Tying our Trout & Salmon Flies - Have we been tying them
by John Gray
UPSIDE DOWN WET FLIES
Two wet flies are shown below. Which
one is dressed upside down?
Now before answering this question,
I would suggest that you go immediately and run a bath. Run a foot or so
of water. While the bath is running, go to your fly tying station and
gather as many different shapes and sizes of single hook as you can lay
hands on (you might also gather a few doubles as well just for good
measure). Take also a length of about three feet of fine fly tying
thread. Take the assembled hooks and thread to the bathroom and turn off
the bath. Now take each hook in turn, thread the fly tying thread
through the eye of each hook and even up the ends of the thread. Now you
have a doubled length of thread about 18 inches long with a hook on the
end. Drop each hook, so attached, in turn into the bath and pull it
through the water.
I expect that your experiments, like
mine, will show that most single undressed hooks, and doubles for that
matter, when pulled through the water, swim naturally with points
Is it logical, then, to dress our
wet flies (we might exclude dry flies from our considerations here as
their dressing is subject to different criteria) so that they swim
"upside down", i.e. contrary to their natural tendency to swim with hook
points upwards? What advantage do we gain by so doing? I must say that
no immediate advantage springs to my mind.
It might be said, certainly, that
the conventionally dressed fly above "looks better". It does to me, but
I suspect that this is due merely to traditional custom and practice, to
a preconceived notion of how a fly should look. Certainly there can be
no denying that wet flies dressed in the conventional manner work.
Furthermore, it might be said that, if dressed, as most flies are, with
the bulk of the dressing on the side opposite the hook point, the fly
will normally swim, as the dresser intended, with hook point down, the
buoyancy of the dressing overcoming the natural physical tendency.
On the other hand, is there any
advantage to be gained in dressing our single and double hooked flies in
line with their natural tendency to swim with hook points up? I think
that there may be. For example, would the hook point on a fly dressed in
the manner of the second fly above not be more easily hidden among the
fly dressing, and therefore less conspicuous to a fish? Would the hook
point, swimming on top of the fly, not be less easily damaged on a rocky
riverbed, or less easily caught up on riverbed weed? Would a fly so
dressed not be more stable in the water, the orientation of the hook
assisting, rather than opposing, the fly's natural equilibrium,
especially in a rough river current?
In short, then, why have we, for
centuries, dressed out wet flies upside down?
Salmon Fly Hooks
For more information on, or to buy, Salmon, Trout and Sea
Trout Flies, see
Trout and Salmon Flies