Posts Tagged ‘Comparadun’

Lockdown Day Six

April 1, 2020

Corona Lockdown Day Six

We are close to a week into this “thing” and have fared well so far, the intention was not to go outside more than three times max during the 21 days, shopping perhaps once a week if needs be. We are looking good, I have baked some bread and tied some flies, painted a couple of walls in the house and mowed the lawn.

I am even recovering quietly from a rather nasty and persistent cold, which has hampered activities to a degree. So far we aren’t having to ration our supplies, there is plenty of tinned food in the cupboard and frozen stuff in the freezer, chances are that by the third week we may be eating things more based on availability than culinary desire but we won’t starve. The milk is running low but the whisky stocks are holding out just fine..

In “lock down mode” I even went so far as to bake some fresh bread..

Of course if you are all wrapping flies madly the same supply chain issues may well start to affect your operations. If you are running low on hooks that could be a problem, but many materials can be effectively substituted with others.. so today I am going to look at great dry flies that don’t need hackles..

Comparaduns and Spun Duns.

They are favourites of mine even when I do have hackles and they provide a possible alternative for you if you have worked your way through your genetic grade stocks and don’t feel like chasing down the neighbour’s rooster for fear of being locked up for breaking curfew..

 

Al Caucci and Bob Nastasi first brought the Comparadun to prominence with their book “Compara-hatch” and to me at least the first sight of these flies brought about considerable skepticism.

Al Caucci and Bob Nastasi were responsible for five major fly fishing/fly tying books including “Hatches” and “Compara-hatch)

 

They didn’t look anything like any other flies I had seen before. I am sure that many anglers experienced the same thoughts and perhaps a lot do still to this day. We have been brought up on Halfordian and Catskill styles of fly. We have been bombarded with the concepts of crisp fibred cock hackle wound perpendicularly around a hook sporting delicate duck quill or mallard wings and find it difficult to accept anything else. Much the same shock and horror used to be caused by sights of parachute patterns, of which more in other parts of this book.

Comparaduns just look a bit weird if you are used to hackled dry flies, but that isn’t any reason to assume they are not super effective.

The Comparadun perfectly illustrates a terrible failing amongst fly tyers, fly anglers and perhaps everyone else to boot. We are all too easily lead astray by “the way things are done” instead of “the way things might be done”. In all honesty it seems that the Comparadun wasn’t entirely the invention of Messrs’ Caucci and Nastasi, there were a variety of similarly manufactured flies, their wings being made only from deer hair, probably one of the earliest being the “Haystack”.

The Haystack was essentially the same fly but with deer hair tails and generally tied in a rougher and more generic fashion.. A rose by any other name?

 

One has to question if in reality these patterns and those that followed along the same lines, such as “The Usual” ,which utilizes Snow Shoe Hare fur as an alternative winging material, weren’t born of poverty more than creativity. As they say “necessity is the mother of invention” and if you don’t live next to a premium fly shop or you don’t have a fly fishing budget close to the GDP of a small country you have to get inventive.

Variations on a theme or parallel evolution of fly tying. The Usual, is a very similar construction using snowshoe hare as the wing.

 

I fished and tied flies for a good ten years before I ever saw my first premium cock hackle cape and although their availability has become pretty universal, (and I really do love them), it behoves one to remember that there is more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case tie a fly.

The Comparadun really is a quintessentially “Guide Fly”, the materials are easily obtained, available in different colours and at reasonably low cost, once mastered the means of tying these patterns is simple and quick, they also happen to be tremendously effective and frequently out-fish hackled flies of similar hue.

 

The originals required that you criss-cross the dubbing underneath the wing but I rarely if ever bother to do that, part of the trimming down of things so common in “Guide Flies”. In fact many of my flies now don’t use any dubbing at all.

 

The only issue I have with the Comparadun style is that in binding down the butts of the hair along the hook shank one is forced into producing what is, particularly on smaller flies, a rather overly robust abdomen. I like my dry flies sleek for the most part and the Comparaduns were a problem.

