Adventures in Fly Tying... October
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Photography and Video Production by Jim Stuard
From September, 1950
until 1986 H. G. Tapply was a busy man. A featured columnist in Field
and Stream magazine, Mr. Tapply wrote "The Sportsman's Notebook," which
was two or three “how-to” articles of 400 to 500 words each. He did
this more than 400 times. The entire time he also committed himself to
publishing six little thoughts about the outdoors – six tips he could
write in 50 words or less. There were 1008 “Tap’s Tips” over the length
of that career. Add to that the books, feature articles, seminars and
other responsibilities and you begin to see the drive inherent in this
modern American icon.
H.G. ‘Tap’ Tapply was a
self-taught fly tier. He was a well-rounded angler and wrote about his
experiences fishing for trout, bass, panfish and saltwater superstars.
He also wrote extensively about hunting, hiking, camping and other
outdoor activities. But somehow I recall that Tap Tapply always had
something to say about bass. I’ve been a bass fanatic almost since I
can remember. I have been a fan of Mr. Tapply for just as long.
Tapply’s bass bugs are
pragmatic creations; something that instinctively appeals to the last
vestiges of Puritanism implanted in any New England native at birth.
His deer-hair bass bugs cast easily on a medium weight fly rod, they
float like corks, and they can kick up a ruckus when a noisy retrieve is
needed. His bugs are the very model of simplicity, both geometrically
and in the way in which they are constructed. Initially unnamed, it
was the users of Tap’s creations who provided the eponymous monikers.
Can there be a greater vote of confidence than that? This is a great
pattern to start tying spun deer hair bugs if you’re new to this – and
it’s a great pattern to revisit if you’re an old hand. Tie up a few and
see what you can catch!
Hook – Mustad 3366, Size 6 to 2/0.
Alternatives include Stinger or Aberdeen hooks.
Thread – Flymaster A+ or gel-spun, white or yellow
Tail – Bucktail tied twice the length of the
Body – Spun and trimmed deer body fur, any color you'd
like. Black, white, natural and yellow are favorites. You can
tie a solid color or tie in bands. The traditional tie was
natural with a red band sandwiched between thinner black bands at the
Cement - Flexement
Click on individual images for a larger
Start the thread over the
hook barb. Keep most of the hook shank bare. It is a
little easier to spin deer hair on a bare metal shank than on a
thread covered shank if you are trying this for the first time.
Make your locking wraps about 1/8 inch long. A drop of
cement can help lock the thread in place if you're worried about a
solid anchor to tie the fly.
Select and clean a bunch of
bucktail that is fine, straight and only slightly tapered. The best
bucktail for this application comes from the end of the tall about a
third of the way from the tip. The bucktail should be about twice
the hook shank length off the tie-in point. Trim the but ends
and make tight covering wraps.
Select a good sample of deer
body hair. The best hair for bass bugs comes from a winter harvested
whitetail, if you have hunting friends. The pure white fur
from the belly is the best. The hair should be full, firm and
hollow. It is the act of the thread crushing the hollow hair
that causes it to flare, just like a straw would flare if you
crimped its center. Tie in a bunch of deer hair about the
thickness of a pencil. Use three loose wraps and tighten
Allow the thread to spin the
hair around the shank of the hook as you slowly cinch it up.
The hair should spin around twice and flare as it goes. Work a
couple of thread wraps to the front of the flared hair. Tie in
a half-hitch or two. I drop of Flexement will guarantee the
fly stays together for toothy or tough fish. As a bonus, the
Flexement will act as a lubricant for the next bunch of body hair.
Clip the fine ends off the hair before you spin - the tapered ends
look nice but don't flare or float and need to be cut.
Holding a "pencil sized"
bunch of cleaned deer body hair at the proper angle. The hair
should angle down at about 45 degrees. Take three wraps of
thread over the center of the bunch of hair. Pull the thread
slowly while releasing the hair from the left hand. The deer
hair will roll around the hook shank (spin) and flare under the
Repeat the steps above until you've tied in
enough hair to cover all the shank except the space for the front
band (about 1/4 inch). Half hitch the thread and use a drop of
glue to secure the work to this point. Select a contrasting
color of deer body hair. For a white tail and body, yellow or
red are a great choice.
Spin on the contrasting deer body hair using the
same steps and techniques explained above.
Pack the hair tightly and tie a neat small head
behind the hook eye. Use a drop of glue to secure the
thread. The fly will now look like a big puff ball. This is
where the fun starts. Remember to work slowly while you trim
the bug. You can always take some off, but you can't put any on if
you cut too much!
I like to use a double edged razor blade for
trimming deer hair. WARNING! Razor blades are really,
really sharp and you'll bleed all over your materials if you aren't
careful. Don't come crying to us if you do something stupid or
horrible. Use scissors. Rounded tip ones if necessary.
We use razor blades because we are outlaw rule-breakers. We
occasionally run with scissors, too.
The first cut is flat and perpendicular to the
bend of the hook. This cut should remove enough material to
open the gape of the hook and allow it to effectively hook the fish.
Take it easy - you may need to make two or three cuts to get exactly
the right flat plane from which to star trimming the fly.
Continue to work the fly in the round, making
small and fine cuts with the razor. Each side of a
double-edged razor will trim one fly. Throw the razor away the
minute it starts to snag hair. For the best results you really
need to use sharp razors and sharp scissors. Trim the body to
a conical shape and use scissors to trim around the tail and face of
Spread a little Flexement on the face of the fly.
This will help to stiffen and stabilize the deer hair face. A
bit of cement really helps this fly to "Pop" and make a bit of noise
when you want it to. A bit of cement on the flat bottom of the
fly will improve its floating characteristics quite a bit, too!
The finished Tap's Bug. This is a classic
smallmouth bass bug. It has been catching fish for well over
half a century and three time that from now it will still work.
If you only carry one deer hair bug, make it this one.