Project Description

Morningwood Special

Pattern Description:

Designing a fly pattern rarely starts at the tying bench. For me, it most often starts with a vague idea, a spark, that glows and gets kicked around a fair bit in my head before I ever even sit down to try it. Sometimes, that spark turns out to be a complete dud, and thankfully, it usually makes itself apparent pretty quickly. Other times, the prototypes show a bit of promise and through some technique tweaks and material replacements I can come up with something that is very often, much better than what I originally imagined. The MW Special is one of those flies that traveled a lot of miles through my head before ever coming to fruition, but I am pretty proud of what it finally came to be.
The premise for a new foam stone came from my good friend and former Umpqua Feather Merchants Fly Czar, Brian Schmidt, mentioning something about maybe developing a Charlie Boy Stone pattern based off of my Charlie Boy Hopper. I liked the idea and brazenly thought to myself, ‘Well, this ought to be easy!” The Charlie Boy Hopper is one of my first commercial patterns and frankly, is one of those flies that took far longer to become the simple, effective pattern it has than it really should have. My brain has a way of overcomplicating things and that dang fly took me a whole summer, fall, and winter to fine tune and polish up. Reasoning that so much of the hard work was already done, I foolishly thought that I could just sit down and tweak a few parts and have a killer stonefly adult pattern magically fall from my vise. Wrong again, Craven.
As I sit here typing this, I have a rather large fly box overflowing with about seventy-five prototype flies showing the progression of what has turned into a pretty craftily designed fly pattern sitting near my right elbow. Dumping them out shows me how far off I was to start and how far the pattern has come since its inception…and just how far away it got from the Charlie Boy Hopper. Frankly, now I am thinking of designing a new hopper pattern using some of these techniques and materials just to come full circle. I love to sit down at the vise with an end in sight and a solid idea in my head, but the design process isn’t often pretty, and this box of junk sitting here is a testament to that.
I won’t bore you (or ruin my reputation) with the ugly missteps along the way, but rather I think I’ll maybe just focus on the final product here and how all the pieces came together.
Adult stones have a pretty robust body and are one of the few insects that are truly large. The salmonfly version is tied as large as a size four, while the smallest skwala version is matched by a twelve. That’s a pretty wide overall range of sizes for this bug and creating a pattern that would extrapolate down to smaller sizes was indeed a little tricky. In the beta versions of the Charlie Boy Hopper, I toyed with foam extended bodies built on a needle and as it turned out, I needed to come back around to that idea for the MW Special. With the body in hand, it took but several weeks of tweaking to replicate both the abdomen and thorax of these Jurassic bugs with the same piece of foam. Like I mentioned…some of them weren’t pretty.
Moving onto the wings, I have noted over the years that so many fly patterns are tied to match a happy little hopper or stonefly with his wings neatly folded over his back like he’s posing for a Glamour Shot. The reality is, these real critters seems none too happy nor prepared for a crash landing in the water and are often bent, broken and splayed when flopping along a bank. I wanted to create a fly with splayed wings to match the foul mood and panic of the natural when finding himself struggling to get back to dry ground. I originally used 3-D EP Fibers in gray for the wing, then Brian Schmidt popped back in at just the right moment with a proprietary mix of fibers incorporating a bit of UV Flash called Umpqua Stonefly Wing and I knew it would be perfect. As of right now, this material is unavailable but promises to be soon. Stay tuned.
The legs on the MW Stone started off so simply, literally tearing them straight off the Charlie Boy Hopper and tying them in the same way…the catch came later when my detail-oriented side came out and wasn’t happy with the fact that a real stone has six legs and my prototypes only had four…and I had no way to add the extra set without really jamming things up. I admit I laid awake a few nights trying to solve this one and I’m now happy to say I’ll show you the midnight epiphany that solved the leg issue in a wonderful way in the following tutorial.
In a fit of looking out for the other guy, I also added a bright pink hot spot to make the fly a little easier to find on the water and created yet another trouble spot for myself along the way. The short tuft of cerise McFlylon I added to the top of the fly was very visible from the top and served the purpose wonderfully, but as it turns out, was completely visible from the bottom of the fly as well, and that just wouldn’t do. A bit of tinkering resulted in the pink-over-black staggered indicator on the finished product. The initial, longer clump of black McFlylon hides the pink from the bottom view and does double duty as a contrasting indicator for flat light situations. Sometimes these things really do work out for the best.
And finally, I opted to get a little artistic for the coloration on this fly to better match the natural. While the belly of the fly remains somewhat monochromatic, I do mottle it a bit with a few smears of marker then come in with a black marker to add the variegation to the top and sides of the body as well as adding eyes. Someone asked me just the other day why I bother to marker up the top of a fly, and the simple answer is; because it makes me happy. I love the finished look of this fly, it gives me confidence in the pattern and it makes me happy. If plain, drab and boring make you happy, go ahead and skip the marker work. I like to smile when I tie a fly on so I’ll keep markering them up. And I add the eyes because I already had the marker in my hand and it’s just the right thing to do. There you go.

