The CFF was born of frustration.

Barry Mitchell and I stopped at Shirley and Bill Sara’s, proprietors of the Bedside Manor on the Crowsnest River, to get permission to fish the loop south of the house. Bill and Shirley’s daughter Dexine spotted us from the basement. Heading up the stairs and rounding the house, she called "Can I come too"? Dexine was 11 that summer and an accomplished fisherman. Barry tied on a Stimulator for her and she did well on Barry’s side of the river but it wasn’t long before she joined me on my side, the Stimulator gone.

Recalling another great Fly Fishing gal Iona Bengry, I tied Iona’s favorite dry fly the Western Coachman to Dexine’s leader. Dexine caught fish, lots of fish. Wasn’t long before Barry and I were both casting the Western. But they don’t last. Five fish or so and they are sinking, the herl broken or the hackle loose. My tie of the Western needed some upgrading.

Back at camp that night, supper over, dishes done, Scotch poured, I pondered what options I might use on the Western. For several years I had been using Macramé yarn as strike indicators so I decided to incorporate macramé as a wing plus some other tying tricks to make the Western last longer. The CFF was born that night. The name came later.

Material list:

  • Hook: Tiemco TMC 100 or equivalent in sizes 12>16
  • Thread: Black Danville’s 6/0 prewaxed
  • Tail: Brown Zylon or brown Macramé yarn
  • Body: 3 strands of peacock herl for size 12 hook
  • Wing: White Macramé yarn
  • Hackle: Grade # 3 or worse Hoffman or Metz Grizzly Cock Hackle
  • Glue: Thinned flex glues

Tying notes:

  • Tail installation and trimming: use about ½ of a wooden match volume for the tail. Cut the tail off to about 3/8" in length for a size 12 hook. Trim the tail to a arrow point.
  • Body construction: Peacock herl tied and wrapped by itself will fall apart after a few fish. Trim about 3/4" of weaker herl from the tip end and tie it in at the hook bend. Make a loop of tying thread. Capture the herl and thread with your hackle pliers and twist into a rope. Wrap the herl up the hook. The herl MUST form a small bump at the tie off point [wing installation point] to force the wing upwards. I use a Griffin Rotary Hackle Pliers. It allows the herl/thread to be twisted readily.
  • Wing Construction: Use less than a wooden match volume for the wing tied in at the bump of herl. I use a 1 1/2" length and trim away the excess later.
  • Hackle is tied in the normal dry fly position 3 turns only.
  • Wing Trimming: press the wing down so that it lays parallel with the body of the fly and trim the wing to the same length as the tail. The wing then should be pulled upward to 35-45 degrees for gluing.
  • Make several cuts from the tip of the wing towards the tie in point. This is to thin out the wing.
  • Glues: very thin flex type glues are needed for this fly. Place a drop on the top at the hackle/wing junction after the wing is trimmed. Separate and pull fibers of the macramé wing upwards and sideways keep the wing material fluffy. Don’t let the glue bind the wing into a solid mass. The fly will not float.

Additional notes:

  • As the wing floats the fly, good quality hackle is a waste and reduces hooking due to the stiff hackle forcing the fly out of the fish’s mouth. Poorer quality hackle is webby and doesn’t cause this problem. I use Hoffman or Metz Grade # 3 at 3 turns only.
  • Macramé yarns are now out of favor but are still available in limited colors from some craft shops. One hundred yard balls of yarn are available for less than $10.00. Other yarns might work as well, but macramé yarn’s denier lends itself to the capture of air bubbles plus it has enough strength to support the fly
  • This fly is meant to float. The use of paste floatants will cause the fly’s wing to adhere to itself making the wing unable to capture the air bubbles. If you must use floatant, use it sparingly and rub it so the wing still stands fluffy and upright.
  • I have tried a number of colors for the wing and body but have always returned to white wing, herl body and brown tail. The white wing allows us older folks to readily see the fly. Herl has some type of magic quality that catches fish and the brown tail seems to represent a trailing husk of some type.
  • I have tried both Grizzly and Coachman Brown hackle colors with success.
  • This fly is meant to be tied "soft". There are no stiff wings, tails or hackle that will reduce the ability of the fly’s hook to get into the fish’s mouth.
  • For hook sizes 16-20 , I have left the hackle and tail off the fly. The fly still works.
  • If you want your CFF [or any fly for that matter] to last, find a hook remover that doesn’t have serrated teeth and locking jaws. I use needle nose pliers with the teeth filed off of them.
With a tail of Zylon, wing of macramé, loop twisted herl and some glue the basic fly was complete. On a trip later that summer, Mike Dell and I fished some cutthroat creeks. After fishing the same fly for 2 full days, I finally lost it in a cutthroat. That was after 115 trout. So the fly had a name C [Roman numeral for 100] F [fish] F [fly].

But the surprises didn’t end on its longevity. It worked great as a dry fly on a dry/dropper combination. There aren’t many dry flies that you can pull underwater, release the tension and the fly pops to the surface. Although the CFF has been only used for a couple of years, it has accounted for a lot of fish by myself and others. It is now my "go to" fly.



(This article originally appeared in Barry Mitchell's Alberta Fishing Guide 2001. Reproduced with permission.)

Updated 01/01/2005.



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