I call this fly the Flying Squirrel Nymph. It’s a mash-up of two of my favorite patterns, Cal Bird’s Birds Nest and Dave Whitlock’s Red Fox Squirrel Nymph. It may not look like any one bug in particular but it resembles many in general.
For a hook a Dai-Riki #730 in size 14 works well, but this pattern is easy to tie even down to an 18. Start by mashing the barb. With this size 14, a 7/64” gold bead is just about perfect. Here, I’m using tungsten for added weight. Get hold of the bead and the hook, and feed the bead onto the hook point, small hole first. You can then get the assembly firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise.
To stabilize the bead and add still more weight, I’ll use .02 lead-free wire. Get the wire started on the hook shank and take 7 or 8 touching wraps before helicoptering to break it off close. Shove the wraps up into the bead and get the tail end squared away on the hook shank.
For thread, I like to kind of match the bead so use UTC 70 Denier in a color called wood duck. You can also use 140 Denier for larger hook sizes like this, if you want. Get your thread started on the shank behind the wire and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. Continue taking thread wraps over top of the wire to stabilize it and then work your way down onto the hook shank.
Small gold ultra wire is used to rib the fly and add segmentation. An 8-10” length is enough to make numerous flies. Secure the wire to the shank with wraps of tying thread. You want the wire to end up on the far side of the hook, bound down all the way to the bend. Relocate your tying thread back up to just behind the weight.
Wood duck flank feather is used for both the tail and legs. I like already prepped feathers that didn’t quite make it as dry fly wing material. Pull down 8-10 fibers on one side of the feather and, while keeping the tips aligned, strip them free. With the fibers in your right hand, measure to form a tail a little less than a hook shank in length and transfer that measurement rearward to the start of the bend. Take wraps of tying thread to bind the wood duck to the top of the shank. Once it’s bound down well, snip the excess butt ends off.
I’ve tried making my own red fox squirrel dubbing blend but nothing comes close to Dave Whitlock’s SLF blend. You’ll notice this is the lighter color, specifically designed for the abdomen of the fly. A small pinch is all you need. Build a slender dubbing noodle on your tying thread about 3” long. Begin taking wraps with the noodle so the dubbing starts right at the base of the tail. Keep taking wraps to create a tapered abdomen that extends 2/3 of the way up the hook shank.
Get hold of the gold wire and make open spiral wraps with it, over top of the dubbing, to segment the fly, 6 or 7 usually looks pretty good. Then, anchor the wire with firm wraps of tying thread and helicopter to break the excess off close.
Get hold of the same wood duck flank feather you used for the tail, and kind of fold it over top of the fly with the tips extending all the way to the back edge of the hook. Take wraps of tying thread to secure the feather so it roughly encircles the fly. Don’t sweat it if you have a few spaces. Then snip the excess fibers off close. Again, there’s no need to sweat, just trim them up as best you can.
The thorax of the fly is also made from a Whitlock specialty blend, this time, the darker red fox stuff. Take a small clump from the packet and leave it out and handy. Pull down on your bobbin to expose about 3” of thread and give the bobbin a counter clockwise spin to uncord and flatten the thread. Doing this will allow you to smooth the thread out even further with your dubbing needle, then use it to split the thread into two legs, so you can insert your index finger to hold them open. Place a small clump of the dubbing between the two thread strands and then remove your index finger to clamp the dubbing in place. Give your bobbin a really good clockwise spin to form a brushy little dubbing rope. Then start taking wraps with the rope to create a somewhat wild looking thorax on the fly. Yes, it’s supposed to look that rough.
Finally, spin your bobbin counter clockwise to uncord your thread and do a 5 or 6 turn whip finish, seat the knot well and snip or cut your tying thread free. You can pull or trim out the really errant fibers if you like but it certainly isn’t necessary.
I’ve only been using this pattern for a short time but its turned out to be remarkably effective.