Steve Culton: Wet Flies 101

Chapter Meeting Date: 
Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 11:45am

Steve Culton: Wet Flies 101

Those of us who were lucky enough to attend the September 18th, 2014 Croton Watershed Chapter meeting were treated to a fantastic presentation regarding wet flies and wet fly fishing by our guest presenter, Steve Culton. Steve is a freelance writer, fly fishing guide, and professional fly tyer whose local playground is the Farmington River in Northern Connecticut. I, personally, have been following Steve's musings on his blog, currentseams, which has a ton of very useful material, including articles, videos, essays, and river reports. If you haven't visited it yet, you need to check it out. For example, it has instructions, and in many cases, videos on how to tie the various wet fly patterns that Steve discussed during his presentation. Steve was also kind enough to donate a selection of his hand-tied flies as a door prize at the meeting, which was quickly won by the luckiest man alive, John Genovesi.

Although Steve attributes the quality of his presentation skills to the fact that he was treated to a cheeseburger and a beer beforehand (and, perhaps, since pizza was also provided at the meeting, you could make the same argument for the quality of the audience), he is a natural speaker and kept the entire group captivated throughout the evening. We knew we were in for a good show when he started out-of-the-gate by quoting from Yeats' 'The Fisherman' and, with a quick dash of wit, decisively proving that fly tying is clearly older than fly fishing.

If you were not able to attend, below are some takeaways from "Wet Flies 101":

·         Wet flies duplicate subsurface insect life: emergers, cripples, egg layers, spinners, and drowned terrestrials;

·         Four major types:

o   Soft hackles: sparse, thin bodies with a soft water-absorbing hackle at the head. Change hook size, hackle, body to match any hatch;

o   Wingless wets: spikey, air bubble-trapping fur bodies. Tying involves use of a dubbing loop that shows thread color. Soft hackle hen surrounding 1st third of the fly. Magic fly: pale watery wingless wet;

o   Winged wets: features a prominent wing. Can be natural colored, matching the hatch, or vibrant and gaudy;

o   Fuzzy nymph: bridges the gap between nymphs and emergers. Steve likes to tie his fuzzy nymphs underweighted;

·         Steve often fishes a team of wets (see picture), tied using 4-6# Maxima. He almost always fishes an emerger as the top dropper, a wild card (like a drowned ant) in the middle, and a larger/heavier fly on point;

·         Gear: a long, slow action rod, a floating line, paste floatant, Maxima, and a wading staff;

·         Water: look for broken water moving at a swift walking pace. Look for hatch activity and cover lots of water. KEEP MOVING. Slow wade and fish an entire run;

·         Presentation: Upstream dead drift, short-line deep (like nymphing, but cast upstream and immediately raise your rod tip), and downstream mended swing and dangle. When you feel a strike, don't set the hook, but ask 'are you still there?' and then set the hook. Otherwise, you will pull the hook right out of it's mouth; and

·         Further reading: The Soft-Hackled Fly and Tiny Soft Hackles (Nemes) and Wet Flies (Hughes).

We are all very thankful to Steve for his great presentation and hope to have him back in the future.

Tight lines,



Illustration by  Steve Culton -- / The Fisherman LLC.

Leader Construction