The Spun Dun provides a slimmer abdomen and additional floatation from the extra hair in the thorax region. For the most part I prefer this fly over the Comparadun, especially where a thinner abdomen is required.

 

Then I was introduced to the “Spun Dun”, another pattern that I suspect has been through more than a few developmental changes over its life. The spun dun is tied in very similar fashion to the Comparadun and with much the same materials but it offers what I consider to be better floatation, the better representation of the thorax and perhaps even the hind wing on some mayflies as well as giving a far slimmer body.

 

In all honesty I don’t tie very many true Comparaduns anymore and rather opt for the Spun dun versions instead but they are both included in this book. Both from an historical perspective and because you may well favour the Comparadun over the Spun Dun, they fulfil much the same role and in the end it comes down to personal choice, as well perhaps as the chubby nature or lack thereof of your local mayflies..

 

The way I tie spun duns, again probably differs from its original form, the name would suggest that the hair was spun around the hook and the profile gained by the simple expedient of cutting off the bits that you didn’t want. That is far too wasteful from a true “Guide Fly” perspective and now the spinning of the hair is minimal.

 

More really flaring the hair than anything else, although if it gets a little unruly one can always resort once again to the scissors.

Both patterns are shown in some detail, there are however a few points worthy of note in their construction.

 

Firstly you cannot tie these flies with weak thread, with the advent of some modern threads you may be able to go finer, but in normal terms I use 140 Denier thread for both styles, you need to apply considerable torque to the hair to make it secure. Skip Morris in his books actually changed from thicker to thinner thread after lashing down the wings, but I am a tad too impatient for such niceties and one has to bear in mind one of the criteria for inclusion into my “Guide Flies” list is speed and ease of tying. Messing about with additional threads and bobbins doesn’t really fit the bill. Don’t let me stop you if you feel so inclined.

 

Secondly judging the amount of hair required for the wing takes practice, equally it can be varied to suit different water conditions, more for rough free stone streams and less for meandering slicks on spring creeks. One interesting note is that as the hook size reduces the amount of hair required doesn’t change by much. The natural taper of the hair means that as the wing gets shorter the bulk of the hair captured in the tying becomes less. Such that you will find that the same size bunch pretty much works for all fly sizes although the actual wing size varies..

 

Thirdly, although now there is specific “Comparadun Hair” on sale, you can use any reasonably fine deer hair. The books all recommend coastal deer, one presumes because they are less affected by cold weather and therefore produce finer hair, but in reality you can tie serviceable patterns with most deer hair, at least except for the tiny sizes.

 

I am not entirely sure why these patterns should be as effective as they are, it isn’t uncommon to cast a March Brown over a feeding fish without success only to replace the fly with a Spun Dun of similar colouration and get an immediate hit. Perhaps the fish like the low floating profile of these flies, there is some suggestion that trout will focus on cripples and stillborn duns, the trout being consummate predators, and the cripples being easy targets, but for whatever reason they work and don’t imagine for one moment because they look a little odd that they are less effective.

 

I well recall fishing with Hugh Patterson on the Elandspad River in the Western Cape some years back.

Hugh was an airline pilot and used to, in those days at least, frequently have layovers in Cape Town where I guide. He was one of those wonderful associates who started off as a client and simply ended up as a friend and over time the commercial element of our relationship gave way to the point where if he was in town and I wasn’t busy we would head for a river.

The clear waters of the trout streams of the Western Cape are ideal for experimenting and watching fish reactions to various flies.. The spun duns work remarkably well in many fishing situations.

 

On this particular occasion we arrived at a beautiful laminar run on this most gorgeous of Cape Streams with fish rising all over the bubble line. They were popping their heads out and feeding as though there was no tomorrow.

 

I insisted that Hugh fish first and he made a cast with a suitable dry fly, got a lovely drag free drift and the fly came past half a dozen trout which ignored it. Hugh cast again and was rewarded with a solid take and a fish in the net. He dried the fly and cast again, the same thing a long drift past numerous feeding fish and just as he was about to lift off another hook up. I immediately shouted that we must change the fly but Hugh wasn’t too keen, to his mind he had caught two fish in three casts and he wasn’t giving up the “successful pattern” for anything.

