Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana
I can claim no credit for the name as other tiers have coined the name “Skinny Humpy” for sparsely tied Humpies. As we all know the Humpy is a popular fly, especially for fast pocket water. The buoyancy of the deer or elk hair and heavily hackled front end are its key defining attributes. Paul Beel wrote a nice post a few years back about the pedigree of the Humpy.
Of course the downside of the Humpy is that it is not an easy tie, especially in smaller sizes. There are any number of You Tube videos and fly publication articles that tout easy methods of tying the Humpy. My favorite is Charlie Craven’s “Craven’s Easy Humpy”, (Jan 2016, Fly Fisherman). His method employs tape to tame unruly hair during the tying process. Still tedious to get a well-constructed fly. I needed to tie up a bunch of small Humpies for this summer on the Gibbon (June) and Upper Ruby (July). These fast water, turbulent streams were the perfect for the buoyant Humpy.
Although the Yellowstone Park season opened up a week late due to the virus lockdowns, I was able to hit the Firehole and Gibbon several times the 1st week in June. As is my custom, I generally stop in a couple of the West Yellowstone fly shops to see if there’s any material I couldn’t resist. Blue Ribbon Flies always has a lot of bulk, non-commercial deer, elk and moose hair patches in various shades at great prices. I came across some Moose body hair patches that looked intriguing as many Humpy patterns call for Moose hair tails. The patches adapted exceptionally well to what became my “Skinny Humpy” tying method.
1. With hook in the vise, wrap a thread base on the back 2/3rd’s of the hook.
2. Select a small clump of moose body hair (5-10 hairs) and stack so the tips are even
3. Tie in the moose to create a tail. Secure wraps no further than the 2/3rds point on the hook shank.
4. Fold the moose back toward the tail and secure with wraps all the way to the tail tie in point. If using thread for the underbody, continue wrapping to completely cover the moose and create a smooth underbody. If using dubbing or herl, tie that in and wrap forward to the front the moose.
5. Grasp the butt ends of the moose and fold forward over the underbody to the front of the moose. While holding the moose hair tight take two light wraps of thread before cinching down with the thread. This keeps the moose hair from rolling around the sides of the hook.
6. Create a thread base to the hook eye and bring the thread back to the middle of the remaining hook shank.
7. Select a CDC puff for the wing. If tying an upright wing, tie the puff in with the butt facing toward the hook bend. If tying downwing (Trude style), tie the puff in with the butt toward the hook eye. Secure and trim the butt.
8. Tie in your hackle at the base of the wing and make 2-3 wraps behind the wing and 2-3 in front of the wings (upright wing). If tying downwing, put all the hackle wraps in front of the wing.
9. Form a thread head and secure.
What I quickly discovered by using the moose hair this way was the ease of creating a smooth, tight over body and complimentary underbody. The CDC wings are very effective, come in all manner of colors and are much easier to tie than hair wings. It soon became obvious that by varying colors and materials, my Skinny Humpy could be tied to replicate various different patterns. A dubbed dun under body, cree hackle and a natural CDC wing would be a close match to an Adams. An olive underbody, dun CDC wing and dun hackle would be a good BWO. Go with paler, yellowish underbody, hackle and wing would make a PMD. Black moose, red underbody, brown or ginger hackle with a white downwing make be a good flying ant pattern. Tying the CDC downwing and shortening the tail would make good adult caddis imitations. You can even use the CDC puffs to create posts to tie in your hackle parachute style or split the CDC puff to create spinner Wings.
The combinations of colors/materials are essentially unlimited but what remains constant is a highly buoyant fly that performs well in fast, turbulent water. Best of all, using the moose body hair and CDC wing makes the “Skinny Humpy” exceptionally easy to tie.