Fish Stories

Catching Fish on Your Own Fly

By Danny Jackson

After several years of fly fishing using store bought flies I got my first fly tying kit last year. I immediately began tying flies, not good flies, but flies.  I started off easy with zebra midges and San Juan worms, and as my confidence grew I moved on to wholly buggers, pheasant tails, dry flies, and big stoneflies. I rented books from the library, borrowed books from friends, and spent hours watching YouTube videos to learn how to improve my skills. Then late last summer I got to experience something truly rewarding, catching a fish on a fly I tied.

I was fishing at Duke’s creek with a black zebra midge, where I had been several times in the previous months and had success on that very pattern. It was early in the morning, I was fishing the first hole of the day, and after about 10 casts to various spots around the pool, I casted right down the middle of the pool and watched as my line slowly drifted through the deep section and began to sweep through the tail end of the pool. Then I saw the sight I had been dreaming of since I made my reservation to fish Duke’s two weeks prior. My leader twitched downward. I straightened my arm and lifted my rod tip, immediately feeling something pulling back and tugging on the line. I pulled up slack and began my retrieval. As the fish came closer my curiosity was killing me as I asked myself, “Did he take the bottom fly or top”. Then I saw what I was hoping for, a 10 inch rainbow trout with a homemade zebra midge stuck in the corner of its mouth, while the store bought stonefly 12 inches above the fish was empty. I netted the fish, breathed a sigh of relief, smiled, and pulled out the camera to take a picture of the greatest fish I had ever caught. Not because it was big (which it was not), not because of its color or markings, but because it meant that I could make thread and wire look like a living organism. DJtroutAs the day progressed I caught a few more fish, one more on a fly I tied, and the others on store bought flies. By the end of the day all of the 8-10 flies I tied before the trip had been lost, or the ones that remained were falling apart. It was a great day.

Since late last year I have tied a lot more flies, some good, and some bad. I still don’t consider myself to be a great fly tier, or even good for that matter. But one thing I have learned is there is a whole other level of satisfaction that comes from catching fish with a fly I created. I also noticed this past week when I opened my fly box; the vast majority of the flies in the box were tied by me.

Here are a few of my favorite flies I’ve tied over the past year. All of these are pretty basic flies, but all have proven effective at catching fish.

soft hackleDJ zebraDJ
Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail Black Zebra Midge
surveyorDJ streamerDJ
Surveyor Articulated Streamer

Tight lines,


One thought on “Catching Fish on Your Own Fly

  1. This is awesome, Danny!

    Yes, it is a great pleasure to catch one on your own flies. I remember mine, too. I was fishing in Flaming Gorge (Utah side) for a fly fishing final exam (college PE course) and to pass we had to catch a fish on one of our own tied flies. I had been trying to hook one all morning and into the afternoon, but had no success. Very few in our group were catching. We could see the trout all lined up in the middle column of gin clear water, but for all the nose-tapping, we couldn’t get them to bite.

    My 3 yo daughter asked me to tie a “bumblebee” fly for her when I was prepping for the trip a few nights before. She gave me some yellow flashy pipe cleaners so I dutifully tied one together and stuck it in my box. At Flaming Gorge a few days later, once I had tried all of my wet and drys, I thought I’d chance it and try the bee just for the heck of it. Like you, I swung the rod upstream and watched as the weighted bee careened smoothly over river rocks and into the path of the queued up trout. I was only half-watching so I was caught off guard when out of the corner of my eye I perceived a quick flash of white and felt the now familiar tug on my line.

    After a lengthy fight I was able to land a meaty 16″ rainbow with my little bee sticking out of its lower lip. After I returned it to the river my classmates gang pressed me, asking to borrow some bee flies. Unfortunately, I only had the one and it was now practically destroyed from the tug-of-war with the trout.

    I was, and am still, super proud of the little golden bee pattern and how, against my “training” and popular practice, it worked the wonder I needed it to in that moment. It was the only fish I caught on the river that day and, among my group of anglers, it was the largest.

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