Fly Patterns - Ken Hanley's October Blimp

                 Ken Hanley's October Blimp



Last month I featured Bill’s Stick Caddis, Fall Phase version. Normally in this issue I would have featured my October Caddis emerger, which I call Bill’s Emerging Thing. My plans changed when I read Ken Hanley’s brand new book, Tying Furled Flies—Patterns for Trout, Bass, and Steelhead. This book will introduce you to some interesting, valuable, practical techniques for creating very life-like patterns. Ken's vast experience and knowledge are brought to bear on every page; the photography is excellent, including the instructional sequences; and it is all woven together with Ken's personal touches, humor, and insights on everything from color and hue, outdoor ambiance, and fishing strategies, to the ruminations of a most introspectful flyfisher. You'll learn the history of the ancient technique of "furling" various materials, how it can be applied to the world of fly fishing, and how to tie some very effective, fish-enticing patterns. A few examples include Ken's Hex Magic, October Blimp, Pygmy Hopper, Damsel Teneral, and Furled Alevin. I have personally used many of these patterns, and have found them to be simple to tie, and very effective. I highly recommend Ken's book not just for the techniques so beautifully demonstrated, or the many and varied patterns he has created; mostly, as an artist of sorts myself, I am fascinated by the perspective of a respected artist on this broad and ever-expanding sport/addiction that we call fly fishing


Ken’s October Caddis adult, called the “October Blimp,” is featured on pages 44-49 of his book. As soon as I read those pages, I knew this would be a great fly to share with members, especially those who plan to attend our annual fishout on the Upper Sacramento in October. So, let’s go a-furlin’ and build some blimps. 

Tying Instructions

1.  The instructions for furling the body can be found in GBF’s fly tying archive by clicking this link or copying & pasting it into your browser's address field: 


For this fly, you will need to use a bunch of the fluorescent orange that is about two matchsticks in width, and a bunch of the burnt orange that is about half that size. Lay them side by side and then begin the furling process. You will achieve a “barber pole” effect if you do it correctly. This will be the abdomen of the fly. Prepare at least 6 of these, and dip them in a bottle of Softex which helps prevent fouling of the abdomen on the hook point by stiffening the yarn. Set the bodies aside to dry completely.





2.  Attach the tying thread behind the eye; wrap a thread base back to the middle of the shank.  Measure the now-dry abdomen to equal the distance between the eye to the hook point, and tie it in at mid-shank. Don’t trim the butts, but comb them out. Place a drop of superglue at the tie-in point.



3.  Tie in a small strand of orange leech yarn at the same point and wrap it forward over the Antron butts. Stop about 3/8” behind the hook eye and tie it off.



4.  Pull back the unfurled Antron and trap it with thread wraps. Place a drop of superglue at the point where you secured it in place.


5.  Add legs/antennae on each side of the hook by tying in a piece of the rubber leg material just ahead of where you tied back the unfurled Antron. Tie the leg material down in the middle of the piece, so that there is an equal amount pointing forward and backward.




6.  Cut a strip of foam about 1 ½” long and ¼” wide. Trim one end to a fine point and with the tip pointing to the rear, lay the foam flat along the front 3/8” of the hook. Tie it in there.




7.  Trim the Antron butts so that they are long enough to reach the point where you tied in the abdomen. This is the underwing.


8.  For the overwing, cut and clean a small portion of deer hair. Tie it in at the point of the foam that you tied in. Advance the thread to the eye, and add a drop of superglue to hold all of the material in place.




9.  Using the orange dubbing, dub a large head. Dub rearward so that your thread ends up where you tied in the overwing.




10. Pull the foam strip rearward over the dubbed head. Tie it down with a few loose wraps and check its position to make sure it is directly on top. Make a few more wraps, increasing the tension with each wrap. Whip finish and apply head cement to the wraps.


11. To trim the foam, Ken recommends laying your scissors on top of the foam; don’t raise the foam, and make a straight cut. This will leave a slight “dishlike” appearance to the foam, which acts as a float.

12. Trim the legs at the end of the hook; the antennae should be about the same length. If you have used white foam, color the foam orange.




Tying & Fishing Tips

1. Prepare at least 6 bodies and tie 6 of this pattern. You will find that if you do this (indeed, with any pattern you tie) your consistency will increase immensely.

2. Be sure to use 3mm foam in order to achieve the balance and flotation needed. Fish the fly on the surface or just below for best results. If you aren’t hooking fish, try suspending an October Caddis emerger beneath your Blimp.

3. Ken says that this fly is also a good imitation for the giant Salmon Fly, technically known as Pteronarcys californica.

4. As mentioned above, I highly recommend Ken’s book for a complete explanation of furling, and the techniques Ken uses.


Fish this beast in the evenings during the October Caddis hatch, which usually commences near the end of September, and lasts through the end of the year. Yes, it’s cold, and yes, it rains and snows at this time. If you don’t like to fish in those conditions, there are always “bluebird” days during the fall, and even during the early winter. So, give it a try—you won’t regret it. See ya on the creek.




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