Materials Needed:

Hook: 200R #8-12
Thread: UNI 6/0 Rusty Brown
Body: Thin Fly Foam, Gold
Legs: MFC Sexi-Legs, Golden Yellow
Wing: Umpqua Stonefly Wing
Indicator: Hot Pink over Black McFlylon
Specials: Sewing Needle, Zap-A-Gap, Copic Markers, Sepia and Black

Step 1

Begin by mounting a large sewing needle in the jaws of the vise with the pointed end exposed. Start the tying thread with a short jam knot near the tip of the needle, leaving a long tag end of thread.

Step 2

Cut a 2x2mm strip of foam.

Step 3

Lash the foam strip to the top of the needle for a distance of about 10mm for a size 8 fly

Step 4

Return the thread to the starting point.

Step 5

Fold the foam forward again and tie it down near the starting point. We want a double layer of foam on the top of the needle here.

Step 6

Clip the excess foam flush.

Step 7

Run the thread back over the foam to the end, then back again to the starting point. This foam will create some filling for the extended body to come. Leave the thread hanging near the starting point but on top of the foam.

Step 8

Cut a strip of foam that is about 6-7mm wide by about four inches long.

Step 9

Poke the tip of the needle through the foam right through its center. I like to offset the placement here closer to one end of the foam than the other but always centered across the width.

Step 10

Slide the foam right up to the end of the foam underbody.

Step 11

Rotate the foam on the needle so it is aligned side to side.

Step 12

Lift the thread above the needle and fold both ends of the foam forward along the shank so they are even edge to edge.

Step 13

You want the thread coming up above the needle as it comes between the foam here so you can watch the angle of the first wrap and assure it is vertical along the foam.

Step 14

Bring the thread around the foam, tightening each half turn as you go until the foam is compressed tightly and you have made a narrow band of thread (about ten turns).

Step 15

Part the loose ends of the foam and fold them back toward the front of the needle. Bring the thread forward through the crease along the top edge of the foam.

Step 16

Make two or three wide turns over the needle beyond the first segment to move the thread just a little less than one half the way up the underbody.

Step 17

Lift the thread above the needle and fold the foam sides forward again, pinching them along the sides of the needle.

Step 18

Create a second band of thread with about ten turns.

Step 19

Part the foam and move thread forward through the crease on top.

Step 20

Move the thread forward to just short of the end of the underbody.

Step 21

Now make the last segment with another ten turns of thread.

Step 22

Whip finish right over the top of the thread band. Clip the thread.

Step 23

Grasp the foam body tightly in your fingertips, pinching it tight against the needle and pull toward the tip to slide the whole works off the needle.

Step 24

Once the body is removed from the needle, the original tag end of thread will be hanging out of the end along the underbody.

Step 25

Pull the slack out of the tag end, tightening the wraps from the inside! Once the slack is out, clip the tag flush.

Step 26

De-barb the hook so it doesn’t make a big hole and slide the hook point through the center of the foam right in front of the stub of underbody sticking out of the fold.

Step 27

Chuck the hook, with the body in place along the hook bend, into your vise.

Step 28

I like to turn the body perpendicular to the hook and down the bend a bit here to gain a bit of access to the hook shank.

