The Lure of Stuff: Wanting What You Can't Have

Category:
Fly Fishing, Flies, Underground Entertainment
Added Date:
Thursday, 9 Nov, 2006
Summary
EVERYONE has a few Pheasant Tail Nymphs in their box. Frank Sawer's deceptively simple pattern has developed a worldwide following.
 
Content
Sully Correspondent

By Sully, Underground Correspondent in charge of arcana.

EVERYONE has a few Pheasant Tail Nymphs in their box. Frank Sawer's deceptively simple pattern has developed a worldwide following.

Precious few anglers, though, have even heard of the Sawer Killer Bug. As with the P.T., Sawer chronicled the development, tying and fishing of the Killer Bug in "Nymphs and the Trout".

Chadwicks 477 Killer Bug WoolFirst published in 1958, this bountiful book explains how Sawer developed the simple cigar-shaped bug to catch grayling in the upper Avon.

In that role the Killer Bug has achieved almost cult-like status in the British Isles and Europe. In grayling-poor America, however, the fly hasn't received the recognition it deserves.

The bug was tied to imitate the creature anglers call freshwater shrimp (ammarus pleus in England).

Simple Pattern. Killer Results?
In the profoundly minimalist manner that led Sawer to omit legs from his P.T. Nymph, he left off the antennae, shiny carapace, the multiple legs and leglike appendages (gnathopods and pleopods) that spell "shrimp" to human beings.

It's like drawing a rabbit without adding the ears. What's left is a copper wire foundation with wool wrapped over it. That's it.

Sawer on the obvious, "Once again this is of very simple construction, so simple indeed that anyone looking at it could be forgiven for thinking it could deceive a fish."

There almost has to be a hitch in something this elegant. There is.

The Killer Yarn
Sawer specified that the body material for the Killer Bug had to be a particular color of mending yarn, a mixture of wool and nylon; Chadwick's 477. He had extensively experimented and nothing else fished as well.

Nowhere in "Nymphs and the Trout" is there a description of the color of this magical yarn. The tease is that the color of the bug changes completely when wet. According to Sawer, ""¦ it is this that causes its attraction for so many kinds of fish."

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Thanks for raising our hopes, Frank. All a Chadwick-less angler has to do is ascertain the color that's irresistible to shrimp-eating fish when wrapped around red copper wire and wetted.

Charles Ritz fished with Sawer and became a devote of the Killer Bug. In "A Fly Fisher's Life" Ritz writes that the bug is tied with "grey wool," but some subtleties might have been lost in translation from the French.

Other descriptions of the blend have described it as "fawn with a pinkish tinge" and "red, brown and grey."

Where was the Borger Color System when we needed it?

Help Isn't on the Way
In 1958 Chadwick's 477 was, to quote Sawer, "not very easy to obtain". Naturally Chadwick's immediately ceased production of the stuff, knowing that flyfishermen as a breed are particularly susceptible to the allure of arcane materials.

From the first time I first read about the Killer Bug I knew that I had to get some Chadwick's 477.

Sometime in the late 1970's an obscure advertisement appeared in an early issue of Flyfisherman Magazine. A company identified only by initials located in Ogden, Utah was offering the original Sawer Killer Bug yarn for sale.

The whole setup sounded perfect. An obscure group situated in the middle of the desert would be the logical source for something this arcane and powerful.

I have no idea if anyone else acted on the ad. (Maybe selling discontinued darning wool isn't a foolproof business plan.) Maybe the illuminati simply moved to a different dimension.

My letter requesting more yarn several years later was returned by the Post Office. After a couple of decades I'm now left with just a few turns of the precious two-strand darning wool.

Substitues? Not Likely
The color? Well, it's easy to see how Charles Ritz could stop short with the word "grey." It's a thatched-roof cottage, gather around a bowl of steaming gruel kind of color. 477 apparently was developed for darning knickers torn on Highland gorse. It's easy to see why Chadwick's discontinued the stuff: no one has worn a garment this color since V-2's stopped raining on London.