 

I however insisted, (I still got to call myself the guide, even when we were fishing socially). We tied on a similarly coloured spun dun and Hugh caught a fish on each cast for the next six casts before the activity put the fish down.

There are two things worthy of noting with this story. Firstly, although I have no particular idea why, the Spun Dun out-fished the standard dry hands down.

The second is that although Hugh was looking at the fish he was catching, I was looking at the fish which were refusing the fly. I have often commented to clients that “any fool will change flies when they aren’t working, but a really smart angler will sometimes change flies when they apparently are”; that is good advice and if you are going to make a change, a change to a Spun Dun or Comparadun isn’t a bad move. Mind you, Hugh still tells me that without my badgering, wild horses wouldn’t have made him change that fly, he had never caught two fish in three casts before.

TYING THE COMPARADUN

 

 

TYING THE SPUN DUN

Whether you are running out of materials or would just like to experiment with different flies these two are giants in the world of dry flies.. Enjoy tying and fishing them in the future..

If you are keen to push on and not to wait for the various instructions coming you can download the books on line and benefit from a 50% discount. The links and discount codes are shown below:

Discount code Essential Fly Tying Techniques: DR62J Code will expire 17 April 2020

Discount code Guide Flies : SB94S Code will expire 17 April 2020

 

After initially posting this I found a really nice demo of a variation of the Spun Dun by Davie McPhail, I provide the link here because he does it slightly differently with some interesting variations..

Thanks for following these blogs, stay safe.

 

Flies: Compara’ and Spun Duns

July 30, 2009

Comparaduns, Spun Duns and Derivatives.

CompSpunBanner

So we get to choosing flies for our streams and although in the early season things may well be a little different, the water higher and the fish a tad less discerning after three months without being bothered by those of a piscatorial persuasion one of the main stay patterns in your box has to be a mayfly.

Now it is easy to suggest all manner of different mayfly patterns but much of the time finding a style of fly that you like and that suits you and simply changing the colour schemes is quite sufficient.

My absolute favourite mayfly patterns, no doubt partly influenced by the rate at which clients lose them in trees, fish and even their own clothing or anatomical protuberances, are Comparaduns, Spun Duns and their derivatives.

I rarely if ever fish standard hackled dry flies anymore, that is to say the Halfordian or Catskill ties with a collar of wound generic cock hackle. I do fish a lot of parachute patterns but even those are superceded by the spun duns and their relatives most of the time.

The flies, possibly the best dry flies in the world in my opinion have a lot going for them.

  • They don’t require difficult to obtain or expensive materials.
  • They are quick to tie.
  • They are inexpensive to manufacture.
  • They land the right way up everytime
  • They can be easily tied in a variety of colours and sizes and even densities to accommodate various water conditions and hatches.
  • Some of the variants can be modified on stream to represent spinners, midges, floating nymphs and emergers with the simple application of some saliva and or a quick trim with a pair of sharp scissors.

They are simply the most effective, quick and versatile upwinged fly imitations I have yet to find. In fact despite their apparent simplicity they frequently out fish more complex patterns. So let’s have a look at the variations and discuss the pro’s and con’s.

The Comparadun.

Olive Comparadun

Olive Comparadun

Launched to the world in the 1970’s by Al Caucci and Bob Nastasi, and popularized in their book “Comparahatch, these flies have gained a huge following and wide acceptance from what was to start with possibly a skeptical angling public. They just didn’t look like the flies we had all been using, where were the gorgeous and radically expensive generic hackles, the split duck quill or wood duck wings? Surely the trout wouldn’t accept such simplistic offerings?

Well truth be told the trout do and possibly with more enthusiasm than some of the more traditional ties. I personally feel that amongst other factors, the low floating properties are preferred by many feeding trout, plus they are sparse, simple and delicate, all attributes of the real thing and many traditional patterns appear far too “solid” and bulky by comparison.

