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The Ruby Bug

This is a story of two flies; both featuring a touch of orange and the effect it can have on our trout.
The great Gary LaFontaine used to grade the effectiveness of his fly patterns by their “drawing power”; that is how far a trout would travel from its feeding line to take his fly. Anything around a metre was considered a hot fly and a perfect example of this was his classic Halo Emerger.

One could argue that this guideline would only be really valuable if a fish was seen to be feeding selectively on one form of insect life and you offered it a totally different bug that influenced that trout to come away from its feeding station to take your offering; to me that would be ‘wow factor’.   However on a lesser degree, if your trout was feeding on just about anything that drifted over it and your fly drew it a metre or so from its feeding station, would you give that pattern the same value rating as the first example?  I suppose we could say that in either case we are on a winner.

Rubber-legged Royal Wulff
Warryn's Frumpy
Rubber-legged Royal Wulff tied by Mick Hall
Warryn's Fumpy - A variation on The Humpy
Tied by Warryn Germon
Mick Hall tells a story of two flies, both featuring a touch of orange
and the effect it can have on our trout.
"Fly Talk" - Freshwater Fishing Magazine, Issue 96, May/June 2009

Around Easter last year I was sitting on the Rubicon River bank with the late Warryn Germon, you know the thing, just watching the water and talking about flies and the different patterns that were effective on our waters.  The Willow Grub action was just about over and to be honest, we started to look for fish that weren’t feeding off Willow Grubs as we were getting a bit sick of them.  Warryn was telling me about a different version of a Royal Wulff that an American friend had sent him and that it had the addition of very fine rubber legs.

Mick's Rubber-legged Frumpy

Unbeknownst to me, Warryn had been using it for a good couple of months and it was working very well for him, especially on one of his favourite little mountain streams close to his home at Taggerty.As you can see by the model I tied, it is not all that difficult to make but the legs are a very interesting addition and it works very well.

You may be thinking why fool around with something else if this works so well?  The fact is in mountain streams and even waters such as my favourite water, the Rubicon River, I like flies that float well, plus I wanted to see if those legs would work on other patterns.

A couple of years back I wrote about a version of the Humpy we called Warryn’s Fumpy (see Issue 79).  It was the simple addition of a foam wing case over the body that generated its name change.

I suppose the lead fly for this article is somewhat the next stage in the development of that pattern. Over the next few weeks I played around with various versions of the Ruby Bug/Frumpy; the key variations being the colour of the legs and the wing-case.  The final colour selection for its legs came down to orange, in fact it was the Spirit River Mini Round Rubber Crayfish Org, which is a burnt orange in colour.  I also tried black as well as white, they worked but it was the orange that finally won the day.  In the beginning I played around with brown and black foam for the wing case before finally taking some brown and sticking some olive green shell-back material to it.
The other key change was the addition of Enrico Puglisi’s TriggerPoint winging material in Quick Silver replacing the standard calf tail or body hair.

The Ruby Bug as designed by Mick Hall
Hook: Partridge TDH Dry Fly
Size: 12-10
Tail: A bunch of Moose main fibres
Body: Spirit River mottled brown nymph blend
Legs: Spirit River Mini Round Crayfish Org rubber legs
Wing Case: 3mm Brown Evasote foam with Green Shell-back stuck to it
Wings: Enrico Puglisi TriggerPoint winging material Quick Silver
Hackle: Brown cock hackle tied full.

The Ruby Bug

What really influenced the final selection was that I sent a half dozen over to my friend Jeff Currier in Jackson Hole Wyoming and he had a ball on them in the Teton River.  I mean to say, if you have a pattern that is working on both sides of the world, you must be on to something.
With all this behind me, over the last month or so of the 2008 season I played a bit more with this pattern and with the Wulff and it was then we realised these flies’ ability to draw fish was because of the orange legs.

In the lower reaches of the Rubicon River there are large sections with high banks that can offer the opportunity of being able to not only Polaroid your fish but see the fish clearly take your dry fly.  The river is a lot slower in this area with a lot of long pools and heavy in-stream vegetation.  These conditions allow for various surface patterns that are created by branches sticking out through the surface, which in turn act as great cover for our finny friends.

Many a time you could cast and land the fly off to the side of the snags to avoid catching up in the rubbish. The fly would drift a bit and now and then a trout would cruise out from its cover to inspect and most times take your offering.


A perfect example of Catch and Release
The fish was caught on Warryn’s orange-legged Royal Wulff

So what’s the bottom line?  Whether you tie the Ruby Bug or the Royal Wulff, we both came to the same conclusion, it was the orange legs that drew trout and both patterns are well worth carrying.  As a bonus I think Garry La Fontaine would have nodded in approval.

Mick's Rubber-legged Frumpy