My artist wife calls the color "taupe": a word like "holistic" that contains no substance.

montana river map

If you are one of the dozens of anglers with access to "Fly-tyer's Color Guide" by Al Caucci and Bob Nastasi look up 4y2r3b23w. How does gray, with subtle overtones of tan describes the color? That's the base color to the dry yarn.

When wet it does display a pinkish overtone. To the point; when the yarn is presented to fish over a red copper base it fully merits the name "Killer."

Who Eats This Stuff?
Scudding fish, sow bug eaters, fish grubbing pre-emergent caddis, heck, fasting fish are all susceptible to the fly. Quite a few years ago a short blurb appeared in Ed Story's Feather-Craft newsletter. It promised Chadwick's original 477. Naturally I bit.

When the stuff arrived it was a disappointment. It was much browner that the original yarn. Too "fawny". But we tied Killer Bugs with it and they worked, too.

Sawer tied the fly in sizes 3 through 10 using the reverse- numbered Kendal nomenclature (comparable to our Redditch sizes 14 through eight) and fished the fly for everything from grayling to, and this is both astonishing and compelling, Atlantic salmon. Locally we stick with smaller sizes, 14 down to 18. The fly is especially effective in the fall.

Read More Big Fall Fishing

A few years ago Paul Redfern, the crafty owner of FishOn Fly and Tackle in Butte managed to score a few inches of certified Chadwick's 477 from an English tier. Sure enough the stuff from Utah was the real deal.

You got some you want to send to Sully?

 
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Destinations
 (2)
This is a small town with a big heart, a veritable fisherman’s paradise. Located near the fish-filled Madison River, and surrounded by the waters of Ennis Lake, the Ruby River, Hebgen ... moreLake, Quake Lake, Henry’s Lake, the Big Hole River and scores of smaller streams, the town boasts what many consider the best trout fishing in the world. As well known for its wranglers as its anglers, Ennis has succeeded in maintaining the look and feel of its original, gold town roots. Warm and hospitable, the area offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from simple campsites, rustic motels and gracious hotels, to full-service, luxury resorts. Fly shops are numerous, stocked by local experts ready to advise and assist, while guides can be booked for trips throughout the area.

Boredom is the only thing unavailable in Ennis. Throughout the summer season the city hosts a series of events, including its renowned 4th of July Celebration Parade and a genuine, old-fashioned rodeo. In August, fly-fishing luminaries from around the US, flock to Montana to compete in the Madison Fly Fishing Festival. Athletes also find their way to Ennis to compete in the city’s Madison Trifecta, two shorter races followed by a full Marathon at 9000 feet, the highest elevation run in America. For the true sportsman, October falls in with the annual Hunter’s Feed. What’s caught, typically elk, moose deer, pheasant and bobcat, gets cooked on the streets and served up to hungry spectators.

Flanked by three grand mountain ranges, The Tobacco Root, Gravelly and Madison, Ennis is scenic and entertaining – truly an authentic, fly fisher’s haven.
Fishing Waters
 (2)
The Jefferson River is an important part of a system of rivers that combine to form the majestic Missouri. Starting at the confluence of the Big Hole and Beaverhead rivers near Twin ... moreBridges, Montana, it winds 77 miles in a northeasterly fashion to Three Forks. Here, it meets with the Madison and Gallatin rivers that together converge into the Missouri River at the Missouri Headwaters State Park. Like so many other rivers in Montana, the Jefferson, named by Clark in honor of the U.S. President, runs deep with history. In fact, the Jefferson River is a segment of the larger Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, administered by our National Park Service.

When thinking about the Jefferson, a Class 1 river for recreational enjoyment, most observers view the river in three distinct sections. Characterized by slow, meandering flows, the upper third works its way through a broad, arid valley. Along this braided, 44 mile long floodplain, you will encounter working farms, dense cottonwood stands, flowered meadows and a variety of wildlife until you reach the town of Cardwell. Throughout the next 15 miles, its waters flow through a narrow, steep canyon where the water can be deep, slow and contained. As a result, the stretch from Cardwell to the Sappington Bridge has comparatively fewer trees, swamps, meadows and wildlife.

