Tag nymphs are certainly not new to fly fishing. However, in my opinion, they are highly underused and appreciated in the USA. I was first introduced to them when I traveled to fish in the Oceania Fly Fishing Games in Tasmania back in 2007. The local Aussies there were very high on a red-tag pattern for the local lakes. Perhaps that experience is what lead my teammate Kurt Finlayson to come up with the Dirty Politician, which is in the Rainy's catalog. To my knowledge, it's still the only tag nymph commercially available from fly companies in the US, though they are ubiquitous in Europe. I have to admit I don't keep up with what is in most fly catalogs however. After fishing the Dirty Politician, and a few other tag flies introduced to me by European competitors, I carved out a little corner in my boxes for them and had some specific rivers where they were very successful. But until recently and to my own loss, they never really became a main feature in my nymph arsenal. Apparently, other US fly companies aren't too interested in tag nymphs either, since I've had the following pattern rejected. Thankfully, I'm much more concerned with fish rejection.
In June 2014 my Fly Fishing Team USA mates and I traveled to fish in the Czech Republic for the World Fly Fishing Championships. The river sessions were on three very different sections of the Vltava River. The uppermost section was in a canyon stretch referred to as the "Devil's Stones", because of the car size boulders and treacherous wading that typified the river. I certainly took a spill or two during my session there. The lower competition sectors on the Vltava were placed after it had exited the canyon and entered a valley where the gradient lessened and the structure became less overt. In the lowest sector, there were several beats which were flat and featureless. We knew these would be difficult beats. We also knew we had to have a plan for these beats if we were to be successful.
The Vltava just before entering the canyon stretch called the "Devil's Stones".
During practice, we had hired a local Czech competitor Michael Adamcik as our guide. All fish species were scored in the competition and Michael said that a native chub would likely be important in the beats where flat water prevailed. Having no experience and no confidence fishing for chubs, we asked him what flies he used for them. He showed us a few dry flies and a couple of nymphs. One of them was a tag nymph with a peacock body and a soft hackle. I of course had to tinker with it, so I switched a few materials to my liking that night at the vise and the Blowtorch was born.
I had some good river sessions during the championship, including a first place in one session and a second place in another. I relied on quite a few flies and methods but the Blowtorch was a common addition to my leader during the tournament. It worked for the chubs but was just as successful for the trout and I caught fish regularly with it in all three river sessions.
The first Czech brown trout I caught during practice for the 2014 World Championships.
When I returned home I wondered if it would work on local waters, which were much different from the tea colored Vltava. I was living in Sacramento at the time and working on a project to provide a genetic assessment of rainbow trout in a bunch of gin clear rivers and streams on the western side of the Sierra Nevada Range. I was fortunate enough to get to "hook and line" sample for work. I doubted that the glitzy double hot-spotted Blowtorch nymph would work in rivers where I could see 10-20 feet into the pools. However, my doubts were assuaged and I was pleasantly surprised at its success. Several times I watched fish move 3 or more feet from their lies to inhale it. I then tested it on the more famous and hard fished rivers in the area, such as the Truckee, Yuba, Feather, Pit, and Lower Sac. It was successful everywhere I went, which is why it was on my leader the day Luis introduced me to the Butano. Since leaving California, the fish catching prowess of the Blowtorch has followed me to Oregon, Utah, Colorado, and has been successful in domestic competitions. It has been particularly deadly this winter for trout in cold water conditions.
A Utah brown that fell to the Blowtorch on a frigid Black Friday.
I typically tie the Blowtoch in sizes 10-16. I also tie it in a range of weights with beads from 2 mm all the way to 3.8 mm and varying diameters and wraps of lead wire. Don't hesitate to try other color schemes and dubbing typesto create your own variations. I have plenty of others myself but this original recipe is the most tried and true for me.
The recipe is below. Keep scrolling for purchasing links for the materials and tools used.
- Hook: Hanak 400. You could also substitute the Hanak 450, Hanak 230, Hends 254, Partridge Ideal Jig, or Partridge Wet Sproat Hanak 400 BL Jig Hook (14)
- Bead: copper Tactical Fly Fisher Slotted Tungsten matched to hook size. You could also try gold or other bead colors. Check the hook/bead chart in the product photos for sizing. Tactical Fly Fisher Slotted Tungsten Beads 50 pack Silver, Gold, Copper, Black Nickel, and Unfinished Tungsten (Copper, 2.8mm)
- Lead wire: Three to ten wraps. 0.015" for size 16 and 14, 0.020" for size 12, and 0.025" for size 10 Lead Wire (.015")
- Thread: Veevus 8/0 Fl. Orange Veevus 8/0 Thread (Fl. Orange 16)
- Hackle: India hen back, you could substitute brown Nature's Spirit hen saddle or CDC India Hen Back (Natural)
- Ribbing: Opal mirage micro-flashabou Micro Flashabou 1/100" Pearl and Mirage (Opal Mirage FLA10033)
- Counter-ribbing: 5x tippet Cortland Copolymer Nylon Tippet 30 yd spools (5x)
- Dubbing: Hareline peacock black ice dub Hareline Ice Dubbing (Peacock Black 283)
- Tag: Glo Brite floss fl. fire orange. Three to four strands Glo brite floss (FL. Fire Orange #5)