It takes a little practice to tie these flies but they aren’t difficult, just different to what one has been used to in the past. Colour schemes are completely at your discretion and with readily available coloured deer hairs and dubbing materials comparaduns can be manufactured to copy almost any mayfly and quite a few midges as well.

The downside, if there is one, is that the tying buries the hair butts under the abdomen, which pretty much limits one to using dubbing as a body material, tends to make the flies a tad fatter than they should and makes the tying a little tricky to get neat and tidy. Plus with the natural hair the ability to trim them on stream without affecting the “look” is limited. Having said all of that these are classic and deadly patterns. Described by Skip Morris in his book “The Art of Tying the Dry Fly as “the most popular dry flies in the USA” or words to that effect. That is a terrific book by the way, and you will learn myriad tricks from it if you have never read it before.

The Spun Dun.

Olive Spun Dun

Olive Spun Dun

I have not been able, at the time of writing, to determine who came up with the spun dun pattern originally. It was first  shown to me by Eddie Gerber in Cape Town and I am not sure where he found it.

But it was I think originally tied by spinning deer hair around the hook and then trimming the lower section off afterwards. These days most of us only “flair” the hair on the top side of the fly, giving almost exactly the same profile as the comparadun but with the addition of a slightly spun collar/thorax of hair butts which both aid floatation and I suspect do a good job of imitating the thoracic thickening on real mayflies, perhaps even suggestions of a hind wing? One thing for sure, these are easier to tie than the Comparduns and what I really like about them is that you have no limitations as to body materials. You can use simple tying thread, dubbing, goose biot’s, quills, anything that you like and still get a slim and delicate body. Very many of the spun duns that I use are tied with little more than 120 denier tying thread, which both allows the creation of a slim coloured abdomen as well as obviating problems with breaking the thread when clinching down the hair nice and tight. Add to that a “super glue whip finish” and you have a remarkably simple, quick and durable pattern that you can churn out of the vice at a rate of knots.

The Poly Wing Spun Dun.

Poly Yarn Spun Dun

Poly Yarn Spun Dun


One of the limitations with using deer hair as the wing material is that it is tricky to use on tiny patterns, I find that #18 is about the limit of my abilities and then they start to look pretty ragged. But for years now I have been using smaller spun duns tied with polyyarn. The stuff is dirt cheap, available in a wide variety of colours and is totally resistant to the absorption of water and fish slime. The poly yarn versions are tied in exactly the same manner, however you can trim the yarn to the correct length afterwards as it isn’t tapered like the deer hair. This also means that you can trim the stuff on river and manufacture a wide range of emergers, spinners and floating nymphs from the same flies if you need to.

One point, when tying with the yarn, it doesn’t naturally flare well so you need to tug and pull it into shape.

The CDC spun Dun.

CDC Spun Dun

CDC Spun Dun

Again another variation, CDC is magic stuff but it tends to get wet and unusable, it does however make for superb small to micro patterns, provides wonderful delicacy of presentation and is both visible and not too bulky, all great attributes in a material for small dry flies.

By playing around with variations of these patterns, different colours , sizes and material combinations you can cover almost all of the mayflies that you are even likely to encounter, I even have a flying ant version which is deadly. So if you are going to start filling your boxes with useful flies you could do a lot worse than churning out a few dozen of these varieties in the next week. It won’t take you long and you will be amazed, come September, how fantastically effective these flies are.

Comparaduns and their derivatives are my “go to flies” when the  fish are being tricky or in larger sizes these patterns make excellent searching patterns to “drum up” some fish, even in the faster pockets.

The flies shown in this article all have split micro fibbet tails but again variations are plentiful, sparkle duns with zylon or antron tails, standard cock hackle, Coc du Leon tails, hair tails, water mongoose tails etc etc. These patterns really lend themselves to all manner of experimentation so don’t imagine that your flies need to look exactly like mine to work..