At Sappington Bridge the river once again becomes a circuitous, rambling river, rich in swamp life, colorful fields, large cottonwood groves and productive agricultural land. The presence of significant agriculture has resulted in competition for water use. During dry years, the river was tapped generously for irrigation, dropping water levels to the point where fish populations were adversely affected. Recent improvement in riparian management has tended to alleviate these issues. Primarily known as a brown trout river, rainbows, mountain whitefish, burbot and northern pike can also be found here. Less well known and less discovered, the Jefferson offers the opportunity to catch large fish in a scenic, un-crowded environment.
 (4)
The Beaverhead is a nearly 70 mile long tributary of the Jefferson River. Its original course has changed due to the construction of the Clark Canyon Dam, as have its headwaters, once ... moreformed by the confluence of the Red Rock River and Horse Prairie Creek. These rivers, along with the first 6 miles of the Beaverhead, are now flooded as a result of the reservoir project. Today, the Beaverhead flows through a wide valley where it meets the Big Hole River and forms the Jefferson River. The river is well known for its clear, blue-green color, narrow, winding turns, willow-lined, undercut banks and thriving insect life that attracts fish.

The origin of its colorful name can be traced back to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, when their indigenous guide, Sacajawea, recognized a large rock formation in the middle of the river known to her as the Beaver’s Head. According to Lewis, this indicated to her that they were close to the summer retreat of her Indian nation. On August 15, 1805 the party reached her tribe, where one of her remaining brothers, Cameahwait, Chief of the Shoshone, provided crude maps, food and horses, making it possible to continue the Expedition through the mountains. On their return trip Lewis gave the river, once full of beavers, the name it now holds.

Fortunately, floating the Beaverhead in today’s world is much easier, more fun and amply rewarding. It is widely considered one of Montana's premier Brown trout fishing rivers, producing more large trout, particularly Brown trout, than any other river in the state. Due to its abundance of large trout, fly fishing the stretch near Dillon, from Clark Canyon Dam to Barrett’s Dam and through to Twin Bridges, tends to be very popular and get can crowded, even although the fish can also be hard to catch. While large fish can be caught with dry flies, it is primarily a nymph fishing river along with a swiftly moving current, so expect to be constantly mending your line.
 (4)
If fly wranglers were gossips, the “Blue Ribbon” Madison River would likely be their primary object of attention. Arguably it’s the most talked over, written up and frequented river ... morein the entire state of Montana – and that’s saying something. What’s more, no one has anything bad to say about it and that’s for a good reason. There’s nothing bad to say. Its scenic journey begins in Yellowstone National Park at the convergence of the Gibbon and Firehole rivers and continues for 19 miles through parkland. Within the Park, fishing rules apply: no live bait and sorry to disappoint, but it’s catch and release only. Once outside the Park the river meanders past working ranches, stately conifer forests and cottonwood lined banks, interrupted by riffles and quiet runs that contain large rainbow and trophy brown trout. Flowing alongside Yellowstone’s West entrance road, the river enters the Hebgen Lake, created by Hebgen dam, until it reaches Quake Lake, a bit downstream from the dam. At this point the river is commonly called either the Upper Madison or the Lower Madison, although in fact, they are one and the same.

//
Upper Madison – Quake Lake to Ennis Lake
Directly below Quake Lake the river roars into 5 long miles of Class V whitewater with steep gradients and large boulders along the way. As the rapids decline, the magic begins. For the next 53 miles, often referred to as the 50 Mile Riffle, the cold river runs north and the fish jump high. Annual runs of spawning trout make their way from Hebgen Lake, rainbows in the spring and browns in the fall. Known the world over for its “hard fighting” trout, it’s not unusual to pull a 25” brown from these upper waters. In deference to the purists and fly-fishing enthusiasts, it’s wading only from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge. Boats may be used to access the river, but if you’re going to fish, your feet must be on the riverbed. Fortunately, the Hebgen Dam releases water throughout the year, leveling its flows and relieving it of spring runoff issues and summer shrinkage.