Step 29

Start the tying thread about an eye length behind the hook eye and dress the shank back to just past the hook point. Don’t go much further back than this with the thread base to help preserve the hook gap on the finished fly.

Step 30

Return the thread to the starting point then back to the hook point then forward again to create a textured surface to the shank.

Step 31

Grab that 2x2mm strip of foam and lay it along the top of the shank at the starting point.

Step 32

Capture the end of the foam strip at the starting point and spiral wrap back over the foam to just past the hook point.

Step 33

Clip the excess foam strip flush and spiral wrap forward and back again over the foam. Leave your thread hanging at the hook point, just on top of the end of the foam underbody.

Step 34

Place a light coat of Zap-A-Gap on top of the foam strip right at the back of the underbody. Don’t go any further forward with the glue here, just right at the bend.

Step 35

Slide the extended body forward and butt it right up against the end of the underbody. The thread should be hanging vertically out of the near side of the hook on top of the lower strip of foam but under the hook shank.

Step 36

Pinch the foam strips together and begin to form the first segment on the hook by wrapping the thread over the foam strips.

Step 37

Make about ten wraps of thread to create a narrow band of thread just above the hook point.

Step 38

Part the foam and bring the thread neatly forward (horizontally) through the crease along the near side of the hook.

Step 39

Make a wrap or two around the hook shank to bring the thread forward about the same distance as all the other segments.

Step 40

Pinch the foam down on the shank again and begin the thread wrap on the near side with the thread coming out from between the two strips. Performing this on the near side will allow you to keep track of this wrap and make sure only the band of thread shows and that it is perfectly vertical over the foam. Make about ten turns of thread over the foam to create the second segment on the shank.

Step 41

Part the foam and bring the thread forward through the crease again. Note how much hook is left here in front of the second segment; about half a shank length.

Step 42

Move the thread forward by wrapping forward over the shank about for a distance equal to about two of the previous segments. You should still have a short segment worth of space between the thread and the hook eye.

Step 43

Pull the foam forward again and pinch it down along the shank, again, with the thread along the near side of the hook.

Step 44

Create the front of this segment using only three turns of thread.

Step 45

Part the foam again and bring the thread forward.

Step 46

Wrap the thread up the shank to the hook eye and then just slightly back again, leaving it hanging about half an eye length behind the hook eye.

Step 47

Fold the foam forward again and pinch it down against the shank with the thread along the near side as before.

Step 48

Create the last segment with only three turns of thread right behind the hook eye.

Step 49

Now, carefully push the hanging thread over your middle finger and away from the hook as you grasp the lower piece of foam and trim it tight to the hook shank along the bottom. Don’t get too close here but you do want to be close…just not too close so it doesn’t come out from under the thread wraps later.

Step 50

You should have a little “lip” of foam under the shank just behind (but definitely behind) the hook eye.

Step 51

Cross the thread back across the top of the last segment to the next joint back.

Step 52

Let the thread hang on the far side of the hook.

Step 53

Cut a straight piece of Sexi-Leg and lay it along the near side of the hook at a slight downward angle.

Step 54

Capture the Sexi-Leg in the thread segment with a couple turns of thread. The leg should be lined up with the seam between the two foam strips.

Step 55

Now cross the thread back over the top of the long thorax segment into the joint at its rear.

Step 56

Pull the rear end of the leg tight along the side of the body and capture it with a couple tight turns of thread.

Step 57

Make a narrow band over the leg to position it along the side of the fly.

Step 58

Cut another straight piece of Sexi-Leg and lay it along the far upper side of the joint.

Step 59

Make a couple turns of thread over it and let the thread torque pull it down into position on the far side lined up with the seam.

Step 60

Cross the thread forward over the top into the joint at the front of the long segment.

Step 61

Make one wrap around the hook…

Step 62

…and capture the front end of the far leg with a couple turns of thread.

Step 63

Make sure the legs are lined up neatly with the seam between the top and bottom foam strips along the sides of the shank.

Step 64

Trim the back legs to the same length as the end of the extended body and trim the front legs just slightly shorter.

Step 65

Separate a sparse clump of the wing fiber and lay the center of its length diagonally along the top of the hook in the second joint from the front.

