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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Dubbing Emerger: Crazy Good Mayfly pattern

Ridiculously Easy

mayfly emerger nymph
Dubbing Emerger - Blue Winged Olive Version

When I worked in a fly shop during college 20 plus years ago, I was enamored with the fancily tied Barr Emerger patterns that we seemed to sell hundreds of. They were (and are) such a fine buggy pattern that I found myself tying a lot of them. However, as I began to use them in my personal as well as my guide stash, I found them far too labor intensive to be used as a high-volume "guide" fly.

So began the process of peeling off features to see how well the stripped down "easy" versions would do. First gone were the legs, followed by the wing case and finally the tail. In none of those versions did the effectiveness of the pattern experience any fall-off. None. In fact, that little pattern was so effective during a float with a couple of guide buddies down the Green River (Utah) that by the time we made it back to the lodge and fly shop, my friend and shop owner Denny Breer (RIP) came out and asked me to show him this "magic" fly. And for the next number of years, this fly was pretty much my go-to mayfly nymph and emerger and I kept calling it a bead-head Barr emerger. That is until a day a few years years ago fishing with Cheech when he asked what fly I was using to work magic on some Green River browns. I told him it was a bead-head Barr emerger, he took one look and said that's not even remotely close to a BHBE. He suggested something that simple needs a simple name -- and he dubbed it the "Dubbing Emerger". The name stuck and it has and always will be on the varsity team.

The beauty of this pattern is really in its simplicity. Now for those of you who see our other "fancy" patterns that are much more complex, we're not saying that level of pattern is a waste -- we still tie complex stuff and always will, so it's not always about how simple or fancy a fly can be. And even though we're not intent on simplifying all patterns down to one or two materials, it's still important to have a few guide patterns up your sleeve. You can tie them by the hundreds and the fish eat 'em up like Cheech downs cotton candy from the gas station.

So here's the deal. It's basically hook, bead, thread and dubbing. That's it. You can use one color of dubbing if you'd like, but I normally go with two colors of contrasting shades -- especially for emerger situations. When I'm fishing to imitate smaller flies, obviously downsize the hook and I usually go one size down to begin with. So let's say you have a size #18 natural mayfly, I'll tie it in a #20. I also use as small a bead as I can on the hook -- especially when using this as a dropper.

Speaking of using as a dropper, that's the most common way I'll fish this. Pair it with your go-to mayfly adult pattern and drop this. Even during the height of a hatch, you'll still catch a good 50% or more of your fish on this little guy. Beyond the dropper method, it's a killer nymph as well.

Material List

Hook: Partridge Fine Czech Nymph #18  (BUY HERE) (smaller go with Daiichi 1130)
Bead: 2.0 to 2.4mm Tungsten, Gold  (BUY HERE)
Thread: MFC Premium, 6/0, Brown  (BUY HERE)
Body: Nature's Spirit Fine Natural Dubbing, BWO  (BUY HERE)
Thorax: Nature's Spirit Fine Natural Dubbing, Gray Olive (BUY HERE)


  1. I've caught so many fish on a similar non beaded fly - more caddisish though. olive body and black "head". Nothing else. Just those two dubbings and that's it. AWESOME idea to try the light head... I can see how brown and cream would be a smoke show of a sulfur emerger... Love it.

  2. Hey Curtis,
    How about tying it on a jig hook?

  3. I remember tying up some simple patterns similar to this using the fibers from carpet samples I picked up from carpet stores. You could get a bunch of colors. It was buggy stuff. We called them carpet bugs and they were fish catchers.

  4. we have bwo's ready to pop like next week. I can't tell you how skeptical I am of your fly right guys know how much I love your dojo and the stuff that comes out of it- I tie so many of your nymphs and streamers- but I'm preparing for the bwo's by tying batwing cdc patterns, bubbleback emergers, trigger point emergers, split cased baetis patterns, etc- and I just can't see this competing. However- I am going to tie 2-3 dozen and test it. I would really love a down and dirty bwo pattern.

  5. craziest thing- I'm settling in tying a couple dozen of my cdc cased caddis that is absolutely killing it out east right now with the grannoms coming into full swing. i couldn't get this silly bug out of my head...i start analyzing the fly i'm tying to guess what is triggering a fish to take it. it certainly isn't 2 of the 3 parts of the fly- now I've eliminated 2 more steps and i'm off to the testing this week.

    I don't like the fly pictured above- but it might just be that simple.

  6. just received my latest order from FFF. Ordered these partridge brand hooks for this pattern. Great looking profile on the hook translates to this fly and others. Did some parachutes on it as well and think it's awesome. I tied some 20s on the DI1130 and they look fine but not as nice as the partridge. Wish they came in 100s or 500's or ......... going full cheech here, 1000's

  7. What dubbing would be a good substitute? Awesome Possum? Hare Tron?

    1. Hare Tron would actually be pretty cool.

  8. Kinda the same concept as a walt's worm.