Lower Madison – Ennis Lakes to Three Forks
A short section of the river between Ennis Dam and the power station maintains relatively low water levels and provides wonderful opportunities for wading. Past the power station the river regains its muscle and for 7 miles winds through Bear Trap Canyon. Hiking trails offer the only entry, great for those that like to walk and seek the solitude of a designated wilderness area. Floating is permitted but requires a lengthy shuttle and the ability to work through Class III-IV whitewater. Once out of the canyon the river flows in shallow riffles until it reaches Three Forks and joins the Missouri. From Warm Springs to Greycliff, the river is easily accessible for drifters and wading.
Trips
$
500
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
We all know how to catch the most fish--nymphing. After all, nymphs account for over 80% of a fishes diet. But there is more to it than just flopping a bobber out there, much more. ... moreFor example, how far up your leader do you want to put that indicator? How much weight should you use? How often should you change your nymph rig? And that is just scratching the surface. Come with us on a fun filled day learning how to increase your success rate with nymphs! *The location of this trip will be decided by the guide based on the quality of nymph fishing on his last few trips
$
1,625
-
$
1,925
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 3 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
5 days
 (1)
Experience the Madison River Like Never Before Learn the best spots on the Madison River with 5 great fishing days with Red Mountain Adventures. Eric Shores, with over 35 years of ... moreexperiencing guiding on the Madison River will take you down a journey of the best places to fish.

The journey starts on the Upper Madison River on a guided float trip covering about 8-11 miles of premier fly fishing water. The following day includes a recipe (location flies, and technique) on a do it yourself wade location near the fly fishing town of Ennis. The third day moves you on to where the Madison River dumps into Ennis Lake for a full float day stalking the giants. The following day provides instructions again for a do it yourself wade day. Location will depend on the hot locations during your visit. The final day is another full day float day on the lower Madison River. All together, you will experience the Madison River like never before by true expert.

