When I think of summer fishing in Montana my mind immediately drifts towards thoughts of trout gently sipping dry flies from the surface of a slow moving riffle. And the scene in A River Runs Through It when Brad Pitt, a.k.a. Paul Maclean, lands his Bunyan Bug in the perfect pool and is rewarded with the fish of a lifetime. I love catching fish on nymphs, but there is no feeling that compares to catching fish on dries.
I don't know which fly I'd pick if I had to pick just one to fish for the rest of my life, but the Royal Wulff Cripple would be in the running for sure. The Royal WulffCripple was designed by Rowan Nyman, a long time Montana fly fishing guide. It's a modification of the ever-popular Royal Wulff, but because it is tied in the cripple style the body sits low on the surface film. The take home message is that this fly catches fish and in my opinion it does so much better than the original Royal Wulff.
This is a relatively easy fly to tie and while it doesn't imitate anything exactly it makes a great attractor pattern and works well when either mayflies or ants are present. This fly has probably been fished very successfully on just about every major river in Montana and Yellowstone Park.
Start the fly by attaching the thread midway down the shank of the hook and capturing a small strand of brown zelon, wrap the thread back over the zelon to the point just above the hook barb. Trim the zelon to form a shuck that is at least 1/2 to a full length of the shank.
Attach 2-3 strands of peacock herl at the point just above the barb of the hook and wrap peacock herl to just above the hook point. Tie off peacock herl, but don't trim. Attach a strand of red floss at this point and advance thread forward over peacock herl so that there is space enough to create the floss portion of the body that is equal in width to the existing peacock herl. Once floss section is complete trim excess floss and wrap another section of peacock herl that is equal in width to the first. When finished there should be about 1/3 of bare hook shank left for the wing and hackle.
Attach a healthy strand of white poly yarn on top of the hook so that the wing angles forward and extends about a shank length beyond the hook eye. The rear end of the poly should be trimmed short to form a small tuft. Build a smooth section of thread that extends from the peacock to about a hook eye length behind the eye. Attach your dry fly hackle and wrap so that there is no thread visible between the peacock and hook eye. Whip finish and add head cement if desired.
Jimmy Armijo-Grover is the general manager of Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky and has been obsessed with fly tying and fly fishing since the age of 10.