Larva Boy, Larva Girl and the original White Fly

The quest to create the finest army of trout flies has become an annual occurrence. I am pleased to admit it will never be accomplished; that’s right never! Never in a million years and that thought makes me happy. As far as I’m concerned fly tying alone has far too many variables to enable one to say that his or her army of flies is the best that can be accomplished.

So many variables in fact that I believe there is not one pattern out there that can’t be tweaked, manipulated or re-engineered to improve its effectiveness. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost confidence in flies like the Adams dry fly and the Pheasant Tail nymph, and I tie them to spec, down to the last detail, as part of each year’s front line fly troops. However, the second, third and fourth line of defenses are variations of these old time patterns. They have different colored tails or a bit of flash added. The body is a different style or texture than the original. These slight changes have made these patterns more or sometimes less effective over the course of fly tying history.

Fly tying to me is creative, and that is what I find fascinating about this form of art . All who tie can eventually copy the patterns and follow the recipes. But to me, repeating the same steps over and over again without creative thought or variation is mind numbing. I spent one summer shoving ear after ear of sweet corn through the ear cutter to make Green Giant Nibblets brand corn. 6 identical corn cobs were inserted in 6 identical packs and placed in 6 identical boxes to be shipped to 6 identical Cub Foods. You get the picture. The monotony of 12 hour shifts repeating this process was a recipe to creative suicide. Some folks enjoyed the repetition, but not me.

Creative Evolution is one factor involved when one looks at answering the question; What makes a great pattern?  A simple example goes like this. Pheasant tail -> Bead head, pheasant tail -> Bead head, flash back, pheasant tail-> Bead head, flash back, soft hackle, pheasant tail-> Tungsten bead head, flash back, soft hackle, pheasant tail. This evolution of pattern, accelerated by the hand of the creative tier is the first important factor in developing a great pattern. Because tiers all over the world continue to explore a rapidly expanding array of synthetic materials and strive to develop new tying techniques, it is hard to foresee this process of pattern evolution ever ending.

Here is a favorite pattern that I am never without and the story of how it has changed over the years.

2011 Larva Boy and original White Fly

Larva Boy began as a reasonable facsimile of a white grub. The 1990’s fly was tied on a straight shanked hook with black thread. The body of the fly was white yarn or dubbed with some kind of white natural fur, rabbit, I think. It was named white fly. The origins of this fly came from my friend Carl Haensel’s father as I understand it. The fly was used as a pattern that could easily be seen in the clear waters of Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Idea was that trout in non-active holding lies could be coaxed to feed if the fly was put directly on their nose. The white color of the grub pattern enabled the angler to sight the fly after casting and steer it right into the fishes mouth. Until I saw Carl succeed at this technique one afternoon on the Rush River in Western Wisconsin, I would not have believed its effectiveness. After spotting a trout of gargantuan size (high 20″ range) staged in reasonably slow moving water about 3 feet deep, Carl made the cast and steered the fly at the trout. To our surprise the fish opened its mouth and ate the fly without moving an inch. In his excitement Carl lashed out with a monumental hook set simultaneously losing his balance and crashing with a stagger and a splash into the cold waters of the river no less than 6 feet from the fish. The big brown took off like a shot and was never heard from again. He took the white fly with him. We laughed and lamented at the loss.

The white fly has evolved over the last 20 years into a different version of the same thing. Now that I better understand it, I use it in a number of different situations now. The 1990’s  model was made of rabbit or white yarn as stated above. It had little character and was easy to tie.  The fly worked for the sight fishing purpose well and got occasional strikes when fished deep as a nymph.

Early 2000 Larva Boy (blk head)

The 2000-2010 version saw a change in materials and some creative evolution. This version used Teflon tape(yes, plumbers tape) that was flat wrapped and then folded smaller and smaller to give a segmented look. The size of the thorax was also increased in comparison to the  size of the body. It seemed to fool fish more often.  The segmenting was subtle but visible. In 2000, I began to discover how important a food source that crane flies were to the trout in our area and that the white fly, in a bit more refined form, was a good imitation of the smaller species of cranes. I think it was 2001 when the head of the fly became tan/cinnamon and again the patterns success rate seemed to get better. I also added Larva Girl which was a gold bead headed version of the same pattern. For me, Larva Girl was a flop and Larva boy would out fish her dramatically and regularly. By 2005 Larva Girl ceased to exist in my trout boxes.

Larva Girl 2010 (Air Head collection)

In 2010 Larva Girl has gotten a makeover. Her reappearance, using a bead of pink pearlescent glass, will once again give Larva Boy a partner in my fly box. The  different technique she was tied with also gave me the inspiration to tie Larva Boy in the same manner. The Teflon tape was twisted into a rope instead of folded, making the segmentation more pronounced. The body is still soft and mold-able and sinks like a rock at the same time. The changes in the pattern come after learning more about the crane fly larva and its use of propulsion of water to transport itself. This contraction and expansion process I envision, make the larva’s segmentation more pronounced. We’ll See.

Larva Boy and Girl 2010

In closing, creative evolution is the one factor in fly tying that can make a pattern better. I think most of us who tie do it to some extent. The new and improved LB & LG will hit the water January 1st but will most likely get their most water time in late may through the summer months when the crane flies are most prevalent. I believe I understand the pattern better and have changed it to more closely compliment those uses. Now, I not only believe this pattern is a good sight fishing pattern, but also a good crane fly imitation, terrestrial grub imitation (especially during rising and falling water levels) and a good dirty water pattern. I believe the pattern has changed for the better, at least until it evolves again .

Larva Boy Recipe

Hook- TMC 2487 or similar #10-16

Thread- Tan or cinnamon

Body and Thorax- regular Teflon tape, split and twisted depending upon hook size.

Larva Girl- Pink pearlescent glass bead (sm )