Note: The order or location may change based on where the best spots are at the time.
$
500
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
Destination:
Outfitters
 (1)
Welcome to Southwest Montana's finest fly fishing adventures. Blue ribbon trout water is literally steps away when you visit us in the picturesque town of Ennis, Montana. You may spend ... morethe day on our home river, the world famous Madison or drive to one of our other local rivers such as the Big Hole, Beaverhead, Ruby or the Jefferson. Whether you are a new angler or an old pro we have the expertise and patience to make your time on the water chasing wild trout a success.
Type:
Fishing
26 comments
As if we needed further proof that some of the Undergrounders are several wraps short of a full card...
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Mike, Sounds good! The Killer Bug sure isn't obscure any more! If you wander over to the Classic Cane bulletin board fly pattern section you'll encounter extensive discussion about replacement yarns and even wires. Sully aka Rio Grand King
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I have been using Fortismma 1072 Latte colored 2 ply sock mending yarn... 75% wool 25% nylon. I have taken hundreds of trout and grayling (in Montana and Alaska) on these. Same size darning yarn as Chadwick's and similar color.
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Do you still have that card?
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[#8230;] [#8230;]
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So I bought 5 cards of the yarn in a white... Ebay from England $2 for all 5 cards...In April 2011. In looking closely I think a grey tan wool with an overwrap of Gary LAfontaine Touch dubbing would do the trick.. The stuff that sticks out from the wool is actually the 15% nylon that we would call antron touch dubbing... Since browns love a touch of copper and there is an antron sparkle and yes gammarus ... more can be living and pink.... well... that's about it... I will give it a whirl... Next stop the Green, Colorado and Provo Rivers... we'll see...
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This is the thanks I get for introducing the Underground to one of Anglerdom's best secrets? No wonder Clara always liked your brother best.
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For shamelessly keeping the thread going, Sully wins the Underground's Weekly Singlebarbed Award - given to those exhibiting signs of fly tying materials OCD.
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From The Tenkara Invasion, Fly Tyer, Spring 2010: “He employs a little more variety in his subsurface flies, but not much, and is especially fond of a little-known pattern by Frank Sawer, the British inventor of the Pheasant-Tail Nymph, called the Killer Bug. It's made of yarn- a particular kind, in a particular shade- with a nearly invisible rib.”
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Hi, I have some of Chadwicks 477, about 2m short of a full card. Any offers?
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We have a professional fly tyer, Phil Holding, advertising in the UK. See his web site: spidersplus.co.uk He will tie the Sawyer Killer Bug USING REAL CHADWICKS 477 they sell at 60 pence each (about 35 cents) How does he do it? Here is a quote from his site "Also, in addition to patterns for both Brown and Rainbow Trout, there are flies suited for Grayling - both dries and wets, again tied to traditional ... more recipes such as FRANK SAWYER'S Killer Bugs tied with just GENUINE Chadwick's 477 wool and wire - and many OLIVER EDWARDS patterns such as his Deep Diving Shrimp." If this wool is so valuable, you should be able to buy a bunch of these flies, unravel them and flog the reclaimed 477 at a profit!
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TC and Richard, The Chadwicks is too precious to be allowed to slip into some rich bastard's fly tying cabinet. There has to be a share-the-wealth Troutunderground scheme in this somehow.
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On eBay, probably hundreds.
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How much is an unused card of Chadwick 477 worth? I discovered 10 cards of Chadwicks with just one 477 amongst them. They were in an antique sewing box at a house auction in Norfolk (UK) where I live. The sewing box went for more money than I could afford, but after the sale, the lady who bought it was more than willing to sell me the darning wools for a fiver!!
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Mike: Let us know how it works.
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I've come across some 4 ply tapestry wool the identical shade of 477 - I'll tie some bugs with it and see how they fish
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C4C - this isn't just any nymph. It's mid-20th century pattern that's fallen into disuse and is made from unobtainable materials. It really doesn't get a much better than that, thereby qualifying for the Underground's rare Hackle Exemption.
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C4CRaine (if that IS your real name) Here's a quote from Bob White, a legendary wooden boat builder on Flathead Lake, that might cleanse your pallet. "If God had wanted me to build fiberglass boats, he'd have grown fiberglass trees.".
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nymphs.....an entire article on one nymph, I'm disgusted! The Underground must be running out of material I guess, I'm very sad to have witnessed this. I thought the Underground was better than this?
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ps. That's a great piece of correspondence Sully. Strong work. WT
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Genius! Pure genius. I must have some of that yarn. I wonder if Cabelas has it? WT
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I think I have an old sport coat in that color.
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Jason- Welcome to the quest! The stuff shown in your link looks like the yarn Ed Story sold. It works, but ISN'T 477. thee trouthole- Imagine the MacDonald's golden arches. Mentally butt up the open sides and you've got the proper fusiform shape. Just lay down a couple layers of reddish copper wire with the second layer shorter than the bottom one. Wrap magic yarn- Voila! biologists and proof readers- ... more Yes- a "G" belongs in Gammarus.
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I don't think that Waderson wool is the same. In fact I'm sure of it. Not too long ago saw some Chadwicks 477 go at an auction (small card) for a few hunder dollars. I've been trying to locate that info for you but so far no luck. Here is a photo of the fly though. http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v303/matokuwapi/FrankSawyerKillerBug.jpg
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me we see a picture of this here fly? is that too much to axe?
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Hmmm, link claims 477, but the pics aren't quite the same... https://www.waderson.com/uk/store/index.php?pf=searchamp;pc=amp;if=viewamp;pid=1794
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