Welcome to Fly fishing and Fly Tying magazine's website, once you register, you'll gain access to the Blogs, Forum and Shop.

If you cannot register successfully, contact us.

Member Login

Lost your password?

Search This Site

Tungsten-tipped Buzzers

By John Goddard

John Goddard often wrote to the editor, Mark Bowler, in response to FF&FT articles. Here, he summarises his findings on using tungsten-headed Buzzer Pupae, adding how he fished them

The author playing a good trout taken on the tungsten-headed pattern.
The author playing a good trout taken on the tungsten-headed pattern.
Bernard Cribbins returning a nice rainbow caught on new midge pattern.
Bernard Cribbins returning a nice rainbow caught on new midge pattern.

In a past issue of Fly Fishing and Fly Tying, Richard Bailey and some colleagues wrote an article on a new Buzzer Midge Pupa pattern they had developed with a tungsten bead head which had become very effective and popular on the lakes in British Columbia. They stated they had seen no signs of any such Bead Head Pupae patterns in the UK. However, this was not true, as in a 2005 issue of the Fly Dressers Guild magazine, one of our best known fly dressers, John Smith, wrote an article titled ‘Glass Bead Pupae’ in which he described an alternative pattern to the glass bead-head fly. He had found this variant, with a metal bead behind the eye of the hook, was even more effective, and showed a photograph of his fly. I can confirm that this is indeed an excellent pattern which I often came to use myself.

In the late 1990s I developed a similar pattern based on my original Hatching Midge Pupa pattern, but this was also tied with a much slimmer body and with a small tungsten bead at the head (see photo). I found this proved very successful for fishing at various depths. I eventually dressed these flies with Antron body wool in the three main colours of the natural pupae: black or green with a rib of narrow silver tinsel, or tied a fly with a red body, that used a wider rib of silver tinsel to represent the more silvery appearance of the natural. I thought I could improve on these as I had omitted the white breathing filaments as the bead had replaced these. I later found it possible - with a little care – to tie filaments behind, or in front of, the bead but sloping forward. I tied these on a straight-shanked hooks, but found them even more effective when dressed on a curved, but smaller sized hook, either 12 or 14 (see photo). Over the next two seasons I found these and John Smith’s pattern to be phenomenally killing flies.

When the new season opened I began to fish them exclusively on one of my local large stillwaters from the bank. This lake was only ever stocked with rainbows of less than 3lb, but over that season I landed and returned four over 6lb, and one over seven, which I believe is a record for the water. Most of the rainbows I caught that season took the black pattern on the point, although early on in the season I caught many with the red pattern, which was fished on a dropper. In view of my success, I suggest it to be worthwhile trying these flies if there are any signs of midges hatching.

The most common colours of the naturals that hatch in sequence during the season start in March, April through June, with the black-bodied midge, although it seems also effective throughout most of the season. This is closely followed by the red and silver colour, which is common through late April until early June. This natural is now listed in my book, Trout Flies of Britain and Europe, as the Grey Boy, a name for this natural popularised by Bob Carnhill. Late in the summer the most predominant colour is green or golden olive.

Deep tactics
Most of the local stillwaters that I fish mainly from the bank are 12-15ft deep, so it’s necessary to fish a leader 17-18ft long to allow me to retrieve my fly from anywhere near the surface to the bottom. The top 10ft of my leader is well greased and also the first 12ft or so of the fly line; the reason for this is to allow my fly or flies to sink more slowly through the water column. The flies are allowed to sink for between eight and 20 seconds, dependent on the depth I estimate most trout seem to be feeding. I then retrieve very, very slowly, inch by inch and occasionally give a long strip to lift the flies and allow them to sink back down.

Weather conditions are important when fishing these Pupa patterns. Ideally, they are best fished in winds below 10 or 12 knots; in stronger winds it is more difficult so in these I tend to fish either directly downwind or into the wind, as any cross-winds put such a big bow in your line it is very difficult to keep in touch with your fly.

Under calm conditions I watch the end of my fly line for takes, but when it is very windy I watch the loop of fly line hanging from the rod tip which should never be held more than 12in or so above the water surface. I tie my own tapered leaders with 5ft of 20lb or 25lb mono, followed by 4ft of 15lb and then 3ft of 10lb attached to this. I then tie in one of those tiny stainless steel rings to attach a dropper (if I am going to use one), and to complete the leader I attach 6ft of 7lb BS. I now use a dropper tied onto this ring of 10lb test. This is at least 10 inches long, which seems to attract more takes. It is interesting to note that since I have been using these tiny rings in the leader even with this longer dropper I seem to get far less tangles. While I prefer to use but a single Pupa pattern on the point, if the fishing is slow I tie and fish a pupa of a different colour on the dropper.

From what I hear or see the trend seems to be that most stillwater fly fishers today dress their midge pupa patterns on fairly large, straight-shanked hooks of between size 8 and 12. Since I have been using smaller hooks my hook-up rate has improved, and even more so with the curved hooks I now use. For these I now employ a Kamasan B100 Buzzer/Grub curved hook in sizes 12 or 14 as these are much smaller than other makes of curved hooks.

Finally, I should like to add a couple of tips which will improve your hook-up rate. Before tying on or dressing your pupa patterns take a pair of pliers and gently offset the hook, I do this now on all the flies I use. If the hook is not well offset it can – and often does – pull out of the trout’s mouth without engaging the point.

For many years, I have been writing and recommending the use of Power Gum tied into the leader both for stillwater and river fishing. Despite this, I see very few fly fishers using it these days. For years in the popular fishing press you’ll constantly hear from fly fishers complaining they get a lot of takes that they cannot connect with. I am sure that this is due to the fact that neither the fly line nor leader has little soft stretch, so that when a trout takes the fly it feels resistance immediately, so rejects it. With Power Gum in the leader the fish feels little or no resistance, so is far less likely to reject it. I tie in 12 to 14in (30-35cm) of Power Gum 5ft (1.8m) from the end of the fly line between the 20lb mono and the 15lb with a standard double blood knot. Before tying this make sure you roughen two or three inches of this mono with a nail file or sandpaper, as it will only slip a short distance as you tighten up the knot before it locks solid.

Another big plus with Power Gum occurs when you hook a bush, tree, or some other obstruction behind you on which you would normally snap off and lose your fly. You seldom, if ever, lose a fly due to the stretch in the Gum.

The late John Goddard was a famous modern-day fly fishing author, and a world-renowned fly fisher. He died in December 2012.

Back to top

Search the site