The MMM fly

Friday, Aug. 31, 2018 4:19 PM

Have you ever been fly fishing with a good friend or guide who is really good at selecting the correct fly, time-after-time?

But, on a slow day, she may open every box in her vest and quietly say “MMM”. In most cases, MMM is code for, “I haven’t a clue as to which fly to tie on.” This can go on for an extended amount of time.

I usually light a cigar when the MMM word is spoken. Then, in a sudden fit of joy, the word “eureka,” or some word similar, is uttered. A fly is plucked from one of her many boxes, tied to your leader, and you are now catching fish. Sounds good.

However, it is my experience that this person is not stumped but looking for a fly she has modified. So, my definition of a MMM fly is: a fly that has been tied to look similar to a store-bought fly, but with one or two slight differences – a customized fly, if you will.

For me, customizing a fly pattern means using a different type of hook, different materials or different colors. I’m not trying to invent a new fly, just make a tried and true pattern a little different.

For instance, my favorite fly is a Royal Wulff. To customize this pattern, I will tie it on an emerging hook. I won’t tie on the back peacock hurl. I’ll then tie in a tail that resembles a shuck. I now have an emerging Royal Wulff. Don’t laugh. You would be surprised how many fish have eaten my customized Royal Wulff that wouldn’t have eaten a traditional Wulff.

Another favorite fly of mine is an Adams. I also use an emerging hook and replace the split tail with a shuck. It’s now an emerging Adams. On both the Wulff and Adams, I can also use different colors and materials to slightly vary their looks.

I mentioned using different materials. When you change out an old fly line with a new one, don’t throw the old one away. I have found that, if I’m tying large flies, say for bass, old fly line makes a good body. It also floats.

Don’t throw away your old backing, either. Backing can be used to wrap over dubing to create something that looks like ribs. I use orange backing when tying shrimp or crawfish patterns. Since fly line and backing comes in lots of colors and sizes, you have many options for creativity.

I have also found a cork from a wine bottle cut into small squares when super glued to a hook look like fish pellets. They are very effective. However, I only let the “Wild Bunch” use them. Grownups have to use more traditional flies.

I have been seeing more than the usual number of dragonflies on the lakes this summer. They’re big and come in a couple of colors, mainly blue and brown. To figure out a way to customize a dragonfly, I spent several dollars at a fly shop and bought one. I then studied it. I’m easily entertained. A store-bought dragonfly is complicated. So, I took elk hair and cut it into long pieces to use as the body. For wings, I suggest pheasant, duck or turkey feathers. Tie the elk hair to a hook using tan thread. Tie it tight and space the wrap to create a ribbed look. Once you reach the eye of the hook, tie on the wings. I like to tie a white parachute on the top of the wings, that helps us old guys see the fly. Time and materials to tie my customized dragonfly, probably $10. But it sure is fun catching fish on this customized fly when no one else is catching fish on a store-bought dragonfly.

Don’t approach this as reinventing the wheel but as a way to have fun and catch those hard-to-entice fish.

Reach Don Oliver at