Step 66

Make two turns of thread over the wing at the center of its length at the second joint.

Step 67

Pull the near end of the wing back along the near side…

Step 68

…and make two more turns diagonally across the center.

Step 69

You should now have a set of neatly stacked X-wraps over the wing in the second segment right on top of the hook. Put one more turn in each direction over the top and cinch everything down tight.

Step 70

The wings should be spread wide on top of the hook as shown here. Be conscious of the number of thread turns here so as not to create too much thread bulk.

Step 71

Brush out two strands of black McFLylon, cut their ends square and lay them along the top of the body. The ends should reach just past the end of the long segment.

Step 72

Bind the McFlylon down with a few tight turns.

Step 73

Now clip the excess as closely as you can to the thread wraps.

Step 74

Brush out two strands of cerise McFlylon, clip their ends square and lay this clump in on top of the black, just a bit shorter than the length of the black.

Step 75

Tie the cerise McFLylon down with a few tight turns.

Step 76

Clip the butt ends as closely as you can. Note that all of the thread wraps here are neatly stacked vertically and do not spread out horizontally over the shank.

Step 77

Add a tiny drop of Zap-A-Gap to the base of the McFlylon tie down. You know…just to be sure.

Step 78

The glue will run into the base and butts of the McFlylon and anchor everything in place.

Step 79

Angle the thread forward to the middle of the front segment.

Step 80

Let the thread drape over the foam in the middle of the front segment.

Step 81

Reach in and sweep the foam strip on the top of the shank back over the top of the fly along with the front legs along their respective sides.

Step 82

Create a segment right through the middle of the front segment with three tight turns of thread.

Step 83

Left the remaining piece of foam on top and bring the thread back to the base of the wing. In this photo, the thread SHOULD be coming from the segment we just formed with the thread to the base of the wing but in this case it has slid forward a bit. This is just the kind of thing we want to avoid so don’t do it like this.

Step 84

Fold the foam back on top of the fly once again and create the final segment at the base of the wing/indicator with three more tight wraps of thread.

Step 85

I usually whip finish and then trim the foam strip straight across, but for some reason I reversed the order here so…whip, trim the thread, cut the foam straight across and go on with your life.

Step 86

That strip across the top ought to be cut into a stub like this.

Step 87

Pull the wings taut and trim them at the end of the body.

Step 88

Now go in from the ends and trim the wing so it’s not square cut. I like to rag it up a little with a few random cuts.

Step 89

To add the last set of legs, push a wire bobbin thread through the seam in the long segment at the thorax. I try to get the threader between the bottom piece of foam and the hook shank.

Step 90

Push the loop of the threader all the way through until it is exposed on the other side and be sure it comes out from between the two pieces of foam and hasn’t pierced through the foam!

Step 91

Place the end of a piece of Sexi-Leg into the loop of the threader.

Step 92

Withdraw the threader, dragging the end of the leg through the body and out the far side. You should have a short length of leg on the far side and the majority of the leg length on the near side.

Step 93

Place a small drop of Zap-A-Gap on the leg just on the near side of the body.

Step 94

Pull both ends of the leg taut and pull the glued section of leg into the body. The glue will hold the leg in place as well as hold the thorax segment together from top to bottom.

Step 95

Trim the center leg to about the same length as the front legs.

Step 96

Use your sepia marker to mottle the top of the head.

Step 97

And continue coloring the top and sides of the body. I like to leave a bit of the gold color of the foam showing through at the segments.

Step 98

Now color the bottom of the fly as well.

Step 99

Use a scrap strip of foam to smear the ink on the bottom of the fly to lighten it a bit.

Step 100

With a black marker, color a stripe up the near side top edge of the body. This stripe should be right on the corner/edge of the foam.

Step 101

Do the same thing on the far side.

Step 102

Run a single stripe up the center.

Step 103

Now make a wide band of black over the top of the head.

Step 104

And while you have that marker in your hand, color an eye on either side of the front segment. Add a coat of head cement to the band of thread wraps on the bottom side of the fly where the wing, indicator and foam was all tied down.

Step 105

Top quarter view.

Step 106

Front View

Step 107


Step 108


Step 109

Go fish