl, then pull it and any stray fibers back and take wraps rearward to bind them down. Reach in with the tips of your tying scissors and snip the excess herl off close.

With your fingertips, part the fibers down either side of the hook leaving a flat area along the shank. Pull the flashabou forward over top and secure it with a few turns of tying thread. Then fold the flashabou back and take wraps over that. This is critical to keeping the slippery flashabou from pulling out from underneath the thread wraps. You can then snip the excess flashabou off close.

Do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish and snip or cut your tying thread free. And that’s all there is to it. A drop of head cement will help lock everything in place and adds a little bit of shine to the head of the fly.

Even if you don’t fish the Bighorn, it’s a good idea to have a bunch of these in your fly box.