When mop fly patterns start appearing in the fly boxes of competition fly anglers it is for a good reason. The appeal of mop material to fly tyers is easy to understand. It is soft, flexible durable, inexpensive and readily available. It also, in silhouette and movement, helps imitate a variety of aquatic insects upon which trout prey – from crane fly larvae to dragon fly nymphs.



Mop material – available in different colours which can be mottled with a permanent marker

The initial patterns I saw on the internet involved a bead at the eye of the hook and some black dubbing between the bead and the mop segment.

I felt that, with a bit more imagination, one could come up with a good GISS – General Impression of Size and Shape – dragon fly nymph.

Datus Proper, in one of my favourite books, ’What the Trout Said’ cautioned against the use of stiff extended bodies on short shank hooks because so many fish are lost on the strike with this design.

He was talking about the big Green Drake imitations with bodies made of deer hair which were in vogue decades ago and which have been replaced with flies using softer materials such as Semperfli Floating Chenille

The mop is soft so my Mop Dragon is tied with straight-eye, short shank hooks.

My favourites are the Hanak Competition H500 BL Allround hook sold by Craig Thom at Stream-X in Cape Town and the advanced-technology Tiemco 2499 SP BL sold by their local agents, Frontier Fly Fishing in Johannesburg.

Other hooks like this are the Partridge Stillwater Wide, The Fulling Mill Bonio Carp and the Gamakatsu C14S Glo-Bug.

The advent of UV light-cured resins a decade ago enhanced the fly tyer’s palette and the Facebook pages of companies like Gulff and Solarez show what can be achieved by the creative use of these products.

 To enhance the bead chain eyes, I started mixing different resins such as the thin Loon Fluorescing UV Clear Fly Finish with glitter dust obtainable from craft shops and then covering this mix with a more viscous product such as the phosphorescent Gulff Glowman.

Red Eyes have long been a characteristic of South African trout nymphs – examples being High Huntley’s Red Eye Damsel and Roger Baert’s Hover Dragon which uses Veniard Edge Brite for the eyes.


A Red Eye Mop Dragon tied on a jig hook

Bead Chain eyes, whether the metal product available from suppliers of fly tying materials such as Wapsi or Hareline or the plastic version available from shops selling Venetian Blinds, are ideal for mimicking the bulbous eyes of dragon fly nymphs.

It is easy to create red hot spots on bead chain by mixing red glitter dust with a product like Gulff Ambulance Red.

If you use black foam rubber for the eyes you can create a Mop Booby.

Alan Hobson of Wild Fly Fishing in the Karoo renown, armour-plates his flies with the multiple coatings of decoupage clear varnish, Seal Skin or, for patterns that are exposed to a lot of abrasion, he uses Liquid Fusion.

I found that I could create a mottled effect on bead chain by mixing black glitter dust with Liquid Fusion.


The result of mixing Liquid Fusion clear urethane adhesive with glitter dust.

Marc Petitjean brought the split thread technique into main stream fly tying with his plastic clamps but I use 18/0 Semperfli Nano Silk for #8 – 12 flies or the thinner 24/0 thread for smaller flies to create dubbing loops into which I insert fur, feather or synthetics to fill the segment between the bead chain eyes and the mop.

I use a variety of tools for this purpose, the plastic clamps from Petitjean and Stonfo, the beautifully engineered clamp from Swiss CDC and the Hareline Material Clamp.


Tools used by the author for creating Nanosilk dubbing loops – from top left: Swiss CDC clamp; Petitjean clamp and Stonfo clamp. Middle – Hareline Material Clamp. Bottom – Petitjean dubbing twister.

For delicate materials I use Marc’s innovative Twister tool and for heavier materials I use Jay Smit’s heavy dubbing spinner.


Jay Smit’s heavy dubbing spinner for use with 18/0 Nanosilk

Decades ago, before catch and release became the norm, members of the Cape Piscatorial Society would gut their catch, take a note of the stomach contents and post their findings on their catch returns.

These were then forwarded to A C Harrison who would publish the most interesting catch returns in the Society’s magazine, Piscator, under the headline ‘Notes from the Clubroom Board’.

It occurred to me that an analysis of these reports might provide a recurring pattern of trout stomach contents which would provide a useful seasonal ‘Match the Hatch’ guide.

What came through very clearly was that, in autumn, trout in the streams near Cape Town were ‘packed’ with the larvae of the Cape Alder Fly – known locally as ‘Toebiters’ and grasshoppers.

You can read my subsequent articles ‘Why Fish Hoppers in Autumn?’ and ‘Trout Diet in the Fynbos Biome’ on the CPS website for more information on the reasons for this.

Articles - (piscator.co.za)

I wanted to create a Mini-Mop, to scale down the Mop Fly to mimic the earlier instars of dragonfly and hellgrammite nymphs.

Plastic bead chain is available in medium sizes and I found a smaller mop substitute in 3mm Semperfli Worm Chenille which is available from Xplorer in Durban in brown and black – I hope John Geils can bring in some olive worm chenille.

It is a soft material, looks durable and has a subtle sheen.

To improve durability, I singe the end of the worm chenille with a lighter and cover the burnt area with UV light-cured resin.

I coat the plastic bead chain eyes with Gulff Black Magic – available from local agent Ruben Torres of tacticalangler dot co dot za – to give them some protection and more gloss.


Semperfli Straggle Legs and Veniard Worm Chenille

A quick and easy way to fill the gap between the eyes and the mop segment is to twist 3mm Veniard’s Stretch Worm Chenille – described as ‘Antron and rubber fibres  woven together onto a stretchy core’ – together with Semperfli Straggle Legs.


Veniards and Semperfli combine to create the thorax on this Mini Mop.

You can add rubber legs to the Mini Mop and here I have used Hareline Grizzly Micro Legs for their translucency,


Peacock and ostrich herl are twisted together here to cover the area between the rubber legs

Using 18/0  Semperfli Nanosilk for a dubbing loop enables you to completely veil the mop section with longer, softer furs  such as rabbit to create a mobile fly with the right GISS silhouette for a dragonfly nymph imitation.


A partridge hackle was used to mimic legs on this Mini Mop tied with rabbit zonker strip fur in an 18/0 Nanosilk loop

Shorter furs than rabbit can also be used for the middle section of the Mini Mop.


Mink is a useful material for filling the gap between the mop section and the bead chain eyes because it combines a soft underfur with longer guard hairs.

Mini Mops tied with plastic bead chain eyes are light enough to present gently on small streams and would provide a useful GISS-formula  dragon fly nymph silhouette when presented towards weed beds when float tubing dams.

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