I’m not sure that I can say anything about the Humpy that has not already been said. It’s simply a fly that we all know and love. When properly tied and “lubed” it floats like a cork. It looks a bit goofy, I’ll admit (maybe that’s why an early version of this fly was called the “Goofus Bug”). But it unquestionably catches fish.

I learned the correct way to tie this fly from Jack Dennis when he visited Granite Bay Flycasters some years ago. In Jack’s original book, Western Trout Fly Tying Manual, Jack featured the Humpy prominently; in fact, he is pictured on the cover tying a Humpy. I purchased that book for $6.95 in 1974 in a Woolworth store in Pocatello, Idaho. In Volume 2 of that book, which came out in 1980, Jack described his efforts to improve the Humpy’s durability and floatation qualities. In Jack’s own words: “After three seasons of trying the fly, we christened it the ‘Elk Humpy’ as it richly deserved a place along side of the regular Humpy.…we found that it was an extremely durable fly that actually outlasted the regular Humpy.”

I’ve always been “hooked” on this fly—so much so that one of my email addresses contains its name. A secretary once looked at me with a sly grin and said something like “I won’t ask you what that means.” I always carry them (Humpy flies, that is) in sizes from 10 to 22 and in various colors—red, yellow, tan, olive, and black. Maybe it’s just that I’m confident when I use it, but it sure works for me. So, let’s tie one.





Standard dry fly hook, such as Tiemco 100; common sizes are 14 and 16.


6/0 pre-waxed, color to match body


Dark elk hair or moose body hair (I prefer moose)




Light elk hair

Wing Light elk hair


Badger, grizzly, or blue dun, or even a mixture of grizzly and brown (Adams style)




Tying Instructions


  1. Place the hook in the vise and smash the barb. The key to tying this fly correctly is to tie the thread on the shank at the midway point and wrap back to the tail tie in point (directly above the back of the barb), and promise yourself that in the following steps you will not tie materials onto the front half of the hook until it is time to raise the wing and apply the hackle. If you fail to follow those suggestions, you will have a front-heavy fly and a very difficult time finishing it.


  1. Cut and stack a small bunch of moose or dark elk, measure and trim it to the length of the shank, and tie it in for the tail. The front ends of the butts should not extend beyond the back half of the hook (i.e., the front half of the shank should still be open).


  1. Cut, clean, and stack a small bunch of light elk hair. Trim it so that its length is twice the shank, and tie it in on top of the tail material. Cover it with even, smooth thread wraps to form the underbody. Hold the tips of the hair up as you wrap rearward to keep it from mixing with the tail, and be sure to wrap it back to the point where the base of the tail is—otherwise you will have an undesirable gap there. Bring the thread forward to that don’t-go-beyond halfway point on the shank and let it hang there.


  1. The following instructions are written in “right hand English.” If you are left-handed, just reverse the procedure. With your right hand, pull the elk hair over forming a hump. Grip the hair tightly and hold it on top so that the fibers won’t slip down the sides of the fly.

  2. With your left hand, make several wraps in place over the top of the hair. On the third wrap, pull down tight and wrap forward just a tad a couple more times.

  3. Now grab the hair with your left hand and raise it vertical; wrap a few times in front of the wing to lock it into place and stand it up. Don’t create a big shoulder here, as it will make wrapping the hackle hard.

  4. Split the wing into two even segments, and x-wrap between them a few times to separate the segments. Then encircle the base of each segment with a few thread wraps, pulling to the rear with the last wrap. This should lock the wing in the vertical plane. If you have done this right, you will still have a good portion of the front half of the shank bare, and your wing will be of the proper length—i.e., the length of the shank.

  5. Tie in your properly prepared hackle behind the wing, locking it down by also wrapping it a few times in front of the wing. Now we can cover the rest of the shank with thread. You can use modern genetic saddle hackle here, or several neck hackles. Just be sure that the quality is good and that the barbule length is correct for the size of the hook you have selected.

  6. Wrap the hackle forward, using tightly spaced wraps—three or four behind the wing, and five or six ahead of it. The Humpy is a heavily hackled fly, so use plenty of wraps.  Hint: if you lay down a very thin layer of fine synthetic dubbing before wrapping the hackle, the hackle will stand up better and remain in place. I also place a tiny drop of superglue on the shank before wrapping to ensure durability. It also helps to hold the wing back when wrapping the hackle forward.

  7. Form a small thread head and whip finish.


Drift your freshly-lubed Elk Hair Humpy through a riffle with a nice, drag-free float. You can even add a little “stinger” with some fine tippet. Don’t let it out of your sight, and…see ya on the creek!

Copyright 2005 by Granite Bay Flycasters unless otherwise noted