Ed Herbst has been an inspiration to me from fishing small streams to his search for the lightness of light line tackle, thoughtful, creative fly tying and more. Our friendship and interactions have spanned a period of some 30 years. I’m reminded today of one of our early discussions involving his innovative hopper pattern that I continue use to this day, and the virtues of creating movement through the use of materials and applying action to the fly. We spoke at length on these aspects and in particular Leonard Wright’s technique that he referred to as the ‘sudden inch’. In his 1972 book, Fishing the Dry Fly As a Living Insect, he articulates the principles of when, where, and how to manipulate a fly to entice a trout. He discovered that flies fished with movement can be more effective than those drifting freely.
Ed’s Hopper below taken from a page in my book, Call of the Stream.
Recently Ed has been working on developing another innovative pattern the ‘Straggle String’. Typical of his approach to fly tying Ed based the concept on thoughts espoused by GEM Skues in his book, ‘The Way of a Trout with a Fly’, in which he says,
“Kick: There is a quality which every hackled wet fly, for use in rough water, should invariably have. Without it, it is a dead thing; with it, it is alive and struggling; and the fly which is alive and struggling has a fascination for trout which no dead thing has. How is this quality to be attained? It is a very simple matter. Finish behind the hackle.”
The forward-jutting hackle mentioned here by Skues also the Sakasa Kebari patterns which Tenkara anglers have used for centuries in Japan and the equally-ancient Valsesiana flies of northern Italy.
The Straggle String fished unweighted using the silver lined glass bead and weighted with a 1.5mm tungsten bead as the dropper on a dry, dropper rig, has accounted for a number of Natal Scalies on the Umkomaas and trout on the Bushmans River respectively. I found it a revelation in terms of its movement in the water. It almost seems to vibrate created by a combination of the physical movement of the rubber legs and the impression of movement created by light rippling back and forth over the Straggle String filaments.
The Straggle String
Ed has used the Sekasa Kebari/Valsesian forward-facing hackle, but using ultra-fine latex rubber strands instead of feather. His sense is that the translucent Hareline Daddy Long Legs in olive s a better option than the opaque Veniard Centipede legs which are already barred. To create the barring on the latex rubber legs which accentuates the impression of movement, he places a cotton bud behind the leg and touches it with a permanent marker.
Ed provided the following guide to tying the Straggle String.
Hook: Size 14 Dohiku 303 ‘Beetle Hook’ – a size 16 jig hook can also be used.
Thread: 24/0 Semperfli Nanosilk
Bead: Silver-lined clear glass bead – 15/0 Toho Silver-grey (TR-15-29B) preferred. 1.5 mm slotted tungsten bead if weight is needed
Body: Brown or olive Semperfli Straggle String Micro Chenille or Hareline Micro UV Polar Chenille or Brill UV sold by Textreme and Scientific Anglers
Hackle: Olive Hareline Daddy Long Legs mottled with a black permanent marker
Step 1 – attach bead to the hook and cover with UV light-cured resin to add an element of protection and increase the translucency
Step 2 Tie in the Semperfli Straggle String and hook it into the material spring to keep it pointing backwards and out of the way.
Step 3 – Double three strands of leg material around your thread and centre them on top of the hook shank. X between them with the 24/0 Nanosilk to separate them as widely as possible from each other. The thinness and strength of the ultrafine version of Nanosilk enables one to use many turns without creating bulk.
Step 4 – Repeat this process with another three double strands on the bottom of the hook shank.
Step 6 – Wet the rubber strands and fold them forward over the hook eye – this is to get them out of the way for the next step.
Step 7 – Take the thread to the back of the rubber legs.
Step 8 -Wind the Straggle String to the rubber legs further forcing them forward.
Step 8 – Tie off the Straggle String and whip finish.
Step 9 – Push the 12 rubber strands upright behind the bead and separate them.
Step 10 – Snip out about six alternate strands leaving a gap between them – this is to prevent them touching in the water and matting together. If you can get six separated strands that is all to the good but four or five would work just as well. The important thing is to keep them separated in the water to maximise movement.
Step 11 – Hold a cotton bud behind each leg and dab with a permanent marker to create a mottled effect on a translucent material.
As Skues pointed out – something that looks alive in the water through movement, provokes strikes. This is what the market anglers in medieval Northern Italy and in Japan realised.
Trout are built to look upwards and on small streams are used to coming up through a foot or so of water and if they can spot and capture tiny ants they will certainly see this fly so my sense is it needn’t be more than a few centimetres deep.
1.5 brass beads should suffice if the glass bead does not get down enough and, after that you have the option of 1.5 mm tungsten. The medium-wire Dohiku hook needs a slotted bead – countersunk beads don’t fit this hook. You could go to a 2mm bead but that detracts from the sparseness of the fly.
Orange hotspots seem to work so maybe an orange bead would be a good option.
The short shank # 14 Dohiku Beetle Hook from their agents in South Africa, Upstream in Cape Town, is a cracker – it keeps the fly small and looking delicate because it has an effective shank length of a #16 hook.
After the extra-fine latex rubber legs, the Straggle String – effectively a fine version of Cactus Chenille – is the second key element providing a visual impression of movement through the flickering of light back and forth across the translucent strands.
The translucent silver-lined bead also adds a trigger element and has been well-proven in Pat Dorsey’s ‘Mercury’ flies.
All images and copy in this post are copyright Peter Brigg Photography © 2021. All rights reserved